The older I get, the more I realize how special “special friends” are. What a blessing real, true blue friends are in your life and family! Oftentimes you wonder what would have happened if they would have never come into your life.
My husband (Jamie Tuttle) and I have great and wonderful friends; then, we have covenant friends; and then, things really begin to whittle down quite a bit.
The best friendships are the ones that are there for you in at least 4 specific ways.
Some of the greatest examples in the Bible are friendships that came after Pentecost. The disciples HAD to learn how to get along together after Jesus ascended and the church was birthed. Some of the most dramatic friendships happened in the New Testament whenever a man by the name of Saul was converted.
The dramatic conversion of Saul the Pharisee to Paul the Apostle is recorded in Acts chapter 9. Can you imagine how dramatic this occasion was? God showed up in His glory–which knocked Saul off his horse, blinded him for days, and gave him instructions on what to do next.
Saul was most likely being groomed for a high position in Judaism by the Sanhedrin. He might have been being groomed even for the High Priest’s role. He listed his accomplishments in Judaism to the Philippian church, saying that he was:
- a Hebrew of the Hebrews;
- a Pharisee;
- and righteous according to the law.
Yet, Paul considered it rubbish when compared to the “excellence of the knowledge of Christ” (Philippians 3:8).
After his conversion, Saul/Paul began to preach the gospel message of Jesus – the very same message he was so against even to the point of rounding up and delivering the saints to be arrested, if not martyred, in Jerusalem. But, Saul/Paul could not have been the man of God he became without human help from devoted friends.
Paul had these kinds of friends – friends who:
- Lift you up (to pray and minister to you) – Ananias, Acts 9:10-19
- Let you down (to escape trouble) – Disciples in Antioch, Acts 9:27
- Send you out (to save your life) – Apostles, Acts 9:30
- Bring you in (to the apostles in Jerusalem) and bring you back (to Antioch) – Barnabas, Acts 9:27; 11:25
We all need friends who will lift us up in prayer and minister to us. After all, we are human and not super-saints. Acts 9:10-19 relates the story of Ananias. After Paul came to Damascus, he neither ate nor drank for three days. He was blind for those three days, yet he had a heavenly vision of a man named Ananias coming to pray for him.
Our natural limitations can never be an excuse for no longer receiving revelations from the Lord!
I love the faith and obedience of Ananias. Although Ananias and the disciples in Damascus were praying diligently, knowing that Saul was coming to wreak havoc, he heard God tell him to go find Saul and pray for him to receive his sight. Wow! That would be like a major church leader being sent to El Chapo to pray for him; yet, he goes obediently and fulfills the command of the Lord. My, how prayer can change the situation!
Nevertheless, Ananias’ first response was to give the Lord information concerning Saul and why he was coming. 🙂 I can just about hear the conversation:
(Annanias): “Uh Lord, Do you have any idea who this man is?”
(God): “MMMMM yessss”…
But I love Ananias’ response, because he was sensitive enough to understand that God was about to use him in intervention.
Ananias went from seeing Saul as an adversary to becoming his advocate.
How do we know this? Ananias addressed him as “Brother Saul.” Ananias was a key factor in Saul becoming a “brother” and being welcomed in the kingdom. What’s so interesting, I think, is that this is the first time and the last time we hear from this man of God. Could it be that Brother Ananias’ purpose was to come to this earth and pray for Paul to receive his sight, introduce him to the church, and then go to Heaven? Just sayin’!
How about you? Are you that kind of friend to someone in the kingdom?
Have you had someone welcome you into a fellowship with open arms and no second thoughts or doubts, especially regarding your past? I hope so! That is one reason we should be a vital part of a church fellowship that is alive and flowing in the Spirit.
When I say we need friends that will “let you down,” it is a play on words, of course. But to Saul, he was literally let down in a basket to spare his life. After Saul’s dramatic conversion, he immediately began to preach Christ in the synagogues. Listen to his reputation in Acts 9:21:
“Is this not he who destroyed those who called on the name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?”
However, it did not set well that he was preaching Christ; so, after many days, the Jews plotted to kill him.
The Jews watched the gates of the city day and night. In order to save Saul’s life, the disciples hid him in a basket and let him down through the wall to escape. There may be times in life when we need friends who will rescue us and get us out of a life-threatening situation.
In addition, the Apostle Paul (as he became known) had been sent out and away from danger back to Tarsus, his birthplace, after a dispute arose with the Hellenists (Greek-speaking Jews) living in Jerusalem. Paul was sent out and away to Arabia because of the threats against him.
As I have said many, many times, “There will always be an opposition to your mission.” But, no matter where you go, if you are sowing seed, you will have a harvest.
Paul was not sent to some remote, deserted place. He went back to Tarsus. Tarsus was the capital of Cilicia and was a rival city of Alexandria and Athens in arts and sciences. There is no record of Paul’s life after he returned, but I’m sure he was busy preaching Christ.
The next mention of him is when Barnabas went to Tarsus to bring him back around. Let’s look at this amazing friendship:
We need friends who will bring us in.
When Paul first went to Jerusalem, the apostles in Jerusalem were skeptical of Saul/Paul. They were even afraid of him and did not believe his conversion was genuine. But, Acts 9:27 states that “Barnabas took him and brought him (in) to the disciples.” He became a part of them, coming in and going out, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then it says:
“Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied” (Acts 9:31).
After a few years, Antioch became a new “revival center” of Christianity, and the Jerusalem apostles sent Barnabas to check it out. I love Barnabas because he was such an encourager. According to Acts 4:36, he even had the name “Son of Encouragement.” Listen to his good reputation:
“When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord with all their hearts. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:23, 24).
Right in the middle of revival, Barnabas realized that something–or someone–was missing. So, he departed for Tarsus to seek Saul and bring him back into the middle of the Lord’s doings. What a true, committed friend!
Are you that kind of friend?
Would you go out of your way–WAY out of your way–to bring a friend into the middle of revival, or even back into church? That, my friend, is what fellowship is all about.
Maybe you should stop right now and ask the Lord if there is anyone who you need to call, visit, or connect with. A divine connection in friendship knows no distance. It was here in Antioch “as they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2).
I often remind our Church and the International Institute of Mentoring family to find people of like faith, like spirit, like destiny, and like anointing to join themselves with–and I strongly urge you to do the same.
Friend, expect God to give you friends who will:
- lift you up;
- let you down (away from danger);
- send you out with purpose; and
- bring you into revival.
Be blessed, and go out and make some godly friends today. And remember, in order to have friends you must show yourself friendly!