Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. — John 15:13 (NIV)
As I look back over my life, I have noticed that I’ve always been aware that God afforded me the blessings of a few true friends. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed the company of an abundance of acquaintances — but very few true friends. Webster’s definition of a friend (one attached to another by affection or esteem) is adequate from a worldly view, but it is woefully lacking for a child of God.
A child of God deserves the type of friend who will go to battle with them, sometimes even to their own detriment. I would hope that I have it within me to be that type of friend. I have been blessed to experience some defining moments in my life where God revealed who my true friends are. As some of you can understand by your own life’s experiences, those times can be seasons of pain and suffering.
I experienced such a season in December 2002. God provided my strength through the encouragement, love, determination and strength of the amazing woman he gave me for my wife, Gloria. Through his love and guidance, she and the two children he gave us stewardship over became my sanctuary.
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When my prayer partner stopped calling to pray with me, our family prayers strengthened me. When friends ceased to include us on certain guest lists, we enjoyed the company of each other and the Friday and Saturday night basketball games of our cousins and nephews. (What great times those were watching South Gwinnett High School back in the day!)
It is in those seasons that your perspective changes and you discover just how little you know. You discover that those you thought would be in your corner, most times would not be. You discover that sometimes even those you have been the most helpful to will be the first ones to desert you.
The blessing in that discovery is that God has taken that opportunity to reveal who your true friends are.
To my amazement, God being the awesome God that he is, revealed people in our lives who proved through their actions their love for him and their love for us.
God revealed himself through the couple inviting us to a function at their home at a time we needed that social outlet. He revealed himself through the various family functions we enjoyed with my siblings and cousins and their families. He revealed himself through my friend and brother who quickly allowed me to share God’s word in his pulpit to the congregation he had been given stewardship over.
There will always be a place in my heart for Pastor I.E. Mack, his family and the Unionville Church family.
While this article is in some ways a personal testimony, I hope it is also an opportunity for someone to not miss the chance that God is giving you to be a true friend to someone in their season of pain and suffering.
To my brother or sister who is in that season, no matter the cause, I pray that this will encourage you to trust God and know that he will reveal those true friends who will lay down their lives for you.
Pastor James W. Goolsby Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church on New Street in Macon.