Keys to Good Friendships, Part 2

This is the contents of the "Keys to Good Friendships, Part 2" section of the "Developing Great Relationships"

Keys to Good Friendships Part 2

Keys to Good Friendships--Part 2

  1. Be loyal

An English publication offered a prize for the best definition of a friend. Thousands of entries were received and the one that was given first prize was this: “A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.”

  • Don’t abandon a friend when they have nothing more to give to you but, rather, need something from you.

  • Don’t abandon a friend because they aren’t the most popular or the best looking.

  • Don’t abandon a friend if they become unbearable when they are going through a deep trial.

  • Don’t abandon a friend just because nobody may particularly like her or if others are telling you to dump her.

We are going to look at three Biblical examples of loyalty.

  1. The first example is Ruth.

Ruth 1:14-18

Naomi had just told her two daughters-in-law to leave her while she returns to Bethlehem.

And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. Then she said, ‘Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’ But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.’ When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.”

  • Naomi, because of the death of her husband and two sons, was left with no one except her two daughters-in-law. She was on her own.

  • She was in great sorrow.

  • She was impoverished.

  • She was old and couldn’t work and because she was too old to have children she would probably never find a husband who could support her and Ruth.

  • And if Ruth came back with her to Bethlehem, the odds were that Ruth would never remarry because it was unlikely that an Israelite would marry a Moabite in Israel.

These were not very encouraging circumstances for Ruth to stay with Naomi.

Probably most people would have said, “Ditch her.”

Yet Ruth was loyal.

And God rewarded her.

And Ruth did remarry. And she became the great-grandmother of David and from her line came the Savior of the world.

  1. The second example is Ittai

The situation is where David’s son, Absalom, pulled a coup and David had to flee with a small group of followers to save his life.

As they were fleeing David stopped and took stock of the 600 men who had come with him. One of them was Ittai.

2 Samuel 15:19-22, “Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, ‘Why will you also go with us? Return and remain with the king, for you are a foreigner and also an exile; return to your own place. You came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander with us, while I go where I will? Return and take back your brothers; mercy and truth be with you.’ But Ittai answered the king and said, ‘As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, surely wherever my lord the king may be, whether for death or for life, there also your servant will be.’ Therefore David said to Ittai, ‘Go and pass over.’ So Ittai the Gittite passed over with all his men and all the little ones who were with him.”

So here was the situation where Ittai had just joined up with David and David was telling him to go back.

As a foreigner, Ittai was not obligated to serve anyone and so he was told that should go back and wait to see whomever God would finally set up as king. And then Ittai can serve under that person without any fear of having made a wrong choice and then suffering for it.

  • But Ittai didn’t make the most comfortable choice.

  • He didn’t hedge his bets to see who would be the winner.

  • He wasn’t fickle.

And what was the result of his loyalty.

2 Samuel 18:1-2, “Then David numbered the people who were with him and set over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. And David sent the people out, one third under the command of Joab, one third under the command of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother, and one third under the command of Ittai the Gittite.”

When David was fleeing from Saul, Ittai remained loyal to David.

  • Ittai could have called him a loser and left him.

  • He could have taken the more convenient route and went home leaving David to fend for himself.

  • He could have concluded that since Absalom was the king that the most expedient thing would be to provide his services to Absalom where he could get the quickest and most assured gain for his skills.

But he didn’t.

  • He chose uncertainty over assurance.

  • He chose hardship over convenience.

  • But most importantly, he chose loyalty over expediency.

And David rewarded him as one of his most trusted friends and greatest supports.

And through Ittai, God accomplished His purposes.

Ittai stayed with the one who was struggling and in confusion and, as a result, he helped to make David the victor.

He wasn’t content to just be a tag-along.

He was active in helping out his friend and in helping him to overcome his rough times.

And that is what God wants us to be like.

  • God doesn’t want us to dump our friends when their hard times make us uncomfortable.

  • God doesn’t want us to dump our friends when their side has dwindled down to a precious few.

  • God doesn’t want us to dump our friends so that we can step back and then choose the winner.

  • God wants us to stay with that friend through the struggles and confusion and do what we can to make them a winner again.

Joseph Roux in Meditations of a Parish Priest said, “What is love? Two souls and one flesh; friendship? Two bodies and one soul.”

  1. That of God

Hebrews 13:5, “Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, "I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU”

What is the purpose of money? So that we can have things that will make our life livable and comfortable.

But what is God saying here?

Don’t love money for what it can offer because what I have to offer is even better.

  • Money can’t give peace of mind; but I can give peace of mind.

  • Money can’t give you an assurance of intimacy; but I can give you assurance of intimacy.

  • Money can’t give you joy that goes right down into your feet; but I can give you that kind of joy.

And do you know what? It’s guaranteed and forever because He said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”

2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.”

Even if we are without faith, God will still stick by our side.

Don’t make your friendships to be only ones of convenience.

As it says in Proverbs 18:24, be a “friend who sticks closer than a brother.” You will find great reward.

Does anyone have any examples of when you were, let us say, less than gracious but someone was loyal to you and it really deepened your friendship?

But there is another side to this.

  1. Don’t become a pest

Proverbs 25:17, “Let your foot rarely be in your neighbor's house, Lest he become weary of you and hate you.”

Don’t wear out your welcome.

Sometimes you need to step back a bit and see if they’ll initiate a call.

I had a friend once who would call me almost every night and tell me about what was going on with him. It got to the point where I dreaded the ringing of the phone.

And even if you have a great relationship that doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to call all of the time.

You may love chocolate truffles but that doesn’t mean that you’d want to eat them every day. OK, bad example.

You may love lasagna but you wouldn’t want to eat it for supper every day of your life.

Proverbs 25:16, “Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, Lest you have it in excess and vomit it.”

Even a good thing can become too much if it is over done.

Of course some people can talk to each other ten times a day and not grow weary of each other and that is great.

But what I’m saying is that you need to be careful that you aren’t in your neighbor’s house or on your neighbor’s phone too much.

Be sensitive to the situation. Weigh out how often they return your calls.

And if that person doesn’t want to talk to you every day then don’t pout and assume that they, therefore, never want to talk to you.

Even Jesus needed time alone apart from His disciples.

  1. Learn the difference between discernment and judgment in dealing with people.

Discernment involves wisdom and the love of God.

Judgment involves a negative attitude and wrong desires.




To perceive something obscure or concealed. To distinguish using wisdom. Discernment asks questions until all important factors and people are understood.

Proverbs 18:17, “The first to plead his case seems just, until another comes and examines him.”

Judgment accepts hearsay at face value and forms opinions of motives on a few known factors.

Proverbs 14:15, “The naive believes everything, But the prudent man considers his steps.”


Discernment is thoughtful and prayerful in considering the situation before drawing any conclusions.

Proverbs 15:28a, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer…”

Judgment wants to spout off its conclusions right away without thinking or prayer.

Proverbs 15:28b, “But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”


Discernment tries to take into account the entire picture to try and determine a reason or a root cause.

Judgment sees the negative and nothing but the negative.


Discernment comes with gentleness and humility knowing that sin is crouching at his own door.

Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

Judgment wants to bash that person to the ground and wants them to feel bad.

2 Samuel 16:5-7, “When King David came to Bahurim, behold, there came out from there a man of the family of the house of Saul whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; he came out cursing continually as he came. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men were at his right hand and at his left. And thus Shimei said when he cursed, "Get out, get out, you man of bloodshed, and worthless fellow!”


Discernment is willing to offer solutions to the problem.

Judgment only wants to point out the negative.


Discernment is willing to make the effort to talk to the person directly.

Judgment oftentimes draws conclusions based on second and third-hand information.

When you deal with people in a touchy situation do you approach slowly and with a desire to take the time necessary to discern the whole picture?

Or do you go in with guns firing based on whatever rumors that you’ve heard no matter how sketchy?

Our human nature is quick to want to see other people fail because then it helps to either justify our wrong attitudes and actions or it builds up a sense of superiority because someone else has now fallen beneath our feet.

This is wrong.

Our sin must be repented of no matter how much greater the sin might be around us.

Our security must be based on God’s view of us.

God never tramples on us.

Don’t you ever trample on another person.

Does anyone have any examples of when you were judgmental and it came back to bite you and what did you learn from that experience?

  1. If you expect mercy then give mercy

Too often we expect others to understand that we are sinners and that we have struggles and so they should understand this and show us mercy when we fail. We expect or hope that they will be understanding and let our ill temper or our stupid remark or action blow by them with nary a trace.

We expect them to agree with the sentiment, “Look I’m only human. We all make mistakes. You should be understanding and just drop it.”

But if they do something similar to us!

Ho, boy! Tie down the roof!

How can he say that to me? I don’t have to take that kind of crap!”

What is wrong with her? That’s it! I’ve had enough!”

When we say something hurtful we want people to realize, “I’m just one person struggling with the weight of the world on my shoulders. You should be more understanding. God is merciful, so should you be.”

But when they say something hurtful it’s more like, “They are demons spawned from the very darkness of Hell itself! Their souls are black with this unpardonable sin. Even God cannot look upon them so how can I?”

Psalm 37:21, “The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives.”

The wicked expects from others and then doesn’t give anything in return.

But the righteous gives.

This applies mostly to money.

But it can also apply to mercy, or grace, or compassion.

Matthew 7:12 is referred to as the golden rule, “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

  • If you want people to show you mercy then you had better show them mercy.

  • If you want people to understand how the stupid or insensitive things that you say aren’t malicious then you make every attempt to understand that the stupid or insensitive things that they say aren’t malicious.

  • If you are having a bad day and everyone knows it but you expect them to forget it by the next day then you had better be willing forget other people’s bad days by the next day.

God doesn’t allow it any other way.

In Matthew 6:12 in the “Lord’s Prayer” God says, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

In this prayer, God is commanding us to tell Him that He should treat us as we treat others.

Did you ever realize that?

God commands us to ask Him to treat us the same way that we treat others.

God doesn’t let you off of the hook.

Matthew 18:23-31

The story is where a slave owed his king a tremendous amount of money. But the king showed him compassion and forgave him his debt.

But another slave owed this first slave a very small amount of money. But the first slave choked him and threw him into jail. He showed him no mercy or compassion.

Matthew 18:32-33, “Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?’”

And then the king punished him severely.

In this story, one man, who was the king, said, “I showed you mercy. I showed you compassion. I forgave you. But you couldn’t do the same in return?! When you blew it I let off of the hook. But when someone else blew it you took them to task to force them to make it up!”

The king, who represents God, was angry because the first slave hoped for and received mercy but he was unwilling to show the same to another person.

If you sin against someone no matter why or what caused it or what you are going through then repent and ask forgiveness.

But if someone sins against you then be quick with mercy.

You’ll be amazed at how God will go “Yea!” and pour out His abundance on you.

Don’t expect more from others than what you are willing to give back in return.

  1. Don’t defend yourself at another’s expense

If you know that you are going to do something that will hurt or disappoint another person then don’t first set them up so that it will make it look like it was their fault so that you’ll be spared looking like the bad guy.

Accept your share in the situation.

Or if you know that some situation is going to make you both look bad then don’t try and set it up so that they will be the one who takes the fall.

Don’t leave someone out there twisting in the wind.

Be loyal to that person. Place that person’s feelings above even your own reputation and then let God raise you up.

Genesis 3:11-13, “And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ And the man said, ‘The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’”

Notice that when God asked the man, he blamed the woman.

When God asked the woman, she blamed the serpent.

What did God say about their trying to pass the blame? Nothing.

He simply addressed their sin.

God knows our hearts and He knows our sins to the fullest.

We are not going to slip anything past Him.

You’re not going to fool God.

Be willing to take the shots that you deserve.

Don’t throw someone else in front of the bullet.

  1. Don’t force Christians to meet higher expectations

I’ve heard so many times over the years Christians saying, “I just can’t trust Christians. I can trust my non-Christian friends more than I can trust my Christian friends.”

Why do people say this?

  • Is it because Christians are more untrustworthy than non-Christians?

  • Is it because Christians are sneakier?

  • Or maybe because they are more devious?

Probably not.

Of course, there will certainly be non-Christians who will be

  • more sincere

  • or more honest

  • or more trustworthy than many Christians.

And, let’s face it, there are some Christians who are lazy, who are self-centered, who are gossips, and so on and so on.

Colossians 3:12-13, “And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”

This verse is exclusively about how we should treat each other in the church.

And what words does God use?

He tells us to have



Because Christians will be hurting and suffering and in confusion.


Because Christians will be needy.


Because Christians will be overbearing.


Because Christians will be vulnerable and fragile.


Because Christians will drive you crazy sometimes with their stupidity, with their self-centeredness, and with their weaknesses.

Bear with one another

Because Christians will be intolerant at times.

Forgive each other

Because Christians will sin against you.

And what is the basis for commanding us to have this kind of heart?

It is because the Lord has already and continues to have this heart towards you.

God never asks you to be something that He isn’t Himself.

Jude 1:22, “And have mercy on some, who are doubting;”

  • Christians have doubts.

  • Christians have struggles.

  • Christians have sins.

  • Christians will blow it.

If you see something wrong with a person don’t judge him or her; instead try to help that person to be more like Christ.

That may involve reproving them.

It may involve working with them.

Many relationships and many marriages have failed because one person put unreasonable expectations onto the other person.

  • And instead of being willing to work with that person

  • Instead of taking the time to make that person more like Christ

  • Instead of being patient and forbearing

They want that person to be everything that they expect them to be and they want it now.

Well, you know what?

That will never happen.

And when you have those expectations then you will

  • put a strain on the relationship

  • you will focus on those areas that you don’t like

  • and you will take their slowness to change as a personnel offense and as a lack of concern for your feelings and desires.

And the result will be that you will become resentful and demanding.

Quite a number of years ago there was a button going around Christians circles with the letters


What it stood for was, “Please Be Patient, God Is Not Finished With Me Yet.”

We hold Christians to a higher standard because we think that they should be everything that God wants them to be.

And if they aren’t, then if it bothers you so much then you make an effort to help them along that way.

These Christians who are so terrible

  • Are you praying for them a lot?

  • Have you humbly gone to them with your concerns and possibly even reproved them?

  • Are you willing to work with them to make them more like Christ?

  • Or are you just complaining about them to others?

  • Are you just gossiping about them?

  • Are you just belittling them in your mind?

The only person that you should hold to higher expectations is yourself.

For everyone else, apply Colossians 3:13.

  1. Learn to re-mold negative traits into positive traits

Oftentimes we have an area of our lives that we know is not the character of God and we want to change it. It may be something that is sinful or it may be just something that is inappropriate.

When you recognize this area what is the first thing that you think of doing?

Repentance vs. Removal.

Other than those traits that are pure evil, every negative trait can be considered to be a positive trait that is being misused or misdirected.

And, yes, we need to repent of those sins, but we don’t necessarily have to cut them out and leave a large void in their place. Instead, we can try and turn them around to be used by God.

Nine examples of restoring a negative trait.

Negative Trait

Positive Trait



Critical, judgmental, fault-finding


Using your insights to improve things with solutions and not just to tear down.


Competitive, scheming, having vain ambition

Good at goal setting

Helping others to set goals and learning that people are always more important than accomplishments.


Fanatical, over-bearing, aggressive


Using that energy to praise and motivate others.


Extravagant, spend-thrift, wasteful with money


Giving to others and not just to ourselves.


Being blunt, outspoken, using indiscretion


Learning to speak the truth but in a way that will be acceptable and helpful. Learning to use knowledge with love.


Possessiveness, blind obedience


Knowing when you are crowding someone and when you are being loyal so that you can help them; not just so that they can support you.


Insensitive, unloving, cold calculation


Learning to evaluate the facts without emotions clouding them and then applying that knowledge with sensitivity and constructive solutions.


Stubborn, headstrong, self-willed


Learning that standing your ground with everything is arrogance but standing your ground with that which is right produces solid convictions.


Touchiness, easily offended, emotional


Learning not to immediately lash out at people. Learning how to comfort and support those who are misunderstood and oppressed.

God wants us to repent of sin.

But He doesn’t want us to walk around with holes in our lives.

Matthew 12:43-45, 43 “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”

Two examples of where God turned a negative trait around


Previous Trait

God re-directed this trait


Aggressive, impetuous, blunt

God sent him out with the Gospel as His first ambassador to people who had never heard about Christ.


Impatient, took matters into his own hands, saw a problem and charged ahead right away to solve it

Used him to confront ungodly Pharaoh and led over a million people against many obstacles and into the promised land.

Of course God can raise up godly character out of nothing also.


Previous Trait

God created character out of nothing



Made him a leader.

Perhaps in your own life, think of a characteristic that is a problem and you might be able to turn it around for good.

  1. Stay in touch

On one of my shirts I noticed a single thread dangling from the shoulder. So I gave it a quick tug hoping that it would break off. Rather, it pulled all along the seam and created a gaping hole. The shirt was ruined. That one thread had a big impact.

An interesting verse is Colossians 2:2 (NASB). It states that we should be “knit together in love.” Each thread in a cloth weaves itself over and under many other threads. Whereas a single piece of thread can be easily broken, once it is woven into a cloth they form something strong. This cloth can offer protection, comfort, and even make a statement. Each thread was designed to be part of something else.

Likewise, each Christian is like a single thread. Apart from a good community of believers we are weaker, more easily confused, and tempted. Our struggles can be lonely and overwhelming.

God designed us to be woven into a body of believers. Some people we are woven under. We support them with mercy, fellowship, and giving. Other people we are woven over. They support us with discipleship, concern, and prayer. Together we form a community that is strong enough to protect us from the lions that prowl about seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8). We are better equipped to encourage one another and to forgive each other. And as a community we can be a greater force to make a statement for what is right: we can preach the Good News of Freedom, heal the brokenhearted, and open the prison doors of the enslaved. What sews and binds us together is love.

When relationships are going badly it is our tendency to pull away, to turn into ourselves, to cocoon.

But this generally is not good.

Yes, there are times when we do need to get off by ourselves to gather our thoughts, deal with our emotions, and try to piece together the confusion and contradictions.

Even Jesus needed to get off by Himself.

Matthew 14:13, “Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself…”

But ultimately, and as quickly as possible, we need to come back. We need to come back to the fellowship of Christians or we need to come back to that person.

Hebrew 10:23-25, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

This Scripture tells us that we need each other. Why? To love each other, to do good to each other, and to encourage each other. This is why we have relationships: it is not to torture each other, to use each other, and to manipulate each other. Relationships are not unidirectional; they are bidirectional. They are not to answer the question, “What can I get?” but, rather, “What can I give?” You cannot give if you are in the silent treatment or pouting, or in pity me mode.

And what in this Scripture is our motive and example? “For He who promised is faithful.” We can quickly come back together because God is faithful to us.

Why do we pull away from a person, church, and/or God when a relationship has problems?

What can we do to improve our reaction when we are tempted to do this?

  1. Developing and strengthening the different levels of friendship

Earlier we mentioned the four different levels of friendship.

Here we will look at some ways of developing and strengthening those friendships at each level.

  1. Acquaintance

  • Be alert to the person that you are talking to. Don’t look around as though you are trying to find someone more interesting. It was said that John Kennedy gave such undivided attention to whomever he was talking to, that he made that person feel like he was the most important person in the world to him.

  • Learn and remember his name.

  • Ask him appropriate questions that reflect interest and acceptance.

  • Be a good listener.

  • See how God has a deep interest in that person.

  • Pray for him.

  1. Casual friendship

  • Discover his strong points.

  • Learn his goals.

  • Ask appropriate specific questions.

  • Be honest about yourself.

  • Talk about God and what we are learning about Him.

  • Learn what to pray for about him.

  1. Close friendship

  • Help him to reach the goals in his life.

  • Learn about his struggles and be there to help him when they occur.

  • Share your goals and desires with him.

  • Spend time together.

  • Discuss freely what God is doing in each other’s lives.

  • Pray with him.

  1. Intimate friendship

  • Learn to be a comfort and support through his trials.

  • Help him to overcome his temptations.

  • Be willing to correct him when needed.

  • Be willing to work through conflicts.

  • Deepen your trust of each other.

  • Work to make God a deeper part of each other’s lives.

  • Pray together.

The situation is Eastern Europe (not Germany) in the early 1940’s. You are a Christian and you have many good friends. One of them is a young Jewish boy named Eli. For several years all of you played together and had fun. But then Hitler’s propaganda machine came to your village and Jews were being condemned as being leeches on society. They were being compared to rats and responsible for all of society’s problems. Your other friends are starting to talk about how Eli is one of those Jews and how they should keep away from him. They are even talking about throwing rocks at his house. You try and defend Eli talking about how he had been such a good friend all of these years and what they are saying isn’t true. Instead, they turn on you and accuse you of being a Jew-lover and that if you want to stick with Eli then they would never talk to you again either. They might even save a few stones for your house. They give you a choice: if you stay with them then you don’t have to do Eli or his family any harm; you just can’t talk to him anymore. But if you choose Eli then they will consider you a traitor and all bets are off. They tell you that you have one day to think about it and that we’ll all get back together again tomorrow at this same time and place.

Here, you must pretend that you are actually this person. You don’t know about the concentration camps or the outcome of the war. Remember that you don’t have a lot of time to make this decision.

  1. Your age was not mentioned. Is age relevant in this situation? Why or why not?

  2. It is easy to sit in the comfort of our chairs here and say what would be the right thing to do. But let us try and imagine that we are really there. What are the consequences of the choices (choosing your friends, choosing Eli, removing yourself completely from everyone and going it alone or something else)?

  3. What do you do?

  4. Do you talk to your parents?

  5. Do you go to Eli and talk to him and to his parents?

  6. Do you try and contradict the propaganda throughout the entire village?

  7. Have you ever been put into a situation where you had to choose one friend or a group of friends against another? What did you do and, looking back on it, was it the right decision?

  8. Are there any Biblical examples where one person abandoned another where sin wasn’t involved and it turned out to be a good choice?

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Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: