Think of a person who has been a good friend to you. What are the characteristics that made that person a good friend? We were created to live in community – we need good friends and we need to be a good friend to others. We see the characteristics of a good friend as the Apostle Paul described his ministry to the Thessalonians,
Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. – 1 Thessalonians 2:8
Paul and his companions not only shared the gospel, but they gave of themselves. They genuinely cared for these people. What does it look like to give ourselves to others? Paul describes this love by giving us several characteristics of loving friendship. He starts by presenting the metaphor of a nursing mother,
But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. – 1 Thessalonians 2:7
A mother nursing her baby is the epitome of gentleness and love. It’s refreshing to have a friend who can show us gentleness, compassion, and concern when we’re in need. The next characteristic Paul describes is modeling a godly walk before others.
For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; – 1 Thessalonians 2:9-10
Paul did not want to be a burden to others. We see that more is caught than taught as Paul’s actions revealed his heart of concern for the people. Next, Paul uses the metaphor of father as he trained his children,
just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, – 1 Thessalonians 2:11
This is the picture of a dad coming alongside his children and encouraging them. A good friend is someone who knows when to comfort us and when to challenge us. Finally, Paul presented a picture of what the Thessalonians could become,
so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. – 1 Thessalonians 2:12
A LifeGroup provides you with good friends who accept you as you are, but they also help you become who you should be.
Do you have friends who can fulfill these roles in your life? Are you demonstrating these characteristics toward others as you follow the example of Paul in being a good friend? Charles Dickens reminds us, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.”