Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Loyal Pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana for over 42 years)
Proverbs 18:24, "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." Jesus is my Saviour, but in this chapter I will not write of that. Jesus is my Redeemer, but at this moment I will not speak of that. Jesus is my King, but I will bypass that thought for a moment. Jesus is my Lord, but I will pass that truth for awhile. In this chapter I want to speak of my Saviour as my friend.
The heart of man is always craving friendship. Happy is the man who has a friend. Happier is the man who is a friend. Happiest is the man who has a friend and is a friend. However, it is a little difficult in the June and July days of life to tell the difference between an acquaintance and a friend. We have to wait for the chilling winds of December and January for true friendship to be tested. It is not easy to tell the difference when the sea is smooth and reflects Heaven's blue. You find out only when the sky is overcast and storms descend, for friendship to be proved must be tested by a tempest.
In these paragraphs I want to speak of my Friend, a true Friend. I want to tell you some things about His friendship, especially will I address those of you whose hearts are lonely, whose sky is dark, whose way is rocky and whose faith oft turns to doubt. I too am alone a lot and have found my Saviour to be a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
There are so many lonely souls all about us--a college student who shares his freshman dorm with strangers; a serviceman who seeks slumber in faraway army barracks; the shut-in whose world is a room, whose sky is a ceiling, whose sun is a 60-watt light bulb, whose horizon is a wall, and whose meadow is a floor; the patient who waits and doubts and waits and hopes and waits and despairs and waits and hopes; the senior citizen who is exiled to an island called a rest home; the bus kid who is ghetto-bound and wonders who and if his daddy is; and the widow trying to be a mother and a father to a nest of children. To you and to others, let me introduce you to my Friend. Joseph Scriven wrote:
"What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear; What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!"
Dr. Charles Weigle wrote:
"I would love to tell you what I think of Jesus, Since I found in Him a friend so strong and true.Another wrote:
I would tell you how He changed my life completely, He did something that no other friend could do!"
"There's not a friend like the lowly Jesus, no not one, no not one." Still another wrote, "I have found a friend, oh such a friend," and another penned, "Jesus is the friend you need, such a friend is He indeed!"My Saviour is my friend when I am good; He is my friend when I am bad. He is my friend when I am up; He is my friend when I am down. He is my friend when I am happy; He is my friend when I am sad. He is my friend when I am prosperous; He is my friend when I am poor. He is my friend when I am successful; He is my friend when I fail. He is my friend when I am honored; He is my friend when I am slandered. He is my friend when I am cheerful; He is my friend when I am blue. He is my friend when I am obedient; He is my friend when I am rebellious. He is my friend when I believe; He is my friend when I doubt. He is my friend when I laugh; He is my friend when I weep. He is my friend when I am zealous; He is my friend when I am indifferent. Thank God, my Saviour is my friend!
My friend never deserts me. He never forsakes me. I am always on His mind. He never slumbers or sleeps. He encamps round about me. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness. He restoreth my soul. My friend never tires of me. He is always faithful, true, tender and strong.
My friend never forsakes me. When I attended a public school as a poor little boy with no shoes to wear and no nice clothes to cover my body, He was my friend while children laughed at me. He was my friend when my father left our home to leave Mother and me, never to return to our house. He was my friend when the loneliness of the army enclosed me. He was my friend when the people whom I loved like I loved my own life found no need for me any more. He was my friend when I had to take my stand for my convictions, and many of my preacher friends forsook me and fled. He is my friend when I am fellowshipping with my loneliness in a motel room. He is my friend when I am marooned on an airplane island. He is my friend when I am walking out of a pulpit where I have had to take an unpopular stand.
My friend is available. I have never known a day of sorrow when I did not find my friend by my side. Sometimes He is silent, but He is always there. Sometimes I can hear Him gently speak, and other times I feel the touch of His hand, but He is always my friend. When I stood beside the casket which contained the body of my father who had passed away just a few hours before, and who as far as I know never took time to receive Christ, I felt fingers gripping my arm. I turned to see who was there. There was nobody near, and yet I felt the fingers as if a real hand had taken my arm. I know—it was the real hand of my friend! When the shadows have lengthened, when the day's work is over and when I have delivered my soul, I hear my friend often say, "Well done."
My friend is rich. He owns the entire earth, and all the world's keys hang on His girdle. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and the wealth in every mine. Earth's jewels are simply those that overflowed His coffers. He uses His leftover gold as pavement for Heaven's streets. His smaller pearls are used for Glory's gates. There is never a beautiful sunset but what His hand has painted it. There is no music worth singing that He did not edit.
Every color is an expression of His beauty. The mountains are His handiwork. There is never a ray of sun that He did not requisition. There is never a bolt of lightning that He did not order. There is never a clap of thunder that He did not utter. All of earth's crowns could not hold His jewels, and all of earth's diadems could not house his diamonds.
My friend is the Lord of eternity and the Master of time. All of creation is His handiwork, and think—He is my friend!
My friend always loves me. He died for me while I was yet a sinner. All of my life was against His holy purpose; yet He loved me! He loves me in spite of my sin. He loves me in spite of my pollution, my failure, my depravity and my weakness. His love is not "because"; His love is "in spite of!" He loved me when I looked at Him and said, "No." He loved me when I drifted from Him as a teenager. He loved me when I kept His Book closed on the table of indifference. He loved me when my prayer closet was deserted and when I was ashamed to speak of Him. Why even now, He is my advocate against slanderers and critics, and He sits at the right hand of the Father pleading my case. He is my friend. He stands forever pleading my case while the Father of Lies lies to the Father of Truth!
My friend wrote me a love letter. He tells me in John 3:16 that He so loved me that He gave His only begotten Son, that if I believe in Him, I should not perish but have everlasting life. He tells me in Romans 5:8 that God commendeth His love toward me, and that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me. He tells me in Romans 8:28 that all things work together for good to those who love God and to those who are the called according to His purpose. He reminds me in Philippians 4:13 that I can do all things through Christ Which strengtheneth me. He tells me in John 14:1 that my heart should not be troubled but that I should believe God and believe also in Him." There He reminds me that in His Father's house are many mansions and that He has gone to prepare a place for me, and He will come again receiving me unto Himself that where He is, there I may be also. He reminds me in Psalm 91:1 that if I dwell in the secret place of the Most High, I can abide under the shadow of the Almighty. In 1st Corinthians 13, He reminds me that His love will never fail and even now He is preparing a place for me in the Glory world.
Think how beautiful that place must be. Look what He did in six days. He lifted the mountains like pyramids above the horizon and framed them with a cloud-laden sky that provides for me shade while I drive and carpet when I fly He shed the tear of deity and formed a little pond where I may see Heaven while looking toward earth. He assembles a choir of birds to practice through the night so they can present a concert for me as I go to work in the morning. He sows me a sample of Heaven's garden when He gives me the rose and takes some of the incense from the altar and sprays it on the gardenia. He takes me to a mountaintop and allows me to writhe my way, following the fickle mountain stream as it winds its way in a serpentine manner toward its destination to the ocean. He lets me see the pine tree as it stands at attention in its company of "needley" soldiers who salute me as I pass in review. He points out to me the redwoods of northern California who stand like Olympic weight lifters after hoisting their foliage. He shows me the loveliness of diamonds which really are nothing but synthetic stars and substitutes for the twinkling of the lake when the moon is full. He makes for me a sunset which blends its emerald green, azure blue and topaz tint as He brings the great light that rules the day close enough for me to examine.
All of this and much, much more He did in six days. Think how Heaven must be. Examine the rose, the daffodil, the pansy, the lilac and the chrysanthemum and realize that these are only six-day jobs. Think what Heaven's flowers must be like which have been in preparation for nearly 2,000 years. He shows me the willow, the oak, the pine, the birch and the maple as specimens of six days of work. Think what Heaven's trees must be like. He has been preparing them for me for almost 2,000 years. He allows me to wind my way beside the Danube, the Nile and the Tigress in an effort to tease me concerning what the River of Life must be like. He asks me to taste the sweetness of the peach, the feisty tartness of the plum, the yielding sweetness of the banana, and then gently says, "I made those in six days, Can you imagine how Heaven's fruit must taste? I have been working 2.000 years on that!"
My friend is gentle. His is not a weak gentleness, for true gentleness cannot be weak. His gentleness is strength held in check. His gentleness is like the mighty ocean taking a nap while great waters kiss the shore and while a little child plays in its quiet waters and is kissed by the crest of a wave.
Though my friend is gentle, He is also strong. His chisel sculptures mountain peaks. His pitcher pours the lakes. 'Tis through His brush the rainbow speaks. His fury spawns the quakes. His power sends the snowflakes like tiptoeing drops of rain. His breath sends forth the gentle breeze to resurrect the grain. He carved the gorges into view, while morning stars did cheer. He placed a seven-colored hew and made the bow appear. 'Tis God Whose mighty voice I hear and thunders overhead. Tornadoes are His footprints; spring winds His gentler tread.
The hurricane awaits His call. The earthquake is His loyal servant. Lightning lies at His feet awaiting orders. Tornadoes obey His commands. Yet, "He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known!"
My friend is generous. He gives me all I need and infinitely more. He shares with me all that He has. His wealth is my inheritance. He gives me the world that belongs to Him and the fulness thereof He supplies all my needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Through Him I own the music of the sea, the emerald green of the meadow, the peerless blue of the sky, the topaz tint of the rainbow and the nervous branches of windblown trees.
Mainly, though, my friend is exactly that—He is my friend! He leaves His heavens and enters a quiet motel room to speak with me. He reserves a seat beside me on a midnight flight. He understands me when no one else understands and hold my hand when all other hands are occupied.
"There's no friend to me like Jesus! He my every need supplies.
He not only saves but keeps me. Nothing good from me denies."
Oh, by the way-my friend wants to be your friend too!