Friendship, Week 1
David and Jonathan
Friends love one another.
David was Jonathan’s best friend. David had come to live and serve Jonathan’s father, King Saul, and ever since then, David and Jonathan were inseparable. Jonathan loved David just as much as he loved himself.
“I promise that I will always be your friend,” Jonathan told David. “Here—I want you to have this.”
Jonathan removed his princely robe and offered it to David.
“Your royal robe? Are you sure?” David asked, astonished at this significant gift.
Jonathan was sure. And he also gave David his military clothes and his weapons.
“I’m very grateful, Jonathan. But I don’t think I can carry any more,” David’s muffled voice called out from under the weight of all the gifts.
But as much as Jonathan loved David, his father, the king, despised David that much more. Not long before, David had won a great victory for the Israelites. He had defeated the Philistine giant, Goliath, with nothing more than a sling and five small stones.
The story of David’s bravery had brought him great fame, and it made King Saul burn with jealousy.
“So he killed one giant! I could have done that if I’d wanted to. I was just . . . busy . . . with kingly things!” blustered Saul.
People sang of David’s glory in the streets, of how Saul had killed thousands of men, but David had killed tens of thousands. This made King Saul even angrier.
“Grrrrrrrr! This is an outrage! He’s turning the people against me!” the king angrily shouted at no one in particular. “Next, David will be trying to take my kingdom from me. Unless. . .” he eerily trailed off.
The next day, while David was playing his harp for the king, Saul took matters into his own hands. He hurled his spear across the room at David while he played. But despite his efforts, King Saul failed to harm David.
After King Saul tried to kill David again, David took his plea to his best friend, Jonathan.
“What have I done? . . . Why is [your dad] trying to kill me?” David begged Saul’s son to explain.
“Trying to kill you? No way. He’d never do something like that. I’d know about it,” Jonathan assured David. “I’m sure that spear-throwing incident was just a misunderstanding.”
“Listen,” David insisted. “Your father knows we’re friends. If he wanted me dead, the last person he’s going to tell is you. He’s trying to kill me, Jonathan. I’m sure of it!”
Jonathan could see the fear in David’s eyes and knew that David truly believed he was in danger.
“Okay. Just tell me what you want me to do,” Jonathan relented. David came up with a plan to find out once and for all if the king was out to get him.
Tomorrow, we celebrate the New Moon by having a feast. And I’m supposed to join the king for dinner,” David began, explaining his plan. “But I won’t be there. Instead, I’ll hide in the field. Tell the king that you gave me permission to go home and be with my family. If he’s okay with it, I’m safe. If he gets angry, then you’ll know that he really wants to hurt me. You promised to be my friend. Please keep me safe from your father!”
Jonathan agreed to find out if his father was planning anything and to get word to David.
“There’s a stone out there in the field,” Jonathan pointed. “Do you see it? Hide there. I’ll shoot three arrows to the side of it like I’m having target practice. I’ll send a boy to find them. If I shoot the arrows to the side of the boy, you’re safe. If they’re far beyond him, well, then you should go. God is sending you away.”
So David hid in the field and waited for the signal. On the second day of the New Moon feast, King Saul asked why David wasn’t there, and why he hadn’t been there the day before either.
“Oh, I said he could go to his hometown to be with his family. I hope that’s okay,” Jonathan nervously replied.
“You . . . what?!” King Saul roared. “I knew you were on his side! You should be ashamed of yourself! Don’t you understand that you’ll never be king as long as David is alive? He must die!” he shouted, banging his fists on the table.
“But why? What has he done?” Jonathan genuinely asked his father. Saul’s only response was his spear, flying through the air. Thankfully, Jonathan was unharmed, but the next morning, he knew what he had to do.
“You there, boy! Come to the field with me. I’m going to practice with my bow and arrow,”
Jonathan called out to a nearby boy.
The boy took his place out in the field. Jonathan took up his bow, aimed, and shot. The arrow landed well beyond the boy. From his hiding place nearby, David heard Jonathan’s call.
“The arrow went beyond you!” Jonathan shouted to the boy. “Go and get it! Hurry! Run as fast as you can and don’t stop!”
After the boy had fetched the arrow, Jonathan gave him his bow and sent him on his way. David got up from his hiding place, and the two friends approached one another. David bowed down to Jonathan three times, his face to the ground. And the two of them embraced, crying. “Leave in peace, dear friend,” Jonathan said with his hand on David’s shoulders. “And promise me. Promise me you’ll be kind to me as long as I live. And never stop being kind to my family.”
“I promise that I will always be your friend,” David assured Jonathan. Then, David left, fleeing for his life from the enraged King Saul.
One day, David himself would be king, and he would never forget the promise he made to his best friend.
Love. That’s what every good friendship needs.
Now, I’m not talking about the mushy-gushy, passing-notes-in-the-hall, do-you-like-me-check- yes-or-no kind of love. I’m talking about the love that’s more than a feeling. Think of how Jonathan showed his love for David. He stood up for him and tried to protect him from his angry father. Love is an action. Jesus Himself knew how important it was for friends to love. In the book of John, chapter 13 verse 34, Jesus said, “I give you a new command. Love one another. You must love one another, just as I have loved you.” Jesus loves us a whole lot, so we’ve got some work to do. Share some ideas with each other of how you can love others like Jesus loves us, and like David and Jonathan loved each other. Then, ask God to help you be a great friend to others by loving them well.
Friendship, Week 2
Barnabas and Saul
Friends accept one another.
Barnabas had heard the stories about Saul. Of course he had. Who hadn’t? Saul had made it his mission to eliminate followers of Jesus one way or another. He had them thrown in prison. Or worse . . .
Barnabas heard Saul was there watching the day Stephen was killed outside the city of Jerusalem.
“Lord! Don’t hold this sin against them!” Stephen cried out against the angry mob.
Saul was a dangerous man, and Barnabas had every right to fear him.
But then Barnabas heard another story about Saul. One that changed everything.
Saul had gone to Damascus, hoping to find Jesus-followers so he could have them arrested, or even put to death. As he approached the city, Saul saw a light, brighter than the sun, shining all around him.
“Saul! Saul! Why are you opposing me?” a voice called out.
Saul fell to the ground. “Who are you, Lord?” he squinted against the blinding light.
“I am Jesus . . . I am the one you’re opposing,” the voice continued. “Now get up. Stand on your feet. I’m appearing to you because I want you to serve Me. You must tell others about Me. Go into the city and you’ll be told what to do.”
Saul got up from the ground. He opened his eyes, but he was unable to see. The men he was traveling with led him into Damascus, where Saul refused to eat or drink anything for three days.
Barnabas was still amazed when he thought about the story. Even more amazing was what happened next.
There was a believer named Ananias living in Damascus at that time. While Saul was blind, going without food and water, Ananias was having a vision from God.
“Ananias!” God called out.
“Yes, Lord,” Ananias responded.
“Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street,” God instructed Ananias. “There is a man named Saul there who needs you to place your hands on him so he can see again.”
“Saul?” Ananias’ voice faltered. “Uh, Lord, I’ve heard of Saul. He’s come here to arrest people who worship You. If I help him, won’t I be in danger?”
“Go! I’ve chosen [Saul] to work for me,” God commanded.
And so Ananias went to the house of Judas on Straight Street.
“My name is Ananias,” he said to Judas, who opened the door. “I’m looking for a man named Saul.”
“Come in,” Judas replied. “He’s here.”
Ananias cautiously entered the house. And there was Saul, the man Ananias used to think was his enemy. He looked weak and hungry.
“Brother Saul . . . [the Lord] has sent me so that you will be able to see again,” Ananias spoke as he placed his hands on Saul. “You will be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Right away something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes. And he could see again. Barnabas found himself thinking . . . If Ananias could accept Saul, maybe he could, too.
And it wasn’t just Ananias. After Saul regained his sight and his strength, he spent several days with the other Jesus-followers in Damascus. And if they were having trouble believing that Saul was a changed man, their doubts were relieved when Saul started preaching in the local synagogues.
“I am standing here before you to say that I believe without question that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” Saul addressed the crowd gathered in front of him.
Many who heard him believed and began to follow Saul’s teachings carefully. Saul’s own people, the Jews, saw that he was gaining power, and they began to mutter among themselves. “Didn’t he used to be on their side, having Christians arrested?” they wondered. They decided something had to be done to stop him.
So they came up with a plan to have Saul killed. Saul heard of the plan, however, and his followers helped him to escape the city. Saul climbed into a basket, and they lowered him down through a hole in the city wall. It was that narrow escape from Damascus that brought Saul back to Jerusalem.
Barnabas and many of the others were terrified when they heard Saul was coming back. Could they really believe him? He was saying he was a follower of Jesus now, but what if he was trying to trick them? Maybe it was a trap!
Barnabas wasn’t so sure. Ananias had accepted him. And the believers in Damascus did, too. Even Jesus Himself, if the stories were true. Barnabas had to make a decision . . . especially since Saul was now standing before him!
“Hello. Are you Barnabas?” Saul greeted him.
Barnabas gulped. “Uh, yes. That’s right. I’m Barnabas.”
“I’m Saul,” the man continued.
“I . . . I know. I’ve . . . heard of you,” stammered Barnabas.
“Nothing bad, I hope,” Saul followed up.
“Uh . . .” Barnabas trailed off.
“I’m kidding,” Saul chuckled. “I’ve changed, Barnabas. I really have changed.”
Barnabas tried to imagine what it would feel like if he were Saul, wanting to make new friends, but not finding anyone who could trust him. So he made his decision.
“I believe you,” Barnabas boldly declared. Then, Barnabas took Saul to the apostles, Peter, John, and the others, and he made an impassioned plea on Saul’s behalf. He told them how Saul had seen Jesus on the road to Damascus, how he had preached without fear in Jesus’ name, how he had changed.
“And that’s why I think we should accept Saul as one of us,” Barnabas finished his speech to his friends.
The apostles decided that Barnabas was right, and they welcomed Saul into their company. So Saul stayed with the believers and taught about Jesus boldly. Later Saul, who was also called Paul, would travel to many different cities preaching the good news with his good friend, Barnabas.
Every friendship needs that first step of kindness.
For Saul, it took Barnabas believing his story and standing up for him. Some time after he was accepted by the believers in Jerusalem, Paul (Saul) wrote this in the book of Romans: “Christ has accepted you. So accept one another in order to bring praise to God.” Jesus has accepted you. He proved it when He died on a cross to pay for your sins so you could be a friend of God. And God wants you to accept others, because it’s a way of showing your appreciation to Him. This week, be on the lookout for ways you can take that first step of kindness. Get started now by praying together for someone that you have had a hard time accepting in the past. Ask God for help taking that first step toward accepting that person.
Friendship, Week 3
Jesus and Peter
Friends forgive one another.
It was a quiet night. Peter had suggested that he and the other disciples go fishing. But so far they had caught nothing. There wasn’t much to do but sit in the boat and wait. While he waited, Peter allowed his mind to wander over all that had happened the past several days. He thought back to what Jesus had said the night He was betrayed.
Things like: “Here is my command. Love one another, just as I have loved you.” And, “No one has greater love than the one who gives their life for their friends.”
And Jesus had given His life, hadn’t He? He had been arrested and tried, sentenced to death, and killed on a cross. And what had Peter done for his Friend? The memory still stung.
When Jesus was arrested, Peter ran. To protect his own life, Peter pretended he’d never known Jesus. Some friend he turned out to be.
Peter stirred as the sun peeked out over the horizon. A wasted night out in the boat with no fish to speak of. It was probably time to head back to shore—it didn’t look like they were going to catch anything at this point.
Together, Peter, Thomas, and the others pulled their empty net into the boat.
A voice called from a distance, “Friends, don’t you have any fish?”
Peter looked up and saw a figure calling from the beach, about a hundred yards away.
“Who is that?” Peter wondered aloud.
“Can’t tell,” Thomas responded. He called out to the Man. “Nope! No fish today!”
“Throw your net on the right side of the boat. Then you will find some fish,” the distant voice instructed.
Peter recalled another time years ago when he was told to cast his net out of the boat after a long night of catching nothing. And now that he thought about it, the Man’s voice on the shoreline had a familiar ring to it . . .
“Throw the net one more time,” Peter agreed.
The disciples cast their net on the right side of the boat like the man on the shore had suggested. Suddenly, fish practically started leaping out of the water trying to get into the net. The net quickly filled up.
In fact, it was so heavy with fish that they couldn’t even pull the net into the boat. They’d have to tow the net to the shore!
Peter looked to the shore and saw the Man standing there. Now he knew exactly who the Man was.
“It is the Lord!” one of the disciples exclaimed.
Peter put his coat on and leapt into the water. He swam all the way to shore while the others followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish as they came. Peter climbed out of the water, soaking wet. He was surprised to find that Jesus had built a fire with fish already cooking.
“Bring some of the fish you have just caught,” Jesus called out.
“You bet!” responded Peter. As the boat neared the shore, Peter climbed back in and started dragging the net full of fish onto the beach. Though the net was full enough to burst, it stayed strong, carrying over 150 fish.
“Come and have breakfast,” Jesus called, and His disciples gathered around the fire to see their Friend. It was the third time they’d seen Him since He had come back from the dead, but they were still very much in awe.
Together, they shared bread and fish. Peter watched and ate, drying by the fire, wondering if Jesus knew how Peter had denied knowing Him three times. After they had finished eating, Jesus invited Peter to walk with Him.
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these others do?” Jesus asked Peter.
Peter winced. Jesus had called him by his full name. He must be in trouble.
“Yes, Lord . . . You know that I love you,” he responded.
“Feed my lambs,” Jesus said.
They walked on a bit further before Jesus asked again, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord. You know that I love you,” Peter again answered.
“Take care of my sheep,” Jesus said this time.
They walked further still, and then Jesus stopped. He placed a hand on Peter’s shoulder and looked him in the eyes.
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He asked Peter a third time.
Peter was saddened. Jesus had asked him the same question three times.
“Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you,” Peter insisted.
“Feed my sheep,” Jesus replied.
Peter listened to what Jesus was telling him. “Feed my lambs.” “Take care of my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.”
Jesus wasn’t mad at Peter. He wanted Peter to help take care of his fellow believers. After all Peter had done, Jesus still loved him and forgave him. Soon, Jesus would be gone again, ascending into heaven. And Peter would devote the rest of his life spreading the good news of Jesus, teaching others to love and forgive, the way Jesus had also loved and forgiven him.
Sometimes friends are going to make you mad.
You’re going to get tripped up, messed up, gossiped about, argued with, made fun of, and
laughed at. And your friends are going to do this because your friends are human beings,
born to make mistakes. And you, believe it or not, are going to be a bad friend sometimes, too.
So there are two ways we can handle this situation. Whenever a friend treats you badly, you can
treat them badly right back. You can go back and forth being mean to one another until you’re
no longer friends. Or . . . you can forgive them, them just like God forgives you. Share with each
other about a friend who you need to forgive—or who you need to apologize to and ask for their
forgiveness. Ask God to give you the courage to step up and start the process of forgiveness and
repairing the friendship.
Friendship, Week 4
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Friends encourage one another.
Job was an honest and righteous man. He had great respect for God and did his best to avoid doing what was wrong. Job had a large family—seven sons and three daughters. And he owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 1,000 oxen, and 500 donkeys. Job had everything a person could ask for.
One day, however, tragedy struck. A messenger ran up to Job’s house.
“Sir! We’ve been attacked!” the messenger panted. “While your oxen were out plowing the field, the Sabeans came and carried them off! Your donkeys, too! And they killed some of your servants with their swords!”
“Oh, no! That’s horrible. We must do something,” Job responded, in a bit of shock.
While they were still talking, a second messenger ran up to Job. “Job! Job! I have some terrible news! There was a lightning storm out where the sheep were grazing. They’re all dead, Job. All 7,000 sheep. Many of your servants were struck as well.”
“I . . . I can’t believe this,” Job stammered. “We’ll have to tell the servants’ families.”
At that moment, a third messenger came running up.
“What now?” Job braced himself for the worst.
“We’ve been attacked by the Chaldeans!” the breathless messenger relayed the bad news. “They’ve taken your camels, sir. And killed the rest of your servants.”
“Can this day get any worse?” Job thought. But before he could finish the thought, a fourth messenger walked slowly up to Job, a heartbroken look on his face.
“Just tell me,” Job said quietly.
“As you know, sir, your sons and daughters were at a party at your oldest son’s house. Out of nowhere, a great wind came and blew the house down. Your seven sons and three daughters. . . they’ve all died.”
Job grabbed the robe he was wearing and pulled with all his might until it tore. He cried in anguish over his great loss. He was so despondent, he shaved his head completely bald.
“I was born with nothing. I’ll leave with nothing. The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away. May . . . [the Lord] be praised,” Job called out in pain. Despite everything that had happened, Job didn’t accuse God of wrongdoing. He praised Him.
Some time later, Job’s misfortune continued to grow. Painful and itchy sores broke out all over Job’s body, from head to toe. Job’s wife was outraged.
“Are you still going to be faithful to God?” she yelled. “You should curse Him instead!”
“No!” Job was firm. “We accept the good from God; we must also accept the bad.”
Job had three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. They heard about all of Job’s troubles and decided they should go and see him.
“What should we do when we get there?” Eliphaz wondered aloud.
“I don’t know,” Bildad responded. “What would any good friend do?”
“We could try to cheer him up. Maybe sing a funny song?” Zophar chimed in.
They thought about what it might feel like if a friend tried to cheer them up when they weren’t in the mood. Might it make Job feel even worse?
Eliphaz spoke up again. “Maybe we could save the funny songs until later.”
“Yes, perhaps it would be best if we tried to feel what he’s feeling,” Bildad agreed. “If he’s happy, we rejoice with him. If he’s miserable, we mourn. “
This sounded like the best idea, though they still had more questions.
“What do we say when we see Job?” Eliphaz asked his friends.
“I know. We could start by giving him advice. You know, telling him all the stuff he’s been doing wrong,” Zophar suggested.
Again, they pondered what it would feel like if someone they knew tried to give them advice soon after tragedy struck. Was that the best choice for a friend?
Bildad suddenly came up with the best idea of all. “Or . . . we could say nothing. We could just be there for Job if he needs us. We could listen.”
As they got closer to where Job lived, they saw him from a distance. He was shaved bald and bandaged from all the sores. They could hardly recognize him. It was worse than they thought. They knew Job needed them now more than ever. So Job’s friends began to cry loudly. And they tore their clothes, just as Job had torn his. And they sprinkled dust on their heads.
For a week, they sat with Job, no one saying a word. No funny songs, no magic tricks. Just three men choosing to be there for their hurting friend. Job’s friends weren’t always the greatest friends, but for seven days, they sat beside him when he needed them the most.
That’s what friends do, isn’t it? They encourage you when you really need encouraging.
Are you that kind of friend? Are you a cheerleader for your friend when they’ve got a big opportunity coming up? Do you remind your friend they matter when they’re feeling unappreciated? Are you like Job’s friends, just being there for your friend during their hardest times? The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “So encourage one another with the hope you have. Build each other up.” Share with each other about a friend or family member who is going through a hard time—or who just has something cool and exciting happening in their life and needs someone to cheer them on. Brainstorm things you can do this week to be an encouragement to that friend. Then, take turns praying for each other, asking God to help you encourage your friend.