New Hope Notes
"BFF" (Best Friends Forever)
The Social Network
Pastor Elwin Ahu
Congratulations to Pastor Elwin and his wife Joy on their 12th anniversary! May God continue to bless their union and family (sons Brandon and Jared) as they faithfully serve our Lord.
Last weekend we had 28,000 people attend our New Hope Easter services with hundreds accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. After such a big event like that, it’s not uncommon for people to ask, “Now what?” The disciples wondered that after witnessing Jesus’ resurrection from the grave and when they ask Jesus about it, He told them, “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matt. 28:19). In this passage, before Jesus ascends to Heaven, He encourages His followers to reach out to others, build relationships with others, and also usher them to the Kingdom by making disciples of them as well.
Jesus provided instructions to His disciples some 2,000 years ago but they are just as relevant to us now as His current day followers. Today, a week after Easter, we are starting a new series which we are calling, “The Social Network.” Today there is a phenomenon called the Internet, and “cyberspace,” which is sweeping across our world. Cyberspace communities are developing on the Internet with people flocking to places (capabilities) such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.
Facebook reportedly has 1.2 billion visits per month. Twitter, a relatively new cyber-community, had 2.7 million users in 2008 and has grown to 18 million users in 2009. That’s a growth of over 500%! People are flocking to social networks faster than Chinese to free lunch!
This movement is so widespread that not only are millions of people joining the cyberspace community but the typical social network user is reportedly online an average of 5.5 hours/month chatting and interacting with others through this means. In fact, there’s even cyber-talk! For example, what is LOL? Laugh out loud. And what about WAYD? What are you doing. See if you can interpret this one: 2dy PE gvs MSG on BFF cuz PWC @ EBC. It says, “Today Pastor Elwin gives message on “best friends forever” because Pastor Wayne Cordeiro is at Eugene Bible College.” I’m telling you, if you’re not already up-to-speed on this stuff, you really need to jump on board and soon – regardless of your age!
Social networks are experiencing an explosive emergence, yet there is an ironic twist to what’s going on today. In spite of the incredible growth in social networking (and therefore cyber-communications), 40% of Americans admitted to experiencing periods of extreme/intense sense of loneliness from time-to-time. Authors Paul Stanley and J. Robert Clinton had the following to say in a 1992 publication of Connecting, “There is a tremendous relational vacuum in America’s individualistic society…”
Although on the surface, social networking seems to be increasing our communications with the sheer number of messages that are transmitted back and forth via the technology; in fact, in a lot of respects it seems to be having the opposite of hampering communications as we hide behind the walls of cyberspace. For example, if we don’t speak to someone or be their friend anymore, all we have to do is “delete” them (or their messages anyway).
All of us have an inner desire to have a best friend – someone to talk to and share your most thoughts, secrets, and vulnerabilities with. Social networking is okay for gathering acquaintances but it rarely ever satisfies our deep inner need for a close friend. The goal of life is not to amass as many Facebook followers as possible, but rather to develop some true, close friendships.
But what is a true friend? Proverbs says it like this, “A man of many companions may come to run, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24 NIV). The best definition I’ve seen of friendship is this:
“REAL FRIEND” – ONE WHO WALKS IN WHEN THE REST OF THE WORLD IS WALKS OUT.
The book of Mark has a really good example of a friend. The story is actually about four friends of a paralytic and what they do for him. As the story goes, Jesus was visiting a city and everyone flocked to see Him but there was a group of four men with a paralytic friend who only moved around because his four friends would carry him around on a mat. When they had heard that Jesus was in town, they decided to take their friend to see Jesus and to get healed, but this is what they found, “Soon the house where He was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While He was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat” (Mark 2:2-3 NLT).
What lessons about friendship can we learn from this?
1. A FRIEND WILL PICK YOU UP, EVEN WHEN YOU’RE DONE.
Culturally, at that time, people wanted to keep things pure, so anyone who was afflicted in any way was considered an outcast. Furthermore, studies of those times suggest that paralysis was often caused by leprosy. Yet rather than turn away from this paralytic, these four friends engaged him and even carried him. When you picture this scene, think about the mat – the paralytic (an outcast) lays on a mat – the very think that should’ve kept them apart (his paralysis/leprosy and the reason he needed to sit on the mat) is what also kept them together (as they carried him).
Don’t we all have a mat – something that we use to separate ourselves from others? Yet you will never be able to be fully restored by Jesus unless you let others help you carry your mat. In other words, we all have “things” about ourselves that we’re embarrassed about or things that make us feel vulnerable if other people knew so we try to hide those things (our mat) from others. But the story of the paralytic reminds us that sometimes we need to develop those deep friendships – exposing your deepest vulnerabilities to others – in order for them to be able to help you pick up your mat and take you before Jesus for healing.
Who do you have that you can expose your deepest vulnerabilities to? Take comfort in the following, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17).
2. FRIENDS WON’T SEE YOU AS YOU ARE, BUT WHO YOU CAN BECOME.
Continuing the story of the paralytic, “Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat they paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, you sins are forgiven’” (Mark 2:4-5 NIV).
friends and saw their faith in Him…His power to heal their friend and the potential that God had put in their friend. They had faith in God’s plan for their friend’s life, and Jesus rewarded that. These friends were like the paralytic’s spiritual wing-men.
And as a good sword and blade is created by consistent and continuous pounding and reshaping, we too are shaped by consistent and continuous pounding by friends. Our friends, the ones who really care about us, will take the time and effort to pound on us and shape us into what and who we need to be [for God].
3. FRIENDS WILL RISK THE RELATIONSHIP FOR THE TRUTH.
“Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!’ And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this before!’” (Mark 2”10-12 NLT) Every miracle started with a risk. The paralyzed man allowed his friends to pick up the most vulnerable part of his life; while the friends risked embarrassment (and potentially disease) to help the paralytic.
· GIVE IT THE TIME IT DESERVES.
Friendship takes time, just like trust. Afterall, friendships require you to trust others with your greatest vulnerabilities so give it the time it deserves.
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to life him up.” (Eccl. 4:9-10)
Friendships are like investments, there’s a good return for your investment. But friendships, like investments, take time.
In today’s world of social networking, it’s easy to get confused about what is friendship and how good friendship works. The story of the paralytic and his four friends illustrates how friends pick their friends up when they’re down and they see you for who God has planned for you to be, not necessarily just who you are today. Friends will risk the relationship for the truth if that’s what it takes to be a true friend and they will give friendship all the time it deserves to develop into the relationship that God wants it to be.
Let me close today’s service by sharing about a friendship that has withstood the test of fire and for which I am eternally grateful. One of the hardest times in my life was a couple of years ago when there was some conflict between Pastor Wayne and myself on how things were going. I did not handle the situation well and instead of talking to Wayne which is what I should’ve done, I had talked in other venues and with other people. Well one day, Wayne called me into his office and we both laid everything out on the table. We talked it out, came to an understanding, and it was all over…or so I thought.
Things were fine for a while but then one day, Pastor Wayne called me into his office again and told me that he had been receiving messages from people that said they had overheard me talking in a restaurant about taking over the church, or splitting the church in two. He asked me about it and my response was, “Why would I do that? This church is where I was saved!” He asked me what I thought we should do about it and I said that if things were that bad, maybe I should just resign. He told me to take the afternoon off and pray about it.
I went home early and met up with Joy. She asked me what was wrong. I told her about what was going on at work. We took a drive and stopped at a restaurant. I was bawling as I thought about the situation. Joy calmly asked me what I thought I should do. I told her that Pastor Wayne needed support to do what God was calling him to do but that if I couldn’t be that person, then I should step aside for someone who could support God’s plan for New Hope.
I had a funeral to do that evening. In short, I drafted a resignation email to Wayne telling him everything that New Hope meant to me and offering my resignation in support of God’s plans. I sent it and shortly thereafter my phone rang. It was Wayne and he asked me how I was doing. I told him I guess you’re calling about the email and he asked what email. I told him I had to go to the funeral now but I’d call him back later.
I called him back after the funeral and he asked me again about how I was doing. We talked for a while and he said he called because he just wanted the old me back again. He never got my email so he asked if I’d send it to him again. He read it and said it was the warmest and most heartfelt resignation letter he’s ever received and rejected! Again he said, “I just want the old Elwin back. Can we do that?”
This was only possible because of our friendship.
There are a lot of opportunities in this church to get involved, to get to know people, and to develop friendships. There will be one or two that will / can be BFFs (Best Friends Forever)…just give it time.
1. What is your mat made of?
2. Who do you have that you can expose your deepest vulnerabilities to?
3. Tell of a time when a friend has walked in when everyone else has walked out.
4. What does it mean for a friend to see you for who you can become rather than for who you are?
5. Share about a time when either you risked a friendship/relationship for the truth or a friend risked your relationship for the truth.
6. How will you be different because of what you heard and learned today?