HOW TO BE A FRIEND
by Dr. Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 37 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Blue Denim and Lace)
"A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24)
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)
"Hello, friend" were the words that I spoke recently to a stranger walking down the sidewalk. Immediately I was rebuked. What a careless use of a most sacred word. Add the word "friend" to the words mother, father, son, daughter, and wife. This is the lofty position that it should hold. Too many of us have taken friendship far too lightly.
In the New Testament there are two main words that are translated "friend." One of these words means "comrade, acquaintance, fellow traveler." the other means "one dearly beloved" or "one held precious and dear." Many people never have even one true friend, and few people have many true friends. Cultivating such friendships can become one of life's greatest and most enriching experiences.
1. Be concerned in being a friend, not in having a friend. Many would love to have a true friend, but few are interested in being a true friend. Now it would be an unholy motive for one to be a friend in order that he might have a friend. Nevertheless it is true that to have friends one must be a friend. It is far more noble, however, for one to satisfy himself with being a friend. It is better to be a friend than to have a friend. By being a friend one develops character and integrity. Do not spend your life trying to cultivate one's friendship, but rather try to cultivate your own friendship to others. I recently said to someone, "Being loved is life's second greatest blessing; loving is the greatest." Paraphrased it could be said that having a friend is a great blessing, but being a friend is a greater blessing.
2. Remember what a friend is. A friend is one who is loved dearly. Do not offer such friendship lightly or casually. It is the kind of friendship which has abiding love and endearment. Just as one should weigh his choice of a mate carefully and wisely, even so should he weigh carefully and wisely the offering of true friendship. This does not mean, of course, that one could not be a friend to many in the usual meaning of friend. It simply means that in the true meaning of friend there should be depth and emotion. One should not assume true friendships unless he can offer both depth and emotion.
3. Start doing sacrificial things for others. One of the best places to start in being a friend is living for others. General Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, sent a telegram to a Salvation Army Convention during his last days because his health would not permit him to attend personally. The telegram simply said, "Others," and was signed, General Booth.
"Lord, help me live from day to day In such a self-forgetful way, That even when I kneel to pray My prayer shall be for others.
"Others, Lord, yes, others, Let this my motto be, Help me to live for others, That I may live like Thee.
"Help me in all the work I do To ever be sincere and true, And know that all I'd do for You Must needs be done for others.
"Let `Self' be crucified and slain And buried deep; and all in vain May efforts be to rise again Unless to live for others.
"And when my work on earth is done, And my new work in Heaven's begun, May I forget the crown I've won, While thinking still of others."
4. The need of a friend should be considered your need. When a friend is in need, you should be in need. When a friend has a need, you have a need. This is what the Bible means by compassion. We suffer with those who suffer. We are admonished to do so in the Scriptures: "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep." (Romans 12:15) As soon as a need is seen in a friend's life, a true friend will begin attempting ways of filling this need.
5. Feel as if you are a member of the family. Often ties of friendship become closer than some family ties. This is especially true if the friendship is in the Lord. The Bible speaks of "a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24) One should not feel in such a relationship that he has family privileges, but he should feel that he has family responsibilities.
It is sad for a person to live and die and never develop such friendships. One of the great joys of my life is loving people for whom I would die and having the love of people who would die for me. This kind of relationship carries with it responsibilities. These responsibilities are akin to those caused by family ties. Once some dear friends had a need in their house. Before I knew it, I found myself purchasing that need at a considerable expense. As I examine the reasons behind this purchase, I found the main one was that I subconsciously felt it was as my need for my house; hence, I must provide it.
6. Build up your friend's friends. Circumstances and distance often make it impossible for us to be or do for our friends as we would like. In such cases there is still a way that we can help provide for the needs of our friends. We may encourage, train, and help others who are in a position to provide the needs of our friends. It may mean some unselfish sacrifice on our part. But if our thoughts are on others, it matters not where the credit goes; it only matters that the friend is helped. As a pastor, with many thousands of members, I find it impossible to do for all of my friends what I would like to do. I can, however, teach their other friends how to be to them what I would like to be and cannot be. This may mean that my friend will feel a closer friendship with the one whom I trained than with me. However, since our goal in this chapter is to be a friend and not have a friend, it still can be reached by using this method.
7. Enjoy the presence of your friends. Man is not omnipresent. This means that he can be in only one place at one time, which is quite a handicap to busy people. This means that there are people with whom we would love to spend many hours but with whom we are privileged to spend just a few. When these opportunities come, they should be enjoyed to their fullest.
8. Spend some time with your friends even in their absence. One should know who his friends are and those to whom he has given his friendship. It has long been my policy to make a list of people to whom I am a true friend. Many times a month I go over this list and spend some time thinking of and praying for those to whom I am a true friend. This is usually done late in the evening in the hours of meditation. This article is being dictated on a jet plane flying to Tokyo, Japan. I have spend and will spend much time on such a trip thinking of those people who may call me their friend and whom I call my friends. It has long been my policy also to spend some time with and thinking about those who were once my friends and are now in Heaven. I try to remember their lives and thank God for the friendship that I once enjoyed with them.
9. Do kind deeds for loved ones of departed friends. It is impossible to do something for those friends who have passed on except as we do it to those of their loved ones who remain. David brought a little crippled fellow by the name of Mephibosheth to his palace to live with him in honor of his departed friend, Jonathan. This was the only way David could do something for Jonathan.
The pastor who preceded me at the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, is a godly man. When he left Hammond, he assumed a pastorate in California. The miles prevented our church from regularly doing kind deeds for him. Realizing this, we purchased a little house and gave it to his father rent-free as long as he lived. Upon the death of his father, we then offered it to his aunt with the same arrangement. Now to be sure we loved his father and we love his aunt, and we do such gestures because of that love; however, it is also a way of expressing our love for the former pastor in that we express it now to his loved ones.
Friendship is a very serious and sacred thing. It should be treated as such!
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