Day 1: An example of true friendship
Read through 1 Samuel 20 reflecting on the friendship between Jonathan and David.
As we start our first study we look at the relationship between Jonathan and David and observe just how deep relationships between men can be. Jonathan put David before his relationship with his own father, he lied for him and he even put himself in physical danger for him. We are unlikely to be asked to do these things for our friends. Indeed, some of them might not even seem appropriate; should we really lie to protect others? In this first part of our journey we will consider some of the qualities which help us to build friendships with others, but just for today, let us be inspired by the depth of relationship that is possible and is shown between Jonathan and David. We too need to, and can, build friendships with people we can trust to look out for us and have our best interests at heart. However, it does take a step of faith, trust and a vulnerability to rely on others.
What speaks to you from the passage and what can you apply to your friendships?
Who could be your Jonathan(s)?
Do Jonathan and David inspire you to any specific action today?
Lord, as we journey, help us to journey together. Make our vulnerability our strength.
Day 2: A friend loves at all times
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Pr.17:17
This verse was certainly characterised by Jonathan and David. Adversity didn’t prevent their friendship from remaining true. However, we can think about this verse from two perspectives. Many commentators have observed that the verse instructs us not to be fair weather friends. We might also add to this not to be bad weather friends though. A young man I worked with struggled that some of his friends only wanted to know him when his life was difficult and not going well. He talked of it making him feel like a project who was just there to remind others of the blessings in their own life. Perhaps we might take a fresh look at this verse today and focus on the instruction to love at all times remembering whilst this includes adversities there will also be times of joy together. This could be the first step towards growing genuine friendships and not just friendship as a form of ministry.
What does it mean to ‘love’ a friend?
Do we need to forgive others or ourselves for a lack of love?
How committed are we to relationships with our friends at ‘all times’?
What does this mean to us today?
Lord, help us to grow friendships which are not just about our need to serve.
Day 3: Sometimes love hurts
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Pr.27:5-6
Just as yesterday we thought about how true friendship lasts the good times and the bad, today we acknowledge true friendship isn’t always comfortable. The writer of this proverb tells us those who only ever praise and comfort are more like enemies than friends. There are times when we need to rebuke or be rebuked. There are times when we need to hear or say things that we or others will not want to hear. It’s not about promoting our own perspective; true friendship is about encouraging one another to explore the truth of a situation and taking on that task together. Just as David had to help bring Jonathan to the realization that his father was out to kill him and may even harm Jonathan, we sometimes need to deliver a message that is not easy to stomach. The difference is a true friend will help work that message through.
Has there been times when you should have said something but backed away from it? Why?
How do you respond when someone says something to you which you don’t want to hear?
Is there something we need to hear or say today?
Lord, make us courageous in our friendships and ready to hear. Amen
Day 4: Asking for help
“Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father, and do not go to your brother’s house when disaster strikes you – better a neighbour nearby than a brother far away.” Pr.27:10
It is common today to move away from family. But who do we turn to when we need help? This has been an area which I’ve had to struggle with frequently, especially since I’ve had children. In the school play-ground you regularly see grandparents doing the school run. As our family lives 250 miles away, this has not been a possibility for us. Whilst we can usually manage this between us, there are occasions when we can’t. We’ve had to learn to ask those around us, our friends, to help. Whilst it’s often easy offering help, asking for help can be hard! However, as we see in this proverb, being able to turn to our friends when we need help is an important part of friendship. David felt able to do this with Jonathan, even when at threat from Jonathan’s family.
What is it that stops us from turning to friends in times of need?
Do we prevent God blessing others by not asking for their help?
Do we need to ask for help with something today?
Lord, help us overcome our pride and turn to our friends to help us in our struggles.
Day 5: Christ our sacrificial example
“Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jn.15:13
Yesterday we thought about how important it was to be able to request and receive help, but of course for this to work we also have to be willing to respond. Jesus provides us with the ultimate example in his sacrificial death. In Jonathan’s example he too risked injury to help his friend David. Few of us are called to offer such a high level of sacrifice in our friendships, but we are all challenged to sacrificially go that little bit further. To do this we need to work from a secure and safe basis for ourselves, something we will consider later in this journey. We also need to be able to give willingly and not grudgingly, God wants us to be blessed by our giving. When we give, it should help us to grow in our faith journey and should fill us with a sense of joy and wellbeing. Joyful giving in friendships is good giving which helps us to experience more of Christ. It may be costly, been nonetheless a gift.
How can we give to our friends sacrificially whilst still looking after ourselves and our family?
How might we experience joy in our giving?
Is God asking you to give sacrificially today?
Lord, help us to experience the joy of being wise and generous givers.
Day 6: Giving, receiving and jealousy
“Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” Pr.27:4
If you are anything like me, attempting to understand national and international debt is unfathomable! But how much more complex is the economy of God’s provision? It is easy for us to look around and question the fairness of God’s giving, especially when it comes through our pockets and resources. We may think some have too much, and some too little. This may be the case, but overly dwelling on human standards can lead to jealousy. We need to learn how to give according to God’s guidance and the opportunities he provides us with. God not only provides us with resources, but has also put us where we are because our resources fit the local needs. Jonathan was not jealous of the calling on David’s life, but instead was willing to give according to his own calling. May we also build friendships which are based on celebrating and supporting each other’s unique calling and provision.
Do we give grudgingly in our attempt to be good stewards? If so, do we need to release control more?
How can we seek social justice whilst accepting difference in provision?
Do we need to rethink our attitudes today?
Lord, you have made us stewards. Help us have godly wisdom.
Day 7: Gossip and sharing
“A perverse man stirs us dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.” Pr.16:28
The closer we are to people, the more we get to know the parts of their lives they may not want others to see. Jonathan would have known intimate details about the king to be, hence being asked about David by his father. It is relatively easy for us to accept we should not gossip about others, especially when they are our friends as we can understand that friends do not try to stir up dissension. However, do we sometimes ‘share in confidence’? Friends need to be confident about confidentiality. We may be well intended; for example, we may be ‘sharing’ to ask others to pray. But even in an example like this we need to prioritise the needs of our friend for privacy remembering our God does not need every detail for effective prayer. We need to support our friend’s decisions for their journey and ask them what can be shared.
Are there occasions when we should share confidential information?
How confident and bold are you in sharing confidentially?
How can we be wise in choosing what we should share and with whom?
Lord, help us to respect the friendships we build. Give us wisdom and discernment.
Day 8: Honesty and flattery
“A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” Pr.26:28
What do we do when we are asked for feedback and we have nothing good to say? This can be tricky when working with students, so you try to encourage them by focusing on the good points. You don’t lie as such, but perhaps over emphasise the positives. Well intended, but will it really develop the students work? In a similar way, when friends ask us for feedback about something we may sometimes feel a sense of dread about what we might need to say so we flatter or get around the truth. This proverb tells us this is no way to treat those we care about. Flattery is focused on making our own life easier and not on the development of our friend. It has our interest and not theirs at heart. Being a friend means, like Jonathan and David, developing a trust that words you may not want to say or hear can be delivered and accepted in love.
How hard do you find it to say the difficult things to others? How could you change this?
How can we practice and develop integrity in our speech whilst showing genuine love and responsibility?
Lord, help us to be sensitive and aware in the words we speak. Help us to build others up in truth.
Day 9: You can’t hurry love
“A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.” Pr.14:29
None of us like seeing those we care about hurting and struggling. We want to share the wisdom of our own life journey so others don’t have to make the same mistakes and go through the same pain as us. In itself, there is nothing wrong with this, but in reality we are all on our own journey in life, and often, we need to learn the lessons for ourselves. When we feel we have the answer to someone else’s problems we can become impatient. It can even lead to a sense of anger or bitterness as the person may appear unwilling to listen to you and move on. If we are to demonstrate real understanding in our friendships we need to demonstrate patience and enable others to take their own journey in life. In David’s life, this patience was required to wait for God to give him the kingship he was called to instead of taking it himself.
Can we really know what is best for someone else?
What can we do with our feelings of impatience?
Is impatience and anger always bad?
Lord, help us to trust you for the rhythm of life. May we hear and respond to your beat and not strive to rush or slow change.
Day 10: Reflecting on Jonathan & David
Re-read 1 Samuel 20 reflecting on the friendship between Jonathan and David.
As we come to the end of the first 10 studies we have thought about some of the characteristics of friendship. Jonathan and David had a friendship which enabled God’s plan to be fulfilled. This sometimes meant taking difficult decisions and having to face up to truth’s they would probably have rather not have had to deal with. God wants us too to have friendships built on solid foundations which will enable his purpose for us as individuals to succeed and for us to flourish. Jonathans name means the Lord gives. Through Jonathan the Lord gave David protection, support and the knowledge that he had someone he could rely upon. To receive that provision David had to trust Jonathan. Today we need to ask ourselves, who is / are our Jonathan(s) and are we prepared to grow trust in those relationships and God’s provision for us through them?
What speaks to you from the passage?
What can you apply to your friendships?
Who could be your Jonathan(s)?
Do Jonathan and David inspire you to any specific action today?
Lord, as we journey, help us to travel together. Make our vulnerability our strength.