Explore the Bible Study: Faithful

11:07 AM

Did you know that some studies indicate that someone's number of "true friends" has declined from 3 to 2 in the past 25 years? Did you know that other studies indicate there is a link between socially isolated people and heart disease?  This week's Explore the Bible study: Faithful, will enable you to outline characteristics of true friendship using the friendship between David and Jonathan, King Saul's son, as the guide. 

Because of social media and deteriorating cultural norms, the value and understanding of true friendship has become distorted. We need to understand that strong friendships don’t just happen. They require work, sacrifice, and intentionality. Above all, true, godly friendships stand the test of distance, time, and trials, and are built on a mutual commitment to God.

Use the following ideas to supplement your session. Hopefully it will help your group determine the principles required in order to be true friends. Build a list of characteristics that describe a true friend based on the passages and your discussion.

Note: I have expanded the suggested passages to include additional verses from 1 Samuel 19 and 1 Samuel 20.

LOOK UP: Getting Focused on the Text
  • How would you describe a true friend? (Capture responses on a markerboard.)
  • If you are on Facebook, how many “friends” do you have?
  • Based on your definition, out of all those “friends” how many would you consider true friends?
  • How does that number compare to the number of friends you wrote down on the sheet of paper?
  • Do you believe friendship today is more difficult to describe? Why or why not?
LOOK IN: Unpacking the text.

1 Samuel 18:1-5
  • What actions describe Jonathan's expression of friendship? (Committed himself to David; Made a covenant with David; Gave David his robe, tunic, sword, bow, and belt.)
  • What do you suppose Jonathan saw in David that caused him to respond to David as he did?
  • What was Jonathan communicating to David by giving him his robe, military tunic, sword, bow, and belt? 
  • Throughout chapters 18-20 you will see the phrase, “loved him as much as he loved himself,” when describing Jonathan’s love for David. What does “loving someone as much as you love yourself” mean?
  • Read, Mathew 22:29. Ask: How does Jonathan’s love for David help us understand this passage better? 
  • Read, John 15:9-11. Ask: How did Jesus Christ demonstrate a friendship that “loves others as much as he loved Himself”?
  • Can someone who doesn’t know Christ truly express this kind of friendship? Explain why or why not.
  • How can we express commitment, covenant, and giving to friends today?
1 Samuel 19:1-7
  • What can we learn from Saul’s response regarding what a true friend doesn’t possess? (Jealousy and envy).
  • When have you seen friendships broken as one friend becomes more successful than the other?
  • How should Christians respond to the successes of a friend?
  • How have you responded to your “friend's” successes? What does this reveal about your friendship with them? Do you need to ask for forgiveness from God and your friend for how you responded to their successes?
Direct: Divide into two groups and each group read 1 Samuel 20.
  • Group #1 - Identify the actions that demonstrate Jonathan's friendship with David.
  • Group #2 – Identify actions that demonstrate David’s friendship with Jonathan.
  • Discuss and list actions on markerboard.
  • Why did David bow down to Jonathan when they met alone in the field? (Jonathan was the high prince and David, at this time, was not only a commoner but also a fugitive.)
  • David knew he would be the next king, so what does his bowing before Jonathan demonstrate about true friendship?
  • While kissing a friend in that culture was normal, today it can be awkward and misunderstood in our culture. What other ways can we express love for a true friend?
  • Why did Jonathan and David weep in their last meeting together? (David and Jonathan wept openly to express their grief over their parting and over how badly things had turned out, owing to Saul’s animosity.)
  • How do you think Jonathan felt about being caught between his father and his friend?
  • What did Jonathan remind David of before they parted company? Why?
  • What can we learn regarding this unique friendship?
  • How can we demonstrate this type of friendship today?
LOOK OUT: Responding to the text.

Illustration Option: Read the following from: Ron Edmondson 
True friendship is rare. I have had many friends in my life, but finding one that stands the tests of time—that’s hard. Those kind of friends—are hard to find.

If you have ever gotten in a bind, had a major failure, or somehow lost your way, then you realized just how rare true friendship really is in our lives. The true friends show up at your doorstep ready to help. To me, the difference in a true friend and those who call themselves friends, but are really just acquaintances, is fairly easily identified.

Here are 4 characteristics of true friendship:
  1. Unconditional love - A true friend loves at all times. Regardless of what you do, what happens, or where life takes you, a true friend loves at all times. On your worst day—when you aren’t even fun to be around—a true friend still takes you to lunch. 
  2. Unwavering support – True friends are in it for the long haul. Even when you’ve fallen—or he doesn't agree with you completely—a true friend is in your corner. When you call—even when you’re in trouble—they come. True friendships may only be for a season. I have many of those. But if we run into each other again we pick up where we left off. Trust is already established. The relationship is just as strong. True friendships are consistent.
  3. Willingness to challenge – Love and support is not ignoring the words you need to hear. A true friendship makes you better. The Bible says “iron sharpens iron.” True friends will correct you if needed. Proverbs 27:5 says, “Better an open rebuke than hidden love.” Friends won’t let you injure yourself or others if they can intervene. They won’t remain silent with what you need to hear—and it will be shared in the deepest of love.
  4. Full of grace – True friendships weather the difficulties of relationships, forgiving when needed, and loving each other even when it hurts. A true friendship isn’t one-sided. Both friends are willing to lay down their lives for the other. Grace is freely and generously given.
I have a number of friendships I would consider true friendships. Of course, Cheryl and my boys make the list, but there are others. We’ve been through life together. I can’t imagine my life without them.

Closing Challenges:
  • Read the following passages: Ecclesiastes 4:10; Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 18:24
  • How serious do you take Christian friendships? Do you approach friendship as a covenant commitment determined to bless the other person?
  • Review your list of people you consider to be true friends. What characteristics we discovered today do they demonstrate to you? Consider thanking them for being true friends.
  • Think of people who consider you their true friend (it is probably but not necessarily the same people on the previous list). What characteristics do you demonstrate toward them that communicate to them that you are a true friend? 
  • Are there characteristics listed that you need to develop in order to strengthen your relationships with those you consider to be true friends?

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