Conflicts in Friendship

This string of articles on friendships is about to reach its end—but not without one final word. One young reader, keeping up with the previous articles, suggested the title that you see above this paragraph. So, we will say a few things under this title.

All of us have had conflicts in our friendships. They do not all start the same way—a harsh criticism of your error, or an indifferent response to your sorrow. Neither have they all lasted the same time—some, less than twenty- four hours; others, for days; still others, left unresolved.

However they start, however long they are, conflicts are always ugly. Knowing how ugly they are, we want to resolve them—or do we?

Whether we want resolution or not, God calls us to end all conflicts with our friends in the church we belong to. The church, God through Paul says, must “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1). Conflict is opposite of unity and peace. Letting conflicts with our friends continue breaks the unity and disturbs the church’s peace. Letting a conflict go on, fester, and deepen, then, is disobedience to God.

Briefly consider, then, the matter of conflicts in friendships: their Triggers, Purpose, and Resolutions.

Triggers

In a sense, there are many things that can trigger conflicts between friends. All of us can easily remember words spoken or actions done by our friends that have ticked us off. Perhaps it was a time, when you casually shared a thought with your friend, but that friend, without letting you finish, jumped in with what he thought— well, he sure wanted to listen to what you had to say! Perhaps it was a time when you confided in your friend about a certain problem, but your friend…first laughed. She probably did not laugh to mock you—oh, but it sure felt that way! Or perhaps, you and your friend have grown up, but now he has a girlfriend, or she has a boyfriend; and you see him lesser during the week, or you find that she spends less time with you. The friendship grows cold; both of you talk less to each other; and soon the blame goes to…

In our experience, many things can be an occasion for conflicts.

Yet, the Bible does not first of all pay attention   to   these   “many   things”. The Bible pays attention, firstly, to the heart—no, the evil of our hearts. And so, when we want to know from Scripture what starts a conflict between friends, we will find that it is sin.

Turn nowhere else but to Proverbs, first. Hatred stirreth up strifes: (10:12a). When your friend steps on your toe, and you bear a grudge against him for that one action, you have stirred up strife. He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife (28:25). When a friend comes to us with problems, but we brush them aside because we think they are weird and the problems are small, we are stirring up strife. When God calls us to love our neighbour as ourselves, but there is hatred and pride, there will be conflict.

Then turn to the conflicts Scripture records. The very first conflict between two   humans   was   Adam and   Eve. When God confronted Adam with disobedience, Adam said proudly, “It was not my fault; my wife at the fruit first! It’s her fault!” Adam was too aloof to admit he was at fault; and there, he set a conflict with his wife. There was Abram and Lot, too. Lot, jealous of Abram’s riches, brought his conflict between his herdsmen and his uncle’s. Eventually, Lot chose a greener pasture and separated himself from Abram. His jealousy started a conflict between Abram and Lot.

The one trigger to all conflicts between friends is sin.

Worse still, sin not only triggers conflicts, but it also prolongs them. Hebrews 12:15 speaks of bitterness— hatred that is kept in our hearts. When I am angry with my friend, and I do not get rid of that anger; that anger, like roots gripping the soil of the ground, grips my heart, so that I will not stop thinking of that anger when I look at my friend. Or look back to the times when we had conflicts with others: Were we the first one to say, “Let’s talk about this”? Or were we too proud, thinking that he should have made the first move? Or when the words “I’m sorry” had been spoken to us: Did we still bear that anger in our hearts? How pride—how sin—triggers and prolongs conflicts!

Purpose

Horrific as it may be, conflicts have a purpose, as God is in control of the conflicts in our friendships.

Briefly, God ordains conflicts to sanctify us and our friends. Think back to the conflict between Euodias and Syntyche: The Lord ordained that quarrel, so that he may teach the church of Philippi—including Euodias and Syntyche—to “be of the same mind in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2). Likewise, as sin sows discord in our friendships, the Lord uses it to teach us how we ought to live together as friends in the church. How the Lord does so is by showing us from His Word how to resolve those conflicts.

Resolutions

How does God want us to resolve conflicts?

There is our attitude, firstly. Do we want to resolve the conflict? However, realise with me that we are wrong to start with that question. When are we to think first of what we want; is not what God wants more important? Does God want you to resolve the conflict? God declares the ceasing of strife to be honourable (Pro. 20:3). Let us, then, desire resolution.

There are also certain actions that can help us when there are conflicts. Let us list a few here (in no particular order):

1)       Listen. Be ready to hear what your friend has to say about the conflict. Maybe there are some things you did not know you have done that hurt your friend. Often, you will not know these things until you stop talking and let your friend share his part. After all, doesn’t God listen to us when we speak to Him in prayer?

2)       Examine     yourself.     Ask yourself: “Have I done anything wrong that has started or continued this conflict?” We already know how depraved we are; therefore, we must not leave ourselves out when it comes down to “Who started the conflict?”

3)   Have   a   face-to-face conversation.   Not   by   the   phone, or by Whatsapp. With your fullest attention, talk to your friend. Such conversations tell your friend that you are not afraid to settle the conflict, even   if   it   means   admitting   your own sins to your friend. Also, using indirect means of communication (Whatsapp, phone calls) may lead to more misunderstanding. Writing out your thoughts may be helpful, but it may not convey all your thoughts to your friend. Meeting directly with your friend gives you the time and space to speak your mind out and clarify things. After all, doesn’t God want us, His friend-servants, to be in His presence?

4)       Forgive. When sins have been confessed to each other and regret has been acknowledged, you must be ready to tell your friend, “I forgive you”. Read Q&A 126 of the Heidelberg Catechism.

5)       Bear with it! Do I tell my friend that I forgive him, when he does not think he is in the wrong when he clearly is? If our friends do not acknowledge their faults in the conflict, then we must be ready to bear with those faults for some time. To bear with faults can be expressed this way: “He doesn’t know where he is wrong: But that is fine. Maybe he needs more time to realise his fault; why he needs more time, I do not know. I will just give him that time he needs. Meanwhile, I will pray for him, that the Lord shows him his error. All I want for him to know is that I love him and am ready to forgive”. Does the Lord patiently bear with our sins that we are not conscious of? Have we seen Him lash out at us in eternal fury? Never. In time, He gradually makes us discover a new depth to our depravity and brings us to confess the sins we have grown conscious of. Even as God has shown us patience, so we must be patient with our brethren, and bear with their weaknesses.

6)       Doing the same thing in the home. If we do not practise forgiving our parents and siblings in the home, we must not expect ourselves to be able to forgive and resolve our conflicts with our friends.

Conclusion

More can be said on conflicts between friends in the church and on dealing with these conflicts. Yet, one point must never be left out: How we deal with our friends is how God deals with us. Has God ignored us when we sinned? Has God ever said, “I forgive you”, but make us sense that he is still angry with us? Has God looked at us, only to bear thoughts of anger and hatred? Never, from eternity to eternity!

That is our pattern, my dear friends.

Written by: Lim Yang Zhi | Issue 44

What About The World?

We return once again to friends. Last time, we considered where to look for our friends and settled that the church, the congregation, is the place to find true friends.

Now, however, we must backtrack to the first article. In that first article, when we said that believers are our true friends, we said also that unbelievers can never be our true friends.

If that is true, this question comes: how should we interact with unbelievers?

If they are not our friends, do we treat them in a friendly manner? May we talk to them casually? Eat with them? Play sports with them? Go out with them? How do we answer all these questions?

Scripture gives us the answer. And that answer is a command.

The command of Scripture for our lives with unbelievers is to be a living witness to our unbelieving neighbours.

What does a witness do?

A witness, having known and seen that something is true, tells others what is true.

As witnesses, we know what is true from the Bible, and, so, tell others what the Bible says. We tell others who God is. We tell others what God requires of us: love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbour as ourselves. We tell others how we are able to follow God’s requirement: Jesus Christ covering our sins from God’s sight and cleansing us from our corrupt natures so that we have a new beginning of obedience.

Christ Himself calls us to be witnesses in Matthew 5:14-16. In that passage, Christ calls us witnesses the light of the world. Christ calls us the light; but He does not mean that we have any light in ourselves. Rather, the light we have comes from God’s Word, because that Word is a lamp unto our feet—yes, a light unto our path (Ps. 119:105). Therefore, when we tell others what God’s Word says, we are being the light of the world.

As witnesses, we know and are sure what God writes in the Scripture is true. Therefore, we tell others what the Scripture says.

What we have said so far, however, does not fully answer our question of how we are to live with unbelievers. We are to be witnesses to them; but how do we go about telling others what is true, as the Bible says?

You may think, “Telling means speaking; so I can be a witness by speaking to others about the Word of God”. You are right; but you do not have to speak to witness. There is more than one way to tell others what our God says in His Word.

We can tell others what our God says by our personal lives. Take something as simple as praying before your meals among your unbelieving classmates/ colleagues. When you pray, you are telling them that God has given you the food on the table. Because He has given you that food, you pray to thank Him for it.

Other actions such as going to church on Sundays, putting in effort in your studies, not swearing or cursing, not listening to ungodly music, and not spending hours upon hours playing video games tell them what God says is important (worship of Him), what is wrong in His opinion (swearing/ cursing, ungodly entertainment), and what He says can become an idol (video games).

There is also the action of coming and preparing for youth group activities on Saturdays. When we make sure that our afternoons are spent among our fellow saints, we are telling our unbelieving neighbours that our greatest delight is in studying God’s Word with the church.

There is, for us boys, in the heat of a game of soccer, the action of forgiving an opponent that has committed a foul against us instead of bearing a grudge. When we forgive, we are telling everyone in the game that forgiving others, not holding a grudge, is what God calls us to do wherever we are.

For you girls, when outward appearances are becoming more important to you; but, at the same time, if your unbelieving female peers think that looking beautiful means showing more flesh through skimpy skirts/dresses and bare-back tops, you make sure you buy dresses and skirts of decent length and tops that cover what ought to be covered. When you do so, you are telling your peers that beauty is not showing off what is on the outside, but a meek and quiet spirit that God thinks highly of (cf. 1 Pet. 3:4).

The point is very simple: We witness by what we do in our lives.

But also, this too: we can tell others what our God says by our response to their lives.

Much of what our unbelieving neighbours do are forbidden by the Word of God. To go back to our examples   above,   holding   grudges and dressing immodestly are rather common in the callings God has placed us in. And I am sure you can think of more things that are a “no-go” in God’s eyes.

Our only response to those things must be a firm “NO.” But how do we tell our unbelieving neighbours this firm “No”?

There is always a verbal response— “This is wrong. I cannot accept this”. But we can also respond in other ways. A frown of frustration when you hear cursing   and   swearing;   leaving   the group when gossip starts; remaining silent when others laugh at dirty jokes and scandals—these are some ways to respond to ungodly behaviour.

We are lights in this world, witnesses to our unbelieving classmates and colleagues. Witnessing does not just mean speaking about God and His Word; it means doing what His Word commands, in order to tell others what is the Truth. The question about your witness is: “Do my actions tell my unbelieving classmates (or colleagues) what God’s Word says?”

To witness by our lives and by our response to ungodliness is not easy. It takes wisdom to know the right way to witness at the moment, especially when it comes to responding to ungodliness. Oftentimes, either we end up giving a neutral response to the sin before us; or we get so used to seeing that sin that we do not even respond the right way. We do not need a lot of effort to remember the last time we have failed to be witnesses.

But this is where we go back to friends—our true friends in the church.

Think: if you struggle to be a witness of your faith, your friends that share that same faith with you would have their fair share of struggles. They would know your struggles, and they would know what encouragement God’s Word has for us. They would point you to that Word and strengthen you to be the witness God calls us to be.

Yes, to spend our time and strength in the church is, in itself, a witness to unbelievers. But also, you will only find strength to be a witness when you forge your ties with the church. In the church, among believers, you will find encouragement and exhortation to be a witness in this world.

That shows how important and valuable true friendships are. But, more on that next time, DV.

Written by: Lim Yang Zhi | Issue 41

Where Are My Friends?

[Continuing from “Who Are My Friends?”] Two months ago, we answered the question, “Who are our friends?” Scripture teaches that true friends are those who share the same spiritual likes and dislikes, and those who help us spiritually; we find that such friends can be believers only.

But a second question arises. Where can we find believers? Or, to put the question differently, where can we find such friends?

Therefore, we must answer our title this way: Our friends are in the church.

Scripture plainly teaches this truth. In his prayer in Psalm 122, the Psalmist sets his mind on his “companions,” whom he calls “the house of the LORD,” the church (vv. 7-8). In Psalm 16, the Psalmist speaks of his delight in the saints (v. 3). According to the Psalmist, these saints do not worship other gods; in other words, these saints are members of the church that worships Jehovah.

Consider, also, Amos 3:3 again. Two cannot walk together—befriend each other—unless they are agreed. Where can such agreement (or, unity) be found? Thinking further, we find that this agreement (unity) can be found only in the church, the one, united, body of Christ (see Ephesians 4:1-6).

The answer to our title is rather simple. But the article does not end there. I want now to focus on applying this answer. In other words, knowing our true friends come from the church, what must we do?

Knowing our friends are found in the church, we must spend our time with the church. For our church, we have many activities where we may spend our time with fellow believers. There is time in between our Sunday services for   fellowship.   Saturday   afternoons are packed with activities to study and discuss the Scriptures. Furthermore, scattered through the week are casual activities such as meals, as well as an hour or two of exercise (volleyball, basketball, soccer, etc.).

These activities give us time to forge our friendships with fellow believers. They give us time to find out what our friends like or dislike. (Remember, part of friendship is sharing the same likes and dislikes.) We may find out through casual conversations—asking what he likes and dislikes in the classroom, at home, and in the youth group. We may

discover more by silent observation. Friends do not always tell us with words what they like and dislike. Some of those likes and dislikes we figure out by watching how our friends react to various things.

These activities also give opportunity to build a trust that opens the way for us to help our friends, and vice versa. You would not be comfortable when a stranger suddenly comes to you and offers you help. You need time to know what kind of a person that stranger is before you can trust that he can really help you, and that he is out there to help you. Likewise, we need time to know our friends—and for them to know us. As we know each other better, we will know that they are willing and able to help us when we need help.

Time must be spent in the church to establish strong friendships among believers.

But, my more urgent point is that time now must be spent in the church.

Already, in your life as teenage students, you do not get much time to spend with your friends. School takes up most of your weekdays. Sometimes, even a part of your Saturdays is taken up by the school. What is left, minimally, is a portion of Saturday and Sunday. The hours you spend with fellow believers on those two days are easily countable: At most eight on Saturday (if you stay for dinner after the activities), and six on Sunday.

Moreover, you will get less time in the future. Life in junior colleges, polytechnics, and universities will eat up more of your time left outside of school. Guys, our two years in NS will eat away more time, if not our strength to join the fellowship of the church when there is time. Ultimately, for guys and girls, we all will begin to work in the world. Our jobs will take a heavy toll on our time and energy for our friendships.

It is unrealistic, then, to think that we will have more time to establish and build true godly friendships later on in life.

The time to establish and build friendships is now. The time to find ourselves in the activities and bustle of the church is now. We may not say, “There will be time later.” That is not true; that will never be true. The time is right now.

The way to true friendships in the church is not easy.

I would not be wrong to assume that some of you have faced times when you say to yourselves, “I just don’t have the strength to be in the fellowship of the saints.” Or, “I just can’t find the time.” We want to have strong friendships with our fellow believers; but we find ourselves unable to forge such friendships.

There is difficulty. What can we do to overcome this difficulty?

Among the many things we can do, three stand out.

First, pray. Our hearts must desire what is right—true friendships with believers in the church. When we desire what is right and bring that desire to the Lord, the Lord will strengthen us to establish and maintain the friendships we seek.

Telling our parents our difficulties is a second thing we should do. The Lord gives us parents to guide us through our youth. However, guidance cannot be given if we choose to be silent towards our parents about our struggles. The Lord has ordained that parents guide us when we share our struggles with them. When we do so, our parents would know the best advice to give us.

Yes, I, a child in a Covenant home for nineteen years, grant it that parents do not always give the best advice. Yet, the source of help God sets for us in the home is our parents. Do not hesitate to share your struggles with your parents.

A third thing we can do is to make time. Find ways to get your school- work done to free up time for the activities of the church. To do so may mean spending less time on Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, or video games; it may mean spending part of your recess to get school-work done. Do not misunderstand me: My point here is not to tell you how you should make time. My point is that all of us must find our own ways to free up our time for the church. To share a little from my side, I gave up watching videos on basketball tactics and keeping up with the latest basketball news on the Internet. For me, giving up these things spared me more time in the week to get myself ready for Bible studies and workshops.

Again, these are not the only three ways to fight the struggle. Nonetheless, they are a start.

Above all, do not be discouraged to find yourself struggling. To spend our time in the church, to find true friends in the church, is one of the difficulties the Lord has given us in Singapore.

And, I say, a difficulty and struggle unique to us. We do not have our own school yet. If we were to have our own school, we would spend our weekdays among fellow believers—not just hours, but days! Indeed, an abundance of time to forge strong friendships with each other! But, this school is yet to be.

What then? Is it worth the struggle now to forge such friendships?

And, there is still that question about unbelievers.

More to come, DV.

Written by: Lim Yang Zhi | Issue 39

Who Are My Friends?

Who are my friends?

May I say, “My unbelieving classmate is not my friend”? May you say, “My unbelieving schoolmate is not my friend”? May we say, “Only believers of the Lord Jesus Christ are our friends”?

Those are strong words to say.

But are they true? Are such classmates not our friends? Are unbelievers not our friends? Who are your friends? Who are mine? What truths from God’s Word make the above statements true?

 

Before we know who our friends are, we need to know what friends are. The friends that we speak of in this article are true brotherly and sisterly friends that Scripture describes in the following two ways.

First, such friends are people who share the same likes and dislikes. Under inspiration, the prophet Amos wrote: Can two walk together, be friends with each other, except they be agreed (3:3)?

Second, these friends are also people who help us when we need help. Solomon wrote, a friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17). Out of love for us, a friend helps us in our adversities (that is, troubles).

We know such people are our friends, because God, our Covenant-Friend, is such a friend. As our Covenant-Friend, God has made us holy, so that we like and dislike the same things He likes and dislikes. For example, we delight in obeying God’s Word, just as God is pleased with such obedience. Also, we hate taking God’s name in vain, just as God hates such a sin.

We know friends are those who help us also because, as our Covenant-Friend, God helps us when we need help. Do we not read and sing in the Psalms that God is our Help (see Psalm 40:17; 46:1; and 121:2 for some examples)? Let us recall just one Psalm versified in our Psalter:

Hide not thy face from me, In wrath turn not away, My help and saviour be, Forsake me not I pray;

Should father, mother both forsake, The Lord on me will pity take.

Only believers are our friends. Is that true? Test that with what we know about friends.

A friend is one with whom we share the same likes and dislikes. Believers are our friends, because we share with them the same spiritual likes and spiritual dislikes.

Note that I said spiritual likes and dislikes. You may enjoy studying history, while your friend likes biology. You may enjoy a game of soccer under the sun, while your friend prefers a game of Rook under the air-con. You may like rice, but your friend would only have potatoes from the cradle to the grave. You and your friend may enjoy different earthly things.

Yet, you two can be friends, because the likes and dislikes you have in common with your friend are spiritual. Both of you enjoy of going to church on Sundays to hear the preaching of God’s Word. Both of you share the same enjoyment studying the Scriptures together. On the flip-side, both of you share the same dislike of using the “OMGs” and vulgarities of the world. Both of you do not enjoy the world’s music and movies.

This is what Amos meant when he wrote about two being agreed. To be agreed means to share the same spiritual likes and dislikes.

A friend is also one that helps us. Believers are our friends, also because they help us when we need help.

What kind of help do we mean? When we need a cup of water, they, whilst getting a drink for themselves, fill a cup for us. When we need help for our assignments and projects, they can provide, to the best of their abilities, tuition and advice. Certainly, believers can and are willing to give such physical, earthly help.

But the help we are talking about is, first of all, spiritual help. When we are not doing something that is right, they tell us (or, perhaps, show in their faces—see Proverbs 25:23) we are in the wrong. When we are absent from catechism or youth group activities, believers, concerned for us, ask why we were absent (not to mention share their notes with us). When we struggle with doubts and fears, they tell us to trust in the Lord in all of life’s uncertainties.

Believers are our friends, because they help us spiritually. To help us in such way in all of life’s adversities, a friend is born.

Can you see, now, how believers are our friends?

And then, can you see, now, that unbelievers can never be our friends?

We cannot share with unbelievers the same spiritual likes and dislikes. Just think of some things your unbelieving classmates may like. Perhaps some of them enjoy using vulgarities, if not, the “OMGs.” Can we enjoy using our tongues that way? Perhaps they enjoy listening to Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Coldplay, and others. Can we enjoy the wicked lyrics and immodest choreography of their music and dance? Perhaps they enjoy the thrills of the latest blockbusters—in the most recent times, of Captain America and the X-Men. Can we enjoy such movies that subtly—but often, boldly—promote sin?

And then think of some things your unbelieving classmates would not enjoy. They would not enjoy the preaching in our church—they do not enjoy hearing the voice of the Lord that has saved us. They would not enjoy studying the Scriptures—they do not enjoy reading the words of the God we love. Can we share that lack of enjoyment with them?

Can we share the same spiritual likes and dislikes unbelievers have?

Furthermore, unbelievers cannot help us when we need help. Your unbelieving classmate can get you a glass of water. He (or she) can give you tuition and advice when you need those things. But will he, in concern for us, ask why we have not gone for catechism and youth group activities? He does not go for catechism or CK. Can he point out our sin when we sin? He does not hate sin as we do. Can he point us to God when we doubt and fear? How can he, when he does not obey, believe in, and trust in the same Jehovah?

You and I know the answer too well. I knew it more keenly than ever in the army. During my time of basic military training (which has finished as this is published), I roomed with fifteen other soldiers. Most of them were unbelievers. I could not enjoy the songs they enjoy; neither could they enjoy the Psalms I sang. I could not find from them encouragement from God’s Word; neither could they understand how I found strength from reading the Bible. They could fill my bottle for the day; they could spur me on during the tiring hours of physical training. But that was all, and nothing more.

Do you agree with those words at the beginning now?

If we still are in doubt, then listen to the very Word of God. God says, What fellowship hath righteousness and unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness…. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate (2 Corinthians 6:14, 17). That is, unbelievers cannot be your friends. There is no fellowship, no communion, no friendship, between believer and unbeliever.

But there is fellowship, communion, and friendship, among believers. Two walk together, are friends with each other, because they agree. They believe in the same God. Fellow believers obey the same God and trust in the same God. The delights they have in God and His Word are the delights you have. The dislikes they have in the world and sin are the dislikes you have. Where your only Help lies, there they point you.

But, where are such friends? Where shall we find these friends?

And what about our unbelieving classmates? How do we treat them, if they are not our friends?

To be continued…

Written by: Lim Yang Zhi | Issue 38

Association With Unbelievers

REVIEW

By God’s grace, we once again embark on another year of school life. In school, we often find ourselves in the midst of unbelievers. This leads us to a very important question: To what extent should we befriend the ungodly?

The different types of friendships
Let us first consider the different types of friendships that exist. There are 2 types of friendships- the first is being with the world, and the second is with God’s people – His elect. We should be careful in mixing with the former for God clearly instructs us in various passages not to do so. (II Cor. 6:14-15) states, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers…, for what part hath he that believeth with an infidel (unbeliever).” Also, in James 4:4, the Apostle reprimands the people for committing spiritual adultery since they are married to Christ and in 2 Cor 6:13-7:1, we are once again instructed to have nothing to do with the “unclean” – the contamination and the filth of this world. We are called to walk a godly life in this world, but how can we do so if we mix with those who do not fear God nor keep his commandments? Our friends should therefore mainly be the people in the Church, the church which preaches the true word of God. This is so that our friendships are covenantal – friendships forged in the Lord. As Psalm 119:63 states “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.”

The beauty of covenantal friendships
Covenantal friendships are priceless and precious. They are friendships of praise and thanksgiving to God and of an intimate bond. Question and Answer 55 of the Heidelberg Catechism, for example, teaches us the importance of befriending godly people and using our gifts for people of the church: “What do you understand by the ‘communion of saints?’ Everyone must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, to the salvation and advantage of other members.” There is a need for us to make godly friends so that we can not only assist our fellow saints both spiritually and physically in this dark and sinful world, but also to be strengthened in the faith.

The Bible states a few examples of covenantal friendships: Jonathan and David, and Daniel and his three friends. 1 Samuel 18:1 describes the friendship between David and Jonathan:

“And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”

It was a friendship rooted in the Lord. When David was in trouble and in great distress, as Psalm 57:6 states “They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves. Selah”, Jonathan as a godly friend helped David and encouraged him in his grief.

Daniel and his 3 friends also shared a covenantal friendship with one another. They loved God, feared Him, and were faithful to Him. They defied the king’s decree and refused to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s image even though the punishment was that they be thrown into a burning, fiery furnace.

The problem we face
Matthew 5:43-48:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Who is our neighbour that God instructs us to love? They are those who come into contact in our life be it fellow saints in the church or even teachers or our boss in the office. When God calls us in Matthew 5 to love our neighbour, He wants us to esteem our neighbour higher than ourselves and to love them in the manner as Christ has first loved us. As Colossians 3:14 says: “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” Love is a bond of fellowship; it is also total self-forgetfulness. The love for our neighbour is an emulation of the love of God towards us. It is giving no thought to me for the benefit of my neighbour.

The well-being of those we love
As Christians, the well-being of those we love is not only to help them in their time of need, but firstly to care for their salvation in Jesus Christ. We should also take every opportunity we can to witness to the unbelievers, both in our speech and with our life. As 1 Peter 3:15 says “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” We should, however, not neglect those who are Christians but belong to the false church as well. Rather, we should also witness to them and bring them along to a church that preaches the Truth in meekness and in fear.

Conclusion
The friendship that we enjoy with God in Jesus Christ is a friendship that we also share with all other believers. Psalter 370 beautifully versifies Psalm 113:

“Behold, how pleasant and how good That we, one Lord confessing,
Together dwell in brotherhood,
Our unity expressing.”

Let us therefore pray every day for strong covenantal friendships, friendships that are pleasing in God’s sight, for it is a blessing to be able to associate with His people. Meanwhile, may we associate with unbelievers only for the purpose of showing them the mercies of Christ, and loving them the way Christ loved us – not for our own selfish enjoyment, but only for their salvation.

Written by: Ruth Teo | Issue 6

Knowing That We Are His

Introduction

Every human being is born dependent. The sense of belonging to someone and somewhere is most fundamental and important for the healthy growth and development of the human nature. Without this sense of belonging, one lacks the confidence to venture into the unknown.

In the Christian life, there are many new and unknown territories for a child of God to experience. Some of these spiritual experiences can be quite frightening with serious consequences. Fear is not the best place for a normal learning experience. We learn and grow best and con dently in this world when we know that we belong to its caring Owner and Provider.

Thus, the Psalmist commands God’s people to know how they are related to their God – “…we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”

Why We Are Jehovah’s

Things belong to each other as they are meaningfully related to each other, and together they function in harmony and unity. Think of the different pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. The curvy sides of each piece fit those of others perfectly, and together they present a beautiful picture. The pieces belong to each other. They belong to each other because they have the same creator who determines their respective shapes and images. Each piece is lost and meaningless when it is not placed where it rightly belongs, according to the design of the creator.

As Christians, we must know where and to whom we belong before we can live meaningfully and happily in this world. The Book of Genesis is the book of beginnings in the Bible, the Word of God. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and all things therein. And man was created after the image of God. So we Christians, as human beings, belong to God by virtue of Creation. He did all things according to His own good pleasure and out of His infinite wisdom. We are the way we are because of God’s determination. We belong to Him and find our meaningful place in Him. Any form of denial of the Almighty Creator is the forsaking of the proper place to which we rightly belong and from which, alone, we can begin all rightful thinking.

The Jehovah Who establishes His Covenant (friendship) with us is this God, our Creator. He made us, and not we ourselves. We must know that among our many friends in this world, there is one who is the Mighty Creator of all things. And we belong to this Mighty One Who knows us through and through because of His own determination of all things concerning us! What a wonder and privilege to have such a friend!

It is He Who has brought us into existence, both physical and spiritual, and not we ourselves. He creates and redeems us in Jesus Christ. We are doubly His!

The Implication Of Being His

Being possessed and owned by another means that we are not alone, but belong somewhere and to someone. Such a thought of being owned can either bring joy and comfort or it can bring misery and great apprehension. It all depends on who the owner is.

If we belong to the evil one, we are indeed in deep trouble, as he cares not for us but only seeks to use and dump us finally. Oh yes, the evil one will first deceive with his wicked lies

and then show his true colours when we are safely in his hands, doing his bidding. We then become wicked like him and condemned of God to eternal perdition. Here, we have no comfort.

But, on the other hand, to belong to Someone as good as God Almighty Who changes not, there is no greater comfort and joy. This is because He shows Himself able and willing to take care of His own according to His good promises to His own. He is the Sovereign One ruling over all and causing them all to fall out according to His eternal good council which serves our well-being.

That we belong to Him means that He has undertaken to be responsible for us. Whenever something or someone is in trouble, we not only consider the state and condition of that troubled object itself, but also look for any other who may be responsible for its being and well-being. So, when a child is in trouble, we look for his guardian – the one who has undertaken to care for him. An irresponsible guardian may disappear at such an hour, shirking his responsibility. But we may not have such an idea of God. He is never irresponsible like sinful men. When He has undertaken to do something, He will make it good with His whole being.

He has undertaken to make us His people and the sheep of His pasture. We belong to Him as His people to show forth His praise. We belong to Him as His sheep to enjoy His shepherding.

The Blessing Of Knowing That

The word ‘know’ used in Scriptures can refer to the different depths of perception of things. For example, Adam was said to ‘know’ Eve and she brought forth a son. The ‘know’ used here speaks of intimate, sexual, physical knowledge. But ‘know’ can also simply refer to being acquainted or familiar or aware.

God wants us to know that we are His in a deep way. In a super cial way, in the messages we have heard, we have come to know this truth that we belong to God. When the Psalmist commands that we should know that we belong to Jehovah, he calls us to an in-depth knowledge of that. We must know that in our experience and, in our soul, be able to rejoice in it. We can ever grow in greater depth of such knowledge. He becomes ever more precious to us as we become more aware that we belong to such a Mighty God.

To be a good and faithful member of a good church is a sure way to know this God and all His glory better. This is so because a true Church not only declares the true Word of God, but also ensures that Its discipline is upheld to the glory and honour of His Name. Such a Church is also very supportive of all who would walk in Jehovah’s way.

The more we know of His perfections and our miserable conditions, the more we desire to belong to Him. It is always our lingering doubt of being His that gives rise to problems in our Christian walk. The Lord knows who are His, but do we know whose we are? And do we know how great He is to whom we belong? For the perfect knowledge of such things we must wait for Heaven. And, since God commands us to know them in this lifetime, He Himself will teach us as we go along with Him.

The sure signs of true spiritual growth are:
1. The growth in deeper appreciation of God in His attributes and perfections.
2. The growth in knowledge of our own unworthiness and total dependence upon Him.
3. The growth in confidence that we belong to Him as His people and sheep under His guidance and care.

Conclusion

God created us, and redeemed us in Christ. We are His because He brought us into existence. He is responsible for our well-being because He chose to save us from sins and destruction. Having began a good work in us, He will perform it until the Day of Jesus Christ.

We must learn to trust Him in all things, and to obey Him, knowing that what He requires of us is only good for us. We can trust our Good Shepherd to help us overcome the many difficulties along the path of obedience.

God will uphold His own good name. He will not allow Himself to be known as a God Who has failed to save His people and His sheep. We must know and understand that, and walk in His way confidently. In that way, we can be happy Christians, come what may.

This is to walk by faith. Whatever is not of faith is sin and we are called to cleanse ourselves of such sins in the Blood of Christ. Amen.

“Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” Psa. 100:3

Written by: Pastor Lau Chin Kwee | Issue 5