Years ago, a friend of mine was traveling back home during the holidays. As many of us may understand, he was anticipating a rocky experience.
He was afraid of the challenges he would be facing and we made a decision to stay in touch while he was away. We wanted to help each other keep our faith growing.
“And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”Acts 20:35 NLT
This scripture captures the relationship with my friend during this time. In it, Paul is speaking with the Ephesians about the importance of working hard to help others. He emphasizes the promise Jesus gives us that we always benefit from giving to our friends. This giving relationship between friends is one that we were striving for.
We called one another to talk about how things were going and help each other with Scriptures on how to care for our family and friends. We prayed together to help strengthen one another’s faith.
When he returned, he shared with gratitude that our conversations and scriptures really helped his faith while he was away. I experienced joy that holiday season because Acts 20:35 came to life for me: I was able to help strengthen my friend’s faith.
Godly friendship means using every occasion and opportunity to overcome our selfish desires by strengthening the faith of our friends.
“So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good to all people [not only being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers].”Galatians 6:10 AMPC
The following are 7 steps that you can take to strengthen your friends’ faith. If you’re wondering how to find godly friends, look for people who exhibit these characteristics of a godly friend.
Focus on progress
When our faith is low, we can often become negative and feel that we have failed or have not reached a level of perfection that we have set for ourselves. Progress is movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage. We can help our friends by showing them there is always an area of our life that God has moved in and we are further along than we often realize.
“I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.”Philippians 1:25 ESV
When we identify the progress that has been made in someone’s life — through growth in a relationship or learning life lessons, this will bring new joy and new life to their faith.
“But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.”Philippians 3:16 NLT
The scriptures tell us that we have to hold on to progress even while struggling to see any forward advancement. There have been times in my Christian life when I thought I was stuck or going backwards because my character weaknesses had been revealed and my sin had been exposed.
I am thankful for the friends in my life who helped me to see the progress God made in those times by helping my heart to be softer and my relationships to grow deeper.
- Do you focus more on mistakes and the past or on progress and moving forward? Your focus for yourself will be your focus for your friends.
- What progress have you seen in your friend’s life that you can tell them about to encourage their faith?
Make it personal
There have been many times that I have tried to help my friends’ faith in a detached or judgemental way by pointing out areas of weakness in their life, and this has led to more discouragement. When I make a decision to spend time with them so I could ask questions to understand their struggle and feel their pain, it makes all the difference.
“… as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith.”1 Thessalonians 3:10 ESV
The Bible stresses the necessity of face-to-face time with our friends so that we can strengthen each other’s faith. In the documentary Screenagers, psychiatrists shared research about the need for people to have face-to-face time together in order to develop empathy for one another.
In an age of increased digital connection, we still need to make sure we have face-to-face time with our friends if we want to help each other’s faith.
“Who is weak without this arousing my empathy?”2 Corinthians 11:29 VOICE
“We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.”1 Thessalonians 2:8 NLT
As Paul explains in the above two scriptures, no relationship works if it is one-sided. Paul was invested in the lives of his friends, because they knew just as much about him as he did about them. He didn’t just expect them to pour out their hearts; he poured his out as well.
Our friends need to hear about own lives and our own personal struggles to feel loved and hopeful. Sharing about how we have overcome a challenge can give others hope to overcome as well.
Many years ago I went through a painful divorce, and I have found that sharing about the hope and healing God provided has helped many people stay faithful to God through similar painful experiences.
- What personal struggle can you share with a friend to relate to and support them in building their faith?
See someone’s potential
When we see our friend’s faith getting weak or damaged, it is an opportunity to help them see their potential to grow, change, and make a difference. To have potential is to be capable of being or becoming something. God develops potential like no other.
4 “Whenever I pray, I make requests for all of you with joy. 6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”Philippians 1:4,6 NLT
Praying for our friends with joy and expectation will remind us that God has chosen them and will help us to give them reassurance that God never stops working in their hearts and lives to bring about something great.
- Do you see what great things God will do through your friend?
- When will you meet with them and share the potential that you see in them?
Give a new perspective
In studying Architecture, I learned to include perspective in drawing by seeing past what was right in front of my vision — to perceive the full space of a room. This training combined with the Scriptures has taught me how to look at things with bigger vision and with long-term goals in mind.
21 “After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, 22 where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”Acts 14:21-22 NLT
Paul and Barnabas were committed to strengthening and encouraging the other disciples to keep having faith. They gave them a godly perspective to look beyond difficulties and hardships and see what God has planned for us ahead.
We can help our friends who are in a current crisis by giving them another way to look at things and instilling hope that God has future plans to work everything together for the good. The only way to give our friends this perspective and hope is to believe it ourselves – looking in the Bible to see how God sees things, and choosing to see it that way too.
- How can you help your friends find hope and look beyond the circumstances in their life to see how God will work to build his Kingdom even during hardships?
Share about God’s power
Sometimes we feel we don’t have the strength we need or enough faith to help others. That is the time to remember and share about God’s unlimited and unimaginable power.
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”Romans 10:17 ESV
Sharing scriptures with our friends that have inspired and encouraged us personally will build their faith as well.
“O Jacob, O Israel, how can you say that the Lord doesn’t see your troubles and isn’t being fair? 28 Don’t you yet understand? Don’t you know by now that the everlasting God, the Creator of the farthest parts of the earth, never grows faint or weary?
No one can fathom the depths of his understanding. 29 He gives power to the tired and worn out, and strength to the weak.”Isaiah 40:27-29 TLB
Although we may feel that God doesn’t see our troubles, the Bible says he certainly does see and understands exactly how to help us. We can encourage our friends that when we turn to God, he will give us the power and strength that we need.
- Who is a friend you know who is currently struggling with faith?
- What scripture can you share with a friend about a time God helped you powerfully to get through a difficult experience?
Build a partnership
God has put us together so that we don’t have to carry our burdens and pressures alone. The times I have felt discouraged or ineffective in helping my friends grow in their faith were when I was trying to get them to go do something alone rather than doing something together.
“I want very much to see you, to give you some spiritual gift to make you strong. 12 I mean that I want us to help each other with the faith we have. Your faith will help me, and my faith will help you.”Romans 1:11-12 NCV
Everyone that needs our help can also give us help, and when we believe this we grow stronger together.
“So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.”1 Thessalonians 5:11 MSG
As we build up hope in our friends, we will build a partnership and a community that leaves no one out and leads to changed lives.
- How can you bring your friends together to work at helping someone in your community?
Explore the possibilities
No matter where we are at in life, it is always a great time to explore the possibilities God has put before us and to look forward to the future with faith.
“Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the church together and reported everything God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too. 28 And they stayed there with the believers for a long time.”Acts 14:27-28 NLT
When we see challenges as opportunities to see how God is moving in our lives, we are able to help other people see the “door of faith” God is trying to open for them, too.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”Mark 10:27 NIV
We can help our friends see that challenging times are opportunities to rely on God to do what has been impossible for us to do ourselves.
- What challenges have you experienced that has opened the door to possibilities and which friend can you inspire with this story of faith?