Spiritual friends set the pace for one another, they stick by each other, and they speak faith into each other's lives.
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Sam and Frodo find themselves on the final leg of their journey on the slopes of Mordor, but Frodo is losing heart. He's just about out of strength and courage. Sam reminds him of the Shire back home, how good it will be to get back there again. He reminds him of their mission to cast that ring of gold into the fires of Mount Doom to destroy it forever. Sam can't carry the ring for Frodo, but he can fill him with courage and get him on the way again.
Do you have a friend like that, who will find you in a dark place and remind you of who you are and what you're about? Someone who will speak courage into your life and get you going again?
Apparently many of us don't have those kinds of friends. Last week we talked about the decline of friendship in our society, how many people say they have few, if any, real friends that they can turn to or talk to, especially in a hard time. And if that's true of people in general, it is most certainly true of men.
Some years ago an author named David Smith wrote a book entitled The Friendless American Male. As disturbing as that title is, studies and surveys have shown time and again that men are far less likely to have meaningful relationships than women are. They have fewer friends, first of all, and the friends they do have are not nearly as close. Men tend to have activity friends, golfing buddies, work associates, or convenience friends, guys they see on the soccer sidelines every week or who ride the same train to work. And that's a good start, but those friendships don't require much and they really don't deliver much. And when the golfing is over, when the soccer season ends, the friendship just fizzles. And that's not good, because men were made for friendships, and so ...
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Bryan Wilkerson is pastor of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts.