top of page

The Blessing of Friendship

Sermon Series:


Ryan Kimmel
Ryan Kimmel

Lead Pastor

Peace Church

Main Passage:
Philemon 1-7


Today is the day that the Lord has made. So let us rejoice and be glad in it. And everyone said, amen.


All right. So I'm really curious here. I'm gonna start with a question. I know this only applies to some people in here, but let me ask that anyway, who here is thankful they did not grow up with social media. Hold on, hold on, hold on. Keep your hands up here for a second. Chime in online if you're with me. Look around. Look around. Now listen, you put your hands down.


Now listen, I get it. It's here. It ain't going anywhere. But I think I know something that you also know that we've lost something. There's something here that we have to make the best of because it's here, because as much as we lament it, you all let your kids on it. Some of you, some of you don't.


But here's what we know. 300 million Facebook users are in the US alone. Americans spend an average of 40 minutes a day on Facebook. Just going to pick on Facebook here for a minute. 70% of adults and over 80% of teens are on some form of social media. Social media is designed to be addictive. This is why we scroll and scroll and have to like come out of it. Like, I, no, you have to break away from it. Social media has been around long enough. We've been able to study some of the longer term effects of it. We know this. There are some good things it's brought. I'm not saying it's 100% evil. I'm not saying that at all.


But we know some of the negative aspects it brings to us. It can lead to anxiety, depression, addiction, as well as loneliness. We become dissatisfied with our lives because what we do is we compare others' highlight reels, other people's highlight reels to our real life. And we think, we look at them, we think how perfect are their lives. Look at how many friends and followers they have. Look how many likes that their posts gets. And what it does is it messes with our own sense of self-worth. Because what we do is we compare.


And as they say, comparison is the thief of joy. Based on most recent data, the average American has 350 Facebook friends. But psychologists tell us that we can really only have three to maybe five deep friendships. Now our circle of friends, like our wider circle of friends, can be around 25 people who we have some meaningful friendship with. But really, you can't get larger than 150 people that you have any sort of connection with. You can have 3 to 5 deep friends, a circle of around 35, but once you get past 150, there's not really any more meaningful connection. And so, if we can really only handle 150 relationships, but the average American has 350 connections on Facebook alone, I wonder if that does not lead to some serious conflict in our psyche.


As we look at Jesus Christ, yes, he had many followers and he cared for them all, but Jesus called 12. And even among that 12, it's very apparent that there was three that kind of had an inner circle of which Jesus made no apologies for. And of those inner three, when you read the scriptures, you can really only pick up a meaningful, deep friendship with one person and that's Jesus friendship with Peter many people would say that Peter was Jesus best friend in 2018 the UK Prime Minister introduced to that country the new role of the minister of loneliness and upon commenting on this new governmental role Prime Minister May loneliness is the sad reality of modern life. Excuse me, Prime Minister, I'll have you know I have 350 Facebook friends. And yet, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life. I'm gonna attempt something radical in this series. I wanna define and raise the value of friendship and deepen the friendships that you do have. In doing so, realize really who is a friend versus someone who's just a great connection. I don't want you to think about losing friends.


I want you to value and guard what the word friend is.


We can have many great acquaintances in our life who do kind and good things to us, but let's reserve the word friend for what it actually is meant to mean. And to look at this and to understand this, we are going to take a journey over the next three weeks looking at the New Testament, very short book of Philemon. So would you go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Philemon. It's in the New Testament, one of the shortest pieces of writing we have in all of the Bible. There's an incredibly important context for what's going on here, and we'll talk about it. But go ahead and turn there now.


Now Philemon is a, we call it a book, but it's a letter. It's a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote from prison. That's important. We'll come back to that. He wrote it from prison to his friend, whose name is Phi Lehman. Now this list letter is so short. There's no chapters. There's only verses. And we're only got verses one to seven today. Now it's an interesting piece of writing and we need to understand the context here. And if you, if you are familiar with your Bible, I know you're probably thinking, I know what Philemon's about, and I don't think Philemon's about friendship. And here's what I say to you, on the surface, yeah, not really. But when you dig deeper to the fabric that produced this piece of writing, I think you'll see what we're talking about. So here's the context. Some of you love history, some of you are yawning right now. Either way, this is important, so follow me real quick as we understand the backdrop of the book of Philemon.


So again, the Apostle Paul wrote this to Philemon. Now Philemon came to faith in Jesus through Paul. Paul led Philemon to the Christian faith. And after this, what happens is that Philemon, he actually starts a church in his own house. Now, or at least he hosts it. Now right there we see a key indication about Philemon. Philemon was probably a man of means. If he had a house big enough to have a church gather in there, it was big enough for a group of people. But why? What was the occasion? Why was this letter written? Well, this letter centers on the controversy around this one person named Onesimus. Now, what happened was Onesimus was Philemon's slave, or what we might call bond servant. And Onesimus had run away and had gone to Paul.


Now we have to talk about this for a second. Now, the reason that we are more apt to use the term bond servant versus slave is because when Americans hear the word slave, we automatically think of what happened in the South. When people, because of the color of their skin, were bought and sold as property. This is known as chattel slavery. The word chattel simply means property. It was gruesome. It was dehumanizing. It was barbaric. It was horrendous. It was evil. And it took the deadliest war in American history to overcome it. But that's not exactly the slavery that we're talking about when we compare it to ancient Roman times. So what we're going to do is that we're not going to minimize the horror of the American past by directly equating the two. We're going to respect what happened by announcing and clarifying some differences here.


Now ancient Rome had an estimated population of around 1 million people and it was estimated that 35 to 40 percent of that population were slaves. Now these slaves were not enslaved because of the color of their skin. Many of them still went on and had jobs. And unlike the American slavery system, some of these slaves did not live their entire lives in slavery. They could work their way out of it. But with 35 to 40 percent of the population of the society being slaves, again, or maybe the better term, bond servant, it is very hard for us here in modern day America to understand just how ingrained it was as part of their culture. It would have been impossible for a person during that time to truly envision a society without it.


Sort of like how money is for us now. There is no way any of us here with any sort of reality can begin to grasp a society without money. So what we do is we just, we understand that we just have to make the best of it. This gives us an idea of why the New Testament writers are more apt to talk about how to live faithfully in that society, rather than outright condemn slavery with every stroke of the pen. Although, First Timothy chapter one does list enslavers as people who participate in that which is ungodly and unholy. And so it's important for us to understand what we're talking about when we use the word slave here, which is why we're more apt to use the term bond servant. The Greek word is the word doulos.


But in Philemon, we see something amazing. We see something culturally unexpected happen here. What appears, what happens, it appears that Onesimus had gone to Paul, had ran away seeking freedom. And what's fascinating is that Paul, Paul writes this letter and he sends Onesimus back to Philemon. And the letter is an appeal for Philemon to receive Onesimus back, not as a bond servant, but as a brother, a brother in Christ.


And what's even more striking, and we'll get into this really deep next week, what's even more striking is that Paul clarifies to Philemon, he says, I could make you do this. I could command you to do this, but I'm not going to. I'm going to challenge you as a brother in Christ through Christian love for you to do this of your own accord to welcome Onesimus back and to grant his freedom. And the reason that Paul can bring such a challenging request was because of their friendship, a friendship they had that was founded on the gospel. And when friendships are founded on the gospel, that provides a framework for a relationship that gave Paul the grounds to bring such a challenge to Philemon. Challenge that would have affected him personally and a challenge that would have would have completely struck at their culture.


And so yes in this series we're gonna look at that big request of Paul as we dig deep into the friendship that they had that was forged through faith in Christ. The friendship that brings not just freedom to Onesimus, but freedom to us all as it highlights the gospel. And so we're going to look at just the first seven opening verses today. And so would you hear God's word, Philemon, verses one to seven. Would you hear God's word?

Philemon 1-7

1 Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2 and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. 7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

This is God's Word. Let's pray and we'll dig in. Let's pray.

Father, we thank you for the freedom that we have in Christ. Freedom from the sin that so easily entangles us. And I pray, Father, that by this series that, yes, we can raise the value of friendship and deepen the friendships that we do have. May this happen for your glory and for our good, and may it lead to a gospel light for all to see. And it's in Jesus' precious name that we pray these things and everyone said amen.


All right churches we kick off this series. Let me give you one real simple main point here as we look at the blessing of friendship And it's this:


Faithful friends are a rare blessing, so be one.


Rather than using today as a filter to see how all your friends have failed you. What I'm gonna ask you to do is step back and first think, do I fulfill, am I the type of friend that I want others to be to me? Because faithful friends are a rare blessing, so be one. And as we walk through this passage today, we're gonna see how this actually is a blessing. We're gonna see how faithful friends bless our lives because they stand where others don't, they see what others don't, and they speak when others don't.


Faithful friends bless our lives because…
1.     They stand where others don’t.
2.     They see what others don’t.
3.     The speak when others don’t.


Proverbs chapter 18, verse 24 says this, it says, a man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Meaning, just because a person is popular, that doesn't mean they have someone who will have their back. Just because a person hangs in a large group does not mean they have any true friends. And I'll tell you, after giving a decade of my life, serving in the throes of youth ministry, ministering to high schoolers and their families, I can tell you this, there are parents who want nothing more than for their kids to be popular. They want their kids to be well-liked, admired, and have a large group. And these parents will sacrifice their children's spiritual development in pursuit of this. I saw it time and time again. And so not only do kids not grow spiritually, but what ends up happening is that they value popularity more than spirituality. And because that's their path, they don't know how to have true and godly friendships. They don't know how to be a true and godly friend because they don't know who Jesus is.

They don't know how to have friendships founded on the beauty and the power of the gospel or godly principles. What ends up happening is that they have acquaintances based on affinity groups, such as sports and other activities, but not things like faith, which will transcend stages of life. My hope is in this series, as I said it before, I'll say it again, that we raise the value of friendship, we deepen the friendships we have, and we realize who is a real friend versus someone who's just a great, kind, good connection in your life. I'm not saying cut out good people, but I am saying guard the word friend. But real friendships, as we see in the series, they are a blessing. Next week we'll look at the burden of friendship, and then finally we'll see the beauty that friendships bring to us and to the world around us.

1. Faithful friends bless our lives because they stand where others don’t


So let's get into it. Firstly, faithful friends bless our lives because they stand where others don't. Let's go verses 1, 2, and 3 together.

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy, our brother. In the ancient world, the author signed his name first. We sign it at the end. In the ancient world, they signed their names first. So Paul wrote the letter. He's got Timothy by his side. And he writes it to who? It continues. To Philemon, listen to this, our beloved fellow worker, Apathia, our sister, and Archibus, our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus.

So the first thing we see is that this is not a private letter between Paul and Philemon. Paul is making this a public notice. It's to Philemon as well as to Apathia and to Archibus. Archibus is also mentioned in Colossians. Now we don't know if those two are just family or if they're leaders in the church. We don't know exactly who they are, but we know they're part of the group that gathers as a church in Philemon's home. But even more, even more than applying public pressure, Paul is reminding Philemon about their relationship together that they stand together in this common faith.

And what's really awesome, and I hope you are keen enough and patient enough and you have the eyes open when you read the pages of scripture, you're actually reading the words that are there because it's actually pretty important. We see some of the connections in the descriptors. It's beautiful here. Do you see how every person gets their own descriptor? Prisoner, brother, worker, sister, soldier.


Each person mentioned gets a different title that shows the connection that they have to one another in their common faith, a faith centered on the gospel. Because when you have a faith, when you have a friendship forged in faith, you are family.


When you have a friendship forged in the gospel, you're co-labors for God's kingdom. When you have a faith where Jesus is you're king, then you are fellow warriors standing together in the faith. Every notion every notion that Paul mentioned here denotes this reality that they are to stand by each other. They are friends in the faith. They are family, co-workers, and warriors, and they stand together. Why? Because that's what friends do. Even if they're a thousand miles apart, they stand together.

And take notice. We'll get into Onesimus next week, but even Onesimus isn't specifically mentioned, but Paul gives a nod to him when Paul mentions the fact that he himself is a prisoner, someone that is held against his will. This is a clear nod to, yes, Onesimus, but also to where this letter is going, because Paul is going to request Onesimus' freedom from Philemon. And this happens because friends stand together. We're there for each other. We stand next to each other when others don't. And so my question for you is, do you have a friend like that? And even before you answer that question, you should be asking yourself, am I a friend like that? Am I the type of friend that I want my other friends to be to me? Because friends stand where others don't.

2. Faithful friends bless our lives because they see what others don’t.

The second thing we see is that Friends see what others don't look at verses 4 and 5. Paul goes that Paul goes on to say I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers because I hear of Your love and of the faith that you have towards the Lord Jesus and the Saints Don't move past the words on the page Paul prays for his friend When was the last time you prayed for a friend and mentioned their name in your prayer? When was the last time you prayed for your friend? Paul prays for his friend because that's what friends do. And notice this, that in his prayer, Paul is taking notice of what Philemon is doing for Jesus and for other Christians. Paul sees what Philemon does, even from afar.


And I can tell you, Christian love and charity work, when done right, charity isn't something many people see you do, but your friends see it, even if the world doesn't. Why? Because your friends stand next to you, and they get a window into your life that others don't. But look at this next verse, verse six. This is the infamous Philemon verse six. It's easily the most famous of all the verses in Philemon, and also at the same time, notoriously difficult to understand what Paul is saying here. I'm going to throw it up on the screen. Let's all look at it together here. Philemon 6. Paul writes and he says this, he says, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. So let's have some Bible study time real quick here. There's a lot going on here and it centers on what exactly does Paul mean when he talks about the sharing of your faith.


Now, as much as we would like it to be, Paul is more likely than not, not, Paul's more likely not referring to evangelism. Evangelism is the sharing of your faith with someone who doesn't know the gospel. You're telling them about Jesus for the first time. That's probably not what Paul's talking about here. The word he uses for sharing is the Greek word koinonia, and it means fellowship. It means partnership. It means communion. It means having participation in. Paul is saying that as you partake in the fellowship with other Christians, may that help you to see an even clearer picture of what we have because of Jesus.


More than a call to share our faith with non-Christians or with strangers, to share our faith means that we gather with other Christians to share our faith like we share a meal.


Now, what I'm about to say probably feels a little bit like I'm maybe preaching to the choir because you're all actually here, but too many of us, we don't have better Christian connections in our life because our church attendance is so weak. And add to that, our church involvement is nearly non-existent. If you show up to church only to walk out as quick as you can without actually engaging in any conversation, without actually signing up to serve, then listen here, don't blame the church for your lack of connection. You're adults, I'm an adult, take some initiative. Talk with someone, shake their hand, get involved, join a community group, join women's Bible study, join men's Bible study. Why?

Because my prayer for you is exactly the same prayer that Paul had for Philemon. I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. I've been at Peace Church for over 10 years now. When I came to Peace Church we were one church with one service and around 300 people. Fast forward 10 years we're around 2,300 people at two locations through multiple services. We're large. I get it. I get it. It can be very easy to walk into what seems to be a mass and feel unseen. But let me just tell you right now, I know the heart of the people of this church. No one wants anyone to feel unseen. Amen, peace? Amen. Like, we get it. I get it.

You walk in and it feels like this is a crowd. I'm telling you, we're a congregation. We're a family. Every family has their crazies, okay? You know it, I know it, it's just fine. I love us all, I'm just saying. But when you come in, we want you to be embraced. But listen, we're not a cult. We're not gonna make you slash your finger and sign and bled and we're not gonna not let you leave. We want you to be here because you also want to be here.

And do we need to get better at certain things? 100%. But I just wanna share with you our heart. We want you to be involved, we want you to be connected, we want to give you a chance to say hi, so connect with someone, talk with someone. I get in a larger setting, it's very easy to feel unseen. We want you to know we want to see you. But if you want to remain unseen, it is easier to do that in a larger setting. But talk with someone, get connected.

Chelsea at our welcome booth is there to help answer questions and help get you on a path to get connected or just talk to someone. And let me just say this real quick. I'm going to go over my time right now, but I'm going to say it anyway. You got to get over, especially Peace Church, if you've been here for a while, we all just need to get over this hump of like, I'm scared to ask someone how long they've been at peace because they might say, I've been here five years and you didn't notice. Get over it. I say that with all due respect and in love, get over it. It's very easy in our setting for someone to be here for a while and you not realize it. But guess what? You'll never realize it and if you don't make the connection. So let's just get over that and just, you know what, have a chuckle about it. You've been here seven years, I've been eight years. Be thankful that God brought you the connection. So let's get connected because we want you to be seen. Because friends see you when others don't. And there's friends to be had here.


3. Faithful friends bless our lives because they speak when others don't.


Third thing, faithful friends bless our lives because they speak when others don't. Listen to the encouragement that Paul gives Philemon here. I know verse six gets all the fame in this passage, but I like verse seven. Look at verse seven here. "'For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, "'my brother, because the hearts of the saints "'have been refreshed through you.'" Now, do you hear the utter encouragement in that verse? Do you hear the way that Paul is lifting up Philemon and building him up?


I tell you right now, I feel so encouraged by the people of this church. I can't imagine another pastor feeling more loved and encouraged than I do by this congregation. But there are many times that people come to me and they want to give me a compliment, but they'll say something like this, and I've heard this many, many times. They'll say something like this. They say, Pastor, you always do a good job, but if I told you that every time, you'd get a big head. Well, listen here, listen here, I can I can totally respect the desire to keep me humble. I honestly can. Like, I want you to try to keep me humble. I can totally honor and respect that humility should be a defining marker of every pastor, especially those who are more bold. But I'm going to tell you this, encouragement is water on a dry soil. And in our discouraging and unfriendly world as Christians, we need to constantly hear me constantly be encouraging one another.


It was the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who famously said, in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. Friends, don't be silent to one another. Speak, speak when others don't. Speak life-giving words to one another, to your pastors, to your ministry workers, to our army of amazing volunteers. I'm telling you, we can never hear it enough. Why? Because every time you hold back an encouraging word, I'll just go ahead and say, especially to a pastor, remember the world does not hold back discouraging words.


Every time you hold back, you think the world's going to hold back their discouraging words. I am telling you, you can't outdo, you can't say more encouraging words than the discouraging words that we get from the world at large. You think the world likes the message I bring every single Sunday? They're not going to stop telling me how much they hate it. The world's keeping me humble. You can keep me humble. And I'm not saying it just to me, because I already feel immensely encouraged and supported and loved by this congregation. But I'm telling you, there's a team of pastors, there's a staff, there's an army of volunteers, and we just walk by them. Don't.


Speak life-giving, encouraging words. Friends, here's what I say. I'm gonna say, especially in West Michigan, we live in a culture that thinks snarkiness and sarcasm are signs of love. Be the type of friend that speaks true words of life to one another.


Because I know what's really happening when you try to give a backhanded comment, but you shroud it in snarkiness and sarcasm. I know it because I do the same thing. You're being a coward. You want to say something nice, but you're afraid to enter into a vulnerable space.


And so you try to keep more of a commanding, domineering persona, so you're going to have a backhanded comment, but shroud it in snarkiness and sarcasm. Because you're too scared just to step out and say a nice thing for the sake of just blessing someone else. I'm only calling out myself right now, but I guarantee I know the men of West Michigan and some of you are shrinking in your seats right now and you should be Because you're holding back life giving words to your friends to your kids to your spouse to your pastors Because you're too afraid to enter into a place of vulnerability to share your heart that you truly love and appreciate what you do So don't don't Share life giving words when I read verse 7. I don't hear a hint of snarkiness or sarcasm. Paul went on to be one of the most famous Christians of all time. No one can even pronounce Philemon's name. And yet, Paul is just lavishing Philemon with encouragement.


So, as we close up this first message, let me give you a friendship challenge. We're going to give a friendship challenge in each one of these sermons in this three-part series. And I want to help you give a framework to how friendships should be. And here's what it is. Here's our friendship challenge for today.


In an unfriendly world, remember Jesus is the most faithful friend.


 If you understood this, you wouldn't feel lonely. It was Jesus Christ himself who said in John 15, he said, greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life, say it with me, for his friends. And our Lord and Savior didn't just teach this, he lived this. Jesus fulfills and exemplifies his own teaching when he laid down his life for us. He gave his life for us on the cross. Jesus is the most faithful friend we have. Even death could not stop Jesus being our friend and being faithful to us. For on the third day he rose again conquering death and with his resurrected life he gives us that life both now and forever more. Listen, our friends will fail us, you will fail your friends. Why? Because we're humans and we fail. But when our friends fail us, remember, Jesus does not. He goes the distance. Which is all the more reason to have friends who share a common faith in Jesus.


And I'm not saying you shouldn't be friends with people who are not Christians. I'm not saying that at all. Don't take this to the polar extremes every single time. I'm saying when you have friends who share a common vision of friendship that's embodied by Jesus, there's something there that you're not going to find anywhere else. And in our unfriendly world, remember, Jesus is the most faithful friend. In John 15, 15, a few verses later, Jesus says this to his disciples. He says, No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends." In our unfriendly world, remember, Jesus is the most faithful friend that we have, and here's why. Jesus is our most faithful friend because He stands where others don't.


He doesn't just stand next to us, He stands in our place. He takes our place on the cross. He takes our condemnation. The punishment that should have been ours, Jesus stands in our place and takes it for us. And he did this out of love. Jesus sees what others don't. Jesus sees into the depths of our heart. He sees all the sin that's there, sin that we don't even realize is there. He sees that sin and yet he still loves us. He sees it all and yet he still gave his life for us. And Jesus speaks when others don't. He brings the challenge and the encouragement that we need to hear, and he brings the truth that the world needs to know. In an unfriendly world, remember, Jesus is the most faithful friend. Not only does Jesus prove this, to be the greatest friend, he's also the example of what friends should be.

And so be the type of friend that Jesus is. Strive to be that, because remember, faithful friends are a rare blessing. So be one And know that forevermore you have one in Jesus And so when we sing in a few moments of Jesus being our friend. I pray that that old hymn brings a new meaning to you here this morning Jesus is our most faithful friend and a faithful friend is a rare blessing. So be one. Amen. Amen.


Would you please stand? Let's pray. Father, we come before you thankful for the friend that we have in Jesus. And Lord, I pray that social media hasn't so destroyed that word that it's lost all meaning. Father, I pray that when we say that Jesus is our friend, that that means something down to our core, down to our soul. And Father, from that place, realizing what Jesus has done for us, being our greatest friend. I pray, Lord, that as we sing this song now, we do so, singing this unto our King, unto our Savior, unto our God, and unto song now, we do so, singing this unto our King, unto our Savior, unto our God, and unto our greatest friend. We pray these things in Jesus' name. And everyone said, Amen.

bottom of page