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While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:18-19).”
While there are many things to consider regarding friend picking, there are at least two things we should set forth as prerequisites and essentials as we approach this topic: your motive and your mission.
One of the exciting things we see about the Savior’s friendships is the intentionality of choosing them. He was not willy-nilly in friend-making but purposely intentional.
We understand this because we know His motive and His mission. We see both of these elements in His directive to Peter and Andrew–follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. He was motivated to surround Himself with people who could accomplish His mission of kingdom advancement (1 John 3:8). He was straightforward and non-apologetic about the kind of people He wanted to be His closest friends (Matthew 12:48-50).
Jesus had a “heavenly purpose” for Himself and His closest friends (Matthew 6:33). He built His relational network to have the best possible advantage of redeeming the most significant number of people. He had thirty-three years to find, envision, and equip a group of friends who could carry out His redemptive worldview to multiple generations.
How many years do you have to find, envision, and equip a group of friends to carry out His redemptive vision? Of course, you and I do not know the answer to that question, but maybe that is not the best question to ask. How about this?
For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be (Matthew 6:21).
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23).
The first question deals with your heart. What you do–your behavior–flows from your heart. What and how you think about friends will determine the kinds of friends you will do life with in God’s world.
Do you think redemptively about your friends? Christians live an alien life–not an earthly life. Planet earth is not their home. They center their thoughts, hopes, dreams, and work ethic around an eschatological truth regarding the future life (Hebrews 11:8-10).
Christians labor for another Person who is calling them to another place. The believer who thinks this way will work this way and this will profoundly influence how he selects friends for the fulfillment of an eschatological vision.
Even the one person Jesus picked to be His friend, who later denied Him, was picked to fulfill His motive of redeeming others (John 13:18). It is inspiring to see the Savior’s motive driving the intentionality of how He selected friends and built relationships.
With that said, no one would accuse Him of being exclusive or an elitist. He was a humble visionary with a singular purpose for changing lives. His interests were other-worldly, and His “friend selecting philosophy” demonstrated this idea. How are the folks you spend the most time with replicating the Savior’s mission?
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me (John 6:38).
It is easy for us to slip into the “cares of this life” kind of thinking. Without the right friendships to help you sharpen your iron (Proverbs 27:17), you can quickly fall into the worldly traps that consume your time.
Without loving assistance from like-minded friends, your motives become skewed to the point where your life runs you instead of you running your life. This issue is just one of the many reasons you need to give careful attention to who you want to be your friends.
Jesus would not submit Himself to the control of other people’s priorities or problems. He chose to surround Himself with people who had His vision and were capable of fulfilling it (Luke 14:26).
These kinds of reciprocal relationships helped Him to stay focused on the main thing. Rather than being consumed by people, He created contexts and friendships that worked toward the singular purpose of kingdom advancement.
Christians are not left on earth to build non-redemptive earthly kingdoms. Their primary purpose is redemptive, which means all of us are missionaries. Sometimes folks talk about sending missionaries to a foreign country to redeem souls. This idea is not bad, especially if you remember that the entire earth is a foreign country.
There is no need to travel to be missional. Jesus did not go beyond the borders of His country but was the most missionally-minded person who ever lived. He built His missional outreach through His closest friends (2 Timothy 2:2).
You are an alien (missionary) living in a foreign place, called to bring redemptive hope to the foreigners within your sphere of influence.
If you analyze the Savior’s calendar, you will see how He surrounded Himself with like-minded friends while not dissing those who were needier. I like to think about this by drawing a series of ever-increasing circles.
Jesus and His Father were in the center circle. This epicenter was His primary relationship and where He gave His best time. The Lord is your best friend and the One friend you select above all others. Jesus would often hide away so He could spend time with His Father (Matthew 14:23).
In the next more significant circle, you find Peter, James, and John. According to His calendar–the best we can discern from the four Gospels–He spent more time with them. There is only so much time in a day, and you have to choose who will receive your primary care.
After the chief three disciples, there were the other nine whom He selected to follow Him. These twelve people were His inner circle and His closest friends. They received His best care and most of His time.
Jesus reserved the next circle for other friends that He loved and cared for, though they were not allowed primacy on His calendar. They included individuals like Nicodemus, Lazarus, Zacchaeus, Mary, and Martha–people who flowed in and out of His life.
He did not make it a habit of turning folks away, but He did guard His calendar (Matthew 12:46-50). There does not have to be a tension here if you have a plan for selecting friends.
It is the people who do not have a plan for selecting friends or who believe in the “mystical approach” to life–God brought so and so to me–who get into trouble. Though they appear to do a lot, they accomplish little because of a lack of gospel intentionality: motive, thought, strategy, and purpose for friendships.
In the next circle, as it pertains to time allotment, were the multitudes. They were always seeking Christ for different things. Jesus loved these people and made sure they received His care. The Savior was not aloof or disinterested in the masses but was careful not to allow them to run His life.
Sometimes He would bring immediate care to them (Matthew 14:13-21). Other times He would separate Himself from them to take care of those who were more willing and able to accomplish His redemptive vision (Matthew 14:22-33).
In the outer circle, and the group He was the most cautious with were the unregenerate individuals who opposed Him. He gave them some of His time but would quickly choose not to commit Himself to them (John 2:24-25).
Matthew 14:13-33 is one of those places where you see a clear and methodical plan for His concentric friendships. You can divide this section into two parts. In Matthew 14:13-21, we see the Savior caring for the multitudes through His disciples.
Jesus was not distant or dismissive. He was involved, but the care the multitudes received came from the hands of the disciples rather than from Jesus. Though He performed the miracle, He had the disciples doing the work of feeding them (Ephesians 4:11-12).
In Matthew 14:22-33, the Savior dismissed the crowd so He could perform another kind of miracle just for his disciples. He walked on water, which was an “exclusive showing” of a higher purpose than feeding the multitude.
He brought temporal care to the crowd by feeding them, but He revealed Himself as the Christ to His inner circle. In both instances, He wanted to bring faith to the unbelieving heart, but the second miracle was the more important one as far as envisioning the ones who could do the most profound kingdom advancement.
And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God (Matthew 14:33).”
The beauty of this passage is how you see the Savior maintaining and serving all of His friends while interacting with them differently. This strategy is an important point. You will have to make a decision about who gets your best redemptive time. These types of decisions do not mean you have to be rude, but it does say you have to be wise.
If you are not wise, you will more than likely give the neediest people in your life access to your most valuable time. This approach to time management will severely reduce your effectiveness in advancing God’s kingdom.
The squeaky wheel may get the grease, but if you run your calendar and select your friends like this, you will never evolve beyond a grease monkey. When a person calls me for help, they fit into my schedule; I do not fit into their schedule.
I do not feel compelled to jump every time the phone rings. I used to react like this, and it nearly ruined my family because the problems of the needy became my problems, and I became a mini-Messiah. Mercifully, God reminded me that there is a Messiah, and I am not Him.
It is not possible for me to give every person who crosses my path my undivided attention. Even Jesus was not able to do this for all the people demanding a piece of Him. But Jesus could give them His care. There is a difference between giving attention and giving care to someone.
He did not give the 5000+ people individualized attention when they were hungry, but He did give them His care. He did this by asking the disciples to meet their needs. He performed the miracle, and the disciples gave personalized attention to each one of them: they passed out the food. (This advice is a practical application of Ephesians 4:11-12.)
Though each person did not get face-time with Jesus, they were cared for by the Savior, which is what He does for you today. You do not get face-time with Him, but you do receive His care. The things He taught His disciples had been passed down for centuries, and it is our job to develop our friendships so we can continue to export His care to others.
Paul had this kind of missional thinking, and he passed it along to one of his closest friends, Timothy (2 Timothy 2:2). People who accomplish much redemptive work understand this concept, which is why they discriminate how they dole out their time to others.
You can model the Savior’s approach to friendships and time management, or you will live in firefighting mode, which will be giving your best redemptive moments to the multitudes who have limited desire and little capability of advancing God’s message to the next generation.
Marriage and Family – I think it goes without saying, but just in case, let me address marriage and family as it relates to time management and redemptive purposes. Outside of himself, a husband’s best redemptive time is given to his wife and to his children–in that order. Paul gave us his wisdom on this matter when he wrote to the Corinthians and the Ephesians (1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Ephesians 5:25-6:4).
Your family is a community of Christlike disciple-makers who are on a mission to advance God’s kingdom. The wise husband and father understands this and spends his best time replicating the mission of Christ into his wife, and they do similarly for their children.
Practically speaking, my wife and children are in my inner circle. My mission in life is to equip them to live the alien life. My next circle of friends is in my small group of friends. I purposely spend most of my time helping them to mature in Christ so they can more efficiently advance God’s kingdom.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).