At the end of the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life, Clarence the Angel leaves George Bailey a copy of Mark Twain’s adventure story, Tom Sawyer. Surrounded by scores of friends singing in celebration of Christmas, George smilingly opens the front cover, and we see what Clarence has wisely written: “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.”
But as I have learned, not all friends are the same. Some friends are more valuable than others. They say that dog’s are a man’s best friend. A People magazine article in 1995 detailed a true story that happened as follows:
Even with the temperature hovering at 35 below zero, dog trainer Jim Gilchrist of Innisfil, Ontario, decided to take his two pets-
Tara, a Rottweiler, and Tiree, a golden retriever-out for their usual afternoon walk on Feb.24,1995. After passing through the woods, they headed home across frozen Lake Simcoe. But as the dogs bounded ahead, Gilchrist, 61, felt the ice give way. “I was walking along and went ‘pop’ right through,” he recalls. “It happened so fast. I thought, ‘This could be the end.’ “
Hearing her master’s cries, Tara raced over, only to crash through herself. As they thrashed about, Tiree appeared. “All I could think was that she’d meet our same fate,” says Gilchrist. Instead the whining dog crouched on her belly and crawled to the hole. As Gilchrist grabbed Tiree’s collar, Tara scrambled atop his back to jump out of the hole. Then she lay on her belly alongside Tiree so Gilchrist could grab her collar with his other hand. While the 200-pound Gilchrist hung on, the dogs clawed backward until he was safe. “They had every right to run ashore,” says Gilchrist, who, back home, gave his dogs a hot bath. “They risked their lives to save me.”
I hope your best friend is not a dog. I believe that every one of us could tell a story of how a human friend was there for us when we were facing a difficult time. Perhaps you had a very special friend who stuck by you when all your other friends left you or even turned on you.
I have discovered as you probably have, that adversity reveals our true friends. Solomon wrote:
Solomon was using what we call parallelism to make his point about true friends. The first observation about a friend is explained and expanded by the second statement. So what Solomon is really saying about a true friend is:
- A friend is someone who continues to love, and to show that love, whatever the circumstances.
- A friend is born for adversity—not his or her adversity, but yours.
- In other words, the true test of a friend is whether or not he or she is there for you in the bad times, the tough times.
- A friend is like a brother—short of death, you can never get rid of him.
Great friends mean a lot. Whether it is a dog that will sacrifice his life for you, or a friend that will always be there for you, our lives are Richer with good friends. Our walk is taller with friends by our side. We are a whole lot braver and bolder when we are with friends.
I grew up at 77th & Roe in Prairie Village. From the ages of 9-11 I played all the time with my brother John and Bobby & Chuck Fields. With a couple other friends like Bobby Cox we were a pretty tight group. We played on same baseball teams, etc.
Right behind us there was another group of kids living on Fontana Street. They never bothered us, except this one time. I was swinging in the Fields’ back yard waiting for them to come home. I was by myself that day. I was a runt, sickly asthmatic kid. Well four of the guys on Fontana street crossed the creek and came into their back yard. They pulled me out of the swing as I was swinging, and a big kid set on my while a couple of them kicked me. They didn’t hurt me bad, but I was crying. I kept saying my friends are getting home any minute and they will beat you guys up. They just laughed but not risking anything, they ran to their street. Man I was mad and embarrassed and a little scared. When Chuck & Bobby got home I told em what happened and told them we need to go get those guys. Guess what, they didn’t want to do anything. So I learned an important lesson that day. I needed bigger friends. If I was going to not live in fear I needed bigger friends. So I made friends with this older boy next door. He liked to make model airplanes, so I started to make model airplanes. Tommy & I became good friends. I thought I had a big enough friend who would protect me if I needed it. But one day another kid wanted to see my model airplanes. I brought out my Black Widow bomber so he could see it. He took it, lifted it up and promptly smashed it onto some rocks. When I went over to Tommie’s to get some help getting revenge, he all of a sudden was too sick to come out. I learned that not only did I need a big friend, but I needed a fearless big friend.
Fortunately my teenage years passed quickly without the need for any more fearless big friends (except for one instance in 8th grade but I discovered that running fast was a virtue when confronted by a bully).
A Time of Decision
But facing graduation from Shawnee Mission West High School, I realized I needed someone to help me figure out what to do with my life.
I was facing the most important decision of my life-where to go to college, what to major in, what to do with my life. I was pretty worried and anxious about making the right decision. My teachers and my friends all said I should be a lawyer because I was good at debate. Plus they made a lot of money. So I applied and was accepted at Washburn and planned on a pre-law degree, with Law School after that.
When I was about 13, I had started a friendship with the biggest Friend I could find. His name was God. I read His Word at times, talked to Him at times, went to youth group, but I wasn’t getting His advice on what to do with my life.
At a youth rally at High Street Baptist Church in July of 1971, 30 days before I was to start Washburn, I heard a Sermon by Dr Elmer Towns at High Street Baptist Church. All I remember was that God wanted us to give Him our whole life. God is not happy being a sometimes friend. He is the Big Friend that wants us to trust Him completely. He is such a friend that He gave His only son, Jesus so that our sins can be forgiven, and we can have a deep personal relationship with this awesome Father and Friend.
I decided that I needed this Biggest Friend God, and that I needed to trust Him with my whole life. But the way was through His Son. He had given His Son for me on the cross, and I could totally trust my life in His hands. So I gave my life to Jesus. Jesus was the one who had set His face like a flint to the Cross, to hang there with my sins on His back. He was and is that fearless friend I had been searching for. He had fearlessly given His life for me! He had fearlessly given up everything for me!
After I laid my fears and worries at the altar and given everything in my life to Jesus, to let Him be Lord and King of my life, He made some dramatic changes. Those changes came about because I realized some amazing things about my new Fearless Big Friend. Those Truth’s are in Isaiah 41:10.
‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. ‘ Isaiah 41:10 (NASB)
There are Five Tremendous Pillars that Demonstrate how awesome is this Big Fearless Friend:
The Five Pillars of GOD’S FEARLESS FRIENDSHIP: Isa 41:10
- God is with me—”Do not fear, for I am with you.”
- God is my God —”Do not look anxiously about you, for I am your God.”
- God is my strength — “I will strengthen you.”
- God is my help — “Surely I will help you.”
- God upholds me —”Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Two Benefits of a having a big Fearless Friend
I discovered there are two benefits of having God as my Fearless Friend. They are stated at the very beginning of this verse:
- “Fear not”
- “do not anxiously look about you” (RSV: “do not be dismayed”).
Dismayed: “destroy your courage or resolve. Something causes you to lose enthusiasm, to be disillusioned”. That is exactly what happened to Peter. He took his eyes off His Fearless Friend, started looking at the wind and lost his courage, his resolve to keep walking.
You may not be trying to walk on water, but there may be some Christians here who have become disillusioned with Jesus. You may have lost your courage, your resolve, your enthusiasm in walking this Christian life. You have experienced hurts or broken promises or deception and you have taken your eyes off this fearless friend.
There have been times in my life that have been hard to accept, hard to take. I have even tried to walk away from my Fearless Friend, but these Five Truths kept coming back to me. Perhaps we need to look at them in light of what Winston Churchill said:
On October 29, 1941, Great Britain Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited Harrow School to speak to the students. Toward the end of his 4 minute speech he said this: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor”
We must never give in to fear, we must never give in to discouragement. We must never give in to apathy and disillusionment. We must never, never lose our heart for our Fearless Friend. We need to gaze long into the face of our Fearless Friend. When everyone around you is becoming fearful for the future, disillusioned with our government and leaders, we need to remind ourselves that JESUS IS STILL OUR FEARLESS FRIEND and HE STILL REIGNS ON HIGH!
We need to make Isaiah 41:10 the foundation of our walk with Christ, and combine it with the words of Winston Churchill:
Never Give in. . . God is With You!
The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)
No matter what you are facing, whatever the obstacle or diagnosis or hardship, with Jesus Christ in your heart, God is always with You.
- He has made us accepted in the Beloved (Eph 1:6)
- Christ is in you, the hope of Glory (Col 1:27)
- Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 1 John 4:15 (NKJV)
- Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 (ESV)
A mother, wishing to encourage her son’s progress at the piano, bought tickets for a Paderewski performance. They found their seats near the front of the concert hall. The mother found a friend to talk to and the boy slipped away.
When eight o’clock arrived, the spotlights came on, and only then did they notice the boy on the piano bench innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”
The master appeared on the stage and quickly moved to the keyboard. “Don’t quit—keep playing,” he whispered to the boy. Leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obligato. Together, the old master and the young novice held the crowd mesmerized.
In our lives, unpolished though we may be, it is the master who surrounds us and whispers in our ear, “Don’t quit—keep playing.” And as we do, he augments and supplements until a work of amazing beauty is created.
Never Give in. . . God is Your God!
We must each have a deep sense of God’s presence in our lives, THE GOD who is El Elyon, who reigns from on high! Each of these significant servants of God had this signature realization:
and said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 1 Kings 8:23 (ESV)
Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, Psalms 113:5 (ESV)
No one is like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Jeremiah 10:6 (NIV)
If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 (NIV)
Never Give in. . . God is Your Strength!
For almost 10 years David had been on the run from King Saul. 600 Mighty men surrounded David, fought with him, defended him. With no where else to go David joined King Achish of the Philistines. He and his men pretended to war against Israel but secretly raided the Amalekites, enemies of Israel. The othe Philistine Lords were suspicious, and when preparing to go to war against King Saul, sent David away, back to his home in Ziklag.
3 And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. 4 Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept, until they had no more strength to weep. 5 David’s two wives also had been taken captive, Ahin’o-am of Jezreel, and Ab’igail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 6 And David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. 1 Samuel 30:3-6 (RSV)
Never Give in. . . God is Your Help!
God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Psalms 46:1 (NKJV)
39 But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; He is their strength in the time of trouble. 40 And the Lord shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, Because they trust in Him. Psalms 37:39-40 (NKJV)
The threat of war is having a positive impact on soldiers preparing for conflict with Iraq. On a recent Sunday morning, eight young men approached the altar in a canvas church, received blessings from a chaplain, and were baptized in a freshly dug pool. They emerged to applause from their fellow Marines.
Makeshift chapels throughout Kuwait’s military camps and logistics bases have been jammed with worshippers as the threat of war grows. Many of the men have not entered a church back home in years.
Some troops say this “foxhole religion: is critical to their preparation for war, saying it provides confidence that they will be protected if called upon to fight and faith that their mission is just.” Lance Corporal Matthew Haugan from California was one of those recently baptized, Haugan says, “After today, I feel more ready to cross the border. This is better armor than anything the Marine Corps could give me. I feel better about myself than I ever have, and I know God will be looking out for me.”
Army Chaplain Keith Kilgore, a Southern Baptist minister, said, “It’s the best ministry I’ve ever had. When soldiers are about to face combat, they start getting spiritual. They want to get right with God.” Priest Bill Devine adds, “Their experiences over here will change them, and if that includes bringing God more into the picture, so much the better.” —www.washingtonpost.com, In Kuwait, Baptism Before the Gunfire, By Jonathan Finer and Peter Baker, February 28, 2003. Submitted by Jim Sandell.
Never Give in. . . God Upholds You!
Has there ever been a time in your life when you had that feeling you were drowning, or you were being buried alive in problems. A young David, found himself being anointed with oil to be the next King of Israel by Samuel. In only a couple of years he found himself running for his life, hiding in cold, wet, clammy caves. Once, while hiding in a cave, he could hear King Saul and his men outside. He had nowhere else to run. He was trapped. To see how David reacted we read Psalm 57: A michtam of David when he fled from Saul into the cave:
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until these calamities have passed by. 2 I will cry out to God Most High, To God who performs all things for me. 3 He shall send from heaven and save me; He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. Selah God shall send forth His mercy and His truth. 4 My soul is among lions; I lie among the sons of men Who are set on fire, Whose teeth are spears and arrows, And their tongue a sharp sword. 5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let Your glory be above all the earth. 6 They have prepared a net for my steps; My soul is bowed down; They have dug a pit before me; Into the midst of it they themselves have fallen. Selah 7 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise. 8 Awake, my glory! Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn. 9 I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. 10 For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, And Your truth unto the clouds. 11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let Your glory be above all the earth. Psalms 57:1-11 (NKJV)
David could have prayed for Saul’s death, for the problem to go away, for God to do as He said and make him King. But that is not what David prayed. He cried out to God “Be exalted O God” not just once, but twice. He put God before him and what he wanted, and those problems he had. God was first. God’s will was first. God’s Glory was first.
What is the problem facing you? Perhaps they are many. Cry out to God for His Glory in your life and in your problem. See that He upholds you by the power of His hand. You’ve got to let go of what you are clinging to, and cling to Him! Put God between your problems and you. Cling to HIM!
In Isaiah 41:13 God re-emphasizes – “For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’
Jesus is Your Fearless Friend
Sure God is fearless. Who does He have to be afraid of. Is He so big that you can’t relate to Him? That is why he sent His Son. His Son wasn’t afraid to face Satan without His divine powers./ He was clothed in weak flesh. He was just like you and me. Yet He had no fear! He went to the cross with love for you in His heart, and your sins on His bloodied and broken back.
Jesus says You have seen me, you have seen the Father. I and the Father are one. I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me.
If we see Jesus Christ in Isaiah 41:10, we find that Jesus is Five relations to us expressed in five different prepositions:
- I am your God—over you.
- I am with you—by your side.
- I will strengthen you—from inside of you.
- I will help you—all around you from wherever the enemy comes.
- I will uphold you—from underneath you.
Over you, by you, inside you, around you, underneath you.
Our Fearless Friend Jesus is pictured so beautifully in this famous poem:
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there were one set of footprints. This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints. So I said to the Lord, You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there have only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?” The Lord replied, The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, is when I carried you.”Mary Stevenson
Jesus as our Big Fearless Friend is also pictured in these words by the Apostle Paul:
“that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19 (NKJV)
Norman Vincent Peale relates the telling words of a surgeon:
The [operation] that meant the most to me was the time I operated on a little girl who was given only a ten percent chance of survival. She was such a sweet little thing, and so pale when they brought her into the operating room. …As the nurses were preparing to administer the anesthetic to this little girl, she asked, “Doctor, may I say something?” “Yes, honey,” I replied. “What is it?” “Well,” she said, “every night when I go to bed I say my prayers, and I’d like to say a prayer now.” “That’s all right, honey, please say your prayer, and think of me, too, won’t you?”
In a sweet voice she prayed, “Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me, Bless thy little lamb tonight; Through the darkness be thou near me: Keep me safe till morning light.” “And, dear Jesus, please bless the doctor.” Then she added brightly, “I’m ready now. And I’m not afraid, because Jesus loves me and He is right here with me and is going to bring me through okay.”
I was blinded by my tears. I had to turn away and occupy myself with another wash up before I could start the operation. And I said, “Dear God, if You never help me save another human being, help me save this little girl.” I operated on her and the miracle happened. She lived! Leaving the hospital that day, I realized that I was the one who had been operated on, not the girl. She taught me that if I take all my problems and put them in the hands of Jesus, He will see me through.
Oh, for the faith of a child! Lord grant that each one of us would walk so closely and trust so fully in Him!