Recently I was contemplating on the effects of not seeing your close friends for a while. I thought about this when our weekly home group didn’t meet for a couple of times, but it’s been brought to my attention as well as good friends of mine recently left for the United Kingdom, and also I started trying to re-ignite my friendship with some guys I used to go to a lot of music concerts with, and concluded this is easier said than done.
I realized that connecting on a heart level with other Christians is not optional. It is a must! It is of practical importance to our spiritual health and growth. For it says in 1 Corinthians 12:21 “And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; or again the head to the feet, I have no need of you“. We all need each other, we need to connect on a heart level with one another on a frequent basis in order to not only maintain our friendship or fellowship, but also to encourage one another.
“Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). What are youthful lusts? They are sexual temptation, illicit pleasures of the flesh, longing for fame and glory, etc. We need to flee from them. This means don’t entertain thoughts about them, don’t challenge them, don’t try them. The thing is we always pursue something. And so if we flee from (stop pursuing) these things this automatically means that we are running towards (or pursuing) something else. This goes hand in hand.
So what should we pursue? We should pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. Let’s zoom in a bit on righteousness. “And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever” (Isaiah 32:17). So if we pursue righteousness we will find peace, quietness and confidence. “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul” (Proverbs 2:6-10). We should pursue wisdom (ask God) and walk in integrity, then we will be able to discern righteousness and have knowledge that’s pleasant to the soul.
Now we should pursue righteousness with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. We must be around Christians who will seriously encourage us. “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called Today; lest anyone of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). To encourage one another daily takes responsibility. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, and not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25).
How do we pursue righteousness? How seriously do we take up this responsibility? What actions does the Apostle Paul encourage us to take? What will play a critical role in reaching our spiritual goals? What do we need to be mindful of as we encourage and sharpen one another in our faith? How do these verses change our perspective on the purpose and importance of friendships?
We have been given the command to connect. Connect on a level so deep that we can really encourage and stimulate one another to love and good deeds. I feel challenged to seriously examine my friendships and starting seeing them in light of these verses.