“A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).
“Once I told my old man, ‘Nobody likes me.’ He said, ‘Don’t say that–everybody hasn’t met you yet.’”—Rodney Dangerfield, I Don’t Get No Respect.
Berlin, Nazi Germany. Jesse Owens seemed sure to win the long jump at the 1936 games. The year before he had jumped 26 feet, 8 1/4 inches — a record that would stand for 25 years. As he walked to the long-jump pit, however, Owens saw a tall, blue eyed, blond German taking practice jumps in the 26-foot range. Owens felt nervous. He was acutely aware of the Nazis’ desire to prove “Aryan superiority,” especially over blacks. At this point, the tall German introduced himself as Luz Long. “You should be able to qualify with your eyes closed!” he said to Owens, referring to his two jumps. For the next few moments the black son of a sharecropper and the white model of Nazi manhood chatted. Then Long made a suggestion. Since the qualifying distance was only 23 feet, 5 1/2 inches, why not make a mark several inches before the takeoff board and jump from there, just to play it safe? Owens did and qualified easily. In the finals Owens set an Olympic record and earned the second of four golds. The first person to congratulate him was Luz Long — in full view of Adolf Hitler. Owens never again saw Long, who was killed in World War II. “You could melt down all the medals and cups I have,” Owens later wrote, “and they wouldn’t be a platting on the 24-carat friendship I felt for Luz Long.”—David Wallechinsky in The Complete Book of the Olympics
Be careful how you find your intimate friends. Select them like Jesus did.
Pray about each friend. Prior to choosing His disciples, Jesus “went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. 13 And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles” (Luke 6:12, 13).
Look for individuals who want to obey God, and submit to the Lordship of Christ. “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14).
Choose friends that will be with you. And then, when your friend is not with you, when they go forth, you will want them to have the image of Christ stamped on their lives. “And he [Jesus] ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach” (Mark 3:14). You do not always have to agree with your friends, but you must know they have your best interest in their hearts, and vice versa.
Deliberately choose your friends. There are many acquaintances in life, but few friends. A friend is one who comes in when others go out. A friend is someone you can trust with your resources, your life, your family. Jesus chose His friends. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:16).
Be with someone you can be honest with. “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. 67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:66-68). There are people who cannot handle the truth. They are not true friends. Jesus had many disciples, students, casual acquaintances in His life, but few friends. His friends, His disciples, were willing to listen to the difficult truth about themselves, about their ruin, redemption, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
Be with people who will not let you down in a time of testing. A friend is someone you can confide in safely. Honor them whenever possible. “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. 29 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me” (Luke 22:28, 29).
Be with Jesus. He is a Friend that will be closer to you than a brother.