This post is part of our Sunday Series titled “Articles of Faith.”
We investigate leadership lessons from the Bible.
See the whole series here. Published only on Sundays.
What do you need most right now?
I recently asked this question to a successful leader who I met during a networking event last year. After an awkward silence he responded, “A friend“.
This leader’s response triggered a deep emotional response within me. It broke my heart, and called to mind these words of wisdom …
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds;
For he who fears God behaves accordingly, and his friend will be like himself.
-Book of Sirach 6:14-17
Be a Friend Like Arnold…
Some men walk the course in a manner that inspires the rest of us to “raise our game”.
My friend Arnold Gardner walked this way. I will never forget walking the golf course with Arnold during the final round of the club championship in 2001. As we walked off the 7th tee, after Arnold’s chances of taking the trophy home sunk to the bottom of the lake, his next move seemed out of character. Instead of cussing, tossing a club, or storming off, Arnold smiled and shifted his attention to me. “You can still win this, Joe. You are playing great.”
Over the next few years, I came to learn Arnold’s response that day may have been out of character for me, but it suited him perfectly. Needless to say, from that day forward I became a raving fan and faithful follower of my new friend. That’s what made the news of his terminal liver cancer so hard to bear. I count myself amongst the blessed to have been close enough to Arnold to watch the way he continued to walk the course of life with grace, humility, and as a faithful friend to all who crossed his path until he passed away on April 25, 2007.
During the celebration of Arnold’s life, I learned that Arnold was the Pastor’s best friend. Apparently, Arnold approached him and became his encourager when he first moved to Atlanta to assume leadership of the church. They met weekly and often.
Arnold would call and ask,
“Have you seen the sky today? Take a moment and look up and see how beautiful it is.”
After Arnold learned that his condition was terminal he went to visit his friend. He sat him down and said, “I don’t want what I’m about to share with you to be a burden on you.” That was the way Arnold walked. His focus was always on other people. Two months before he passed away I ran into him at Bingo night at the school. He hugged me, allowed me to ask, “How ya doing?” and then shifted the entire conversation to me and my family.
Whenever I was with Arnold I felt like his best friend.
Come to find out, so did everybody else.
His longtime best friend and former golf teammate at Vanderbilt closed the celebration humbly and memorably. After beginning his final sentence, “So go out their and find a friend…” he stopped, teared up, looked up to heaven and said, “I’m even screwing this one up without you Arnold.” He took a moment to regain his composure and said,
Go out there and be a friend like Arnold.
A Legacy of Friendship
On the first anniversary of Arnold’s passing I hosted an event at our club. Arnold’s “best friends” came out of the woodwork, as did the stories of him walking alongside, encouraging, and befriending countless others. Arnold was a successful attorney, but I learned that 50% of his time was invested pro-bono in his later years. After that event I committed to becoming a friend like Arnold Gardner for others.
Last week I came across a verse in scripture that reminded me of the lessons I learned from Arnold. I’d like to share it now as a reminder to all of us that we are called to be a faithful friend to all those who cross our path.
Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. -John 15:13
An Impact of Being A Friend
Can being a faithful friend really position us to be a “life-saving remedy”?
Recall my conversation with the successful leader whom I asked, “What do you need most right now?” At the time I asked that question, we had been talking for over an hour about his plan to commit suicide. I was not ready to have that conversation that day, nor was I equipped to help him. I was completely out of my comfort zone and area of expertise, or so I thought. As I scrambled to find the words to speak, to infuse him with hope, his answer to my question gave did it for me. When he disclosed that what he needed most was “A friend,” immediately I felt a sense of relief.
I can do that, I thought to myself. If all he needs is a friend to come alongside him, someone to talk to, someone to be there when he’s feeling down … I can do that!
What made me so sure I could be his friend? Or that being his friend would make a difference? Good questions. My confidence was based in the truth shared by Sirach over 2000 years ago: For he who fears God behaves accordingly, and his friend will be like himself. All I had to do was reflect upon the way Jesus laid down his life for all of us, and the way Arnold followed his lead. I left the rest up to the Holy Spirit as I set out to be a faithful friend to my newest friend.
Who needs your friendship most today? Who are you willing to lay your life down for? Who has been a faithful friend to you? After you ponder these questions I encourage you to do two things: First, call your faithful friends and thank them for their friendship. Second, go be a friend like Arnold.
Edited by Mike Weppler
Image Sources: ourfunnyplanet.com/tag/friendship, gallery.photo.net/photo