FRIENDSHIP

Jesus took some breaks with His disciples (Mk. 6:31) and so do we.  These articles are scheduled to resume on 2/12.  We hope you will rejoin us at that time.

Over forty years ago, a family came into our lives. Our children grew up together; we attended the same congregation; the children went to the same school; we did mission work together; we have been there for one another through all kinds of things including sicknesses, weddings, and deaths.

Just a few months ago, the husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness. The doctors have given him six to seven years to live. The decline in his health has been outlined. They know what to expect, and they have planned for the ultimate outcome.

This wonderful man, a preacher, a song leader and a great servant of God, spoke to a group before our regular worship service on Sunday evening. His message was not about his illness but about encouragement.

He talked about being servants for the Lord, especially doing little things for others. His remarks and our long friendship with this family made me think about the actions of some friends we read about in the Bible.

In Matthew 9, a man came to Jesus who was sick with palsy. Palsy was an illness that caused paralysis and was often accompanied with tremors. Verse 2 says the man was brought to Jesus, lying on a bed. Jesus healed this man and even forgave his sins.

Notice that he “was brought” to Jesus. I wonder who those were that carried this man on a bed to Jesus, hoping he could be healed. I suspect it was friends.

In Mark 2, Jesus had gone to Capernaum. He was in someone’s house, and word spread that the man who could do miracles was in the city. Verse 2 tells us there were so many people in the house that no one could get in. Jesus was preaching to the people when suddenly the tiles from the roof were removed, a man was let down on a bed through the opening.

This man also had palsy, and he didn’t get through the roof alone. He had to have help and not from just one person. It took several.

Jesus healed this man and forgave his sins. The man immediately picked up his bed and left the house.

In John 5, there was a pool by the sheep market in Jerusalem. This pool had five porches, and people with all kinds of illnesses lay around it.

The people believed that at certain times the water in the pool was stirred; and if you could be the first one in the pool, you would be healed. Can you imagine the confusion as people tried to be the first one in the water?

One of sick was weak and unable to walk. He had been this way for thirty-eight years.

As Jesus approached the pool, he asked the man if he wanted to be made well. The man responded that he did want to be made well, but he didn’t have anyone to put him in the pool.

In this case, someone took him to the gate; but no one was there to assist him into the water. Where were his friends? They were probably taking care of their own needs and obligations. Imagine their surprise at the end of the day when they returned and discovered that he was not at the pool but had walked away after being healed.

Acts 3 provides our last example. Peter and John were on their way to the temple to pray. It was about three in the afternoon.

There was a man who was lame and lying at one of the gates to the temple. He had been this way since he was born.

Every day someone carried him to the gate of the temple so he could beg for money from those who came to pray. He was left there all day with the hope that someone would give him money, probably money he needed to survive.

When Peter and John came along, he asked them for money. Peter told him that they had no money, but they had something better. Having said that, Peter told the man to “Rise up and walk.”

Immediately this man was healed. Having never walked, he was immediately able to walk and leap.

In every one of these stories, someone took the infirmed person to a place where they might receive help. Over and over these friends carried these men to a specific place with no hope of things changing for them.

Since there are no miracles today, we can’t take our friends somewhere so they can be miraculously healed. We can’t expect that a terminal illness that has brought about permanent physical changes can be reversed.

My friend says that whether it is his terminal illness, someone’s short-term illness, personal problems, or day-to-day issues of life, everyone needs encouragement. Everyone needs someone to be there for him or her. Then he gave us four ways in which we can encourage.

• We encourage by our attitudes. We should be enthusiastic about our Christianity because we are children of God.

• We encourage by our participation. Everyone needs to be a part of some work of the church. We need to go about our daily walk with Christ, desiring to be involved in the work of the church. We need to grow our faith, our energy, and our stamina.

• We encourage by our actions. We need to learn to see a need and do something about it. Our attitude needs to be, “What can I do for you?”

• We encourage by our faith. We need to live our lives looking forward to the time we will be with the Father and knowing that He will be with us.

Look among your friends and help someone in need. Look outside your friends, even among your enemies, and make a friend.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 ESV).

Sandra Oliver

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