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FRIENDSHIPCULTIVATING THE RELATIONSHIPS THAT ENRICH OUR LIVES
By Margaret Feinberg
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2009 Margaret Feinberg
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOne of Life's Greatest Gifts
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
Friendships were one of the original gifts from God. In the story of creation found in Genesis, when God made Adam He quickly noticed that it wasn't good for him to be alone. Then God created Eve. In addition to being the model of the first marriage, they were also best friends. God creates all of us to be in relationships and grow in our friendships.
Now it's no secret that friendships are special. Friendships are formed when we spend time with someone else. In those moments when we open up our hearts in exchanges of laughter, stories, and perspectives, we have the opportunity to grow close and form timeless bonds.
Friendships are one of life's greatest gifts. They're like treasures-you never know what you're going to discover about yourself or someone else. While friendships can bring us joy and comfort, they also contribute to our overall health and well-being. In fact, a recent study among women found that just spending time with friends can help reduce stress and produce a calming effect. If thatwasn't enough, one study found that having friends can contribute not only to a happier life but also to a longer life. Not having friends or people you can really talk to has been considered as detrimental to a person's health as smoking!
Despite all the great benefits and delights of friendships, it's easy to find ourselves too busy to nurture strong relationships. The demands of family, work, and daily chores can choke out the free time needed to maintain and grow friendships. That's why it's so important to be intentional about our friendships.
Simple activities like sending an e-mail, picking up the phone, or dropping a note in the mail can go a long way to strengthening a friendship and putting a smile on someone's face. Through small acts of kindness, we can nurture each other. We can both be a source of strength for someone else and also be strengthened. And we can grow into all God created us to be!
1. When was the last time you had a friend who did something that saved your bad day? How did the experience make you feel? Describe it in the space below. 2. When was the last time you had the opportunity to help save someone else's bad day? How did the experience make you feel? Describe in the space below.
3. What everyday activities have you found to be most helpful when it comes to growing and nurturing friendships?
One of the many beauties of friendship is that you don't have to face the challenges of life alone. God places all kinds of people in our lives to accompany us through the various stages of life. These relationships not only enrich our experiences but they also strengthen us.
4. Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. Can you think of a time when you specifically found this passage to be true in your own life? Explain in the space below.
One of the most important aspects of friendship is both knowing and being known. In friendship, we have the opportunity to be ourselves and allow others to really get to know us as we are. As a friendship grows deeper, we may find that the person that we're getting to know is much different than we are, but that's a good thing! Differences allow us to learn things about ourselves that we couldn't learn any other way.
When Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, He spoke to a wide audience of ages, interests, and experiences. Yet He challenged each person to not judge others on a surface level but to look deeper at the issues of the heart. Jesus found hidden treasures in all kinds of people.
5. Read Matthew 5:3-12. Fill in each of the descriptions of those Jesus blesses with the promises that they will receive.
According to this passage, God blesses those who make the world a better place and treat others well. Now, it's interesting to note that none of the blessings of God, also known as the Beatitudes, can happen apart from relationships.
6. Reflecting on the relationships in your own life, what have some of your friends taught you about God through their actions, attitudes, and involvement in your life?
Through friendship, God gives us the opportunity to reflect His characteristics and His qualities to those around us. In friendships, we get to put into practice what we really believe about God.
7. Think of a few of your friendships. How have they given you the opportunity to put into practice what you really believe about God?
8. Make a list of three friends in the space below. What specifically can you do this week to bless and encourage them?
God desires a relationship with us. As we grow to know Him, we discover more about God and His ways. Read Psalm 119:11. Why do you think it's so important to spend time in the Bible? How does spending time in Scripture affect your relationship with God? What happens when you go long periods of time without spending time in Scripture? How does it affect your life? Your outlook? Your relationship with God?
Ponder and Pray
The opening scripture for this lesson comes from Proverbs 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." How have you found this to be true in your life? Who would you list as some of your "iron" friends? Why do you think it's so important to build your relationship with "iron" friends?
Choose one friend to meet with on a weekly basis simply to encourage and pray for each other. Whether you connect via e-mail, phone, or in person, be intentional about your relationship and look for opportunities to connect with God together.
Chapter TwoDiscovering God as a Best Friend
"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14:18
One of Mary Stevenson's most popular poems is called "Footprints in the Sand," and it's been translated into many languages and treasured by millions of fans. In this poem, Stevenson depicts a dream she had where the Lord explained His role in her life. She looked out and saw her life as a journey as displayed by footprints on a sandy beach.
During the high points of life, she noticed two sets of footprints, but during the more difficult and challenging times, she only noted one set. She felt frustrated and disappointed. Where had God been? Why did He leave her all alone? Her feelings of anger budded into a sense of betrayal.
When she raised the issue to God in prayer, the Lord faithfully revealed to her that He had never left her. Those moments when she only saw one set of footprints, He had steadily been carrying her through.
At times, all of us will find ourselves asking, "Where has God gone?" and "Why do I feel all alone?" Though we may feel like God is a million miles away, the truth is that He has faithfully promised to never leave us nor forsake us. He carries us through the darkest of valleys and renews us in surprising ways when we least expect it.
Of all the relationships in our lives, our relationship with God is the most important. God wants to be our best friend-the first One we turn to in good times and bad. He wants to be our rock, our steadying hand, the One who carries us through. God wants to be our BFF-our best friend forever-and the invitation to that relationship is something that is available to us today and every day.
1. Reflecting on the image of the woman on the beach, what are some specific times in life when you felt like you've had the pleasure of being God's friend and walking beside Him on the beach?
2. Reflecting on the image of the woman on the beach, what are some specific times in life when you felt as if you were all alone and God was a million miles away?
3. Reflecting on those moments when you felt alone in the past, can you now recognize that God was with you every step of the way? Why or why not?
Though we may be tempted to think that God has left us on our own, Scripture reminds us that God is faithful. He is true to His word.
4. Read Isaiah 54:10. What does this passage reveal about the faithfulness of God?
5. Read John 15:15. How do you feel about being called a friend of God? In what way do feel like you treat God as a close friend? In what ways do you feel like you do not? Explain in the space below.
The busyness and demands of everyday life can make it challenging to connect with God and grow a relationship with Him. You may find all kinds of unexpected things getting in the way. As a result, even your best intentions to make time to connect with God may not succeed. The good news is that we have the opportunity to study the things in life that get in the way of our relationship with God and become more intentional about guarding our time.
6. Reflecting on the list below, place a check by the items that tend to distract you from spending time and nurturing your relationship with God.
___ Internet ___ Social activities ___ Television ___ Trying to keep up with the Joneses ___ Busyness ___ Laziness ___ Work ___ Other
Despite all the things that may try to distract you, God still desires a relationship with you-more than you can imagine. discovering god as a Best Friend
7. Read John 15:1-8. According to this passage, what can you do apart from God? 8. The passage you just read in John 15 highlights the need to rely on God. In the space below, draw a picture of a vine and branches to show where you feel you are in your relationship to God. Add fruit to represent areas in which you feel fruitful and denote pruning to reveal where you feel like God is working in your life.
Throughout His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus showed us countless examples of His love for us. Read John 13:3-10. Now imagine Jesus asking to wash your feet. Would you be excited or hesitant about the experience? Why? Are there any areas of your life where you're hesitant to express dependence on God or try to do things on your own? Prayerfully take these to God.
Ponder and Pray
The opening scripture for this lesson comes from John 14:18: "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." In what ways have you found this to be true in your own life? Why is God's faithfulness so important to your faith journey? How does knowing that God will never leave you nor forsake you make you feel?
On a blank piece of paper, make a list of seven things you consider essential in a good friend. Examples include compassion, trustworthiness, and honesty. Over the course of the next week, spend time searching for scriptures that identify God with one of these qualities. Ask God to reveal Himself to you in new and unexpected ways.
Chapter ThreeDiscovering God's Friends
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42
A group of lifelong friends decided to purchase a parcel of land together in the mountains of North Carolina and build homes on the property. They had spent their lives together, and now they wanted to retire together. Each couple carefully designed their individual houses with loving care and attention to detail.
One day a visitor came to the property and visited one of the homes. The visitor couldn't help but notice the wide, beautiful doorways throughout the house.
"I really like your doorways," the visitor commented.
"Oh, those are for our neighbor," the owner answered.
"Why did you design your home for someone who doesn't even live here?"
"Because while we were building our home, our neighbor began suffering from multiple sclerosis. Within months she was using a wheelchair. Most doors come in a small standard size. For our doors to always be open to her, we need them to be thirty-six inches, which is standard for wheelchair accessibility. They're expensive but they're worth every penny because our dear friend and neighbor feels comfortable coming over and visiting whenever she wants-even when we're not here."
Friendship with God is not just between you and God but also extends to your relationship with others. Loving God means loving His people, including those who don't know Him yet. Just like the story of the lifelong friends who built their homes so others could feel welcome, we have the opportunity to build our lives in such a way that we can welcome others. Like the doors that were built slightly wider, we can open our hearts to those who may be different than us but need to experience God's love nonetheless. And in the process, we may find ourselves being loved in ways we wouldn't experience any other way.
1. Have you ever had someone do something significant like building custom doors to show their love and appreciation of you? If so, explain. How did it impact your life?
2. Have you ever done something significant like building custom doors to show your love and appreciation to someone else? If so, explain. What was the result?
3. Why do you think it's important to keep the door of your heart open to others?
When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment and how to inherit eternal life, He actually listed two commands that go hand in hand.
4. Read Luke 10:25-28. Does loving God or loving your neighbor come more naturally for you? Explain.
5. Why do you think it's so important to God that we love others?
The story in Luke doesn't end with Jesus simply explaining the two commandments. He illustrates these commands with a powerful story.
6. Read Luke 10:29-37. Why do you think the temptation is to look the other way when we see someone in need?
One of the most amazing things about the stories and parables that Jesus told is that we are invited to look at the stories from different angles and perspectives. Though we may naturally relate to one person in a story Jesus taught, it's important to carefully examine each person mentioned. Studying each person's perspective helps the story come alive, and we can learn more through it.
7. Which of the three men described in this passage best portrays your everyday attitude toward your neighbors?
8. Are there any opportunities in your life right now where you feel God calling you to be the Good Samaritan? Explain. Is anything stopping you from getting involved?
As a friend of God, you are called and created to love others. Loving others and loving God go hand in hand.
Loving others means looking for opportunities to serve. Read Matthew 28:20-28. How did Jesus demonstrate what it means to be a servant through His life? Why do you think service is so important in expressing love? How do you show your love for others? Who are you serving right now?
Excerpted from FRIENDSHIP by Margaret Feinberg Copyright © 2009 by Margaret Feinberg. Excerpted by permission.
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