“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” ~ Proverbs 17:17
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” ~ Proverbs 18:24
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” ~ Proverbs 27:17
There are few decisions you make in life that will be more important than the close friends you make and keep.
I’m not talking here about acquaintances, but rather males with whom you spend your free time. These are the guys with whom you play golf and softball and grab a burger with at the local sports restaurant. These are the type of guys you go to church with, and the guys that are a part of your small group fellowship.
These are the men who become your close friends. You will have casual relationships with a lot of different people, but you’ve only got room in your life for just a few really good buddies. Who these guys are will have a lot to do with the kind of man you become. Be sure you choose carefully and well, starting right now.
This is what Solomon means when he says, “A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Prov. 12:26). A man chooses his friends very carefully because he knows that picking the wrong buddies can be a disaster.
Even Jesus Christ trusted very few men in his life. The Bible says about Jesus, “Jesus on his part did not entrust Himself to them (his fan club), because He knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for He knew what was in man” (John 2:25-26). This doesn’t mean He was paranoid or suspicious. He was just careful.
He had 12 close friends (the disciples), 3 very close friends (Peter, James and John), and one best friend (John, whom the Bible describes as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”).
You want to pick friends you admire for their intelligence, their values and their character. You will learn from them, and each one will make you a better man. A man with strong character will draw you up to his level, while a man with weak character will pull you down to his.
Solomon puts it this way: “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm” (Prov. 13:20). Wisdom rubs off, and so does stupidity.
Now, of course, it’s possible for a guy to be both popular and mature, which means he’ll be a good influence on the cool kids who hang with him.
But a lot of popular guys have pretty lousy character, and that ought to be a warning sign to you to steer clear. It’s easy to think that hanging around with popular guys or cool guys with bad character won’t get you in trouble, but it sure can and it sure will.
Here’s what I have to say about my own experience:
Trust me, you will never regret being cautious and careful in your choice of friends. I think of the good friends I’ve had over the course of my life, and what they have meant to me. Wayne taught me you can have a whole lot of fun without getting into trouble. Bruce taught me the incredible importance of having a strong Christian buddy in a hostile and secular environment. Jeff strengthened my faith while we were in grad school together. I loved playing basketball with Bruce and sharing his robust sense of humor.
Ray instilled in me a love of muscular Christianity and mentored me during our weekly round of golf. David instilled in me a love for the word of God. Paul taught me the importance of small group discipleship.
Bob was there for me at a very uncertain time in my professional career. Tim showed up one night at just the right time to steady my hand in the middle of a crisis.
Vacationing at different times with Jim and Howard and Don and Kevin and their families was just a blast, as we reinforced our love for our wives and our children. Henry and I developed a close friendship through hitting the links together. Tim shared my love of golf and public policy, and I valued the golf and the conversation every time we hauled out the sticks.
Each one of these men has played a treasured and irreplaceable role in my life, and each, in his own way, strengthened my grip on God. May God be as gracious to you as he has been to me.
Solomon says as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. If you want a sharp blade on a knife or a sword or an axe or even a lawn-mower, you have to sharpen that blade. That requires friction and sparks.
Some close friends will challenge you in your thinking and in your decision-making. That’s all good. When those sparks fly, it means one thing: God is using them to shape and sharpen your character.
Remember: A man chooses his closest friends carefully; a boy doesn’t.
Father, I pray that you will bless my son with close friends who will strengthen his grip on you. As iron sharpens iron, I pray that they will help to shape him into a mature man who can be an instrument in your hands. Help him to choose his close friends wisely and carefully. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)