Since we’re only a little removed from Christmastime, let’s open with a scene from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Cue it up to 1:32:18, where George Bailey says, “I’m in trouble, Mr. Potter. I need help,” and play it until 1:35:11, when Potter’s on the phone saying, “Bill? This is Potter.” Got that? (BTW, keep the tab open when you’re done; you’ll come back to this later.)
Now, I’d like you to close your eyes, and think about a time you went through a crisis or an emergency. For some of you, that might right now. Some of you may need to reach back further, but get that situation in your head. Remember the details of it, the emotions you experienced, the conflicting thoughts you had—or maybe just the same thought you had over and over. Let that roll around in your head before reading any further….
Now, let’s bring that situation into the present (for those of us not already there):
• Think about this question: Who would you call right now, if you were going through that situation?
• Who did you think of, and why?
• If you didn’t mention someone in your church or small group, why not?
And the fact of the matter is: God never intended us to do it alone.
Of course, God is always with us, and sometimes God is the only one we can turn to. And He’ll use those times to bring us deeper into relationship with Him. Nonetheless, from the very beginning, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). God created us not only to find our fulfillment in Him, but to share the life He’s given us with others—to develop spiritual friendships with those we can love and trust, where everything’s on the table, and together we can bring those things to God.
If you already have friendships like that, you know how precious and rare they truly are. And as we find those people who shine Jesus’ grace into our lives, and learn how to become those people to them, God helps us discover how to become those people to others as well. As we develop real spiritual friendships—as walk alongside other true disciples of Jesus—God turns us into disciplers. There are very few experiences you’ll ever have on this earth that equal that.
So tab up, read the following passages, then reflect on the questions afterward:
• Proverbs 27:5-6, 9-10, 17
• 1 Corinthians 16:13-18
• Hebrews 3:12-14
• James 5:16
• 1 John 1:6-7
• What differences do you see between how the Bible defines friendship and how we often define it? Where does God’s definition of friendship look like ours?
• Think of a relationship where you wish God played a bigger role, even (or especially) if you’re already close to that person. How can you invite God deeper into that relationship?
So far, we’ve looked at spiritual friendships mostly from a one-on-one or smaller-group perspective so far today, but we shouldn’t stop there. Let’s dream a little about what God might want to do. Watch another scene from It’s a Wonderful Life. Start at 2:04:59, when Mary says, “Come on, George, come on downstairs,” and play it through to 2:08:51, when George says, “That’s a Christmas present from a very dear friend of mine.” (By all means, play all the stuff in between our two scenes for another illustration of friendship.) Then, when you’ve wiped the tears away yet again, read the following and reflect:
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:44-47, ESV).
• What are some things we can accomplish as a larger group of friends, brothers, and sisters in Jesus that we can’t do with only one or two other friends?
• If you knew you had the support, what things would you attempt for Jesus—or help someone else attempt—that you know you can’t do on your own?
• Be honest: What stands in the way of your trying? And what’s your first step toward doing something about it?
Thank God for the friends he’s given you both inside and outside of church, and ask for God’s help in seeing how you can put Jesus at the center of each of those relationships.