I am constantly reminded of just how thankful I am for the friends that I have. Those that you surround yourself with in many ways shape and at times define you. Are you surrounding yourself with people who share only similar values or who share no similar values with you whatsoever? I would argue that both are wrong.
As Christians, it is really important that we surround ourselves with a core of people who share similar values. Just as Proverbs 27:17 states, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (NIV). We can challenge and encourage one another (1 Thess. 5:11). We can share successes and failures. We can pray together (Acts 1:14). We can have accountability (Gal. 6:1-2) and fellowship (Acts 2:42). We can help one another up when we fall (Ecc. 4:9-12). We can work together to be even more effective in advancing the kingdom of God. You will spend a lot of time with these people, so choose wisely.
Of course, we also want to have friends that do not share the same values. These friends also help to challenge us in different ways. They help challenge Christians to be able to defend their faith and their stances on certain issues. They encourage believers in Christ to be able to support their beliefs (1 Peter 3:15). They also help to remind us that there are those who do not share the same faith. In our interactions, we can learn how to better share the gospel.
Looking back, I can see how both sets of friends have influenced me greatly. If it were not for strong Christian friends in middle and high school, however, I would no doubt have a completely different life now. Even to this day, there are times when I become discouraged or begin to take my relationship with Christ for granted. It is during these times that I often forget (or maybe I am just too prideful) to ask friends to help me carry this burden by praying that I can renew the joy of my salvation (Ps. 51:12). The JOY of my salvation. Take a minute to reflect on that statement. Joy is something that is provided to us by God. God’s salvation brings us an eternal joy that can never be taken away! When we are at our lowest, when everything else has seemingly been taken away, our joy can never be stripped from us unless we choose to give it up! Joy came in the form of a baby over 2000 years ago (Luke 2:10) and is made complete by our commitment to follow Christ (John 15:11).
We have such an exciting and relevant message to share! Why are we all too often comfortable sitting back in our chair at church once a week, listening and nodding along to a well-spoken sermon, and leaving feeling better about ourselves? When does the power of the gospel take hold of our lives and make radical changes that only leave others wondering how they can have a part of that? Do we take the time to encourage those around us to live in such a way? Do we, being our normal, prideful selves, simply refuse to admit that we have struggles and take the risk of asking for help from others when it comes to spiritual matters, excusing it by saying “Oh, I just don’t want to bother him or her with this. I can handle it on my own.”? We need each other. Most of all, we need God. But, we need each other as well.
Accountability is so crucial. I know that I have certain friends that I can go to who will without a doubt pray for any need that I share with them. I have friends that I know will give me wise advice when I am most in need of direction. I have friends that will encourage me in my walk with Christ when I feel the most down. I even have particular friends I go to when I want to rejoice over some way that the Lord has blessed me. I’m still searching for the one that will point out my faults in a gentle way and push me to grow in these areas (or perhaps I have found many and have just been too prideful to accept their admonishment). You will most likely fail to find every attribute in one person, but each person has a unique gift.
Encourage someone today. Take some time to reflect on the wonderful friends that God has blessed you with and the role(s) they play in your life. If you do not have someone to help hold you accountable in every area of your life, pray for and seek them out. They do not always just come to you. Remember, it’s ok if you cannot do everything on your own. God gives us every resource we need, including friends, to help us succeed in the things he has called us to do.