A Priceless Friendship

Please forgive us for being off line for awhile; we were changing servers and the transition was more trouble than we thought it would be!

Two things that I want to draw your attention to: First, our latest book, I Timothy is now in print and available for purchase. It will appear on the website shortly.

Second, we have already begun work on II Timothy and the article before you is a subject that I deal with in one of the chapters. I hope you enjoy it.

A Priceless Friendship

II Timothy 1:3-5 “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.”

When I think of the subject of friendship, my thoughts turn to the words found in a sermon by the seventeenth century author, John Donne; “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” None of us are self-sufficient within ourselves; we all rely on others. The blessing is when reliance evolves into a relationship; that priceless commodity called friendship! This is the priceless commodity that Paul’s memory set before him; a commodity that would transform Paul’s spirit; “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).

Having turned his attention to friendship, Paul ponders the various facets that give this priceless jewel such great worth. Paul’s attention has come to rest upon the supplication of friendship, “I thank God.” The phrase “I thank” comes from two words and when combined means to hold or possess a spirit of graciousness or gratitude, especially the divine influence upon the heart. This gratitude is directed toward “his” God, “the” God; the supreme Deity of heaven and earth! Paul knew that friendship is a priceless commodity that was given to him by God himself. While the subject of friendship may be man, the source and strength of this friendship is the Master. As Paul enterd into the throne room before his Heavenly Father, he found it necessary to express his gratitude for the priceless gift of friendship; “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Paul must offer up thanks to God for this priceless commodity that has been lavished upon him.

Paul turned his attention to the season of friendship, “without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day.” In this particular case, when Paul makes reference to his “prayers”, he is speaking of the practice in which he is offering up praise rather than that of making a petition. Having the understanding that friendship is a gift from God, he offers up praise to God. The text not only reveals something of the prolonged and perpetual season of Paul’s prayer life, but Paul’s friendship. When writing to the Thessalonians; Paul encouraged them to “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). Paul uses the same words here when making a reference to the season of friendship that existed between these two comrades. The words, “without ceasing” are best described by their use in secular writing. These words were used of someone who had a persistent cough; “Bill has a cold and coughs constantly.” It does not mean that Bill has one long continual cough that never stops, but it does mean that of a uniform or persistent recurrence! The season of friendship is reinforced by Paul’s use of the word “remembrance.” The word means recollection and comes from a word having the idea of fixture in the mind or of mental grasp. This priceless commodity of friendship is a fixture in the mind of the Apostle Paul; it will not be soon removed. Friendship is not some temporal trinket lightly esteemed and quickly discarded, but a priceless commodity that resists the challenges of adversity, retains its union even at a distance, and refuses to lessen its grip in the passing of time! It has been said of some, “They have an enduring friendship.” Truth is; if the friendship was genuine, it will be enduring!

Paul turned his attention to the spirit of friendship; “desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears.” While acquaintances may be confined to the intellect, friendship is a matter for the heart! Of the many things that contribute to the spirit of friendship, two will be set forth within the text. Paul begins by magnifying the companionship or comfort of friendship, “desiring to see thee.” There is the comforting affect that one feels in the presence of a friend; a time when one freely casts aside the cloak of pretense and is at peace being one’s true self. It has been said that a friend is one that can take the chaff and the wheat; and with the breath of kindness, blow away the chaff and keep the wheat. The word “desiring” means intensely craving the possession of. While Timothy’s presence will not change the circumstances, just being there will serve as a comfort to the heart of a man standing in the shadow of death. Paul magnified the compassion of friendship, “being mindful of thy tears.” “Being mindful of” is from the same root word as “remembrance.” There as a fixture within Paul’s mind that was not only the commodity of friendship, but the compassion of friendship; that which has the ability to bless as well as break! While it is thought by most that Timothy displayed a compassionate spirit toward sinners as well as the Saviour; the heartache that manifested itself with the production of tears was due to separation! There is much debate as to the timing and the reason for the separation, but it is the emotion and not the event that Paul is magnifying. Because of his love for the Apostle Paul, Timothy’s spirit was touched when it became necessary to separate himself from his dear friend and companion.

Paul now addresses the solidifying of friendship, “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee,” In our approach to this thought, it is necessary to look at the word “remembrance.” The word that Paul uses here isn’t the same as the one he used earlier. Here the word means a reminding or a reflex recollection; it comes from a word meaning to remind quietly or suggest to the memory. There must be a bonding agent that solidifies the priceless commodity known as friendship. Friendships can be formed around secular events like sports, school activities, social events, and the like. It is the appreciation or active involvement of such that serves as the bond that holds the friendship together. When Paul speaks of remembrance, I believe that it is the sweet Holy Spirit that is quietly reminding him of that which brought him and Timothy together. Peter spoke of it in II Peter 1:1, “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” The friendships that exist around the secular elements of this life are good; but far superior to them is that spiritual bond that exists in the hearts of those that share a “like precious faith” or as Paul called it, “unfeigned faith.” At this moment the Holy Ghost is quietly reminding me of one such friendship. With respect to personality and the physical pursuits of life, we were polar opposites, but the solidifying element to our friendship was the passionate pursuit for truth found within the Word of God. While he is at rest with the Lord, our friendship continues to be a reflex recollection when I found myself in pursuit of the precious and eternal truths of God Word. Because of the solidifying element of “faith”, the friendship that existed between Paul and Timothy would not be confined to this present world, but leap the boundaries of time into eternity!

Paul concludes with the satisfaction of friendship “that I may be filled with joy.” In consideration of this thought it is necessary to point out that the text doesn’t say that Paul was void of joy! The presence of his dear friend and companion, Timothy, was so “that I may be filled.” The word “filled” means to replete, to cram a net full, to level up a hollow, to finish a task or complete, to fill up. It would be a serious mistake to minimize the circumstances surrounding Paul’s incarceration. It is apparent that Paul is more than puzzled at the desertion of fellow servants and the degree of adversity that has come upon him; yet, Paul comforts himself with this the knowledge of the Lord’s presence; “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me” (II Timothy 4:17). God has come along side His child for the purpose of imparting divine enablement that will translate into peace in the midst of the storm. Paul is at peace in the will of God; “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Yet, the personal presence of his dear friend, Timothy would finish the task, fill up and make things complete! His presence would bring about cheerfulness, a calm delight within Paul’s spirit. John Stott said, “Wonderful as are both the presence of the Lord Jesus every day and the prospect of his coming on the last day, they are not intended to be a substitute for human friendships.”

As a comforting companion, Paul’s memory has placed before him the priceless friendship of Timothy, Paul’s young comrade and brother in the faith. God promised sufficient grace for the journey and the presence of his dear friend would complete that promise.