Humankind was designed for community, fellowship, and relationship with one another. The pandemic shifted the way we interact with one another, and even nearly shut it down altogether. How do we prevent what was a physical distance from becoming a social gap in our relationships? What is the impact our friendships can truly have on us? In this message on Philippians 4, Pastor Mike Kelsey reminds believers of the necessity of having good friends. This message unpacks the criteria for good friends, as well as how we can pour back out and invest in such friendships.
- Community in Mid-Life
- Three Criteria for Christ-Centered Friendship
- The Importance of Support
- Who Do You Need to Check On?
- Thank God for Your Friends
You Need Some Good Friends
Well, good morning, everybody. It is good to be gathered together as a church family. Shout out to y’all that are here in the room. It is good to see your faces and those of you that are watching with us online from wherever you are here in the DC Metro area, around the world, we are delighted to be together today studying God’s word.
As you know if you’ve been tracking with our church for a while, we have been in a series in the Book of Philippians in chapter 4, and we have been working together to memorize… All right, they’re leaving me hanging here, y’all, that are watching online. We’ve been working together to memorize Philippians chapter 4. And for many of us it’s the first time we’ve tried to memorize this much scripture together. So what I want us to do, we’re going to put the verses up on screen. Those of you watching online, those of you here, we’ll have it up on screen.
Reading Philippians Chapter Four
You can read it along with us. We’re going to read from verse 1 to verse 18. If you’ve been working to memorize it, you can look away, you can close your eyes and let’s memorize or recite this together. You guys ready? All right, let’s recite God’s word together. “Therefore, my brothers whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.
Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
“Finally, my brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things and the God of peace will be with you. I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but had no opportunity. And not that I’m speaking of being in need, for I’ve learned in whatever situation, I am to be content. I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Here’s the secret. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that…”
Let me get this right. “And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving or receiving except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit, the fruit that increases to your credit. I’ve received full payment and more. I’m well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gift that you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”
Did we get it? Thumbs up, we got it. Yeah, let’s give ourselves a round of applause. Give yourself a shout-out. The Lord is helping all of us. I want to encourage you to just take time, even if it’s just a verse at a time, even if you can’t recite the whole thing. The goal isn’t for you to just check a box.
A Prayer For God to Speak to Us
The goal is for you to take the word of God into your mind and into your heart. And one of the things I’ve been enjoying in going through this is being able in the car instead of social media, when I’m waiting in line somewhere, it’s just going over the word of God and letting the Holy Spirit speak to me through it. And that’s what we want to pray for the Lord to do for us today as we study this passage. We’re going to study verses 14 to 16. Let’s ask God to speak to our hearts.
Father, we thank you so much for this opportunity that we have to study your word.
Holy Spirit, I believe that you have a word for us and I know it because the word says that, “Every time you speak your word never returns void. It always has an assignment. It always accomplishes what you send it forth to accomplish.” And so God, we open our hearts to receive what you want to say to us today, but also what you want to do in us today. So God, would you work in our hearts as we submit to your word? We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. Let me ask you a question. How are your friends doing, especially over these past six months?
Community In Mid-Life
It’s been a tough time and we’ve been distant from each other. How are your friends doing? Do you even have good friends in this season of your life? And the reason I say “in this season of your life” is because it seems like in our culture, good friendships are hard to find and even harder to sustain. I remember reading a New York Times article, I forgot to write the date down. I think it was like 2014, but I read it a while ago, saved it. The article was called, and some of you will resonate with this, “Why is it so hard to make friends after 30?” Now if you’re under the age of 30, don’t worry. As we go through this, God has a word for you. We’re going to talk about friendships, right? But I want you to just hear… Let me just prepare you right for post-30 life.
This article talked about why it was so difficult and this professor of sociology said this, “As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends.” Three things. “Proximity, repeated unplanned interactions, and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.”
And the professor of sociology went on to say, “This is why so many people meet their lifelong friends in college.” Because if you went to college, kind of dorm life, you got those things. You’re in proximity with each other, in classes, living in the dorms, going to the dining hall. There’s unplanned, maybe even unwanted, just pop in, people showing up to your room. And it’s this environment because you’re around each other so much where you’re going through all kinds of things together and there’s vulnerability built in.
But here’s the thing that the article continued to say. “As people approach midlife…” I don’t know if they’re defining midlife as 30 because I’m like, “My God, am I already there?” “As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration when life felt like one big blind date are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change, and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends. No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in.
The period from making BFFs, best friends forever, the way you did in your teens or early twenties is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself,” listen, “to situational friends, KoFs, kind of friends for now. But often people realize how much…” Listen, here’s the key that I want to draw out. “But often people realize how much they have neglected to restock their pool of friends only when they encounter a big life event like a move, say, or a divorce.”
You see what they’re saying here? It gets a little bit harder as you get older to find and sustain good friendships. And the problem is that many of us don’t really become aware of the fact that we have neglected good friendship until we hit a difficult season in life and we need those friendships. And one of my concerns is that many of us have lots of interactions but no intimacy. We’re social but superficial. And the research makes clear that our society is struggling with friendships in general. But I’m concerned that our church relationships are at risk of being the most superficial because we tend to think of church as a place to attend or, in a pandemic, a online broadcast to watch and not as a community of deep, life-giving friendships. And I’m not trying to condemn us in that. I’m just trying to convince us and even convince my own heart through God’s word that God wants his church to be so much better than just this loose collection of attenders to a weekly event.
We Need Good Friends
And so I’ve titled this message You Need Some Good Friends and I’m preaching that to myself too. We need some good friends. And by good I mean something specific. And if you’re taking notes, this is the point that I want us to draw from the Apostle Paul’s life in Philippians chapter 4. Listen to me. If you want to thrive in Christ, if you want to thrive in Christ, you need to cultivate Christ-centered friendships. If you want to thrive in Christ and, listen, if you’re not a follower of Jesus, you got to know this, as you’re exploring Christianity, if you want to thrive in Christ, not just coast, not just go through the motions, if you want to thrive, then you have to, you and I have to cultivate Christ-centered friendships.
And I’m not saying that we neglect friendships with non-Christians. That’s one of my biggest regrets. As a college student, when the Lord moved in my heart and I was born again and I was on fire for Christ, that in my immaturity I couldn’t discern between friends that were legitimately trying to drag me down and keep me away from following Jesus and the friends who weren’t Christians, but honestly they were kind of happy for me and supportive.
And I just cut off so many people that I loved, that loved me, and I cut off the opportunity for them to see the change in my life. I’m not saying we have to cut off all our non-Christian friends, but I am saying that if we want to thrive in Christ, then we also need to be cultivating Christ-centered friendships.
You see, Paul was thriving even in difficulty. And when we look through this passage in Philippians 4, you see this commercial language. When you get to like verse 14 or so, this commercial language, he’s talking about, “I receive full payment from you.” He talks about giving and receiving and partnership and it almost sounds like this contractual relationship. But as you study, scholars point out that he’s not saying he’s on contract with the Philippians. This is actually the way… In ancient Greco-Roman society, they use this kind of commercial give and take language to describe mutuality in friendship.
This is friendship language. And so Paul was thriving even in difficulty. We’ve been talking about that over the past couple of weeks, that Paul is rejoicing in the Lord, that Paul is content in Christ. He’s thriving in his relationship with Jesus. And listen, Jesus wants you and I to thrive. You’ve heard me say it before. It’s a mantra for my life, that God is more committed to your joy than you are. God wants you and I to thrive.
He wants us to rejoice. He wants us to be content in him, but sometimes we misinterpret that. We think contentment in Christ, joy in the Lord means it’s all about me in Jesus. But that’s not what we see in Paul’s life. So I want us to trace the history of Paul’s friendship with the Philippians and draw out three criteria for Christ-centered friendships. And the situation is this gift that they’ve sent the Apostle Paul, we’ll talk more about that gift next week and their generosity.
Three Criteria For Christ-Centered Friendship
But what I want us to look at is three criteria this week for Christ-centered friendships. Here’s number one. You need friends who are personally committed to Christ, personally committed to Christ.
Rooted In Christ
Christ-centered friendships start with they are rooted in, first and foremost, a personal commitment to Christ. Let me show you this in Paul’s friendship with these Philippian believers. Look at chapter 1. We didn’t ask you to go back and memorize from chapter 1, but look at how Paul starts his letter. Turn back to Philippians chapter 1, verses 3 through 5. He says, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.”
He’s constantly thinking about them. “Always in every prayer of mine for you, all making my prayer,” listen, “with joy,” listen, “because of your partnership in the gospel,” now watch this, “from the first day until now.” What first day? Well, Paul is talking about the first day of their relationship. And to understand their relationship, you got to understand how they met.
And so Luke writes about this. Luke, the historian, writes about this in Acts chapter 16. And if you one of you have got your Bibles, if you can flip to Acts 16, just to kind of scroll through the headings because you can follow this pretty easily in your Bible. Paul was traveling to different cities, making disciples and multiplying churches and him and his kind of ministry colleagues, they weren’t planning to go to Philippi, but through various circumstances, God led them there.
And let me just add a little plug just real quick because Paul wasn’t planning to go there. You can read in Acts chapter 16, some difficult circumstances that led him there, but God had plans for him there. Actually, God had prepared friendships for him there. And I just want to encourage you, some of us are entering into unfamiliar territory. Some of you are getting ready to start your first year in middle school or high school, or you’re getting ready to start college or transfer to a different job or move overseas somewhere.
And I just want you to be encouraged. God wants you to thrive in Christ and he has prepared good friendships, even unplanned, unlikely friendships for this next season of your life. And so Paul, he gets over to Philippi, and while he’s doing ministry in Philippi, God saved a woman named Lydia, the first known Christian in Europe. And then Paul gets arrested for ministering to a girl, Acts 16, ministering to a girl who was being exploited for profit. And while he’s in jail, God saves Paul in jail. Shares the gospel with the prison guard, God saves the prison guard.
Now, this is a man who worked for the Roman Empire, a man who participated in and benefited from an oppressive regime, an oppressive justice system, a government that was actively persecuting Christians. And this man is radically transformed by the power of the gospel to the point that he invites the Apostle Paul into his home to spend time, to share the gospel with his family. They were baptized. This woman, Lydia, this business woman who was spiritual, look at Acts 16, but not actually born again, and she’s radically transformed by the power of the gospel. Same thing, to the point that she invites the Apostle Paul into her home to meet her husband and household and share the gospel with them.
They’re transformed by the power of the gospel in Philippi. And listen to me, wherever you are watching from right now or if you’re sitting in this room right now, this is the good news of the gospel, that you and I are sinners in all kinds of different ways, just like Lydia and just like this prison guard.
In our sin, we deserve to be separated from God and punished by God for our sin. But God has made a way for us to be forgiven. The punishment that we deserve, he sent Jesus to come and die on the cross in our place for our sins. And then Jesus rose from the grave with all power so that we could be forgiven through his sacrifice.
But the good news doesn’t stop there because when Jesus rose from the grave and ascended, what did he do? He sent the Holy Spirit so that when we put trust in Jesus, the Holy Spirit of God doesn’t just leave us where he found us, but forgives us and then radically transforms us in observable ways from the inside out. And listen, every single one of us, we need the transforming power of the gospel. This is what Paul got to witness in the lives of this man and this woman.
Eventually the charges get dropped against Paul and Silas, and then when they get out of jail, where do they go? Well, Acts chapter 16, verse 40, it says they went out of prison and they visited Lydia. They went back to Lydia’s house. Paul had ministered to Lydia and now Lydia was ministering to Paul.
And I love that Luke seems to emphasize the fact because he just mentions Lydia. He doesn’t mention her husband, her family, whatever. It’s like he emphasizes the fact that Paul and Silas had this special life-giving friendship with a woman. I mean, she wasn’t a second class citizen in God’s kingdom. Nothing shady or inappropriate, just a beautiful picture of brothers and sisters in Christ supporting each other in a God-honoring friendship. So you have Lydia and her family, the prison guard and his family. These were the first Christians in Philippi and they were the ones who originally helped Paul establish a church there.
And over time, they and other believers became Paul’s close friends. And I wanted you to see that history so that you could understand what their friendship was rooted in. It was rooted in and it blossomed out of the transforming power of the gospel. Y’all, think about it, they were so different, a Jewish man, a single man in Christian ministry, a gentile woman in business and her family, a gentile man and his family, a man who hadn’t just persecuted Christians in general but had persecuted Paul directly.
So what was the glue that held them together in their relationship? It was Jesus. It was the common experience that they had of being transformed through faith in Jesus and in the overflow of that being committed personally to Christ. Listen to me, listen, beautiful friendships can grow from the soil of the gospel. Let me say that again.
Friendship and the Gospel
Beautiful friendships can grow from the soil of the gospel. And the reason I emphasize that is because so often we don’t believe that. We don’t believe it. We think our friendships just have to form just like they form in the world. And listen, yes, we have friends. I have friends with people who are like me, who like the same things as me, but beautiful friendships can grow from the soil of the gospel even when there aren’t other common backgrounds or interest. And so many of us, we already kind of have our friends from other places and we don’t think we can get those kinds of friendships in our church family.
I think about one friend of mine in our church. He married one of my wife’s friends and I remember when I first met him… I mean, I’m just going to be honest, I was like, “This is going to be a problem.” Hold on, let me just explain why. Here’s why. For y’all unmarried folks or whatever, I would highly encourage you to take our Preparing for Marriage course, it’s a wonderful course, when you and your bae, you know what I mean, start getting serious. You want to be prepared, take the class. But let me coach you up on something that they just are not going to teach you in the Preparing for Marriage class. Listen to me very carefully. On behalf of all of your married friends, if you get married, you need to marry somebody that your friends actually want a vacation with, okay?
I’m just trying to help you, right? Don’t be the couple that messes up the friends trip vibe, okay? You can’t just think about yourself. You got to think about your friends group too, right? And so I meet this guy and I’m thinking 20 years down the road and I’m like, “This dude is an existential threat to the group chat. This is a problem. We are so different. We are not going to connect. He’s short, I’m tall. He’s white, I’m black. He’s from a rural town in the Midwest.”
You’re literally driving through cornfield. I’ve been to his house, you’re driving through cornfields to get to his house. I grew up here in the DC metro area. He likes wakeboarding. I like basketball. He enjoys figuring things out, puzzles and assembling furniture. I enjoy benefiting from the things that he figures out. I’ve known this guy for like 10 years and I’m still waiting to discover something we have in common. And yet we hang out together.
Our families have indeed vacations together and we’ve had fun. My older kids have stayed at his house when my wife was in delivery with our youngest. His wife was in the hospital for several months and we were at the hospital in the room with them and helping support them when he was sleeping in the hospital room with his wife on different nights.
There’s been this beautiful friendship that has begun to grow and we’ve even started to discover some new hobbies together. Why? How? Because our roots go deeper than our preferences or our backgrounds or even our personalities. Our friendship grew and continues to grow out of our shared commitment to Christ. So even though we started with nothing in common or thinking we had nothing in common, out of the soil of what we had in common in the gospel, this beautiful friendship began to grow. And listen, as you study this letter, you see that that’s how these friendships were formed out of this mutual commitment to Christ, a commitment to Christ. You need friendships with people who are genuinely committed to Christ.
Committed to Christ for Themselves
And maybe I should add these two words to this first point. You need friends who are committed to Christ, listen, for themselves. In other words, they aren’t just going through the motions of Christianity in order to appease you because they just want to keep you as their friend, because they want to date you, because… No, no, no, no. You need some friends that are committed to Christ for themselves.
Committed to The Mission Of Christ
And these next two points, I think, illustrate why. You need friends who are committed to Christ but here’s the second criteria for a Christ-honoring friendship. You need friends who are committed to the mission of Christ. Look at chapter 4, verse 15 here in Philippians. It says, “And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me…” Remember that word, partnership. “With me in giving and receiving, except you only.” And then look at Philippians chapter 1, verse 5. We already read this.
Paul says, “I’m constantly thanking God for you,” listen, “because of your partnership,” same word, “in the gospel from the first day until now.” And then verse 7, he says, “It is right for me to feel this way about you all because I hold you in my heart.” Listen, here’s why. “Because you are all partakers with me of grace,” listen, “both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.”
Now, that word partnership that we just saw in chapter 1 and chapter 4, both of them are the same Greek word. They come from the same Greek word, koinonia. It’s this word for fellowship, this rich sharing, this rich common life. They weren’t just friends, y’all. They became partners, they became coworkers. They became a team that shared the same goal and passion of glorifying Christ. They wanted to leverage their friendship in ways that blessed other people. They wanted to see the gospel spread so that people could be discipled and churches could be multiplied all over the world.
And that’s what brought Paul joy in verses 14 to 16. He’s going down memory lane, remembering all the ways that they’ve partnered in ministry together. And what we see is this long timeline of collaboration between Paul and the Philippians. In Paul’s time, Macedonia was a Roman province made up of different cities including Philippi. Let me show you a map here. We’ll just put it there so you can kind of see the landscape.
You’ll see there, we already saw how Paul went to Macedonia in Acts 16 and started the church in Philippi. And we saw how the local government kind of forced him to leave when you read Acts 16. Well, if you follow the story into Act 17, you see that Paul stayed in Macedonia and started doing ministry in Thessalonica, which was a neighboring city. And we know from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians that Paul didn’t receive any kind of financial support from the Thessalonians.
He had to work to support himself while he was doing ministry there. And that’s why he says in Philippians chapter 4, verse 16, remember, he said this, “Even in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs once and again.” Well, eventually Paul left Macedonia and started doing ministry in the broader region, in cities like Athens and Corinth. And then look at what Paul writes to the believers in the city of Corinth. 2 Corinthians chapter 11, verse 9, listen to what he says.
This is a separate group of Christians in a different region, in a different city. He says, “And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone.” In other words, “I didn’t get any financial support from you.” He says this, he says, “For the brothers who came from Macedonia,” he’s talking about the Philippian church, “supplied my need.”
You see, listen, these Philippians weren’t just committed to their personal relationship with Christ. They were committed to helping other people find and experience a relationship with Christ. They were also committed to the mission of Christ. And Paul’s life was full of these kinds of Christ-centered, mission-driven friendships. It’s over his letters. Let me just show you one place. Romans chapter 16 is one of the most beautiful pictures of this kind of Christ-centered, mission-driven friendship. Let me just read… Just read through the whole chapter sometime, right? But let me just read a part of it. It’s beautiful. Listen, Romans 16, verse 1, he says, “I commend to you…”
This is the end of his letter. “I commend to you our sister, Phoebe, a servant of the church that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and help her in whatever she may need for you for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.”
This is a wealthy woman who is financially supporting the ministry of the church. In verse 3, “Greet Prisca and Aquila,” also Priscilla and Aquila, “my fellow workers in Christ Jesus who,” listen, “who risked their necks for my life.” Listen, this is the kind of relationship that… And people understand this, a lot of soldiers in the military understand these tight bonds, right? Because when you’ve experienced stuff and you’ve seen people make sacrifices for the mission, it creates this bond. He says, “Who’ve risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house, greet my beloved Epaenetus who,” listen, “who was the first convert to Christ in Asia.” He’s remembering this baby Christian who came to Christ but now has blossomed and matured.
And he says, “Greet Mary who has worked hard for you, greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners.” These are people who have been in prison with him for the sake of the gospel. They are well known to the apostles. “And they were in Christ before me.” They were following Jesus before… “I know y’all are looking at me, but they were following Jesus before me.” It’s this overlapping, intertwining history of Christ-centered friendships that were driven by the same mission. And let me ask you this. Let me ask you. This is not just for adults.
This is for you. If you’re following Jesus as a middle schooler or a high schooler, or wherever you find yourself, listen, are you and your friends committed to the same mission?
What about you and the person you’re dating? What about you and your spouse? If not, it’s not too late. You pray about and think about how you can partner together in the work of Christ around you or around the world. Serve once a month together at one of our food distribution sites all over the DC Metro area.
We need more volunteers because God has blessed us with more opportunities to reach people. You and your friends are a blessing to each other. Well, how can you and your friends be a blessing to others? So you need friends who are committed to Christ. You need friends who are committed to the mission of Christ. And let me add a asterisk here just for one second, because some of us in our church family, some of us watching, are married to people who are not believers.
Committed to Helping You Thrive In Christ
And listen, that’s okay. You love them, they love you. And what you can do in that relationship is you stay committed to the mission of Christ. And part of that includes praying for your spouse to come to know the grace and the love of Christ that you have, allowing them to see your integrity and consistency in your relationship with Jesus so that your character is a witness, not just to your own strength, but to the strength and power of Christ. You need friends who are committed to Christ, who are committed to the mission of Christ. Here’s criteria number three for Christ-centered friendships. You need friends who are committed to helping you thrive in Christ.
We clearly see how Paul was committed to helping these Philippian believers thrive in Christ. I mean, obviously, he was the one who shared the gospel with them and initially discipled them. We know from the Book of Acts that he visited them multiple times just to check on them and encourage them, but their friendship wasn’t a one way street. Have you ever had a friendship where you felt like your commitment wasn’t being reciprocated?
If you’re watching with them, sitting with them, just don’t say anything. You know what I mean, in your heart, just be like, “Yep.” It wasn’t mutually edifying. You love that person, but their problems, their interests were always at the center. It was always about them. Their friendship honestly didn’t replenish you, it just drained you. Maybe it didn’t start that way. Or some relationships just feel like you’re always pouring out and, listen, that’s okay.
Sometimes that’s what sacrificial love and ministry looks like. But listen, all of us need to also have some friendships that are life-giving for us. And Paul had that with the Philippians. I mean, he mentions that kind of mutuality in verse 15, that theirs was a relationship of mutual giving and receiving.
Paul loved them and he committed himself to helping them thrive. But the Philippians were also committed to helping Paul thrive. You see, Paul needed Christ-centered friendships too. And I love this. I love it. You see it elsewhere in his letters. But listen to this in Romans 15, listen to verses 30 to 32. He says, “I appeal to you brothers by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the spirit to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf.”
I love it that Paul is saying, “Listen, y’all, work hard for me. I need you to work hard, to labor, to prioritize prayer time for me.” Verse 31, “That I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea.” He’s being persecuted. “And that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints.” We’ll talk about that next week, him trying to get financial support to brothers and sisters who were suffering.
And he says, “So that by God’s will…” Listen, “So that by God’s will, I may come to you with joy…” And this is the phrase right here, listen. “And be refreshed in your company.” Anybody thankful for some friends that leave you feeling refreshed? You can just go to their house straight from the gym, you ain’t even got to take a shower first. Maybe you should. Their refrigerator’s your refrigerator, their Netflix login is your Netflix login. I’m not talking about the legality of that. I’m just saying when you visit, you know what I mean? What you do after you leave their house is up to you, is between you and the Lord.
I’m just saying these friendships that refresh us, conversation that fills you up, laughter that lightens your heart, prayer that strengthens your faith, we need these kinds of friendships. And that’s what Paul had with the Philippians. Even when life took them in different directions, they stayed committed to what God was doing in Paul’s life.
Don’t Let Physical Distance Become Social Distance
They were committed to helping Paul thrive in Christ. Listen, they didn’t let physical distance become social distance. We saw how the Philippians partner with Paul in ministry, follow the timeline, in ministry throughout Macedonia, all the way to Corinth. But listen. But then there was this long period of time where they didn’t hear from Paul and Paul didn’t hear from them. Since his last visit to them in Philippi, Paul had been arrested and kept in custody throughout several escalating legal hearings until he was eventually sentenced and transferred to prison in Rome. And see, listen, some of our friendships are only strong because we’re in close proximity or we’re in the same stage of life together. But then seasons change.
You move away for college or to do ministry overseas, you start having to travel more for work or you’re deployed for a few months. Maybe you’re in a season of grief or depression so you’re a little more withdrawn in this season of your life. Maybe you enter a unique season of your life. Now you’re married or maybe now you have young kids or maybe now you’re in grad school and you don’t have as much free time as you used to. And let me just pause there for a second. I’m not saying that you should feel guilty because in this particular season of life, you don’t have as much flexibility or time. We got to give each other grace, right? Because friendship often kind of happens in waves. We got to give each other grace in this. But here’s what I’m trying to point out.
Oftentimes it’s out of sight, out of mind for our friendships, especially our church friendships. We forget about or neglect the people in our life or we feel forgotten about or neglected. This is how King David felt in Psalm 18:18. The very end, he’s lamenting, he’s struggling. And he says, “God, you’ve taken from me friend and neighbor.” And he says, “Darkness is my closest friend.” Darkness is my
This is how some of us have felt in this season of pandemic, of distancing. And I’ve been so burdened about this because I think this pandemic is kind of proving the point that we’ve been talking about. For some of us this time of distancing is revealing how weak and superficial many of our relationships are. I mean, for real, you ever felt like you were so close to your coworkers until you switched jobs? It felt like you just couldn’t imagine life without them because you see them 40 hours a day. You know what I’m saying? Y’all are on the phone. And then all of a sudden, as soon as you transfer jobs, it’s like what happened?
So oftentimes that’s how it is. Out of sight, out of mind. And distance reveals how weak and superficial the friendship was to begin with, because they don’t really have roots. They haven’t been really cultivated and strengthened consistently. So they wither, listen, so they wither at the slightest change or conflict.
They have no staying power. So while Paul is in prison, I’m sure Paul has wondered whether that is true about his friendships with the Philippians. Has physical distance become social distance? Have they forgotten about him or abandoned him? Are they neglecting him? And then he gets a care package from Philippi personally delivered by one of the church members, Epaphroditus. And let me just say, I love that Paul wasn’t salty. He didn’t respond with a letter like, “It’s about time. Where y’all been?” He didn’t write all that. You know what I’m saying? Some of y’all would’ve just been petty.
Paul though was thankful. He was thankful. That’s why he says in Philippians 4 verse 10… This letter is in response to them sending this gift in support of him in prison. And he responds. And that’s why he says, “I rejoice greatly that now at length…” You went out of your way. You went above and beyond. “At length, you have revived your concern for me.” He says, listen, “And I know your heart. You were indeed concerned, but you had no opportunity.” And we don’t really know what no opportunity means there.
Maybe it took them a while to figure out where he was. Maybe it’s because getting to Caesarea right there in Rome was difficult. It wasn’t like a well travel road or path there. It could have been their financial difficulties, which we’ll talk about next week, that kept them. We don’t know for sure. But the point is, they wanted to help Paul, they wanted to support Paul, they weren’t able to for a while, but as soon as they had the opportunity, they showed up to help.
The Importance Of Support
And look at how Paul describes their support. Pay attention to this. Philippians 4, verse 14, he says, “Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.” That word share is the same root word that we looked at earlier with partnership. It’s the word koinonia that means fellowship. And listen, Paul doesn’t say, “You were kind to share your money.”
Paul says, “You were kind to share my trouble.” Wow. Wow. In other words, they didn’t just throw some money at the need. They didn’t just send a quick text message. That’s what we do. You know what I’m saying? When we don’t really feel like having a conversation, we just want to register our support and send a text because now it’s in their court. I do it all the time, is just send a text, but they weren’t just kind of staying at a distance to the need. Listen, they were treating the need like it was their own. They were treating his trouble like it was their own trouble.
Galatians, they were carrying Paul’s burdens and fulfilling the law of Christ, the law of love to love your neighbor as your self. This was not just them donating money. This was them donating or devoting themselves to Paul. They were saying, “Paul, we’re not going to leave you hanging. We are in this together.” Why? Because they weren’t just committed to Christ, they weren’t just committed to the mission of Christ, but they were committed to their brother in Christ. Paul’s burden became their burden. And so their resources became his resources.
Who Do You Need to Check On?
God, make us a church like this. Listen, who do you need to check on? How are your friends doing in this season? How are the people in your discipleship group doing? How are the people on the greeting team that you serve with doing? How are the people that you’ve connected with in the marriage ministry doing? How are your friends from work or your friends from…? How are your friends doing? Who do you need to check on?
And I’m not just talking about checking on people physically. I also mean checking on them spiritually. What can you do to help them thrive in Christ in this season of their life? Actually take time to think about, that thoughtful support. The Philippians figured out where Paul was. I’m sure they probably had a committee meeting or something, with everybody disagreeing. “We should send him this.” “We should send him this.” “No, it should be these flowers.” “It should be…” Whatever. Bottom line, they landed on, “This is what we need to send to the Apostle Paul.” They decided who was going to take it, Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus gets all the way to him. They thought through the logistics of it. Think about how can you support, how can you help your friends thrive in Christ in this season of their life?
And you don’t have to think about all of them, but maybe one of them, a few of them. Ladies, maybe it’s as simple as dropping off some flowers and Starbucks for that mom who’s overwhelmed with the kids being at home, or that dad who’s overwhelmed with the kids being at home, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Amen.
All right, maybe it’s inviting your single friend who’s working 70 hours a week right now to have dinner with your family on a regular basis. Make sure to get a Covid test first. You know what I’m saying? Temperature check at the door, whatever. I’m just saying, single people be out in these streets, man, just flourishing, living life. You know what I mean? I just have to say that on record. If you’re going to invite people into your homes, we have a groups guidance on our website and all that type of stuff. I just need to say that, all right.
Maybe it’s lovingly challenging a friend, having the courage and the love to challenge a friend who’s making poor decisions or embracing a sinful lifestyle. Maybe it’s investing your time, your money, or prayer into the dream that God has put in your friend’s heart. What has God called them to do?
Maybe helping them thrive in Christ is to say, “I am committed to what God is doing in your life. I want to invest in whatever way I can in the dream that God has put in your heart.” How can you help your friends thrive in Christ in this season of their life? And then how can you humble yourself to receive help so that you can thrive in Christ in this season of your life?
So let me summarize here. If you want to thrive in Christ, like thrive, y’all, thrive, not just make it into heaven, but thrive, flourish in your relationship with Christ, then you need to cultivate, you need to prioritize, you need to give attention to Christ-honoring friendships. What do I mean by Christ-honoring friendships? I mean friends who are committed to Christ for themselves. I mean friends who are committed to the mission of Christ so that you all are not just friends just in and of yourselves, but that your friendship now can be leveraged for the glory of Christ and the benefit and blessing of others. I mean, friends who are committed to helping you thrive in Christ. They are not going to be trying to pull you down and draw you away from Christ.
These are friends that are going to get in there with you and encourage you and support you and help you thrive in your relationship with Christ and the calling that he’s given on your life. And listen, when is the last time, like Paul, that you took time to thank God for those kind of friends or to pray for those kind of friends? When is the last time you told your friends that you’re thankful to God for them like the Apostle Paul does here?
Thank God for Your Friends
So I want to challenge you, maybe take some time today to do both of those things, to thank God for your friends, and then tell at least one of them why you’re thankful for them. Send them a text, send them a DM. Send them a Marco-Polo. Give them a phone call. Do whatever. Drop them a note at their door, like whatever. Tell them why you’re thankful for them, because God gives us Christ-centered friendships to help us rejoice in the Lord always, even in a difficult season.
Listen, let me end with this. My dad, his best friend, Dr. Johnny Baylor, his fellow pastor in California… And I love Dr. Baylor because Dr. Baylor and my dad were such a beautiful model for me of male friendship, which is a whole nother sermon, right? This beautiful model of male friendship because fellas, man, we need some friends.
Whole nother deal. They met later in life during their doctoral program when my dad was going through one of the most difficult seasons of his life. And it wasn’t like a clinical depression. I remember that season it, he was depressed and they were in doctoral program together. And Dr. Baylor saw him one day literally soaking. They did not know each other at all. And Dr. Baylor walked up to my dad and he said this, this is so Dr. Baylor. He said, “It can’t be that bad.” I don’t necessarily recommend that, but that was just how they talked, you know what I mean?
And they began to have a friendship that just blossomed into this unbelievable friendship, just best friends. And I was so blessed by that. And Dr. Baylor passed away last year and my dad posted this on his Facebook page when Dr. Baylor passed away. He said, “My best friend, Dr. Baylor, went to be with the Lord last night.” He said, “When God gives you a friend who walks with you through both your sunlit days as well as your dark difficult nights, know that you have been blessed and highly favored. My friend Johnny is now absent from the body, but present with the Lord.” You see, Christ-centered friends ultimately help us rejoice in Christ because even when we lose them, we are reminded of the life to come. And so let me ask you this. If you’re here or if you’re watching, do you have confidence about what will happen to you in the life to come?
Because scripture says, “Greater love has no man than this that a friend lays down his life…” This is what Jesus has done for each and every one of us. Jesus has proven his great love, he has proven his commitment to us. He wants us to thrive not just now, but for all of eternity. And so if you’re watching this, listen, part of the reason why we press and we pray and we encourage you to repent of your sin and to trust in Jesus is not just so you can enjoy this relationship and friendship with the God of the universe now, but so that timeline stretches across the grave into eternity and you can enjoy that kind of relationship with God and the people of God for all of eternity. And so let me ask you are you confident?
Are you confident that if you passed away, like Dr. Baylor, that you would be absent from the body, but present with the Lord, that when you stand face to face before God, that you would have confidence that your sins have been forgiven, your past has been wiped clean, you are justified innocent in the sight of God? You can be confident today. And so I want to pray for us. I want to pray for all of us, those of us who are followers of Jesus.
But I also want to pray for you if you’ve been exploring Christianity and you’re at the point right now here or online where you would say, “I want that kind of friendship, I want that kind of deep, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, and I want him to lead my life.” Listen, God says, “You turn from your sin, you let go of control on your own life, and you turn and you trust in Jesus that his sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection from the grave is sufficient for you to be saved and to be brought into God’s family, this eternal friendship.”
A Prayer of Repentance
Let me pray. You can pray and repeat after me if this is a true prayer from your heart. You can just say, “Lord Jesus, I want a relationship with you. I know that I have sinned against you, but I thank you that you have provided forgiveness and that forgiveness only comes through your death and your resurrection. And so I turn from my sin and I give you my life and I put all of my trust in you. God, I pray for every person watching or every person here. Lord, I pray God that the truth of that prayer, the essence of that prayer would resonate in their hearts, Lord God, that they would cry out to you genuinely, Lord. You know their hearts, Father. And for those, Lord, who have put their trust in you, God, I pray that you’ll be faithful to your word, that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
“Would you save them? Would you forgive them, Lord? Would you reconcile them and change them and fill their hearts and their lives with joy? And would you bring them into friendships with people who help them thrive in Christ? And would you do that for all of us, God? Even in this season, would you help us, Father, to find and to enjoy Christ-centered friendships?”
We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.