Elon Musk is 39 years old. He’s worth over 20 Billion dollars which makes him the 58th richest person in the world. And if that weren’t enough, Forbes magazine ranks Musk as the 21st most powerful person on the planet.
His wealth and fame come from three major accomplishments. First, he was the co-founder of PayPal. How many of you have ever used it? Well, you’re part of the reason for Elon’s vast wealth and power! Then there’s Tesla Motors. Those powerful electric computer-driven cars are here because of Musk. And of course, there is SpaceX—the first private company to launch a rocket into space. SpaceX now has contracts from NASA to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.
This week Musk used a SpaceX rocket to launch his Tesla Roadster into orbit around Mars. My guess is he’s done this to highlight his intent to start a colony there.
Elon is also heavily involved in the development of artificial intelligence through a company called Deep Mind. But that’s not all. He’s got plans for super-fast transit system that involves rocket pods full of commuters that fly through tubes at 760mph. He’s working on developing an electric jet. I could go on and on—but the fact is Elon Musk is a very successful, wealthy, powerful, inventive individual.
But there’s something else you need to know about Elon. He is lonely. After his recent divorce in a recent article for Rolling Stone Magazine he said, “Being in a big empty house, and no footsteps echoing through the hallways, no one over there—How do you make yourself happy in a situation like that?” He added, “When I was a child, there was one thing I said: ‘I never want to be alone.’” And then he whispered again, “I never want to be alone.”
Last Sunday we started a sermon series called “Living Close.” By the way, I got the idea for this series from Bryan Wilkerson, pastor of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts. In his series Wilkerson talks about the decline of friendship in our society and he reminds us that whereas fewer and fewer people these days have true friends—this is especially true of men—like Mr. Musk.
And Wilkerson is not the only one to notice this. Several years ago, an author named David Smith wrote a book entitled The Friendless American Male. In his book Smith notes the fact that studies and surveys have shown time and again that men are far less likely to have meaningful relationships than women are. The sad truth is men have fewer friends—and the friends they do have are not nearly as close as those that women like Naomi and Ruth enjoy.
Of course, men have friends—but they’re what you might call “activity friends”—you know golfing buddies and work associates. Men also have “convenience friends,” guys they see on the soccer sidelines every week—or who ride the same train to work. And that’s a good START at meeting our relational needs, but those friendships don’t require much and they really don’t deliver much. I mean, when the golfing is over—when the soccer season ends—the friendship just fizzles. That’s not good because as God says in His Book, “It is NOT good for man to be alone.” Men need friends just as much as women do—we just have a harder time of it.
Last week, in our study of Ruth and Naomi, we learned that the Christian life is all about following Christ on a journey of personal transformation. We also said that we were never meant to make that journey alone. We were meant to be accompanied by other travelers, not just because it’s more fun that way, but because God uses those friendships to shape us—to prepare us for the good works He’s prepared in advance for us to do. To make sure you understand the point—this means that your friendships are as important to your spiritual development as your daily devotions and your weekly worship.
Last week we learned how God used Naomi and Ruth’s friendship to benefit those two women. He used it to heal Naomi of her bitterness and to bring Ruth to faith and into His kingdom purposes. And then through those women, God prepared the way for His Messiah. We learned that spiritual friends turn the journey of LIFE into a journey of FAITH. Well, today I want us to develop some of these ideas a little further as we look at an unlikely friendship—the friendship of two men named Jonathan and David. That doesn’t mean this is a sermon just for men any more than last week’s sermon was just for women. But I do pray that our study will help men because let’s face it guys—we need relational help. As I said, we’re not as good at friendships as women are.
In our study of David and Jonathan I want to point out three ways that friends help each other follow God. So, if you have your Bible, turn to 1st Samuel 18. Keep your Bibles open because we’ll be in this Old Testament book throughout our study.
Okay—here’s the setting. David has just defeated Goliath. And I’m sure you remember that battle—a battle that has literally become a cliché for battles where there is an underdog involved.
Remember, Saul is king—he’s Israel’s FIRST king and he’s been a great disappointment. Saul has his army encamped on one side of a valley and the armies of the Philistines are encamped on the other side. Every day Goliath, that 9’ 9’’ giant, the Philistine champion, steps out into the valley to challenge the armies of Israel. He also mocks God and dares anyone to come out and fight him. Well, day after day, Goliath’s challenge is unanswered by the Israelites—until a young adolescent named David shows up to bring his brothers some food. David see’s what’s going on and volunteers to face Goliath. Armed with nothing but his faith, a sling and five smooth stones, he steps out into the valley, calls out Goliath, rebukes him in the name of God—and then nails him between the eyes with one stone that brings the nearly 10 foot giant crashing to the ground.
Well, as the sound of Goliath’s fall echoes through the valley, the spirit of the armies of Israel rises. Seeing what this teenager could do emboldens them and they attack the Philistines and drive them from their land. Immediately afterwards, King Saul congratulates David, with Saul’s son Jonathan watching.
Okay with all that in mind, look at 1st Samuel 18:1: “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and loved him as himself—And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.”
Now remember, Jonathan is the prince. He is the heir to the throne of Israel, and yet he honors David by giving him his royal clothing and his royal weapons. Think about that. Why would Jonathan gift David in that way? Why not just get him some other clothing and armor? I think it suggests that Jonathan felt—at that point—that David was more worthy of these things than he was. And—I want you to remember: Jonathan is a great warrior himself. I mean, he has put his weapons and armor to good use in the recent past.
If not, to jar your memory, flip back to chapter 14 and you’ll see that while his dad, the king, was cowering in fear in a cave—Jonathan and his armor bearer went on a midnight raid against the Philistine encampment, just the two of them. Those two guys scaled a high cliff with their bare hands—and even though they were greatly outnumbered, they were victorious. I mean, Jonathan destroyed twenty Philistine soldiers.
I think that while he climbed that cliff, Jonathan prepared himself for the battle that was to come by meditating on God’s promises of victory. Maybe he remembered, Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 where God says, “You will chase your enemies and they shall fall by the sword before you. Five of you shall chase a hundred and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you.” I mean, you have to admire Jonathan’s faith back here in chapter 14. Think of it. This was not a surprise attack. He and his armor bearer could be heard a mile away. When they got to the top they would be in plain sight of the Philistine guards. In fact, the “fleece” that Jonathan laid out was the guards’ response. Their cue to attack would be the Philistines saying, “Come on up to us!” They said it—and as I said, Jonathan was victorious.
Another thing I want you to note is that apparently Jonathan had lost faith in his dad—because he didn’t tell him of his plan. I think Jonathan thought, “Dad has forgotten the power of God! But not me! I’m not cowering in some cave with a bunch of losers! I’m going to trust God—and attack!” Well, the rest of the Philistine army heard about what Jonathan had done on the top of that cliff and they panicked. Jonathan’s victory filled the Israelites—even his cowardly father—with courage and they rose to the occasion. The scene is right out of Rambo or Rudy or the 300 or something like that. I mean at this point, Jonathan was a fierce faith-filled warrior.
And that makes me wonder. Where was Jonathan three chapters later when Goliath came out and challenged the Israelite army? I mean, I can understand Saul not going up against the giant. We already know he’s a coward—but what about Jonathan? Why didn’t HE answer the call?
Back in chapter 14, just before raiding the Philistines, Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “Come. Let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many of by few.” In other words, at that point Jonathan believed God could do anything. Well, where’s Jonathan now? Where’s his courage? Where’s his faith? Where’s his passion? He was there—he had his well-used armor—but he is conspicuously silent. The Scripture never tells us this, but I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to assume Jonathan had lost heart. I think he’d gotten discouraged. If you back up in the text, you learn that after that daring midnight raid, Jonathan’s father, Saul, never thanked him, never honored him, never acknowledged what he did. In fact, a short time after that, Saul nearly executed Jonathan for unknowingly breaking a foolish command that Saul had given that the army was not to eat until the Philistines were defeated. And—as I said, Jonathan must have lost faith in his dad because he didn’t stay with him cowering in that cave. He didn’t even tell him what he and his armor bearer were going to do.
So, in between chapters 14 and 18 it seems that Jonathan had lost heart, lost confidence in his dad’s administration, lost confidence in himself, maybe even confidence in God. But then he sees this shepherd boy come out of nowhere and step out to face the giant, armed with just a slingshot. He hears David declare to Goliath,
“I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, Whom you have defied. You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty the God of the armies of Israel. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’S, and He will give all of you into our hands.”
And when Jonathan sees the great victory that God gives to Israel through David, suddenly he begins to remember who he is and Who God is. He sees something in David that resonates with something deep inside of himself. David’s example encourages him to be passionate for God again—to trust in God’s power. David gives Jonathan the strength to get back out there. And here’s where we see our first friendship lesson.
(1) One thing Christian friends—male and female—do for each other is SET THE PACE.
When we are discouraged or afraid or tired or distracted or just plain lazy, a GOOD Christian friend leads the way, helps us along, and even pulls us along. Quality Christian friends, get us back on our feet—back to boldly serving God. God uses their example to refuel our faith to re-energize our passion.
I can’t help but think of DRAFTING—not the military kind—the athletic kind. We’ll see it in the Winter Olympics in the speed skating competition. We see it in automobile racing and in long distance running—but most of my drafting experience is in biking. When you follow closely behind another biker—they take all the wind resistance on them so you don’t have to. It’s easier to bike—if you’re following another biker. When you are following someone it takes you 27% less energy to go as fast as he or she does. In fact, a little bubble of air is formed that literally pulls you along.
Years ago, Charlie Brinkman and our late friend Bill Wehunt biked 100 miles in one day. They started before the sun rose and didn’t finish until it had set. I know one of the things they did to achieve that goal was draft each other. Charlie shared that they’d take turns riding in front. This allowed the person in the back to rest and regain his strength. This was very important on their 100-mile trek because most of the way they were riding INTO the wind. I think Charlie would tell us they would never have made the goal alone. They each needed a “drafting buddy.” Charlie said an added benefit to drafting is the fact that when you’re that close you can actually carry on a conversation as you bike.
Well, we need “drafting buddies” in our journey toward Christlikeness. To get to where God wants us to go—we need other God-followers to go before us. We need them CLOSE so they can share wisdom. We could call David, Jonathan’s drafting buddy because, as I said, at this point in Jonathan’s life, he was tired and discouraged. He’s out of gas. He’s lost sight of God and forgotten who he is and what he’s about. And, all of a sudden, here comes David whizzing by on his way to defeat Goliath, and Jonathan slides in behind him, finds momentum, and his passion and faith in God are restored. From that day on, David and Jonathan decide that wherever the road takes them, they’re going to ride together.
Now—I feel the need to say a word in passing—which is more than it deserves—I want to say a word about those people who say that David and Jonathan’s relationship had a sexual aspect. These people make this absurd claim because it makes them feel better about their own sinful choices. Yes—the Bible says that Jonathan loved David. But in this chapter, EVERYONE loved David—except Saul that is. Everyone sings songs about him—except Saul. Everyone admires him—except Saul. So to say there was a physical aspect of their friendship is ridiculous. One commentator put it this way, “To see sex between the lines of the David-Jonathan story depends on our modern perspective.”
His point is you can make yourself see what you want to see—and only a mind that has embraced our culture’s sinful perspective on sex can see a physical aspect of this friendship.
The Bible doesn’t say that because there was no physical aspect—they were just friends! I will also say that one of the reasons more men don’t seek out close friendships with other men is their fear that they will be labeled as someone who embraces a sinful lifestyle. Anyway—nuf said—let’s move on.
Christian friends help each other find and follow God by setting the pace for one another. And we need friends to help us in this way because we all have days and seasons in our lives when we can’t hear Him that well—times when we don’t see Him at work around us. Maybe we’re discouraged or afraid. Maybe we’re disappointed in God. Maybe we’re just distracted by the cares of life— raising a family, making a living, getting an education. And then someone comes alongside of us and they tell us a story about something God has done in their life. They share some insight from their Bible reading that day. Maybe they just point out the beauty of the day that God has made. And suddenly we’re aware of God again. We remember that He’s present and that we’re His children and that we want to follow again. We get pulled along in the wake of their momentum. We need friends like that.
Last Friday I visited with Cruz Carbonell. Cruz is 7 and he wanted to tell me he’s professed his faith in Jesus. But that’s not all I learned in my talk with Cruz. I learned that he is sharing his faith with all his friends—everyone on the bus. He’s passionate about that. Well, Cruz was a pace-setter for me in our conversation. He made me want to pull in behind him and pick up my evangelistic pace a bit. Do you have a friend like that? Is there someone in your life who stretches you, who helps you find and follow God? Are you that kind of friend to somebody?
By the way just as young Cruz inspired old me—many times it is a YOUNGER person who inspires an older one. When we hear our youth sing—and hear stories of them serving others at World Changers—it inspires us older people to get out of our rocking chairs and get back in the race. I read this week that many scholars believe David was much younger than Jonathan—maybe as much as 20 years younger. Here’s a second friendship lesson we can learn from David and Jonathan.
(2) Christian friends STAY faithful—they STICK by each other no matter what.
They don’t give up on each other when the journey gets tough or long or even dangerous.
Let’s pick up the story of David and Jonathan in 1st Samuel chapter 20. To keep with our biking analogy, these two have been “pedaling” together for a while now, but things are getting more difficult. Saul has turned against David and seems to be out to get rid of him. David fears for his life and asks Jonathan for help. David asks Jonathan to find out what’s going on. He wants to know if his fears of Saul are well founded—and if so, what’ Saul’s problem? Why is he out to kill David? Listen to what Jonathan says in reply to David’s request. It’s in verse 4: “Jonathan said to David, ‘Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.’”
Understand, this was a difficult and dangerous thing that David was asking Jonathan to do. Jonathan was risking his father’s wrath against him—he was putting his own life in danger, but Jonathan’s answer is, “Hey, whatever you want me to do, I’ll do. I’m your friend. I’m sticking with you in this!”
Do you have a friend like that? Is there someone in your life whom you can ask to do anything and he or she will say yes? Men? Women? Is there someone who will stick up for you no matter what? Are you that kind of friend to someone else?
A little while later, when Jonathan realizes that his father is indeed dead set against killing David and that he has put his own life and future at risk by going against his father—Jonathan has a favor to ask of David. Look at verse 14 where Jonathan says:
“Show me unfailing kindness like the Lord’s kindness as long as I live—and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family.”
Jonathan walks close enough with God to know that David will be king someday and that Saul’s household will be destroyed, but he asks David to show mercy to his descendants—even though they are of the household of Saul.
In his request Jonathan uses the words “unfailing kindness.” It’s the Hebrew word “hesed,” which means “enduring, steadfast, loyal love.” Let me put it this way: What agape is to the New Testament—the unconditional love of God in Christ, hesed is to the Old Testament—the unending love of God for His people. Hesed is what we sing about when we sing, “Great is thy faithfulness, O God, my Father. There is no shadow of turning with Thee—Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not—as Thou hast been Thou forever will be.”
Christian friends love each other like that. NOTHING changes the love of a true Christian friend.
They stick by each other through good times and bad, across the miles and across the years. My seminary friend, Bill Ratliff, has been a friend like that to me. I can’t tell you how many times he’s come to my aid—dropped what he was doing—to help me. Bill is a HESED friend!
Who is yours? WHOSE are you?
One of my favorite war movies is George Lucas’ RED TAILS. It tells the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen—African American pilots who fought in WW2. They got the name, “Red Tails” because that’s the color they painted on the tails of their P-51 aircraft. These Tuskegee Airmen became famous for two reasons. First, they were the first African-American military aviators in the United States armed forces. But the Red Tails hold a special significance in American history, not just racially, but militarily. You see, in the air war over Europe, U.S. bombers were getting shot down at increasingly alarming rates. In a single 376 plane raid in August 1943, 60 B-17s were shot down. That was a 16 percent loss rate and meant 600 empty bunks in England. The reason for this was because when German fighters attacked, Allied fighter pilots, protecting the bombers, would leave the bomber to engage enemy aircraft. Though this seemed like the obvious response, it meant leaving the bombers vulnerable to attack.
I can’t help but wonder if the fighter pilots cared more about shooting down enemy fighters so as to increase their own fame—than they did about protecting the bombers. Well, when the Tuskegee Airmen were ordered to accompany the bombers they adopted a different strategy: NEVER LEAVE THE BOMBERS. NEVER. Regardless of what was happening they would stick with the bombers. When the enemy attacked, they would stay the course and defend their charge. And they did exactly that. As a result of their steadfast devotion only 25 of the thousands of bombers they protected during the war were lost. With their help, the bombing aspect of the war began to have an effect—the Allies started to win. Their stellar reputation became legend: All B-17 pilots wanted the Red Tails with them.
In fact, on one mission Red Tail pilots shot down THREE jets—one of Hitler’s secret weapons. I think if I were a pilot back then and saw a JET zooming my way I would have high tailed it back home—but not the Red Tails. They stayed and fought and won.
I loved the motto of these Tuskegee Airmen. In the movie they gathered around each other and shouted it: “The last plane, the last bullet, the last man, the last minute, we fight!” The Tuskegee Airmen are celebrated, not just because they were excellent pilots, but because they never wavered from their duty; they never left their charge. No matter what happened, they stayed faithful to their calling. Christian friends are like that. They stick by your side no matter what. Are you a “Red tail friend?” Can you friends count on you to stick with them through thick and thin?
Here’s a third friendship lesson we can learn from David and Jonathan.
(3) Christian friends speak FAITH into each other’s lives.
Turn to 1st Samuel chapter 23. At this point in their friendship there is no doubt that Saul is out to kill David. In fact, David has been on the run for a long time, and he’s tired of it. He’s tired of sleeping in caves. He’s tired of looking over his shoulder. And he’s a bit frustrated with God. He wonders, why God has allowed this to happen. In his mind, he hasn’t done anything to deserve this kind of treatment.
Now—Jonathan has kept his distance, probably because he didn’t want to reveal David’s whereabouts. But now Jonathan senses that this is a moment when he needs to go find his friend.
Look at verse 15:
“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.”
Jonathan found his friend David in a dark place and helped him. I love that phrase, “Find strength in God.” How does Jonathan do that? How do you help a person find strength in God?
Well, the first thing you do is just show up. Jonathan’s act of finding David in the wilderness, risking his own life and future, probably made David think, “If Jonathan can find me and be with me, then God probably knows where I am and is with me, too.” That’s what happens when you show up in a hospital room or a funeral home or a courtroom or a coffee shop to be with someone in a time of need. You’re reminding them that God knows where they are and that He’s there too. But mostly what Jonathan does to help David “find strength in God” is what he SAYS to David. He speaks COURAGE to his friend: “Don’t be afraid.” He speaks HOPE to David: “You will be king.” And this is not just wishful thinking. He’s not just making it up to help his friend feel better. God has already revealed all of this. Jonathan is simply reminding David of what God has already said. He also speaks CONFIDENCE into David’s life: “I will be second to you.” And then the two of them renew their covenant, reminding themselves that God can be trusted. Jonathan returns, and David is ready to carry on the journey, even by himself.
That’s what friends do for each other. They speak courage, hope, confidence, and faith into each other’s lives. Telling stories of God’s faithfulness, recalling passages of Scripture, pointing out the hand of God at work—this is the attentiveness we talked about last week.
A couple weeks ago I talked about two other friends—C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Well, a scene from the film adaptation of Tolkien’s The Two Towers comes to mind. Frodo and Sam are headed to Mordor to destroy the evil ring of Sauron. But they’ve been captured and are held in the fallen city of Os Gilliath. Frodo is ready to give up. But then Sam speaks faith into his ear. Watch.
Christian friends are like Sam. They are attentive. They pay attention to what’s going on in a friend’s life. They speak courage and hope and faith to us. They help us hear God’s voice when it’s difficult. They help us see God’s hand at work in confusing circumstances. They help us do God’s will when we’re tired and afraid. Do you have a friend like that, someone who speaks faith into your life? Are you that kind of friend?