FRIENDS                                                                                                                                            Andy Hollifield 1-28-17

A friend of mine and I recently had a conversation where we were discussing friends. Not particular people but the attributes of what makes a good friend, losing good friends, and how blessed we are to have any. I have always heard it said that a man is rich if he has one true friend. I am no different from most folks in that I like to think I have a lot of them. I am not talking about Facebook friends but about middle of the night friends that I can call and they will come to my aid without complaint. I have several of those and maybe not actually as many as I think. I know of one for sure that I would stake my very life on. One of my favorite scriptures is Proverbs 18:24 “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” That is the only time the phrase “closer than a brother” is used in scripture. We always think of that phrase referring to Jesus and truly it does. But it can and often does refer to the true friends in our lives.

I know that I have experienced the ultimate example of brotherly love in my own life. I have a brother that not only would be willing to lay his life down for me, but did it. In 1983 when I was in need of a kidney transplant, my big brother volunteered. After coming in from work when he was two weeks shy of being 19, he made an instant decision that would affect and possibly shorten his life. As our mom explained to him that the doctor had told me that day that within a year I would have to have a transplant or go on dialysis or both, he didn’t hesitate in his response. He said while making a bologna sandwich,”well, I’ve got two of them. Just let me know when I need to take off of work.” End of story. No thinking about it or asking what was in it for him, just volunteered without even being asked. The only thing he ever said to me about it was the night before surgery when our first pastor and his wife were visiting us in the hospital. He said “take care of it. If you do something stupid and lose it I’ll kill you.” That was it. He wasn’t badgered by family or even asked to volunteer. He did it because it was needed and he could. Not many of us will ever have the impact in a lifetime of work that he did in that one self-less act. He told me years later that when he was down at Bowman Gray School Of Medicine at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, NC they tried to talk him out of giving his kidney. They knew that if he seemed hesitant or extremely concerned that he had probably been pressured by family to give his kidney. He said he let them talk for a couple of days and finally just put an end to it. He said he told them “I know what you all are trying to do and it ain’t gonna work. You go ahead and say all you want to but this is my kid brother we’re talking about and I’m giving him my kidney.” If you knew my brother Jim you just chuckled a little and can appreciate that story. So when I say that I know a little something about brotherly love, I am speaking as a recipient of it.

I have also had some friends, one in particular, that I’ve had that kind of friendship with. Stanley and I grew up together, hunted and fished together, camped together, chased girls together, wrecked a car together, and when I got my heart broke, he sat and listened to me cry and moan till after three o’clock in the morning and never complained. He also called me about 6 AM on a Saturday morning I think it was when his son was born. Those kind of friends are rare but I have been blessed to have several in my life. His brother Steve was also one I could call on day or night and even though life has happened and we’re all not as close as we were as kids, I believe we still have a 24/7 friendship that any of the four of us, including Jim, would get up and go if needed at any hour with no questions asked. Those kind of friends are way more priceless than treasures could ever be.

Over the years I have developed a few of those type of friendships among church family. Probably more than I realize and that is just one of the added benefits of being a child of God. But with all of that being said I want to talk about my dearest friend. That night in April of ’83, I had to tell Stanley what was on my heart and mind and he was a good friend and listened. But that was all he could do. But my dearest friend, Jesus didn’t even have to be told how heart-broken I was. He already knew and not only that, but he eventually mended it and put the pieces back together. He has done that on more than one occasion when life has dealt me a blow that I didn’t think I could take. He has sat up with me all hours of the night and kept me company and helped ease my mind. Not only that but he has been able to either fix or get me through each of those situations. He even understands my pain and frustrations when no one else does. He can calm my fears when the storms of life have me afraid. Like the song says “sometimes he calms the storm and sometimes he calms me.” I am glad that God is able to do that because sometimes our friends may get weary or not be available but I am glad he is always as close as a prayer.

The word “friend” is used in scripture 53 times and “friends” is used 49 times. The bible says that God “spake unto Moses as a man speaketh unto his friend.” Another great verse about friends is this one in Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Jesus even spoke on the value of friendship in John 15:13-15 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (14) Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. (15) Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” I am thankful that not only does he call me his friend but he also has laid down his life for me. He proved his friendship when he stretched out his arms and died for my sin on the cross at Calvary. No greater love has ever been known than the love he has for lost humanity. Of all the friends you may have or have ever known; none can compare with the love and friendship that we have in him if we are born again. He IS the friend that sticketh closer than a brother. My brother slept through my surgery in 1983, but my dearest friend was right there in the OR holding the surgeon’s hand and guiding it and giving him wisdom and afterwards provided healing with the touch of his hand. That’s more than my brother could have ever done. If you don’t have a friend like mine, he is available and willing to “shew himself friendly” to you if you only submit yourself to him. You couldn’t possibly have a closer, more true, or more faithful friend than what Jesus is. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

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