Jack Carroll - True Friendship

There could be no kingdom of God in the world apart from sacrifice. This Kingdom of God cannot be extended in the world apart from sacrifice of the servants of God and the saints of God.  Service that brings honor or gain to the servants of God is an abomination to God.  The only men or women that really count or are of any value, in the work of God and in the church of God, are the men and women who retain the spirit of sacrifice: who are just as willing today as they ever were to place their lives, their all, upon God's altar, and have the same consumed by fire.  A convention is of little value, and of no account, unless it puts in us a willingness to sacrifice for Jesus sake and the gospels. We as preachers are following in the true steps of a preacher who began His ministry with forty days starvation. No one of us as a servant of God has ever been so tried and tested as the Pattern Servant. No saint of God, no matter how hard he tried, could ever make a servant of God rich because every servant of God is a steward of everything he receives in the Lord's name and is responsible for being a just and faithful steward, and if there has been entrusted to him more than is necessary for his own personal use, he is responsible for ministering unto his brethren. Ephaphroditus (a saint) nearly died in bringing the things (Philippians 4:18) from Philippi to Rome.

The saints had sent Ephaphroditus as a messenger, to meet the physical needs of God's servants, and now God's servant was looking around to get a messenger to send a message to meet the spiritual needs of the saints at Philippi. As he looked around, he saw disappointment and had to say, "Everybody is selfish, all seek their own." The greatest catastrophe that could ever happen in the work of God in the world would be that His bondservants and handmaidens would begin seeking their own, and not the things of Jesus Christ. If I were asked this morning, "What is the hope of God's testimony in the future?" I would say that the whole future of God's testimony in the world depends on saints like Ephaphroditus, and servants like Timothy.  One of the things that comfort our hearts as we think of our beloved fellow-servants in the world is that there has been a deepening and ever increasing desire not to seek their own but the things of the kingdom. Let us think of another saint—turn over to the letter to Philemon. In this letter Paul is just opening up his heart. The one outstanding characteristic was his life. This letter was written by a man who thought of Philemon as a true friend in whom he could have implicit confidence, a man who would go a little farther than others. A friend is one before whom you can think aloud.  Someone has said, "A friend is more than that, a friend is one to whom you can open up your heart to tell him all that is there, and have the assurance that he would rather die than to betray your confidence."

Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends." There have been days in which I have to admit, I wondered if I could count my friends on the fingers of my hand. I had many brethren—I had brothers and sisters in the flesh, and brothers and sisters in the truth—but my heart was hungering for those I could think of as friends. I believe, my brother, my sister, that what God is anxious to breathe into us as His people is the spirit of true friendship that is based not on selfishness, for that could only mean horrible disappointment, but a friendship that is based on sacrifice. Why is it that a friendship that exists among workers is the closest and the sweetest that can be known among men? Because it is based on sacrifice and willingness to lay down one’s Life for others; the only friendship that really counts and is of any real value is one who is willing to sacrifice and live for others. Do you know what I have thought? That I would feel highly honored with? If someone, at least my fellow servants, would think of me, not so much even as an elder worker or as one of the servants or a brother, but would think of me just as a friend. I wonder, my brother, my sister, "Have you ever been a friend to anyone?"  "Do you desire to be a friend to your brethren?"  "Do you desire to cultivate true friendships as you live your life in this present evil world?"  A man or woman to have friends must first show himself friendly and must inspire confidence—he must be a man or a woman who can truly be trusted.  I can truly say today that the few friends I have in Christ, men and women whose friendship is more than life itself, these give to me more comfort, more joy, in the dark hours that every worker has to go through, than any others.  If every earthly friend disappointed you; “there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”  He has never disappointed any man or woman yet, or caused a tear to be shed because of a violated friendship, and He is willing to breathe into our lives experiences that will enable us to cultivate marks that will stand the test of time and eternity. This is only an introduction to this letter but I would like you to read it with this thought, that this man was more than a brother that Paul could write to; he was a friend right through. It was a private letter that had to do with his home life and business affairs that Philemon was interested in, but I thank God that this letter has been preserved so that we can have a look into Paul's heart and understand better the friendship that existed between true friends, true servants and saints in bygone days.

May God inspire us to be real true friends, men and women that can be depended upon, who will never betray confidence, so that one may open up his soul to us and we would never betray.