• [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LarFhGeE-ac&w=640&h=360]
  • Always make time for God. Keep reading your Bible.
  • Never forget that it contains the words of life!

A True Friend

Many times the realism of the Bible surprises people. When we read it carefully and not just skimming for what we expect or have always remembered from events, we end up seeing the depth of richness of God’s lessons. 1 Samuel chapter 18 begins with such lessons.

When a soldier is sent out on a mission, successfully completes that mission and returns safely there is always a debriefing. Among the reasons for this are not just the official reporting of events, but the understanding of what worked, what did not, what others can learn for successes and failures, what information can be safely shared, what information must remain classified and to assess the individual for return to regular duties. Often that final assessment may also involve re-assigning the individual to other duties as a result of exceptional performance.

While all that sounds (and really is) a bit complicated, that’s actually what is happening in the first five verses of this chapter: Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself. Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt. So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and prospered; and Saul set him over the men of war. And it was pleasing in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.

When David returned from the battle that began with the killing of Goliath and ended with the rout of the Philistine army, he reported to King Saul. Present with the king was the crown prince, Jonathan, himself a valiant and skilled warrior. And thus began a life-long friendship between two soldiers.

That friendship would cause the crown prince of Israel to give his own robe, armor, sword, bow and belt to David. That friendship would remain strong even when God would have David anointed as the future king in place of Jonathan. That friendship would see Jonathan risk his own life to save David.

Let’s step back for a moment and consider this lesson another way. Do you have a buddy? It’s really a very old term and, while the word may not be as much used today as it once was, the meaning is just as important.

Have you ever heard of the buddy system? We are not supposed to go off on our own, especially to some dangerous place or to do something where there is possible danger. You shouldn’t go hunting without a buddy. You shouldn’t go exploring without a buddy. You shouldn’t go swimming without a buddy. The list goes on and on for a reason.

With all the hiking trails around here it seems that hardly a week goes by without someone out hiking gets injured or dehydrated. They are found and rescued because someone with them went for help. Or, as it also happens, their body is sometimes found later. It happens often enough that we are constantly reminded to have a buddy.

In the military other terms are used, like shipmate or wingman or battle buddy, but the idea is always the same. Consider the way Solomon put it: Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

You might also remember that Jesus sent His disciples out to preach and teach with a “buddy.” Mark 6:7 and Luke 10:1 both report that Jesus specifically did this as He sent them out in pairs.

The US Army defines its “Battle Buddy” system as Each battle buddy is expected to assist his or her partner both in and out of combat. A battle buddy is not only intended for company, but also for the reduction of suicide; since each watches his partner’s actions, a battle buddy can save their fellow soldier’s life by noticing negative thoughts and feelings and intervening to provide help.

The advantages of doing this have been found to be: Reduces rates of suicide and sexual assaults; Buddies keep each other informed about key instructions and information; Promotes cooperative problem-solving; Increases morale; Encourages soldiers and motivates increased confidence; Decreases stress; Eases transition to the military lifestyle; Improves safety in training and combat; Promotes better leadership skills.

The potential disadvantages have also been identified: Personality conflicts can cause tension and decrease positive effects; Adds extra responsibilities; Interferes with desired activities; Requires the commitment of caring for another person.

Suicide prevention is a major objective of the battle buddy system. And it has been consistently found that the assignment of Battle Buddies is an effective method of decreasing military suicide rates.

Take time to consider all this. Doesn’t it sound like what we deal with on a daily basis as Christians? The challenges are always there and it is always going to easier to face them with a friend that cares and is there to help.

The New Testament is full of reminders to us as Christians that we are all in this together, as brothers and sisters who are called by God to care more for each other than anyone else in this world!

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:8-10)

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5-6).

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:23-25).

Solomon reminds us A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17).

When we put it all together, we see that God’s people are the closest, most loving, most forgiving, most encouraging “buddies” you will ever have. So whether the times are hard or the times are good, BE the “Battle Buddy,” be the encourager, be the saint, be the friend you are called by Jesus to be!

—Lester P. Bagley