One of the greatest risks a man can take is to attempt the Christian life on his own. The deceitfulness of the heart by itself is a sufficient reason to walk close to others who are wise and faithful. Long ago Solomon recorded the proverb, ‘Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment’ (Proverbs 18:1). This wisdom is much needed today. A man who isolates himself is a man in danger…
By the time David was contemplating a night with Bathsheba his blood was already boiling. Lust had already mounted a siege against the conscience and was catapulting missiles against the will. What would have been the very best safety valve for David while he was pacing the decking of his palace? He should have had Abiathar the priest, or Nathan the prophet, or some other man of God walking with him. A good friend would have smacked him across the face and told him to recollect the life of Saul before dabbling in sin.
There is no guardrail more useful that a circle of spiritual friends. Hearing such words as ‘Don’t give up!’, ‘Where were you?’, ‘You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you,’ or ‘Fear not! God is with you,’ can be a cup of Gatorade on a hot day, refreshing the heart and supplying strength for yet another leg of the race.
Many a Christian man will step each day into a workplace in which he is the only person around him whose life goal is to know, serve, and delight in the lord Jesus Christ. He will feel like an exile in a foreign land, trying to maintain an identity that is threatened by the culture around him. In such arid conditions, the vitality of faith begins to evaporate, drop by drop, day by day. Zeal will cool; focus will relax; resolve will weaken.
Spiritual friendship requires shared consent regarding the desired temperature of discipleship. Different Christians have different interpretations of what it means to be a devout follower of Jesus. Some are happy to exist in a tepid, lukewarm state. Others feel the need to kick-start the burner whenever the boil drops to a simmer. Spiritual friendship is distinct from other Christian relationships because spiritual appetites must be in sync. Such friends not only share a sense of where they are going, but there is a pace, an earnestness, that all hope to maintain.
Yet, intentionality, by itself, is insufficient to produce spiritual friendship. The intent must be right. Spiritual friends are comrades who join together in pursuit of Christ. The following words of Paul are an apt description of the basic intent that drives one Christian to partner with another: ‘That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead’ (Phil. 3:11). Knowing Christ, obeying Christ, being conformed to Christ – these are the objectives pursued in spiritual friendship.
This naivety is why a lot of men do not invest in spiritual friendship. During comfortable phases of life, friendship feels like a luxury. ‘I can manage on my own’ is the unspoken conviction of men when skies are fair. But like the North Sea the conditions of life can change rapidly. A crisis strikes and suddenly men discover that no one knows them well enough to be of help.