Sunday, February 11, 2007 -
It is natural that our subject study in Proverbs should move from wisdom and foolishness into a study of the value and nature of friendship. Throughout the Scriptures, and especially in Proverbs, wisdom and foolishness aren’t to be found in libraries and universities. They come from the established relationships of life.
1) FOR BETTER OR WORSE, YOU BECOME WHAT YOUR FRIENDS ALREADY ARE
Proverbs 13:20 - “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
This is such an important idea it is reinforced again in the New Testament:
1 Corinthians 15:33 - “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’”
The warning against deception at this point only proved we usually don’t think of our selves as being as shaped by our friends as we actually are. The idea here is friendships are too important to be established by mere emotional attachment, or how well people “get along.” While those things may be factors in seeking out friendships, moral influence must be the regulating principle.
2) NOT ONLY DO FRIENDSHIPS SHAPE OUR LIVES, THEY CAN OFFER GREATER STRENGTH AND SUPPORT IN TIMES OF TRIAL OR NEED
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 - “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!  Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Two can do what one cannot. But this relational support is only of value if the principle from point number 1 is remembered. In other words, there is no real help in a friend who is merely a sentimental support (i.e. telling you you’re right when you are wrong, not telling you the truth you need to hear, comforting you in a path toward disaster, etc.). The relationship must be according to Biblical pattern before the friendship can add moral strength to your life.
3) A GOOD FRIEND WILL STAND BY YOUR SIDE IN GOOD TIMES AND BAD
Proverbs frequently lays bare the worthless nature of a fickle friend:
Proverbs 19:4, 6-7 - “Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend.... “Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.  All a poor man's brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but does not have them.”
You discover your true friends when you are in the lowest seasons of life. Fair-weather friends receive nothing but scorn and rebuke in Proverbs. The whole Word of God denounces the very common practice of establishing friendships on the basis of common financial status, social background, etc. See also Proverbs 17:17. - “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
4) A TRUE AND FAITHFUL FRIEND WILL NOT ONLY OFFER SUPPORT IN TIME OF NEED, BUT HONESTY IN TIMES OF NECESSARY CORRECTION
Proverbs 27:6 - “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”
It takes great patience and humility to reach this level of friendship. You will reach it with only a few in your lifetime. Two friends have to be close indeed to see through the masks we all wear at times and be understanding and humble enough to hear words of correction without letting pride destroy their beneficial ministry in our lives.
See the story of David and Adonijah in 1 Kings 1:5-6 - “Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, "I will be king." And he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him.  His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, "Why have you done thus and so?" He was also a very handsome man, and he was born next after Absalom.”
5) GOOD FRIENDS ARE FAITHFUL IN BRINGING GODLY COUNSEL INTO ONE ANOTHER’S LIVES
Proverbs 27:9 - “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.”
Proverbs 27:17 - “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
These verses outline two types of counsel friends should provide. There are times when their words should comfort and heal like oil. And there are times when they should brace and sharpen with a firm but needed edge.
6) A GOOD FRIEND TAKES THE TIME TO TRULY KNOW THE SEASONS OF YOUR LIFE. HE HAS A SENSE OF TACT AND TIMING IN THE THINGS HE SAYS AND DOES
Proverbs 27:14 - “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.”
Proverbs 25:20 - “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.”
These are just simple ways of saying friends know where their companions are at in life. They know what fits and what doesn’t, what will be received and what won’t, what will only irritate, etc.
7) HOW TO MAKE GOOD FRIENDS
a) Avoid gossip - Proverbs 17:9 - “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.”
b) Avoid the person of quick temper - Proverbs 22:24-25 - “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man,  lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” Notice the link with what we said in point number one.
c) Keep the Word and ways of God prayerfully at the center of all your relationships - Psalm 1:1-3 - “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;  but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”