Women Friendships – they can be complicated at times can’t they? We all know how hard friendships are for little girls with the “mean girls”. Then there’s cliques in Jr. High and High School that can be terribly painful. Then we grow into big girls and hopefully by this point we have learned a few things about how to be a good friend and how to avoid the “porcupine” people – the people who seem to poke us all the time. We want to learn to NOT be the porcupine – and how to manage those porcupines in our life!!!
God created women with the need for relationship. Today we’ll identify what to look for IN a friend and what qualities you need to develop to BE a good friend.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reads “(9)Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; (10)If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! (11) Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? (12) Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
In verse 9 we see friendships are valuable – there is a “good return” – in other words – it is a good investment to build strong friendships.
Characteristics of a true friend:
1. According to verse 10 – In order to be a good friend – you must be someone who is there for the other person when they fall down. If you are not practicing this in your life – then most likely you will find yourself feeling alone when you fall down. As a result verse 10 says that you are to be pitied. “Pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.” In order to have friends who are there for you in crisis you must be a good friend to others through thick and thin times.
2. According to verse 11 – a true friend can keep you warm. This verse makes me think of my friendship with my husband because it talks about laying with each other. But figuratively – my girl friendships warm my heart regularly. Their presence in my life make the journey brighter. So many times they have filled me with courage, hope and wisdom for today’s trials.
Give of your own heart selflessly and if the recipient is wise and worthy – you will have won a friend. When you see a friend in crisis do not merely twitter, text or Facebook them – pick up the phone and pray with them, take them a meal, or take their children for the day. In these ways – you become Jesus in the flesh to them and you will warm up your friend’s life.
3. According to verse 12 – A true friend helps you to not be overpowered – and defends you. A true friend overlooks your flaws and will not gossip about you behind your back but will rather defend you. I have a couple friends who have gotten “hot” when I’ve been verbally attacked – in those moments I saw flashes of their loyalty that I did not know existed without the attack and I greatly appreciated their depth of faithfulness. For a moment they shared my feelings and though they never acted on their feelings (because they are Christ followers) their hotness simply warmed my heart.
4. “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Simple equation: You + Christ + plus your friend = 3. When Christ is at the center of your friendship you will find a depth and love that far surpasses that of what the world offers. That is what is so precious about Christian fellowship. We are not to be lone ranger Christians – God wants us to go to church and fellowship – if you are not a part of a church body – you must go this Sunday and begin to connect – the body of believers needs you!
My conclusion is do not bring into your “close friendship circle” a porcupine. If you find yourself saying Ouch Ouch Ouch all the time that is a red flag. A porcupine is also someone who is not there for you when you are in crisis, gossips about you and does not have Christ as the center of her life – she should be kept at arms length. Yes, she can beA friend – but she should not be your “close” friend.
And as for us – do not become a porcupine by jaded friendships! We must strive to be a true friend – be Jesus in the flesh to our friends in times of crisis – keep them warm when they are faced with trials from this cold harsh world, be loyal, faithful, loving, encouraging and life giving to them! And always keep Christ the center of your friendships. They will know we are Christians by our love.
Change – do you like it? I suppose it matters if it’s a good change or a bad change? Is it a pay raise or a job loss? Is it a new born baby or the death of a loved one? Ecclesiastes 3 describes 28 different seasons of life and one thing is guaranteed – change is absolute!
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”
In John 14, when Jesus met with his disciples he told them that change was coming. He was going to depart but they were to have no fear because he was sending them the Holy Spirit. Despite the change – one thing would remain constant – His presence. He would be with them guiding them, counseling them, and teaching them through the Holy Spirit.
The Greek word for “Holy Spirit” is parakletoswhich means one who comes along side and helps and comforts.Jesus wanted his disciples to know that he was leaving but they were NOT alone! Women – we are NOT alone!!! When everything around us changes – when we move to a new town, we change jobs, we add more children to the fold or sickness is upon us – one thing is certain the presence of God is with us.
Are you practicing the presence of God in your life? Do you sense his presence – are you listening or are you hurrying through your day just surviving it. Are you missing the hand of God in your life…thinking that you are making up time when really you are losing it.
God uses change to shape us and to open our eyes to his presence. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
I struggle with what I am about to say – but I’m going to say it to you and in my own heart wrestle this out…embrace change. Know that God uses change for his glory. Change is what turned Mary the peasant girl into the mother of God almighty! Change is what turned David the shepherd boy into the King! And change is what turned me – a useless piece of clay into a blood bought child of of the King.
Slow down today – stop rushing through life and missing the presence of God. Pause…now do you see Him? Look…he’s been there.
See…he will always be there.
“Eyes that look are common – eyes that see are rare.”
Last week I began my study in the book of Ecclesiastes. If you have never read this short little book, I highly recommend that you read one chapter a day for the next 2 weeks and you will have it complete. It immediately follows the book of Proverbs.
In chapter 2 King Solomon continues his search for meaning. He says “I tried cheering myself with wine…I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees…I amassed silver and gold for myself, I acquired a harem…I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure…YET when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
Have you ever noticed how brief life’s pleasures are. All summer long my children have been chasing butterfly’s with their butterfly net – usually without success. Finally one day my daughter got one – but when she stopped to look at it in the net – it escaped…she was so disappointed. Pleasure is the same way – we can’t box it up and keep it. When we have an enjoyable get together or weekend or vacation – shortly it comes to an end and you are back to reality. In America, we are pleasure seekers – we move from one pleasure to the next but apart from God these pleasures are simply meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Moving on in the chapter King Solomon seeks meaning in wisdom but comes to this conclusion in verse 16 “For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered; in days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die!”
And then finally Solomon seeks meaning in his work and says in verse 18&19 “I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.”
I remember when my Great Uncle died, a dumpster was placed in the driveway and for days family worked cleaning the house out. Some of his valuables were passed down to love ones while most of his worn out items went to the dumpster. All those years of hard labor went straight to the dumpster. And then his house was sold. This is a sobering reality of our stuff – we labor and toil so hard to get stuff but in the end it is just junk thrown into a dumpster – meaningless.
So now at this point in the chapter, I am thinking that Solomon needs a Zoloft to lift his spirits a bit right? I mean really – his perspective is so bleak that it depresses even me! But he does bring us to his conclusion in this chapter:
Verses 24 -26 concludes “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat and find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth… This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
When we view life’s pleasures, wealth, wisdom and work from the hand of God we find that they are gifts from God’s hand. I remember when a loved one lost his job this summer and then God blessed him just 2 weeks later with the perfect job – but an exhausting job, his wife said to her children “You see how tired daddy is – we must praise God for the work he has given him that tires him out.” When we see our work and even our trials as from the hand of God we find wisdom, knowledge and happiness.
Without God nothing else satisfies – all the work, wisdom and wealth in the world cannot add up to satisfaction. Like the butterflies that refuse to being taken captive by the net – life’s fleeting pleasures refuse to be caught unless we see everything as from hand of God and praise him for it. For a believer even our troubles, heartaches and struggles come from God’s hand and have meaning. There is hope, there is joy, there is peace in God. Today – take note of all the blessings that have come from the hand of God – in those you will find meaning.
I started the book of Ecclesiastes in my quiet times and on Wednesdays I will share with you what I am learning. So today – we begin in chapter 1. Ecclesiastes is written by the wisest man to ever live – King Solomon. King Solomon was also known for his immense amount of wealth and his extravagant palace. In chapter one he sits back and evaluates all he has and says, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly Meaningless! Everything is Meaningless!”
Ecclesiastes 1:2-9 says “Everything is meaningless. What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets and hurries back to where it rises again…all things are wearisome more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun…”NIV
As Solomon evaluates the cycles of nature – I think about the how the crisp fall air has arrived AGAIN in Ohio – it’s time for cozy sweaters and a mug of hot cider! Every year at this time, I pull on my jeans, set the hanging baskets (dead) by the roadside for the trash man, tune into Saturday college football (Go Bucks!), sign up for a new fall Bible study at church, and pull out all my soup and crock pot recipes! This is my cozy fall tradition that I know well and love. Do you have fall traditions – winter ones – spring ones and summer ones – and then just repeat them again year in and year out?
Some days it feels like I am headed no where – sun comes up – I cook, clean, do laundry, kiss boo boos, read stories, sun goes down -sun comes up – I cook, clean, do laundry, kiss boo boos, read stories – sun goes down. It feels like I’m on my treadmill and working hard but going no where FAST!
The key word to Ecclesiastes chapter one is meaningless! Apart from God the reality is – all of this really is meaningless! Ecclesiastes 1:14 says “I have seen all things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
Apart from God, life is like chasing after the wind – you will never find fulfillment here! Nothing this world offers leads to a sustained happiness -a girls night out, a Starbucks drink, a trip to the beach or a new pair of shoes all are just temporary band aids to cover the pain of this reality. But Ecclesiastes 12:13 tells us how to find meaning and joy in our lives “Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
That’s it – this IS the duty of man – to “fear God and keep his commandments.” Put that on your to-do list! Will you do that today? If so – every season of life is meaningful – if not – every single thing you do is meaningless – a mere chasing after the wind.
Join me next Wednesday when we discuss Chapter 2 and the trap of seeking meaning in pleasure, wisdom and work.