Episode 1. Friendship Makes us Stronger
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Let’s face it, people can be a pain in the neck can’t they? And so what many of us do is we isolate ourselves. Oh, we might be surrounded by lots of people, but we isolate ourselves emotionally. …
Let’s face it, people can be a pain in the neck can’t they? And so what many of us do is we isolate ourselves. Oh, we might be surrounded by lots of people, but we isolate ourselves emotionally. And yet the truth is that none of us is an island. None of us can do it on our own. And when we try living that way, it saps our strength. What if… what if friends can make us stronger?
One thing that I am not in life I have to tell you is aan engineer or a builder. I can’t contemplate anything more complex than bolting together a flat pack dog kennel and that was challenging enough I have to tell you let alone building a garden shed or a house or a skyscraper or some massive bridge that seems effortlessly spanned over a ravine or a harbour and carry trains and trucks and buses twenty-four-seven.
Have you ever looked at one of those structures and thought to yourself, “how did they ever build that?” I mean where would you start? How would you dream up such a thing that it were even possible and then how would you design it? Where would you turn the first sod or sink the first pylon?
It’s totally, totally inconceivable to me how they do those things. Pretty much everyone on the planet I guess has seen a photograph of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, the coat hanger as some people affectionately call it. Now they built that thing back in the late 1920’s, it was completed in 1932. Before computers, before a lot of the high tech building and lifting and drilling equipment that we have nowadays and here’s how they did it.
They started it at each end, on the northern shore of the harbour, on the southern shore of the harbour and built their way out into the centre, the thing met in the middle. Now I just can’t imagine how they did that, can you?
I’ve seen a few photo’s of the bridge being built and it looks quite uncanny because you have like half a bridge reaching out from a single pylon on the southern shore and half a bridge reaching out from a single pylon on the northern shore and eventually the two meet in the middle but before they do the whole thing looks really lopsided and you have to wonder to yourself, “How come the two bits didn’t just topple over and fall into the harbour?”
Well … here’s what the experts will tell you, the strength of the structure comes from the cross braces that are built into it. They don’t look particularly pretty; they have no other purpose other than to work together with the rest of the structure to give it stability and strength. That’s how come you can have half of this massive bridge stretching out from each side of the harbour without the thing toppling into the water. It’s the cross braces that did it.
Now Berni why are you rambling on about the Sydney Harbour Bridge for goodness sakes? Aren’t we talking about friendship on the program this week? Well absolutely we are and I’ve been sharing with you this whole thing about the strength of this amazing bridge because one of the key things about friendship is that it makes each one of us stronger than we could possibly be on our own.
Don’t believe me, have a listen to Gods Word and see what God has to say on the subject. We’re going now to the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes chapter 4 beginning at verse 7:
Again writes Solomon, ‘I saw vanity under the sun, the case of a solitary individual without sons or brothers yet there is no end to all their toil and their eyes are never satisfied with their riches. For who am I toiling, they ask and depriving myself of pleasure? This also is vanity and an unhappy business.
He starts off here talking about solitary individuals and sadly there are a lot of those in this world. People who work hard, labour hard and for what? What’s the point of having wealth and comfort and all that stuff if you don’t have anyone to share it with?
My wife Jacqui and I live in a comfortable apartment, it’s nothing super flash, there’s not some great water view or anything like that, just comfortable and we’ve decorated it as tastefully as we can within our means. I love living there with her. But I’ve often looked around the place, you know I sometimes work at home on my own writing and preparing and stuff and I look around and I think, you know without her in this place with me it just wouldn’t mean anything. The joy and the satisfaction that I have in our apartment isn’t because it’s some great apartment, it’s our home together. It’s not because it’s anything fantastic architecturally, it’s because it’s ours and we live there together.
That’s what God’s saying here, stuff is not where it’s at. All that stuff is simply vanity if you’re on your own. Gods solution, let’s read on, Ecclesiastes chapter 4 beginning at verse 9. He says:
Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall one will lift the other up but woe to the one who is alone and falls and doesn’t have another to help. Again if two lie together they keep warm but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.
See Gods solution is that two are much better than one, why? Because firstly they have a good reward for their toil, in other words, there’s a great satisfaction in doing stuff together and achieving things together. But secondly, because two are stronger than one, if one falls over then the other can lift him up but woe to the one who is alone and falls and doesn’t have another to help.
How often do we get it wrong? How often do we run out of steam or we find ourselves bleeding on the ground without even the strength to get up again? Right then, right in that place we need a friend. A friend in need is a friend in deed and again if we face some adverse circumstance, in this case, they used the picture of cold. If you lie down on your own in the cold you could freeze to death but if you have another one to heat you probably the both of you will survive.
If we’re attacked, one may prevail against the attacker but two will probably withstand him. It’s pretty simple logic but doesn’t it get you how in our busyness, with all the other stuff we have going on in our lives or in our selfishness perhaps, we’re not prepared to make the sacrifices that friendship demands and we become solitary individuals and then when things turn to custard, when things go bad we have no one next to us to help us.
And I love, I love how God finishes off this teaching, He says:
A threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Now hang on a minute, He was talking here about one and then He said, “Look, two is better than one” but where did this third one come from? Well, here’s how I understand it, I think God is introducing Himself into this equation of friendship and relationship. Two’s great but three, two plus God binding them together is absolutely stunning, it’s the strongest of all the three options.
I was preaching on this once in our Church and demonstrated this truth by first having two people hold a single strand of cord tight. Of course, the moment I cut it it fell apart. Then we plaited two cords together and I was able to cut one cord here, the other one there and still the two held together although when you pull them tight at the ends they started to come apart. Then we plaited three cords together, I made about six or seven cuts in the different cords over about two metres, you know something, they hung together in this incredibly strong formation because a threefold cord cannot quickly be broken and that’s the simple truth.
When you’re weak I can be strong for you and vice versa and when we’re both a bit frayed at the edges God can hold things together for us in a way that only He can. Friends make us stronger and when we introduce God into that friendship, when we forgive the way He wants us to, when we humble ourselves and sacrifice the way He calls us to, when we let Him be the Lord of this friendship then that is a friendship that cannot be easily broken.
It’s like those cross braces on the Harbour Bridge, with them in place you can build something that looks incredibly lopsided, it looks like it’s going to fall over but it’s too strong, it won’t fall over. Friends make each other strong and in Christ, the end result is so much greater than the sum of the parts. That’s the point. What bit about this don’t we get, huh?