Israel’s king, David, best known to us as the writer of most of the Psalms and the hero on the field with the giant, Goliath, would never have become the man he was without a person who is mostly forgotten. This man showed up in David’s life at the critical moments to offer encouragement, to give advice, to support him. His name? Jonathan. He was the crown prince of Israel, King Saul’s son, the man with the most to lose if David’s rise to fame continued. Jonathan’s pathway to the throne had just one obstacle- David!
But, he put his friendship over his self-interest On one occasion the story goes like this: “While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” The two of them made a covenant before the LORD. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.” (1 Samuel 23:15-18, NIV)
When word came to David, after years of friendship, that King Saul and Jonathan were killed in a battle with the Philistines, he wrote a song to grieve. (2 Samuel 1) One stanza includes this tribute to his friend. “O my dear brother Jonathan, I’m crushed by your death. Your friendship was a miracle-wonder, love far exceeding anything I’ve known— or ever hope to know.” (2 Samuel 1:26, The Message)
Are you building and maintaining friendships that nourish your soul, strengthen your spirit, and bring out the best in you? Yes, I chose those verbs – building and maintaining – intentionally. Deep friendships, like the one David and Jonathan enjoyed, are not accidental! They require work, time, sacrifice, and priority. How many of us have said to another, “Let’s get together!” and then months go by and there is no dinner, no call? Life fills up with business and the people that truly enrich us get pushed aside.
If we want to be the best person we can be, if we want to know real success in life, if we desire the kind of life that leaves the richest legacy – we need covenant friends, a circle of people in our lives with whom we pray, laugh, collaborate, and cry! Jesus had 12! Perhaps you do not think of his disciples as His friends, but they were the men that He loved, with whom He spent day after day, investing Himself in them. Paul had Barnabas, Silas, Luke, and Timothy in his inner circle. Who is in yours?
Acquaintances, golf buddies, and professional partners are not to be confused with those in the circle of friendships of which I write. Each of those relationships are valuable in their own way, but none replaces those people that speak to our heart, that share our love for God and His work. Those with whom we form this kind of bond may be vastly different from us. Who would have thought that David, a shepherd farmer from the hills, could or would become the fast friend of the prince of Israel? But, it happened and both were stronger for the connection.
Our modern mobile lives are an enemy of deep friendships. We move more often, change jobs, switch churches, confuse Facebook friends with covenant ones (smile!) and generally live at a pace that does not encourage spending time sitting together long enough to hear one another’s hearts. God made us for relationships. Love- for Him, for others – is the primary mark of the life of the Spirit in us. John reminds us “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence.” (1 John 3:14-19, NIV)
Got a “Jonathan” or two in your life?
Here’s a word from the Word: “Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NLT)