June 1, 2023, 1:25 PM

This story of true friendship starts out with the testimony of an unnamed servant to the 1st king established in Israel, King Saul: ‘the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power’- 1 Sam 9:1. Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Beth-lehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him. (1Sa 16:18 KJB). The story of King Saul is one of which many could relate to in regards to their beginning walks with God. When folks start out their relationship with God, initially they’re serving Him faithfully: but over time they could lose their love for Him for choosing to love more of the things of this world. Well, the bible records how God dealt with this rebellious king by sending him an ‘an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him’- 1Sam 16:14; and the unnamed servant told the royal court how he knew a man who was able to offer the king relief from the presence of that evil spirit by simply playing a harp: 1Sa 16:23. In Chapter 17, we’re all familiar with this beloved story generally known by all, which is the story of Goliath being defeated by this young shepherd boy named David. This same young boy whom the unnamed servant recommended for the king’s aide. Our lesson for today’s devotion begins in Chapter 18 of 1st Samuel. After the victory the LORD God of Israel wrought by the hands of this ‘youth’ 1 Sam 17:33; Johnathan, a son of King Saul, was motivated by David’s sincere and true faith in the God of Israel when it was rehearsed in his ears how this young man declared before the king’s ‘And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD'S, and he will give you into our hands. (1Sa 17:47 KJB)’. Could it be that David’s faith stirred the heart of Jonathan’s faith? Unlike his father’s carnal and rebellious faith? Could it be that this young man’s faith in the living God is what Johnathan needed to hear, see, and receive to let him know that there is still someone else out there like him who believed in God like he did, as another young man? And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. (1Sa 18:1 KJB). The bible does not indicate the age of Johnathan, however it’s safe to presume that he too was a young man comparatively speaking to David, in that they would form some a bond on this same day. Some other things noteworthy to observe about the character of David, which Johnathan had already heard concerning the testimony of this young man from those who knew him are the following. 1st, ‘he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to.’- 1 Sam 16:12; 2nd ‘Saul…loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer’- 1 Sam 16:21; 3rd ‘he hath found favour in my sight.’- 1 Sam 16:22- it was clear to Johnathan that he had found a good friend who was humble, obedient, and caring for his family, and his own. But it wasn’t just the testimony of his character that stood out to Johnathan, but also for his boldness. I believe this was what Johnathan most admired about David. Let’s rehearse what David said when he entered the camp of the army while visiting his brothers; ‘And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? (1Sa 17:26 KJB); And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause? And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner. And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul: and he sent for him. (1Sa 17:29-31 KJB). Eventually the fellow soldiers told the royal court the courage of this young man who was ready to fight for his God, his country, without requiring anything in return, but simply willing to demonstrate his faith in God’s power to reignite in his fellow countrymen to believe, as he did. After the victory over the giant, the king recruited David to work for him in his army and included him in his private royal court- 1 Sam 18. Within a short amount of time, Johnathan ‘made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.’- 1 Sam 18:3. But why? What moved Johnathan to make a covenant with David so quickly in time? Why did he love him as his own soul? Could it be because he recognized something good about his friend that he hadn’t seen within anyone else in the kingdom? Well, over time Saul’s heart grew hardened towards his armorbearer David, because of his envy towards him when he received applause and recognition for the victories he wrought in battle, more than himself. This jealousy moved Saul to want to kill the young man. In chapter 19, Saul demanded his servants to ambush David secretly to kill him, but Johnathan withstood him and contested his request, by reminding his father that ‘he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works have been to thee-ward very good’- 1 Sam 19:4. Johnathan reminded his father of how good David had been to the family and that his thought about murdering their good friend would be a sin before God. Thereafter, Johnathan became aware of the plot his father planned against his friend, but still struggled with trusting his father’s previous promise of not killing him, and his friend attempting to convince him of the reality of his father scheme, Jonathan struggled. Eventually Johnathan confirmed the accusation made by David of his father in Chapter 20, when attending a dinner party. It was there that he discovered his father’s evil agenda he had plotted against David, when Saul unashamedly publicly announced the call for his death, and not just for David, but even of Johnathan for conspiracy. It was at this moment that Johnathan realized something about his friend; that he was honest. David did not lie to Jonathan about his circumstances with his father. David even humbly offered himself before Johnathan to kill him if he knew for what purpose of guilt-worthy sentence he had deserved to die, he didn’t shy away from his friend’s hand, because he knew that of everyone on earth, Jonathan would tell him the truth. And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul. (1Sa 20:17 KJB). What’s the lesson I hope we can both learn from today’s devotion? True friendships will endure through the toughest of times. True friendships will not break even amid opposition from family, friends, government etc. When you love someone as your own soul, there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for the other person because in essence they are you in those shoes. You wouldn’t abandon them through difficulties like you wouldn’t abandon yourself. You wouldn’t condemn yourself because of your personal sins, faults, slip-ups, backslidings; because you care too much about your own soul and would seek God’s help to make your life better. Likewise, when you truly care about a friend, you would extend unto them the same unconditional love you expect God to show to you; such is the case with Jonathan and David. Before we close today’s lesson, let’s read some New Testament passages on this topic. Before you excuse yourself from quitting on your friend because of their sins, their mishaps, their faults, or carnality (fill in the blank); from which you esteem them not worthy of your friendship; consider Jesus Christ the Godman! And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands-on Jesus, and took him. (Mt 26:50 KJB). Did you read that carefully? Jesus Christ called Judas Iscariot, friend! Wow. How could God consider such a sinner as Judas the betrayer a friend? Because Jesus Christ is not a man like we are with an inherited sinful nature; He was God manifest in the flesh, who’s nature operates a lot more graciously than our nature does in communication with others around us. Keep reading. And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself. (Mr 3:21 KJB). Did you read that carefully? Of the 33 and a half years of which Jesus lived on this earth surrounded by sinners, he befriended some of them. Can you imagine young Jesus growing up in Nazareth playing around and having fun with his neighbors? And as He grew into a teenager, young adult etc.; he never completely cut Himself off from being friends to sinners. For you reading this today, this should be convicting for us since we ourselves have the same potential for being as loving, kind, compassionate and humble as Christ, IF you’re a saved sinner sealed with the Spirit of the living God! Why do I say this? Because Jesus Christ operated off the power of the Spirit while on earth. And if the Holy Spirit assisted Him in his dealings with sinners, so can He help us in our dealings with sinners, especially if they get saved and become fellow members of the body of Christ. Jesus was accused by his opposers often for being ‘a friend of publicans and sinners!’- Luke 7:34. When teaching His disciples, He said, ‘And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. (Lu 12:4 KJB)’. Jesus even identified a man by name as being a friend, ‘Our friend Lazarus sleepeth’- John 11:11. Just like Johnathan was ready to support his friend David to the end, and vice versa; I believe it was motivated by the greatest virtue of emotion which our God created within all men and women to use and exercise, that is love. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (Joh 15:13 KJB)’. Jesus loved His friends enough to lay down His life for them! Wow, what love! Do you see now why the scriptures state in proverbs: A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. (Pr 18:24 KJB); And how ‘A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Pr 17:17 KJB)’. Truly, only Jesus Christ could wholly fulfill this type of love in our friendship with Him, which is unconditional and selfless love. And yet, the scriptures tell us to do likewise unto others. Jesus later taught His disciples; Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. (Joh 15:14 KJB). I believe that friendships must be mutual. Friendships must be maintained by both parties to be successful and healthy, for maintenance etc. Before we think ourselves too spiritual to emulate the love of a friend like Johnathan, Jesus Himself, let us consider our last examples of some of the New Testament apostles. And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre. (Ac 19:31 KJB)- Did you know that Paul had friends? Did you know that Paul’s friends cared deeply about his physical life and that they were willing to do anything to protect their friend from harm’s way? My question to you reader is do you likewise care enough about your friends like that? And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself. (Ac 27:3 KJB)- Did you know that Paul needed his friends to refresh himself with after facing those previous trials and tribulations in the ministry? My question to you reader is, who do you have in your life to go to, to help you carry those burdens, and encourage you when you feel like giving up? Who are your friends that are your ministers, ready to serve you at anytime you call on them to help you? But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name. (3Jo 14 KJB). Even our last living apostle, John, called the saints friends. Those who were in company at the time of this writing of 3rd John were identified as his friends as well. Wow, what a book! So, before you think yourself too spiritual, especially for those reading this devotion who serve in some capacity of ‘leadership’ in your church; whether as a pastor, deacon, elder, usher, teacher, evangelist etc... Before your gift can be exercised properly, friendship must be offered 1st! Before you expect your title recognition from others, you must 1st come before them humbly with a willing heart and mind to take the lower place of a servant towards those you minister over: Mark 10:44-45; 1Peter 5:1-3; Acts 20:28-38. The next time you go to your church service and minister to the saints, please think about the conduct of Paul amongst the brethren in the churches. For example: But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: (1Th 2:7 KJB); As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, (1Th 2:11 KJB). But some of you might say, “but brother Carlos, what about those carnal brethren”? - Read this: My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. The first epistle to the Corinthians was written from Philippi by Stephanas, and Fortunatus, and Achaicus, and Timotheus. (1Co 16:24 KJB). Paul still loved the church at Corinth. Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth. (2Co 11:11 KJB); Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile. (2Co 12:14-16 KJB). Before you entertain any spiritual ego about why you should be venerated or acknowledged as superior to the flock, remind yourself of the example set forth by brother Paul to the saints at Corinth. As for me, I will ignore any modern-day brethren who pass along traditions of proud teachings concerning how you ought to conduct yourself among the flock with superficial spiritual superiority of leadership prior to friendship. Remember, the bible is our final authority, not men and their conduct when they come short of it. Philemon was a great example of this who was commended by Paul himself when he wrote, ‘For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother. (Phm 7 KJB)’. So, in conclusion, this is the heart of the matter: true friendships are motivated by love for the other and are maintained by mutual love. True friends will not consider money, gifts, or deeds to be done in return for the other, why? Because love from a friend is not motivated by what the other could receive, but by what a friend desires to give to the other out of love; whether its personal time, money, help, or even burden-bearing etc. If you are struggling today with friendships, come back to the bible in your heart and read all these great verses I provided to help you and guide you on your next decision making concerning your friendships. I truly believe you’ll be a happier Christian for being a friend like Christ and the bible, versus your past and current traditional conditional ways etc. I hope this was a help to you. In love- Brother Carlos Almanza, your friend.