Choosing Your Friends

by David Padfield

The first seven chapters of Proverbs contain Solomon's wise counsel aimed at "his son" (Prov. 1:8; 2:1; 3:1). He deals with temptations and problems all young people face, such as sexual immorality, peer pressure, choosing a mate and determining the value of an education. Modern parents would do well to read and explain these chapters to their children.

Choose Friends Carefully

In the first chapter of Proverbs, Solomon addresses one of the most important choices a young person can make, i.e., their choice of friends (Prov. 1:8-19). It is unfortunate that such important decisions in life have to be made by those who lack the experience and wisdom needed to help them make the proper choices. This is why parents need to help their children choose their friends. Solomon instructs us that "The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray" (Prov. 12:26). I have observed in the public schools that the worst children are often the easiest to make friends with. Friendships are so important -- we must not let them develop "by chance."

It is far worse to have the wrong sort of friends than to have no friends at all -- just as Paul warns us that "evil company corrupts good morals" (1 Cor. 15:33). Friends have much influence over us. Their ideas soon become ours. My mother used to tell me that "birds of a feather flock together." Solomon expressed the same thought when he said, "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed" (Prov. 13:20).

The wise man tells us, "Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them; for their heart devises violence, and their lips talk of troublemaking" (Prov. 24:1-2). Even adults are warned that in business relationships "whoever is a partner with a thief hates his own life; he swears to tell the truth, but reveals nothing" (Prov. 29:24).

Through the pen of the wise man, God tells us to "Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul" (Prov. 22:24-25). Franz Delitzsch, the renowned German scholar, said the word furious "signifies a hot-head." The New American Standard translates the word as "hot-tempered."

When commenting on this verse, Matthew Henry said, "Though we must be civil to all, yet we must be careful whom we lay in our bosoms and contract a familiarity with. And, among others, a man who is easily provoked, touchy, and apt to resent affronts, who, when he is in a passion, cares not what he says or does, but grows outrageous, such a one is not fit to be made a friend or companion, for he will be ever and again angry with us and that will be our trouble, and he will expect that we should, like him, be angry with others, and that will be our sin." (Matthew Henry's Commentary On The Whole Bible, Vol. III, p. 921).

Be A Friend

"A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Prov. 18:24). If you want to have good friends, be one yourself!

A true friend is one who will strengthen us spiritually and draw us closer to God. "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend" (Prov. 27:17). When a godly friend sees error in our life, he will not hesitate to admonish us. Some people, even Christians, get upset when confronted with the truth -- but those who desire to live for the Lord will rejoice in the fact that another cares for their soul. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" (Prov. 27:6).

While we might enjoy our friends because we have similar interests and life-styles, the real delight of friendship comes from their counsel. "Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a man's friend does so by hearty counsel" (Prov. 27:9). You can be open with a friend and know their advice comes from a desire to see you grow and prosper in the Lord.

We need to nurture friendships, for Solomon said, "Do not forsake your own friend or your father's friend, nor go to your brother's house in the day of your calamity; For better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away" (Prov. 27:10).

While in a Roman jail, the apostle Paul prayed the Lord would "grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain" (2 Tim. 1:16). Ralph Earle makes an interesting comment on the word "refreshed" in this passage. "The verb is anapsycho, found only here in the NT. It comes from the word psycho which meant 'to breathe, to blow,' and so 'to cool, to make cool' (Cremer, p. 588). The compound then means 'to make cool, to refresh' (ibid.). The Latin Vulgate has refrigeravit. When Onesiphorus came to see Paul in the stuffy dungeon, it was as if the air conditioning had been turned on!" (Word Meanings In The New Testament, p. 404).

Marry A Friend

Your spouse will be the closest earthly friend you will ever have. Since marriage is a lifelong commitment, great care must be taken in choosing this friend for life. Since friends exercise such great influence over us, parents need to encourage their children to marry a faithful Christian. I would not want to spend the rest of my life with one who did not share my hope of eternal life.

Though not addressing the subject of marriage, I cannot forget the words of Paul: "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?" (2 Cor. 6:14-15). Or, what about the words of Amos? "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3). Can you and your spouse agree on how to worship God or the proper way to bring up children in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord?

In nearly every wedding ceremony I remind the couple before me of the wise words of king Solomon: "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken" (Eccl. 4:9-11).

The Friend Of God

In order to have and keep friendships with godly people you will have to cut off close association with evil companions -- certainly this is the case in our friendship with God. "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (James 4:4).

One of the most telling statements made about Abraham is that "the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' And he was called the friend of God" (James 2:23). "The phrase, 'of God,' is not an objective genitive, 'friend of God,' meaning that Abraham regarded God as his friend (though doubtless he did), but a subjective genitive, he was one whom God considered as His friend! 'Didst not thou, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and give it to the seed of Abraham, thy friend for ever?' (2 Chron. 20:7). God regarded Abraham as His friend because he was ever faithful to God, and always submitted his will to God's." (Guy N. Woods, James, p. 146).

Abraham's friendship with God was founded upon absolute trust and loyalty to the very end. Memories of Abraham's faithfulness are heard as modern Arabs refer to Abraham as "Khalil Allah," which means, "Friend of God".

Jesus sets a very high standard for His friends. He told His disciples, "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you" (John 15:14). Can you really claim to be the friend of Jesus? It matters not how often you pray or how much you give to the Lord if you refuse to obey His every command -- friendship with Jesus is based upon obedience to His revealed will.

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