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Christ-Centered Friendships

Sitting all alone in my first post-college, single-girl apartment, the truth dawned on me: Life, as I’d known it, was over.  Jesus was changing everything. No longer was I the party girl, going out to bars at night with friends with whom I shared the lofty goal of getting hammered and meeting hot guys. Now, I was a different girl living for a far different purpose … a redeemed girl living for her Redeemer. My life was radically different than it had been just weeks before.

One change that I wasn’t prepared for when I started following Jesus was the shift in my female friendships. As girls, we tend to live in a fantasyland where best friends are forever and first loves never fail. As we know, that only happens in Hollywood. I quickly realized that I had very little in common with the girls who I once called my “best friends” since my bar hopping days were behind me. Looking back, I now realize that the common denominator in those relationships, was the party scene, and once removed; it left a gaping void filled by awkward silences and forced small talk. Since I had used alcohol and hookups in order to fill my emptiness before Jesus, I knew I couldn’t continue doing the things my friends were doing.

I knew myself well enough to admit that I was easily influenced by the company that I kept. That being the case, I recognized I desperately needed Christian girlfriends. As a new believer, my desire was to follow Jesus with my whole heart, but I couldn’t do it alone; therefore, I prayed for friends with the same purpose and passion.

I distinctly remember sitting alone on my bed in that apartment, with my Bible and first devotional journal in hand, pouring out my heart to God and asking Him to provide Christian friends. My journal entry reads as follows:

Please, Jesus, I can’t do this Christian life alone. I need friends who love you. I know I will fall back into my old ways unless you give me new friends. I need girlfriends who want to live for you and to follow you in obedience.

The Bible says that our prayers move mountains and our Heavenly Father loves to provide for His children. Trust me, this is a fact! I’ve seen it firsthand. I am one incredibly blessed woman. Over the past two decades since I first uttered that plea, Jesus has exceeded my expectations with the gift of friendship. From my very first Bible study small group that taught me what it looked like to love Jesus and live a life that glorifies Him, to my accountability group that met for years to pray for each other, to the women who comprise the Redeemed Girl Ministries board of directors … at each stage of life, from single girl living in the city to my current life as a married woman with a toddler, God has been faithful to provide amazing women for me to do life with who love Him wholeheartedly.

“My friends have made the story of my life. In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges, and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by my deprivation.” – Helen Keller

 

I can’t help but think how God has been more than good to me. He has been lavish in His gift of friends. I am awed and amazed at the godly Christian women He has placed in my life. Friends who not only share my passion for Jesus, but friends who have loved me through the joys and sorrows, friends who have held me together, spoken truth in love, and celebrated the victories.

I don’t take one of them for granted because I know they were an answer to prayer. Community is essential and Christ-centered friendships are crucial to our living out our purpose in the Kingdom of God.

C.S. Lewis once said that friends are “side by side, absorbed in a common interest.” For a group of Christian friends, that common interest is Jesus Christ. The glue that binds through the tough times is His glory. The overarching purpose that encourages loyalty, forgiveness, and love is each person’s desire to reflect Jesus to the world.

God has used friendships as a means of furthering His kingdom agenda since the beginning. Just think about it, the twelve disciples were a group of friends, who followed Jesus and literally changed the world. Don’t miss this… a group of friends…Changed. The. World!

Picking up their baton, the Apostle Paul and his friends John Mark, Timothy and Barnabus traveled together sharing Jesus with those they met. On one such journey, Paul encountered Lydia, a successful businesswoman and a group of her friends gathered for prayer by a river.  Paul shared with them the gospel and this group of women became the very first followers of Christ in Europe! Centuries later, a small group of friends praying together would spark the Great Awakening that would spread the gospel throughout England and North America.

Friends who are consumed with God’s glory and running hard after Jesus can literally change the world. Remember, we are created by God and for God. Our friendships are not accidental, but purposefully chosen by Him. Together, we encourage and challenge each other to fulfill our kingdom purpose. When the common ground in a friendship is Jesus Christ, then the relationship transforms from an ordinary friendship into a supernatural partnership. We are stewards of many things: money, time, talents, but also relationships. God has entrusted friends to us for His glory. There is a high and holy purpose to these relationships. Think about it, what could God do through yours?

CHRIST-CENTERED FRIENDSHIPS CHANGE THE WORLD

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.” –C.S. Lewis

 

While pursuing my Masters of Theology I studied abroad at Oxford University.  My dorm was just around the corner from the very spot where C. S. Lewis met with his close friends J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and others in a group called The Inklings. Their favorite meeting spot was a pub called, The Eagle and Child. One day I went there for lunch – ordering the obligatory fish and chips, of course. Finding a seat near the back by the fireplace, I took in the room and thought, “Wow, if these walls could talk.” In his letters, Lewis once wrote “Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a fire?”

Here by this fire, in this place, once sat a circle of Christian friends. Some of the greatest works of literature in the last century were birthed from conversations that occurred between them. I can just imagine the day that Tolkien first told them a tale of a Hobbit , who finding a special ring, set off on an amazing adventure. Could they have known that one day, sixty years later, grown men and women would flock to theatres, dressed like elves and hobbits to watch The Lord of the Rings? Or what about the day that Lewis shared with his friends about four children who stumble upon the magical land of Narnia. Did they have a clue that the chronicles they helped him craft would have such a profound influence on the Christian faith?

Just imagine…what if these friendships never happened?

I believe Lewis grasped the magnitude of friendship. After all, He is the one who described God as the “Secret Master of Ceremonies” bringing individuals together as friends to accomplish His divine purpose. God used Tolkien to lead Lewis to faith and in turn the writings of Lewis have led millions to trust in Jesus. Truly, their friendship was not a mere coincidence.

The same holds true for me and for you. Who we are friends with is not an accident. God’s hand is at work. He not only created relationships; He also uses them to accomplish mighty works in and through us. Over my past two decades of knowing and serving Jesus, some of my most significant ministry experiences and callings have been birthed out of conversations and shared convictions with friends. I first started teaching God’s word when a group of friends launched a Bible study at our church called “Go.” It was in the home of my dear friends that we founded Redeemed Girl Ministries. It has been with co-workers who are my dearest friends that I’ve traveled the world sharing the Gospel. And today it is with close friends in my city that we are launching a ministry to reach the women of our city. Our friendships, when centered on Christ, are powerful and purposeful!!

Take a moment and thank God for your friends. Pray for each of them by name. Ask Jesus to accomplish His perfect will through these relationships. Ultimately, pray that through them Jesus Christ would be glorified and His kingdom advanced.

 

Marian Jordan Ellis

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