I Had a Friend

“Two are better than one,” Solomon tells us in Eccl.4:9,10 “because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow:  but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him.”

There was a dachshund pup, Milo, that was said to have met a lion cub by the name of Bonedigger the Lion. The lion had a bone disease that caused him to be disabled, but his small friend, Milo, took the little cub under his wing, and they remained thereafter companions.

Charles Kingsley, renowned English novelist and cleric was once asked by an admirer, “What is the secret of your life?  Tell me, that I might make my life beautiful, too.”  The great man simply replied, “I had a friend.”

Most anyone who has enjoyed any measure of beauty, of well-being, of happiness, joy and fulfillment could agree with Kingsley, “I had a friend.”

This writer has had one for more than 70 years. We met in a local church and had a kindred spirit for God’s work. Before I spent a day in Bible college, I was a “co-pastor” of a small, dying church in my hometown of Ottumwa, Iowa, and my friend was the other half of the “co-.“  We held revival meetings and VBS schools in northeast Missouri small town churches that were otherwise “closed” on Sundays, and this, in truth, before we had enough sense to do so; but we had a love for our Lord and a desire to see churches that were on “life-support” revived.  We attended the same school eventually, continued our weekend outreach ministries in the mountains of North Carolina and he was my “best man” and I his; and I pastored Thompson Road Baptist Church in Indianapolis for forty years because, from a human perspective, my friend submitted my name to the pulpit committee for consideration when TRBC was seeking God’s will about a pastor.  We are still friends to this day and communicate regularly.  I had a friend.

“Oh, the comfort—the inexpressible comfort—of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words; but pouring them all right out—just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them—keep what is worth keeping and with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” (George Eliot)

J. Wilbur Chapman, well known evangelist of yesteryear, said that forty people suffering from some disease, were brought to Jesus and were healed.  Of this number, the preacher said 34 were either brought to Jesus by friends or Jesus was taken to them. In only six out of the forty cases did sufferers find their way to Christ without assistance. (The Sword of the Lord)

“Thank God for you, good friend of mine, seldom is friendship such as thine; How very much I wish to be, as helpful as you’ve been to me. Thank God for you.”

The value of a friendship could hardly be overstated. People not only are brought to Christ by friends, they are also nourished in their faith by a loving, loyal friend.

A pastor, responding to a suggestion from the suggestion box in the back of the church sanctuary, preached a sermon one Sunday on “The Recognition of Friends in Heaven.” The next week another note was in the suggestion box which read as follows, “Dear Pastor, I would be much obliged if you could preach a message on The Recognition of Friends on Earth. I have attended this church for six months and no one has noticed me yet.”

You may chuckle at that, but my wife and I, when I was in seminary in a large city, attended a church for nine months while Ellen was “carrying” our third child. In due season she gave birth to our son, Ted, and when she returned as soon as possible to the church services, several remarked that they had not noticed that she had been expecting!  That was not a large church but rather a church of less than 100. We joined anyway because the old preacher could expound the scriptures like none other that we had heard in the area, though we had invited him several times to pay a visit to us as prospective members so that we could learn more of the church and its ministry.  Being friendly and welcoming to visitors and strangers is so important. By the way, that church did have an older man who waited at the entrance of the church with a bulletin in his hand and a warm welcome, manifested in a wide smile, for everyone who attended. He was a key factor, as well as the pastor’s exposition of the Word, in our joining that church!

A newspaper in Lincoln, Nebraska, reported that a lady who visited eighteen churches on successive Sundays in order to evaluate the friendliness of the churches in the area, rated each one using the following scale:  10 for a smile; 10 for a greeting from someone sitting nearby; 100 for an exchange of names; 200 for an invitation to dinner or coffee; 200 for an invitation to return; 1000 for an introduction to another worshipper and 2000 for an introduction to the pastor. The lady reported that all eighteen churches visited earned less than 100 points. It was her conclusion that though the preaching is Biblical and the music inspiring and uplifting, when no one seems to care whether or not a visitor returns, he or she is not likely to pay a second visit.

Friendship is so powerful. Church should be the place where our dearest friendships are forged. Joseph Scriven, you probably remember, was engaged to a beautiful woman and the night before their wedding the boat she was in capsized and she was drowned. Scriven never got over the shock of it but in hopes of doing so, he moved from his home in Ireland to Canada where he taught school and was a tutor, living a very simple, private life and considered by some to be eccentric. But Scriven, found in his loneliness and sad life a true friend of whom he wrote, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear; what a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer!”

I hope you have a friend; I hope you are a friend. This past weekend it was our (Ellen and myself) pleasure to return to Ottumwa, Iowa, to attend my 60th high school class reunion. Fifty or sixty of our classmates were there and it was so good to renew acquaintances and get updates on the lives of some very special people who were school daze friends (that’s not a spelling error; remember those daze days?) It was like picking up where we left off and there was so much to catch up on. Many of them are believers and serving the Lord in their particular walk of life. It was an unspeakable blessing and one that I am so thankful that we were able to experience. I have had and still do have, many precious friends for which I am ever grateful to our great God.

“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Provs.17:17)

One thought on “I Had a Friend

  1. Thank you , Tony! What a beautiful sentiment about friendship. We have lived many places and making friends and keeping them once you have left is a challenge! I have always worked hard at “keeping my friendships alive”


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