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"Taking A Stand for a Friend"

adapted and posted with permission of Outreach.com from God's Not Dead Movie Event Package

Nov.30, 2014 1Sam.18:1-9, 19:1-7


Friends are a real treasure. They bend over backwards to help out a buddy. Did you notice how Jonathan expressed friendship to David? 1Samuel 18:3-4 "And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt." Yes there were heartfelt words - the covenant - but there were also actions: Jonathan took off his robe, his tunic, bow, belt, and sword (one of only 2 in all Israel - so pretty valuable!) - and gave them all to David. True friends are ready to give you "the shirt off their back" (so to speak) if they see you're in genuine need.

In Grade 12 or so (about 1974) I attended a history conference in London courtesy (I think) of the IODE. Over the course of a few days I met and hung around with a fellow from Hamilton called Hugh Reid. We went our separate ways - he took arts at Victoria University in Toronto, I took agriculture at Guelph. I did go visit him once at college, but largely we lost contact.

Fast forward about 9 years to 1983. Having discerned a call to pastoral ministry after a 2-year stint as a missionary in Congo, I'd enrolled at seminary in Toronto. Who should I discover in my class? Hugh Reid! Happy circumstance. It was great to have a buddy to sit in class with and compare notes. Actually in my second and third years, I was commuting in to Toronto from Mitchell a couple of days a week, so Hugh and his wife Esther let me board at their place overnight on a regular basis. Friends do that sort of thing for each other: you put yourself out for the other person, and you're HAPPY to do it for them, because YOU feel good when THEY are helped - like Jonathan, you "love them as you love yourself".

Real friendship offers unconditional acceptance no matter what happens. No matter what happened yesterday, I'm still your friend now.

Joseph Scriven was an Irish immigrant, a graduate of Trinity College in Dublin, who at 25 had fallen in love and was to be married, but on the day before his wedding everything changed in an instant. While crossing a bridge to visit Joseph, his fiancée fell off her horse, and drowned in the River Bann in Ireland...the very day before their wedding! What a horrendous accident. As you can imagine, Joseph was crushed, so he sailed to Canada to forget his broken heart, and to try to start his life anew. There's a local connection here: Scriven was teaching school in Clinton in 1850 when he was offered a position as a tutor. Eventually Scriven fell in love again, and got engaged for a second time. All seemed right with the world once more for him. But before they could wed, his fiancée got very sick, and four months later she died of pneumonia.

What are the odds? How would one recover from that horrible shock…all over again? If it were you, sitting there at the funeral of your SECOND fiancee, would you blame God, turn away from Him, despair of all His supposed goodness?

You've maybe heard folks say or post on Facebook, "I married my best friend." Joseph Scriven couldn't say that: he had to BURY his potential best friend…twice. And while recovering from these dual tragedies, if that were not enough, his mother in Ireland became extremely ill, and he could not be with her.

There he was, heartbroken and helpless. It was beyond adding "insult to injury," almost a cruel hoax to see how much he could bear. So he did the only thing he could do in 1860; he wrote to her and sent a poem that he hoped might give her some comfort in his absence. It was a poem titled Pray Without Ceasing about a more enduring "best friend" he was discovering. Despite his horrible circumstances, such dramatic tragedies, he never lost faith in this best friend…and that simple poem to his mother became a famous hymn about that same friend, Jesus Christ. An eternal friend that was standing by him and giving him comfort even in such tragic circumstances. Here are a few lines from it, one of the greatest hymns of all time:

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh, what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!

Joseph considered Jesus to be his best friend, and despite his loss, his trust in his friend never wavered, and Joseph stood with Him in a life of ministry to the poor in Port Hope, Ontario until his death in 1886.

Today we're completing our four-part series based on the film God's Not Dead where we see a similar friendship with Jesus despite some heavy losses by the main actor. In the film, Josh Wheaton, takes a stand for his Christian belief in God with his college philosophy class, trusting in his Friend to see him through as well, no matter what the cost. And it costs him plenty, as Josh responds to his professor's challenge to renounce his best Friend.

How would you respond to a public challenge that impugns your friend? Perhaps a co-worker, a neighbor, or someone in your church. It could even be a member of your family or the love of your life. How far would you go to defend your friend and not disappoint them when they need you most?

Taking a stand can be a hard thing to do sometimes. Josh sets the bar pretty high for all of us in the film, willing to sacrifice everything to stand with his best Friend - his girlfriend's estimation of him, his marks, his reputation in front of his classmates. 1Peter 3:15 says, "But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence..." Let's look at Josh's motivation and his "Taking a Stand" for his Friend, Jesus Christ, and in the process discover what exactly makes a person a true friend.


First of all, let's take a look at some of the things the Bible says about friendship.

A) A real friend is consistent in their affection.

Proverbs 17:17 "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity." What does that mean practically? That means that no matter what happens, they're there for you, 24-7, especially when your world falls apart. When things are the worst, even at 4 A.M., you can call them because you know they'll come and help.

This past week's winds were upwards of 90 km/hour, ripping shingles off homes and roofs off barns. I was concerned about the portable shelter for our car, which is rather wind-sensitive being basically a tarp attached to steel tubing. I remember when we first installed it with the pre-supplied anchors that screwed into the soil, it became airborne on a gusty day and flipped right over. What a mess! My brother and my father came right over and my brother proved to be a friend by pounding in steel posts to anchor the shelter to better, even though conditions were miserable. That's the sort of thing a good friend does, no matter what time it is or how unpleasant the conditions: they come through for you, they're consistent in their affection.

B) A true friend is brutally honest.

Proverbs 27:5-6 "Better is open rebuke than hidden love.Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." If you have a problem, a real friend cares enough to not sugarcoat it. They tell you the truth. If there's broccoli in your teeth, your breath stinks, or your zipper's down, they'll tell you. They care too much to let you be a fool, get hurt, or be embarrassed.

C) A genuine friend is closer than family, even to the point of death.

Proverbs 18:24 "One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Someone who is closer than a brother is someone who will sacrifice even their own life for you. They are more than family. They are your go-to person in any situation because you know they have your back. When it's life or death, they will step in for you no matter what.

Who can be with you 24-7, tells you the truth all the time, and would even die for you as a brother? The answer becomes clear when we consider Joseph Scriven's best Friend, the man from Nazareth, Jesus Christ, because He didn't just say it, He lived it! Romans 5:8 [God in Christ] "…demonstrates His own love toward us...." Jesus is that "friend who sticks closer than a brother," isn't He? He is always there, always honest, and as a brother He even died for you. In the movie, Josh Wheaton knows this and acts accordingly in his philosophy class.


Willing to die for you, take a hit for you, shield you when you're in the line of fire - this is the litmus test. A real true friend will stand with you when your reputation is in question, when you're at the very bottom, when you're completely broken, and have nothing. In this excerpt from the movie, the scene at the library, Josh reveals his motivation...pure friendship that does not want to let his Friend down. Josh is talking with Martin Yip, a Communist student from China who doesn't get it:

Film Clip 48:53 to 50:53 (Josh's Explanation)

"Everyone thinks I'm crazy," Josh says to Martin. "Girlfriend, ex-girlfriend.My parents don't want me to risk it.I'll have to work like a dog to catch up in all my other classes." Josh lays out all his difficulties, but ultimately has no real qualms about defending his friend to his atheist professor, despite all the risk and difficulty. It's a no brainer. Why? Because he thinks Jesus is alive. That's a powerful statement! He's convinced Jesus of Nazareth is really and truly still alive...today, right now!

Do you? Do you believe that too? Believe it enough to take a stand for him? C.T.Studd, who also believed this and demonstrated it by giving his life as a missionary in China, India, and Africa, summed it up this way: "If Jesus Christ be God, and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him."

What about it: is Jesus your friend? Would you stand up for him in public like Josh? Would you go anywhere for the gospel like C.T.Studd? It's a remarkable love that we can also see elsewhere in the Bible. Let's take a look again at our Scripture reading, an Old Testament story of another true friendship.


1 Samuel 18:1-4 "After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family.And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.  Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt." Of all the stories of friendship in the Bible, this is perhaps the greatest. And what do we see modeled here between Jonathan and David? We see the Golden Rule that Jesus commanded us in Matthew 22(34-40): treat others as you would like to be treated - which means love them as you love yourself. Exactly what Jonathan did, "…he loved David as himself." Jonathan even defended David and protected him from his violent and moody father, King Saul. 1Samuel 19 (1-6) "Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David and warned him...Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, '[I'm shortening Jonathan's defence of David here]...Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?' Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: 'As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death.'" Now that's standing up for your friend, to the king, the most powerful authority in the country, and your own father, no less, when it's literally life and death. Sure Jonathan knew David was a "threat" to his right to Saul's throne one day, but that didn't seem to matter to him - he longed for David's success. Talk about risking it all!

And how did David respond to him? He loved him in return. Their hearts were knit together, and when David learned of his death he mourned him and said in 2 Samuel 1:26, "I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me.Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women." He loved him with an intimacy greater than even that of a man for a woman.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "The only way to have a friend is to be one." What does that mean, practically? A guy once described his friend in these words: "He always makes me feel like a million bucks!" What a great way to define a friendship!

That's what we see Jonathan initiated with David, and also what we see in the movie - Josh reciprocating to Jesus' love for him as Josh comes to Jesus' defence in his philosophy class. Josh doesn't want to let Christ down. He admits, "I think of Jesus as my friend. I don't want to disappoint Him."


One of the foremost experts on friendship was Dale Carnegie. For more than 100 years, and in almost as many countries, his methods and courses have been changing the way people view each other for the better. Carnegie grew up a very poor farm boy in Missouri, but he discovered Biblical truths about friendship that he put into secular terms in a book that sold over 5 million copies in his lifetime called How To Win Friends and Influence People. Carnegie's life motto should be very familiar to all believers: "Forget yourself; do things for others." Pretty simple. Or as the Apostle Paul advised the church at Philippi, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Philippians 2:3-4)."

So let's get practical and have something to apply regarding friendship. Here are the six basic truths that Carnegie lived by, tried and true, and if you want to have friends, just apply these proverbs to your own life and watch what happens.

1) Be genuinely interested in other people.

2) Smile.

3) Remember that a person's name is, to that person, the most important word in the world...Use it often.

4) Be a good listener.Encourage others to talk about themselves.Ask questions.

5) Talk in terms of the other person's interest; avoid "I."

6) Make the other person feel sincerely important.

That's all you have to do. A lot of it's just plain getting over yourself, being unselfish instead of me-focussed. In short, love others as you would like to be loved. Sound familiar? Jonathan loved David AS HIMSELF.

Carnegie observes, "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."


In conclusion: we've seen what a real friend is in the example of Jesus Christ, and Josh's Jonathan/David response to Christ's love when Josh stood up for Him. Some of you here today may think you know Jesus as your friend too, but faith isn't an intellectual ascent to some historical facts. True faith results in action just like Josh standing up in his philosophy class - it requires works...not as if to EARN salvation, but in response to being saved, as evidence of it. If you really believe your brakes will work in your car when you leave here today, then you'll drive home, right? But if you don't believe your brakes will work, you'll walk home. Or drive slowly if you have a standard transmission and use your clutch a lot to gear down in advance, as I had to do with our Lada Niva in Brazzaville for a while one time! Your belief affects how you act.

Real faith means you take a step, an action, you stand up. In the church, one early response to saving faith is to get baptized, to be "marked" publicly as belonging to Jesus. After you place your faith in Jesus Christ, you take an action, a step of faith, to show your belief.

By the way - remember who we were talking about at the start, that hymn-writer? Joseph Scriven never DID marry. His action was a life devoted to ministering to the poor for the sake of his best Friend. For our closing, listen to the rest of Scriven's poem. I'd like to think his mom found great comfort in it, and in her son's remarkable faith.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged -- take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer. //

Are we weak and heavy-laden, Cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Saviour, still our refuge -- take it to the Lord in prayer.

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer!

In His arms He'll take and shield thee, thou wilt find a solace there. //

Blessed Saviour, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear;

may we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.

Soon in glory bright, unclouded, there will be no need for prayer --

rapture, praise, and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.

With that sort of a friend, why wouldn't you take a stand for Him and give your all no matter the risk - especially when you know He stands right there alongside you? "What a friend we have in Jesus" - a friend who stood up for us, and who "sticks closer than a brother"! Let's pray.