What are the keys to being a friend of your Creator? Jesus calls His disciples His friends, and you can learn what it means to be one of them.
A year or more of coronavirus-related lockdowns has taken its toll on many friendships. Writing in Harper's Bazaar, one author observed, “It hasn’t been easy to conduct our entire social lives online. While the last 12 months would have been infinitely harder without Zoom, FaceTime and WhatsApp, they are no substitutes for being able to see loved ones in real life. Technology often gives the impression of false closeness that can lead to a lack of effort in day-to-day relationships” (“Has the pandemic changed our friendships forever?,” April 22, 2021).
Friendships are built and sustained by spending time together—something that the pandemic made very difficult for many people. Consider how long it takes simply to develop a true friendship. In 2018, researchers at the University of Kansas found that it takes at least 200 hours of time spent together for people to form a close friendship (“How to Make Friends? Study Reveals Time It Takes,” News.ku.edu, March 28, 2018). Then, maintaining the friendship takes more time spent together sharing our experiences, exposing ourselves as vulnerable to people whom we learn to trust and who learn to trust us.
Some governments have recognized the challenges of loneliness and have tried to help their citizens. A headline earlier this year shared unusual news: “Japan appoints ‘Minister for Loneliness’ after rise in suicides” (The Independent, February 25, 2021). Yes, some have become so depressed during pandemic lockdowns that they have taken their own lives.
Regular Tomorrow’s World readers know that the Bible is filled with truths about prophecy, doctrine, and our incredible future as children of the Creator God. But how many of us realize that the Bible also gives us keys to friendship and resolving the problem of loneliness? Do you have close friends? A best friend? How can you build a closer relationship with your best friend?
Ancient King David, before he became king, was anointed by the prophet Samuel to succeed King Saul (1 Samuel 16). Many of you know of David’s victory over the Philistine giant Goliath and his subsequent military victories. King Saul became jealous of David and twice tried to kill him so that his own son Jonathan could become the next king. But Jonathan became David’s best friend and resolved to protect David from King Saul’s anger. “So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, ‘Let the Lord require it at the hand of David’s enemies.’ Now Jonathan again caused David to vow, because he loved him; for he loved him as he loved his own soul” (1 Samuel 20:16–17).
This rare example of faithful and loving friendship was in the context of God’s blessing. Remember the remarkable statement in Acts 13:22 regarding David’s character: “And when He [God] had removed him [King Saul], He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will’” (Acts 13:22).
Yet King David knew that his closest fellowship was with God, who had blessed him and carried him through numerous trials. When betrayed by his old friend Ahithophel, David reflected, “As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice” (Psalm 55:16–17).
My friends, you and I need that same close relationship with God. We read, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). James also mentions that the patriarch Abraham “believed God…. And he was called the friend of God” (2:23). Who is your closest friend?
Over the years, I’ve had many, many friends, but who is my best friend? God blessed me with a wonderful wife, and we’ve now been married for more than 57 years. But what brought and kept us together? We had similar backgrounds in culture and education, but what cemented our friendship, our love, was the way of life God called us to live. That is the way of life you have been reading about in Tomorrow’s World magazine. My wife and I are not only friends, but also a family, and God is calling many not just to conversion, but to full membership in His Family.
Longtime readers of Tomorrow’s World may remember an encouraging article by contributor Phil Sena. In our March–April 2010 issue, he explored the problem of loneliness and suggested ways to help break the cycle of loneliness:
Connect with others. There are other people who like some of the same things you like, or who believe the things you believe. Although it may be difficult at first, making the effort to meet some of those people will change your life. Reach out to people who share your interests, and soon your loneliness will cease. One of the best ways to break through loneliness is to realize that there are other lonely people, and that you may be able to help them. Is there someone in your community who needs help? It does not need to be something big; maybe just taking the time to listen to an elderly shut-in or encouraging a niece or nephew by playing catch. Making a difference in someone else’s life will make a big difference in your own (“Break Free from Loneliness”).
Yes, you can reach out to others. Pray and ask God to help you love your neighbor (Mark 12:31). That is the second Great Commandment God gives us. Most people know of the “Golden Rule”—but how many practice it as a way of life? Jesus stated it this way: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
Tomorrow’s World presenter Rod McNair wrote a helpful article in our January–February 2020 magazine, giving us five principles for overcoming loneliness. You can read the entire article online at TomorrowsWorld.org, but in this brief overview I’ll share just his fifth principle: “Spend time with your most important friend.” He reminded us, “Before His crucifixion, Jesus Christ told His disciples, ‘No longer do I call you servants… but I have called you friends’ (John 15:15). That’s an amazing statement from the Savior of all mankind!” (“How to Fight Loneliness—Five Ways to Overcome”).
Have you accepted your Savior’s offer of friendship? If so, what do you have in common with your friend? What are you doing to stay close to Him? Notice what Jesus asked of His friends: “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:9). Of course, you will not do that perfectly; but as you try, even when you miss the mark, your continued effort will build and strengthen your relationship with your friend and Savior!
And while all good friends certainly try to help each other, your friend Jesus Christ has offered something no one else can offer; He has promised you salvation and eternal life if you accept that promise and let Him live His holy and righteous life in you! He did what no other friend could do, paying the penalty of your sins by shedding His own innocent blood. What amazing love! Indeed, God is love (1 John 4:8, 16).
How can we practice true friendship? Let’s consider the patriarch Job and his three friends. To test Job, God allowed Satan to afflict him with great suffering. Notice that even though Job’s friends misjudged him, they still showed an unusual willingness to share in Job’s suffering. “So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great” (Job 2:13). They were willing to sit in a long silence to support their friend. Would you have the compassion and patience toward a friend to sit for seven days in silence? That’s true dedication. The book of Proverbs also shows us important principles of friendship:
The more we get to know Jesus Christ, the more we will experience the truth that He is our best friend. Naturally, we want to get to know more about our close friends. You might be surprised to learn how many have accepted a shockingly false image of Christ and His teachings. Even the Apostle Paul saw this happening and warned the Corinthian brethren, “I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!” (2 Corinthians 11:3–4).
Yes, some of the brethren in Corinth were accepting a false gospel that taught a false Jesus. How can you be sure you know the true Jesus? Remember that the Jesus of your Bible:
Dear readers, I urge you to read the New Testament with a fresh perspective. Read what Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote about Him. You need to study and know the real Jesus of your Bible. You will find Him very different from the traditional images that are promoted around the world!
Where is Jesus Christ is right now? He is at the right hand of His Father’s throne in Heaven (Romans 8:34). And what does He look like? Scripture gives us a description of His appearance, revealing that He is “clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters” (Revelation 1:13–15). Have you been taught to picture your Savior as a long-haired, bony individual with pale skin? That wasn’t accurate when He was a carpenter doing hard physical work in the cities of Judea, nor is it accurate of the resurrected Christ today!
And what is your friend doing? He is your intercessor and High Priest! “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14–15). And what does Christ’s priesthood mean for you? “He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:24–25). Yes, the true Jesus of your Bible always lives to intercede for you and your sins and problems!
Not only is Jesus Christ doing His Work in Heaven, He is also doing a Work on the earth right now, preparing the way for His Second Coming! He commissioned His Church to preach His true Gospel. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). Notice that Christ’s Gospel is the good news of the coming Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14–15). And Christ will be the King reigning in that Kingdom! Can you imagine anyone proclaiming loyalty and love for a king but opposing his kingdom? Sadly, many today are doing just that when they profess their allegiance to Christ but refuse to obey the laws of His Kingdom!
We saw earlier that friendships, even ordinary human friendships, take time to develop and more time to deepen and maintain. Friends spend time together—whether in person or via computer screens during a pandemic lockdown. They find ways to share their lives with each other. So, are you sharing your life with your Savior, and especially with His Father? How much time do you spend in prayer? Prayer will bring you closer to God as you let Him know your worries and desires, as you ask for His forgiveness and mercy, and as you thank Him for all He has done for you.
You may be familiar with what many call “the Lord’s Prayer.” Regrettably, many professing Christians just repeat its words as a formula, without ever realizing that Jesus spoke them as a “model” for our prayer, not a rote recitation (Matthew 6:9–13). Notice what Jesus warned the disciples before giving them the model prayer: “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:7). Some people think they are being very pious and religious by mumbling the same words repeatedly. That is not what Jesus wants! He wants us to pray from the heart, not just to repeat mindlessly the words of “the Lord’s Prayer”—or any other prayer! And notice that He wants us to pray to our Father in Heaven—just as He did! Jesus came not to take the place of His Father, but to reveal His Father to you and to me (Matthew 11:27).
Most of us, even if we are a bit shy, learn to be comfortable talking to a few close friends. With practice, you can have this kind of closeness with your Savior. But maybe you feel that you do not know what to pray about. If so, just open your Bible to the book of Psalms. David had a close bond with his Lord, the eternal God. David’s psalms are heartfelt expressions toward God. He shared his fears and his problems, and he even expressed his awe and wonder at the expansiveness of the universe God created. Look especially at Psalms 8, 18, 19, and 24, and you will be inspired by David’s example.
As you pray, remember to include one request that Jesus asked us to pray: “Your Kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). Your friend will soon return to this earth as the King of kings and Prince of peace. He will transform this carnal, selfish, warring world, and the result will be a millennium of peace and prosperity. That’s the real Gospel—the real Good News. But will you be ready?
Jesus told us, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Have you done as your friend asked? If you have come to the place in your life where you have repented and have accepted Christ’s sacrifice—His shed blood for the remission of your sins—and if you have accepted His authority over your life, I urge you to get in touch with one of the many ministers who are part of this Work. Contact the Regional Office nearest you, listed here.
When you become part of God’s Church, you also become “sons and daughters” of the Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:18) and thus not only friends of our Lord, but also brothers and sisters of His many other friends. Hebrews 2:11 tells us that our Lord “is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:11)—or, as the New International Version puts it, “Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” Remember that God is the Father after whom the “whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3:15).
Meeting each Sabbath with fellow members of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), you will get to know many people who share your interests and especially your love for your Savior and His Father. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are part of the “firstfruits”—the small number of people God is calling in this age to support the preaching of His true Gospel and prepare for the Kingdom of God.
Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He is the “resurrection and the life” (11:25). We read that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). That same Jesus wants to be your Best Friend. Will you respond to His call?