#18 The Counsel of a Friend

29 December 1999

"Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel" – Proverbs 27:9 When the dark day of adversity nocks a our door there is nothing better than he hearty counsel of a friend. Solomon has compared this sweet cordial to that of a special fragrance that brings back precious memories, causing the heart to rejoice. While some have suggested that in the day of adversity all a person need do is pray and read the Bible, Solomon, by inspiration, tells us there is more. Though it is true that many answers may be found only in prayer and reading the Bible, there remains to be that irreplaceable element that God has afforded us, a flesh and blood companion who puts his trousers on as we do each morning, one who can not be replaced by a king or his ransom. That person is defined by inspiration as a friend!

A prize was offered some years ago for the best definition of a friend, and this was the one which received the price: "A friend is the person who come in when every other person has gone out." Such is the kind of special person Solomon sought out in the dark day, the day of adversity.

Describing a friend, Solomon used similar language as he wrote, "A friend loveth at all times"- Proverbs 17:17a. He had learned that the love of a true friend was not a fickle one, nor did it wane with the tides of life. And being a wealthy king, he knew from experience that "Wealth maketh many friends", and such friends he found no comfort in. The prodigal son had many friends as long as his pockets jingled, but when his money ran out, so did his friends. Solomon had experienced such friendships and found that true friends do not look upon circumstances or material things. Such a friend is rare.

Hearty counsel is as rare as the friend who gives it. It is "hearty" because it comes from the heart. It is "counsel" because it comes in a day in which we can not think clearly, we can not make a rational decision, we can not see tomorrow because of the dark hand of adversity before our face.  Love is the key in the hand of a friend that unlocks the heart and sets it free: hearty counsel. We have all tried to straighten people out with little success. But the love of a friend will guide his tongue to say just the right thing in just the right spirit: the spirit of restoration as opposed to that of condemnation. I have read statistics which have shown that this kind of counsel, coming from a friend who will listen and care, is more productive than all other methods of counseling. Should we be surprised at this data after reading Solomon's words?

There are special times in which a friend is called upon to perform a very difficult task: tell your friend the truth. This, also, Solomon had learned when his friends were honest concerning his sin. So he wrote, "Faithful are the wounds of friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" –Proverbs 27:6. There were always those who would tell the great king what he wanted to hear to gain favor and riches. But they could never bring Solomon the comfort of those that he knew loved him, those that counseled from the heart and dealt honestly with him. Judas' kisses looked benevolent, but they were the methods of a deceitful heart. Many times the truth may hurt, but there are those times in which the truth is the only balm for the dilemma. Hearty counsel it is as it sends forth its beautiful aroma!

Where do such friends come from? As we have noticed, one can not buy them. They spring from the Godly principle of reaping and sowing. They are a product of what we sow with our own hearts. In other words, being a friend makes a friend. Was this not also a portion of Solomon's wisdom as he found that, "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly"-Proverbs 18:24a? If we have no been a friend to others, should we expect a friend in the dark day?

We may all act the part of a friend. I have found a friend in mother, father, sister, brother, wife, brethren in the church, and even child. If we would all fulfill our role as friends I am convinced that there would be fewer divorces, fewer children on drugs, more smiles and less frowns, fewer horns honked at the traffic light, less attention paid to the talk shows, fewer tranquilizers, less criticism and more Godly encouragement. We may all act the part of a friend. Just the right person at the right time is like the best perfume for the occasion. It will cause the heart to rejoice!