Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 25 2019 - Proverbs 17 – Living well with others

Much of Proverbs 17 is about how to live well with others. The wise person is the one who pays attention to these proverbs and so lives well before God and with others. The trials of life and the behaviour of others may test us to the very limit, but as a furnace is used to purify gold, so the Lord tests our hearts to ensure that our hope, trust and strength are in him and not in ourselves (v. 3).

I want to focus particularly on the seventeenth verse from this chapter:

A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

The English proverb, "A friend in need is a friend indeed" expresses the same thought. True friends are those who stand beside you in days of difficulty, distress and need. Where they can, they come to your rescue and aid. Where there is little else they can do, they come to encourage, express their sympathy, care for you and pray for you. We all want friends like that. We all need friends like that. We all need to make sure that we are friends like that to others around us for they also need us.

We need to value our friends and strengthen the bonds of our relationship with them. Verse 9 states, "Whoever would foster love covers over an offence, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." When a friend commits some minor offence against us, we do not take it to heart and harbour resentment against them; we are ready to forgive and forget because we value their friendship above our personal feelings (cf. 1 Peter 4:8) – and because we want them to treat us in the same way. So also we are to be careful not to gossip about the wrong we believe that someone has done either against us or against someone else. Such gossip breaks up friends and sets one person against another. As we value our own friends, so we are to value the friendships others enjoy with one another and not seek to undermine them.

The friendships we make with others are to be deep, sustaining and enduring; we are not to be unreliable friends. In the following chapter of Proverbs (18:24) we read:

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

The latter half of this verse has often been used by preachers to speak of Jesus Christ. He became incarnate – took upon himself our human nature – because he wanted to identify himself fully with us. He was not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters. He came to us when we were in trouble and came to save us – he is a brother born for a time of adversity. He is one who has promised never to leave us. He loves at all times. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He has covered over all our offences with his own shed blood so that they are never again brought before God to condemn us.

Jesus calls us to learn from him and to follow him. We are to become like him in our care for others. We are to be those who love at all times and are always ready to help others when they face trouble and distress.

Think of friends you have had in the past but with whom you no longer enjoy the same kind of relationship. What caused that friendship to grow cold or break apart? What could be done by you to restore it? How will you maintain and increase the friendships you currently enjoy? How could you be a better friend?

Lord Jesus, we stand amazed that you have been pleased to call us your friends and that you have bound yourself to us with cords of love that nothing can break. You do not turn away from us when our affection grows cold. You are always ready to seek us out again and draw us back to yourself. You are a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Help us by your Spirit to be more like you.

May 25 2013 - John 14:15-31 – Not abandoned children

There are times when we can feel very alone, like an abandoned child. The disciples must have feared such a future as Jesus told them that he was about to leave them. They had been with him practically continually for three years. More than that, he had been with them. He was their Master and Lord and all their hopes were vested in him. As Jesus will soon remind them, without him they can do nothing. And now Jesus tells them that he is going away – he is going to leave them. But, he adds, he is going to send them another counsellor or comforter, one who will be with them to lead and direct them, reminding them of the things that Jesus himself had taught them and encouraging them to go on following him.

This new leader and counsellor, Jesus tells them, will be very familiar to them, “He is currently among you and will be in you” (John 14:17). They know him now in Jesus. The very Spirit who animated Jesus will come to inhabit them, and when he does so, they will know that they are not abandoned, but that Jesus himself, and the Father, are with them. That, I believe, is implied in Jesus’ words we read yesterday, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (14:3). The promise of his return to lead his disciples in the path that he has prepared for them does not have to await the second coming; Jesus himself comes to be with his disciples in the person of the Spirit and in the power of his resurrection.

Jesus then says something quite extraordinary – it must have seemed most strange to the disciples. He says, “If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I” (14:28). Why should the disciples be glad that Jesus is leaving them? They cannot understand it now, but Jesus will soon return to the Father because he has completed all that the Father has sent him to do. His return will mark the beginning of a new age, the age in which the Spirit will be at work in the world convicting people that Jesus the crucified Nazarene is Christ the Lord. The disciples should be glad because this will be an age when the promise to Abraham will at last be fulfilled that through him all nations will be blessed.

It is easy sometimes to lose perspective as disciples of the Lord Jesus. We may sometimes feel that the call to follow Jesus and live for him is more than we can manage. Indeed, it is; until, that is, we remember that he has not left us as orphans – we are not abandoned children. Jesus himself is with us to lead us, teach us and encourage us in the way he would have us go. As we walk that way, we see and know the reality of his presence. We live because he lives in us (14:19). He comes to us to take away our fears and to give us his peace (14:27). And he comes to empower us for mission – to continue his work in the world.

Lord Jesus, we thank you that though you have returned to the Father, you are not far off. You are with us in the presence and power of your Spirit. Teach us more of you and encourage us in the life of discipleship. Open our eyes to understand the immensity of your saving purposes, not for us alone but for the whole world. Holy Spirit, empower us for mission, that all the world may come to own that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Peter Misselbrook