Jack Carroll - True Friendship - December 19, 1923

My thoughts have been on Paul's letter to Philemon and the Philippians. There can be no Kingdom of God in this world apart from sacrifice, and no Kingdom of God apart from the sacrifice of His Servants and His Saints. Any service that brings gain or honour to God's Servants is an abomination to Him. The only men and women that count and are of any value in this Work of God are men and women that retain the Spirit of Sacrifice and are just as willing today, as they ever were, to place their lives, their all on God's altar to be consumed by fire.


Convention is of little value and of no account unless there's a willingness to sacrifice for Jesus and the Gospel's sake. We, as preachers, are following in the footsteps of that Preacher who began His ministry after 40 days of starvation. Not one of God's servants has ever been so tried or tested in the pattern of that Servant of God. And no saint or servant of God, no matter how hard he tried, has ever make a servant of God rich, as every servant is a steward of everything he receives in the Lord's name. He is responsible for being a just and faithful steward, and if there has been entrusted to him more than is necessary for his personal use, then he is responsible for ministering to his brethren. That saint Epaphroditus, nearly died when he brought those things [Philippians 4:18] from Philippi to Rome.


The saints had sent Epaphroditus a messenger to meet the physical needs of Gods servant in Philippi. And as he looked for a messenger to help him with the spiritual needs of that Church, he was disappointed and said, "Everyone is selfish and seeks their own." The greatest catastrophe that could ever happen in the work of God is His bond-servants and hand-maidens 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 have to say that His testimony depends on saints, like Epaphroditus, and servants, like Timothy. One of the things that comforts our hearts when we think of our beloved fellow-servants in the world is the deepening and ever increasing desire to seek not their own but the things of the Kingdom.


Let us think of another saint now. Turn to that letter of Philemon. In this letter, Paul is just opening up his heart. The meaning of the name Philemon is "friendly," and perhaps that was that man's most outstanding characteristic. Philemon. This letter was written by a man who thought Philemon was a true friend he could have implicit confidence in, a man who would go a little further than all the others, someone he could open up his heart to and tell him everything. I wonder sometimes if I can count my friends on the 5 fingers of one hand. I have had many brethren, brothers and sisters in the flesh and brothers and sisters in the Truth, but my heart hungers for true friends. I believe today, my brothers and sisters, that God is anxious to breathe into us His people, this spirit of true fellowship that's based not on selfishness which can mean only terrible disappointment, but on true friendship that's based on sacrifice.


What is this friendship which exists amongst workers? It is the closest and sweetest friendship ever known amongst men, which is based on sacrifice and willingness to lay down one's life for one another. It is the only friendship which really counts and is of any value. I would feel highly honoured if someone, at least of my fellow servants would think of me, not so much as an older worker and not so much as even one of the servants, or a brother, but that they would think of me as a friend. I wonder, my brothers, my sisters, have you ever been a friend to anyone? Do you desire to be a friend to your brethren? Do you desire to cultivate true friendship as you live your life in this present evil world?


A man or a woman, to have a friend, must show themselves friendly to others, and inspire confidence. He must be a man and she must be a woman who is truly trusted. I believe I can truly say today that the few friends I have in Christ are men and women whose friendship means more than life itself, for it gives me more comfort and joy in my darkest hours that a worker goes through, than any other person. If every earthly friend you have ever had has disappointed you, there is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother who has never disappointed a man or woman yet, or caused them to shed a tear because of a violated friendship. He is willing to breathe into our life experiences that enable us to cultivate the marks that stand the test of time for all Eternity.

This is just an introduction to a letter, but I would like you to read it through with this thought in mind that Philemon is more than a brother, for Paul wrote to him as a friend. It is a private letter that has to do more with this man's home-life and business affairs than what Paul was interested. I thank God that this letter has been preserved for us to have insight into the heart of Paul and to understand the friendship which existed between these two friends, a true servant and a true saint who lived in bygone days. May God inspire us to be a true friend - a true man or woman who is dependable and never betrays a confidence. May we become someone another can open up their soul to that never betrays.