Part IV – The Art of Wise Living (Proverbs)

Sermon Title: Part IV – The Art of Wise Living

Good News Statement: “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”

Preached: Sunday, October 24, 2021 at Dogwood Prairie and Seed Chapel UMC

Pastor Daniel G. Skelton, M.Div.

 

Scripture (NRSV): Proverbs 13, 16, 17, 18, 24, and 27 Today’s scripture reading comes from the wise words of King Solomon on the topic of friendship. Additionally, we will also be looking at John 15:12-14. Listen to the wisdom of the LORD:

 

 

Introduction:

In 1995, two toys conquered the excitement and imagination of children around the world while at the same time capturing the hearts of adults as they found themselves reflecting on past and current friendships. A cowboy who had a snake in his boot and a space toy who sought to travel to “infinity and beyond” once started out as enemies soon became the best of friends. They rescued each other after being left behind during a moving mishap. They navigated the luggage sorting process in an airport. They lived through the brutal acts of daycare children. And they came together to rescue a new found friend. With each new adventure, these two toys went from friends to “true friends.”

Woody and Buzz Lightyear for the past 26 years have been entertaining all age groups with what it means to have a true friend. As King Solomon proclaims in Proverbs 18:24, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Although Woody and Buzz Lightyear were claimed by Andy, they were closer to each other than they were with their owner. Therefore, fulfilling the words of Randy Newman’s theme song for the Toy Story saga, “You’ve got a friend in me; You’ve got a friend in me. You got troubles, I’ve got ’em too. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you. We stick together and see it through. ‘Cause you’ve got a friend in me. You’ve got a friend in me.”

Throughout the Book of Proverbs, we are reminded of multiple relationships. For example, in Proverbs 12:4 and 18:22, we are reminded that a husband and wife complement each other in the sight of the LORD. Proverbs 12:4 reads, “A good wife is the crown of her husband…” and Proverbs 18:22 states, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor in the LORD.” However, King Solomon also entices all of us with this wisdom which may or may not be useful for marriages, “Even fools who keep silent are considered wise; and when they close their lips, they are deemed intelligent” (17:28).

Another example is related to relationships at work. King Solomon writes in Proverbs 21:28, “A false witness will perish but a good listener will testify successfully.” How many of you have chosen to ignore your boss or the person or persons above you at work for some reason? Then later on in the day you ask yourself, “What did they say? I heard my name, but what did they say?” And then you try to seek them out but only to find out that they have left for the week. A false witness, one who chooses not to listen, will perish; but a good listener, who listens to what is being said, will become successful in what they are doing. Sometimes it pays off to listen to others!

Another example deals with parental relationships. On several accounts in the Book Proverbs, King Solomon gives advice to his child or children about listening and absorbing the instructions given by the parents. Proverbs 15:20 states, “A wise child makes a glad father, but the foolish despise their mothers.” Proverbs 17:25 reads, “Foolish children are a grief to their father and bitterness to her who bore them.” Proverbs 19:26 asserts, “Those who do violence to their father and chase away their mother are children who cause shame and bring reproach.” In order to prevent these situations from happening, King Solomon writes, “Cease straying, my child, from the words of knowledge, in order that you may hear instruction” (Proverbs 19:27). The child, like many of us, has the ability to follow the instructions, knowledge, words, and wisdom of their parents, but are they actually listening to what is being said. Again, it pays off being a good listener.

From marriage to work to family, King Solomon is warning us that if we don’t take the time to listen to others in our life—to follow their instructions and to gain their wisdom—our relationships will bring reproach and we will be left alone. That’s not the hope of God. God created man and then saw that man was lonely, so God created woman to be with man (Genesis 1-31 and2:4b-25). We are meant to be in the presence of and for others. But what if one is experiencing a bad marriage or doesn’t get along with the employees at work or can’t connect with their children? Then what? King Solomon has an answer…

Friendship. On several accounts, King Solomon writes about friendship; and how the friends we make influence our lives in both good and bad ways. As a matter of fact some of King Solomon’s proverbs help us to build a “true friendship.” Memorizing one or two of these proverbs can help you put things in perspective when your friendship is going through a tough time or when you’re looking for something to focus on as an act of gratitude. Who are your friends? Are they just friends or are they true friends?

Opening Prayer:

            Let us pray… Dear Lord Jesus, as we seek to better the relationships we have in our life, we ask that you help us as we better our relationship with you. Help us to know that we’ve got a friend you who is always there for us, listen to us, and encourages us to be the best we can be. I pray that my words fall to the ground as your words settle in the hearts of all those before me. In your name we pray, Amen.

 

Body:

According to About’s Christianity Expert, the Proverbs were written by and during the reign of King Solomon (971-931 B.C.). Solomon was the son of King David, who is credited with writing many of the Psalms. Proverbs are short sayings that zero in on both a problem and solution, making them a good choice for daily devotionals or advice.

In chapters 13, 16, 17, 18, 24, and 27 of Proverbs, the ideals and instructions for building a true friendship is laid out in front of us. According to Solomon, a true friend is someone who accepts you for who you are, shows loyalty, love, forgiveness, and provides support in troubled times. Do you have someone like this in your life? Do you have a true friend that you can lean on, who gives you support, who is always there for you, and at times is closer to you than your own family is? Do you have a true friend? If you do, then are they doing what King Solomon instructs? If you don’t, then it’s never too late to use the words of Solomon to find or seek out a true friend—one may be closer than you realize. King Solomon provides us with certain characteristics of a true friend: acceptance, loyalty, love, forgiveness, and support.

Acceptance. Every friend, no matter how long they are in your life, can teach you to be a better person. Why? Because they teach you that in order to love oneself, you must accept yourself for who you are. And accepting who you are stems from who you surround yourself with. Proverbs 13:20 states, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm.”

A great approach to life is surrounding yourself with people you can emulate, those who are experienced (mentors, perhaps) who you’d be wise to learn from. Growing up and while living in a mobile-home-park, I was often stigmatized as someone who hangs out with the wrong crowd: those who are poor, who sell drugs, who are in-and-out of prison, who don’t feel the need to take care of themselves. I had a label on my forehead that seemed to be written in permanent marker: “Stay away.” Needless to say, I learned very quickly to who my friends were while growing up. My friends were those individuals who accepted me for me and didn’t care where I lived. They were the ones who were willing to spend the night on the weekends and didn’t mind being outside a lot and certainly didn’t mind that the bikes I had were missing treads on the tires and paint on the rims and frame. They accepted me for me.

King Solomon reminds us that who we choose to be around reflects who we are as a person. If our friends our fools, then we will become fools. But if our friends are wise, then we will become wise. If our friends accept us for who we are, then we will not only accept them but we will accept ourselves. Just like Jesus does, our friends should accept us for not only our goodness but also during our times of badness.

Loyalty. A friend means well, even in bad situations. Proverbs 27:6 shares that “well meant are the wounds of a friend.” Sometimes in life, our friends will do something that upsets us. They receive the promotion that we wanted, they go on a date with the person that we liked, everything is perfect in their life, and the list could on and on. In situations like this, we blame our friends for doing things that we should have done better in our life. We could have work harder, we could have gotten up the nerve to ask that person out, and we could have spent more time focusing on the life around us instead of the life that places us at the center. Sometimes in life, our friends will cause wounds. However, in times of hurtfulness, a friendship becomes more powerful than any success in life. Why? Because you are loyal to each other.

Proverbs 16:28 says, “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” Our friends are human and therefore, they mess up. They will act rudely, hurt our feelings, and behave like buffoons sometimes. That doesn’t mean they don’t love us or want the best for us. But in the quest for good friends, it’s hard to distinguish between the bad behavior of a good friend and the negative influence of a toxic friendship at times.

A true friend shows loyalty. It’s almost as if you exchange wedding vows with your true friend: “I, Daniel, take you to be my friend from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health…until we are parted by death.” A true friend may cause wounds and mess up, but they also know how to be loyal and committed to the other person and to offer forgiveness.

Forgiveness. Speaking of messing up, a true friend will offer forgiveness. Proverbs 17:9 boldly claims, “One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend.” How many of you can relate to King Solomon at this point? There was a time in your life when you had a true friend: you did everything together—nothing could separate you. But then, something did. An argument sprang forward and a dispute took place. Neither you nor your friend could agree on a solution. And to this day the two of you haven’t spoken. Because of a past dispute that wasn’t resolved, you lost a true friend. Whether that was for the good or bad is up to you. Because of something in the past, you no longer have the friend that you did everything with.

Look at it this way, it is better to have a lousy friend once in a while than lose a good one. Take your time in deciding which is which and learn to forgive. It will make bouncing back from a conflict that much easier. As Randy Newman sang, “You got troubles, I’ve got ’em too. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you. We stick together and see it through. ‘Cause you’ve got a friend in me.”

Love. Embedded in forgiveness is love. And embedded in love is a true friendship. “A friend loves at all times…”(Proverbs 17:17). As a matter of fact, while some friends play at friendship, “a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin” (Proverbs 18:24). Friends can come and go from your lives, but some of them are more loyal and caring than people in your own family. That’s why many people consider their friends their true family. Friends can become more supportive and important in your life than the people you grew up with.

Again growing up, I can honestly say that I have two friends that I consider more than friends—they are family. We grew up together, we did dumb things together, and we even got upset with each other—similar to siblings. They are the kind of friends that will always be there for me and I will be there for them. Do you have a friend like this in your life? A friend that you love at all times; a friend that will never leave you; a friend that gives you support when your family doesn’t; a friend that will give you food when you are hungry, a drink when you are thirsty, a place to sleep when you don’t want to go home, and a hug when nothing seems right. Love is such a small word, but it changes one’s look on life when it is said and felt by a true friend.

Conclusion:

To have a true friend change’s your look on life. If you are thinking to yourself, “I have a lot of true friends how do I choose just one” or asking yourself, “Who is my true friend?,” then look no further than the one who is always with you. Throughout the Book of Proverbs King Solomon is hinting at the reality that if we choose the path of wisdom God will be on our side. And now, not only will God be on your side, but God will become a true friend to you. God, like a true friend, will be loyal to you—He will always be there for you—He will offer you forgiveness when you ask, seek, and knock for it, He will support you in any situation, He will accept you for who you are, and He will even get upset with you and you with Him, but he will love you unconditionally for eternity. God is our true friend who sees past our faults, who accepts us for who we are, and has sacrificed His one and only son so that we may have eternal life (John 3:16). If that is not a true friend then I don’t know what is.

Tucked in John 15 are a couple of verses that bring to life the words of King Solomon on friendship. John writes, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (12-14). Jesus is your friend. He abides in you as you abide in him (John 15:7). He shows acceptance, loyalty, offers forgiveness, and provides eternal love if we follow him.

So who is your true friend? Who is the one person that you offer loyalty, forgiveness, and love towards? Who is the one you would do anything for? Do you have a true friend? If you are Woody, who is your Buzz Lightyear? If you are Buzz Lightyear or even Jesse, then who is your Woody?

Jesus always has room for one more friend. Maybe it’s time make Jesus your true friend. After all, “You just remember what your old pal said, ‘you’ve got a friend in me. Yeah, you’ve got a friend in me.’”

Closing Prayer:

             Let us pray…Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for the wonderful friends you have put in our life: those who are loyal, understanding, forgiving, supportive, and who love us for who we are. And Lord, we thank you for being our friend, the best friend that anyone could ever ask for. In the strong name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

 

Benediction:

I encourage you to think about your true friend this week: send them a thank you note, take them out for supper, call them or text them. Let them know how important they are in your life. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, go in peace as you live wisely and well in God’s world. Amen, Amen, Amen.


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