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The Gravity of Friendship

By Pastor Kevin Atkinson

Table of Contents

Good Morning! So glad to be here with you today. My name’s Kevin, and my wife, Robbie, and I pastor in Searcy. We’ve been there about 10 years with New Life. We’re just so thankful for that city and all of our campuses around the state.


I love the leadership of our church, Pastor Rick and Michelle, and at this campus, Marcus and Brooke, we’re just so thankful for all the staff here. It just feels so warm coming here. I’m grateful today to just get to spend this time with you this morning. 


Today I’m going to be talking about the gravity of friendship, and I know that for many of you, church is a big part of that. When you think about friendship, you think about the people that you worship with and that you spend time with on the weekends here. I just believe it’s important to talk this out a couple of times a year, not only for our personal sake but for the sake of our church and the benefit that it brings to it.


I think we could say that Jesus had some friends. When we think about that, it’s also a case that he gathered people to himself so that he could inspire these 12 men to go on and carry the mission of what he was going to pour into them and the revelation of heaven. And he was going to jumpstart evangelism with them. I think that’s all true. 


However, I also believe that these guys were best friends. I believe that Scripture only gives us a piece of what their life was like together. We don’t really get to see wholeheartedly or a full picture of what life was like when they would just sit around a fire in a lawn chair with a Stanley cup, talking about life. I think all of that is just amazing and great to think about. He definitely had friends. 


Today let’s look at 2 Samuel 11. We’re going to read a story today that you’re all familiar with if you grew up in church. The story we’re about to read does not end well, but it does have a phenomenal principle in it that we’re going to speak to this morning. Let’s begin reading in verse one. 


In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”

6 So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.

10 David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”

11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents,[a] and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”


Verse 12 and 13 tell us that David gets Uriah drunk in the hopes that he’ll stumble home, but he doesn’t. So in verse 14 it says, 


14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”

16 So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. 17 When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.

Today I want to ask us a question about this incredible story, and tragic as it is, but what really killed Uriah on this day? Was it a sword? Was it a javelin? Was it arrows? Was it the force of many fists? I would say no. I think the answer is found in verse 15 when it says, “and withdraw from him.” What is happening here is that David has committed the biggest sin of his life by being a home alone when he should be at war. 


David has always been his best when he had people surrounding him. He had Jonathan’s friendship, when he had Samuel as a pastor, when he was surrounded by his mighty men. He was always a person of character and always the person of integrity and great decision-making, but he is by himself at a time when he should be surrounded by other people. 


So by choice, he is in a season of life where he has isolated himself to a balcony. And from that isolation, he is giving commands to isolate other people. We really don’t know what hurt Uriah more. Was it the savagery of his foes, or was it the abandonment of his brothers? It was a death by withdrawal. 


He’s standing there doing what he does with his brothers many, many times before, and there comes a point where he looks around and realizes that they have tiptoed away from him, and he is in a fierce fight by himself. It’s not that he hasn’t faced a sword before. It’s not that he hasn’t faced a hard battle before, but he’s never been in it by himself. 


A recent study by Harvard says that 36 percent of adults are reporting chronic loneliness, an ongoing, constant feeling of being by themselves. About half of those adults reported that no one had ever asked them, “How are you doing?” They didn’t have a single person in their life to say, “How are you? How’s your life? How’s your marriage? How are your kids? How’s your walk with God?”


Sixty-three percent of young adults, (and “young adults” means under the age of 30 according to this study), 63% of them are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression connected specifically to loneliness. You add heavy social media users to that, and they are more likely to feel alone and left out due to its trap of comparison.


So here we are, by ourselves, viewing the world through something that is very distant from us, and we’re looking out into a world that feels better than us, and bigger than us, and has no place for us. Craig Groeschel, the pastor of Life Church, says, “The fastest way to kill something great is to just compare it to something else.”


Anytime I’ve got something good in my life and it’s working and things are coming together and my marriage is improving, the best way to defeat me in that is to look over at someone else’s career and someone else’s house and someone else’s relationship and compare it to what I have going. 


The symptom of loneliness has doubled since 1980. 40 percent of young adults are saying, “I have no one.” Loneliness is increasing by one percent annually. The irony is that the church is trending at that same percentage of growth. So the church is growing by 1 percent per year, and loneliness is growing by 1 percent per year.


I think there’s a gap here. As the churches are getting bigger and, and people are attending more, people are also getting more lonely around us. There’s something to be said there. Research continues to link isolation and loneliness to higher risk of health conditions: obsessions with food, a weakened immune system, anxiety, and reduction in cognitive ability.


If you just look at church alone, less than half of Americans are reporting that they are members of a local church. Seventy percent of Gen Z is saying, “I’m not interested in church,” even if they were raised by Christian parents. Remember what this text is going to teach us this morning. It is the fight that will kill you, but it’s the isolation that throws the first punch. 


Bible scholars tell us that the first mention of a word in scripture is very important. When I was in seminary, we used to do a little exercise of this in class. We would have to go to find the very first word. Say it was prayer. When’s the first time prayer is mentioned in Scripture?


And we would have to go find that. Well, the first time you find the word “alone” is in Genesis 2:18. And it says this, “It’s not good for man to be alone.” So God looks at us in our existence and what He’s done, and He says, “What I have done and the creation and humanity is good, but it’s not good for you to do it by yourself.”


So before prayer or worship is ever mentioned, God teaches us that it’s not good for us to be isolated. Now watch this. When we look at some scripture here, Deuteronomy 32:30, it says this, “One person can chase off a thousand in battle, but two people can make ten thousand flee for their lives.”


In Matthew 18:19, it says, “Again, I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you.” 


When you look at James 5:16, he says, “Make this your common practice. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.”


In these three scriptures alone, God is promising His presence, His healing, answered prayer, and ten times the efficiency of our lives if we will just add people to us. The question today becomes this: Do we believe this enough to do something about it? Do we believe that there is something to this? Do we believe that it’s enough?


It’s important to have a gravity of friendship in our lives and do this life together and not isolate ourselves. When we look at the text alone, we see that when we become isolated, decisions get shifty. We start to see the world through our own lens and that lens can be tainted. 


The unfortunate truth is although all of this makes complete sense to us, we live a life of what I’m going to call “crowded isolation.” We have more access to each other than any other group of people in the history of the world. Yet we are forfeiting, at an amazing pace, the sacred practice of being together, the sacred practice of sharing a space. 


Why? Because the lonely balconies of our lives come with rewarding views and unhealthy thoughts. And as we experience those views and unhealthy thoughts of isolation, we move on them and consequences are the outcome. 


Psalm 68:6 says, “God places the lonely in families.” You’ve heard us teach from this verse many, many times that God can take the loneliness of these statistics that I have read to you, and he said, “I’ve got a place for that. I want to put you into a family.” He designed the church to be that place where we can do life together and be together and have the sacredness of friendship. Church was designed to be that. 


How many of you know what an oxymoron is? Okay, not a moron, a lot of you know what that is. An oxymoron is a group of words that are together that don’t make sense together. They don’t really go together. Words like “pretty ugly.” Okay, we say that in the south often. “That’s pretty ugly,” and we know exactly what that means. “That’s pretty ugly.” “Light syrup,” okay? That doesn’t go together. “Short sermon” does not go together, alright? “Jumbo shrimp,” alright? That doesn’t go together. 


Here’s a sad oxymoron, and it’s this: “Withdrawn Christian.” It doesn’t go together, and if you were to ask Christians today, if you were to just put out the question and ask them, “Why did God place us on this planet?” Many would say something like this, “To glorify God with our lives.” That would be a good religious answer, and technically it is correct, but it is also incomplete. Let me explain. 


There are two big choices in your life. The first thing is it’s a Lordship issue, okay? The biggest thing that you’re going to experience in your life spiritually is a Lordship issue, and it’s simply this: “Will Christ be the Lord of your life?” And you’re gonna choose that. Yes or no. There’s no, there’s no gray area. It’s this big thing about what I’m going to do with my life and my energy and my days here. 


The second question becomes this. Who am I going to live out that life with? Who am I going to marry? Who’s my inner circle going to be? I’ve done church by myself before and it is not fun. I have pastored alone. My family and I have been in a place where we were leading on empty, with no friendships, no one around, no one to call you, no one to check on you, and it is a very lonely, exhausting existence. 


We have to answer these two things. Is Christ going to be the Lord of my life? And who am I going to do life with? 


Many people truly feel that they don’t need anyone. There’s a really great story about Muhammad Ali. We all know him from his interviews that he was extremely confident. And so, he was on an airplane. He had sat down and was preparing for the flight and the stewardess came by and said, “Put your seatbelt on.” She kept on walking and checked the rest of the plane. She went to do one last check, and she came by, and he still didn’t have a seatbelt on. She said, “Hey, you need to put your seatbelt on.” And he quickly said, “Superman don’t need a seatbelt.: And she said, “Superman don’t need a plane either.

Now put your seatbelt on.” 


Okay. The “I don’t need anyone” attitude will get you hurt. The “I’ve got it all figured out,” the “I’m the expert,” and the “I’m better when I’m by myself.” I’m speaking to you introverts too this morning. You know who you are. You come in right as the first song starts, and you leave right as the end is pronounced on the amen.


And you are gonna get outta here as quick as you possibly can, so that you don’t have to shake hands or touch anybody or say hello to anybody. You’ve got to have people in your life. You’ve got to have people around you. You’ve got to have friendships. 


There is a moment in Uriah’s last seconds when he realizes he is by himself, and he realizes that what he is now experiencing is his end, that there are too many enemies to fend off, and there are too many daggers to dodge, and there’s not enough real estate behind this shield to shade himself from blow after blow. And I’m sure because of who he was, he even fought for a few seconds after his heart had stopped, but eventually, no matter how trained, no matter how courageous, the withdrawal will overwhelm you, and your hands gripping sword and shield will fall to your sides, and your knees will fall to the ground. 


So how do you prevent death by withdrawal? Let me talk out just a few things this morning. The first one is this: 


  • Settle what you believe about church. 


You got to settle what you believe about this place. And if you believe in it, and if you believe that this thing is real and it’s deep and it’s rich and it’s wide and it’s broad, if you believe that Jesus taught the importance of gathering, and if you believe that Jesus taught there is an agreement of spirit when we are together, if the church is something that you believe in, then choose it. Choose to be here. Choose to be in this place. Choose to find a friend. Choose to put yourself out there. Choose to stick around. 


Settle what you believe about church. 


Against statistics, against the chronic loneliness, against the generation that says, “I’m not sure that’s the place for me anymore,”
do we believe it enough to fight for this place? 


  • Be intentional about it.


We are where we want to be. At some point today, I’m gonna get hungry. I’m gonna find a restaurant to eat at, and I’m gonna be there because I’m purposing myself to be there. Because there’s something in me that says “I’m ready, and it’s time.” And that’s how I have to be about the house of God. I have to say, “That’s where I want my feet to be. That’s where I want my mind to be. That’s where my people are.” And there’s something in me that says, “I’m ready. It’s time. It’s the place.” 


This is why David said, “I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord.” He wanted his feet to be there. Men, let me talk to you a second. Don’t wait for your wife to talk you into church or talk you out of your hobby. Plan your weekend around the body of Christ. Make it happen. Be the spiritual leader of your home. No one else can be that role in your house. 


When I was a kid, my family, before they called it “Serve Teams,” that’s what my mom and dad were. They were the serve team. We would have to get to church real early, and we would set up metal chairs. That’s what our church had. And we would set those up. And I remember my parents giving me little things to do: straighten up things, empty out a garbage can that had been forgotten during the week, pick up little pieces of paper, make sure all the lights were on, and check the thermostats, and so on, while they did other things.


We were there constantly, and that always meant that we were there early. Sometimes as a kid, I got tired of that. You know, I wanted to sleep in for once. I wanted to savor a Sunday morning. So sometimes I would fake sick. My parents would come in to wake me up and I’d be like, “I just don’t, you know, I’m not feeling it. I’m not feeling so hot.” 


“What’s wrong?” 


“I don’t know. I’ve got something bad though. It’s bad. It’s really bad.”


And they would say, “Well, take another five minutes, just wake up,” and they would walk out. I’d go, “Oh, I’ve got this, today is going to be an awesome day. I’m home alone, and I don’t have to go to church.” And my dad would come in five minutes later, and he’d say, “How are you feeling?”


I’d say, “It’s bad dad.” And he said, “Well, you know what? I’m so glad that Jesus is the healer, and we believe that. So, get up and we’re going to go to church and, we’re going to pray over you at church.” 


It never failed. They would drag me in there with the flu. Just infect the whole church. They didn’t care. They were going to be people of faith, right? They wanted us in the house of God. It was this intentional thing that they had happen. 


Settle what you believe about church. Be intentional, and last:


  • Find some sticky friends.


Some of you may not like this word, “sticky,” but the image is what I want you to understand here. God wants us to have some people who will stick, who will be in your life, who are gonna be around for the long haul. When you look at scripture, you find the beautiful friendship between David and Jonathan. Jonathan should have been upset with David and said “Hey, you know the way this is supposed to go is that when my dad leaves the kingship, I’m supposed to step in and take his place, but it’s gonna be you.” There could have been envy between them, but there wasn’t. 


Jonathan said, “I’ll do whatever you tell me to do. I’ll go wherever you want me to go. I am with you. You are my friend.” And they had this incredible friendship. They were sticky friends. David loved him so much that later in life he said, “Is there anybody left in the house of Saul that I can bless?” And he goes and finds Mephibosheth and brings him into the house of David. 


Paul and Silas are sitting in jail. It’s a terrible circumstance, and they’re just sitting there, chained up, probably hungry, and tired, and bloody, and all of those things. And one of them says, “Hey, you want to just, you want to sing a song?” The other one probably said, “Have, you lost it? I mean, I know we’ve been in here a few days, but…” And you know how that story ends. Something between them, they begin to just sing and lift up the name of Jesus together, and the presence of God begins to move in that prison. 


I’m talking about somebody who will sing with you in the worst circumstances. I’m talking about people who will find you in the darkest of rooms, who will stand on the bow of the ship in the worst of storms and hold your hand to it. Sticky friend. 


This is what the church is about. It’s not just an event that we come and experience. It is the people of God coming together in a sacred space and God anointing that friendship for the sake of synergy. We do more when we’re together. We’re better when we’re together.

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