7 May would have been the birthday of a very good friend, Martin Holdt, had he not departed to be with the Lord some years ago. During his funeral his family gave out a bookmark with his photo on and Ps 23. Every morning during my quiet time I see his photo and reminded of the words he so often shared with me or prayed over me. Martin gave me my first daily devotional book, Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith by Charles Spurgeon. After my time of prayer I still read this little book (plus some other devotional readings) every morning and stand amazed at how God opens up different passages and messages when I need it most … messages I never ‘saw’ in the years I have been reading it. It changed my life and the way I kept my quiet time.
One Sunday evening Martin invited Anita and me for coffee after the service. He asked me how I was because he could see I was battling with many pressing problems. “Let me pray for you” he said and then prayed “Lord, give back to Nico the years that the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25). This simple prayer was a great encouragement and as I look back nearly 20 years later, I can say in all humility that God heard Martin’s prayer and has truly given back the years the locusts have eaten. Martin saw my need and did what he could do – pray – he was a true friend.
In May 2007 my dear friend Gerrit and I were holidaying with our wives in Alaska. Gerrit and I put some time aside to talk about the future and the pressure I was experiencing on various fronts as fear started creeping into my whole being. We heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit guide us to Exodus 14:13+14 where Moses said to the Israelites before crossing the Red Sea “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today… the Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” What a tremendous encouragement, remembered up to this very day. Gerrit put aside his own desires (to do sightseeing) and rather chose to spend time with me in fellowship and prayer, and God honoured our time together – he was a true friend.
Many times before and many times after this experience, whenever Gerrit and I pray together, God met with us mightily – I have shared many instances with you in this blog. But it means that we should go to the trouble to spend time with each other, to visit, to encourage and to pray for each other …if you want to be called – a ‘true friend’.
Do I really value the friends the Lord has given me… both in my professional and private life? As I think about this I start realising that God has not only given one or two very close friends but has also blessed me with many other close friends that build into my life and character. It is only a true friend that will take the time to build into ones character – often by having the guts to point out things that are not right and needed attention in one’s life. It is not always pleasant to hear but when done in love and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit it often has a life changing effect. Just ensure that you check your facts!
As we grow older and start laying to rest some of our friends, I have to ask myself whether I was the kind of friend to that person that I would have liked to have. I then realise that I could have spent more time in fellowship; prayed more for them than for myself and encouraged them more to persevere through difficult times. That I should have made that call rather than send a sms and prayed for and with them rather than have said “this is not the time or the place” when the Holy Spirit prompted me to pray for them.
“Lord, help me to be a better friend to Anita, our children, our grandchildren and our friends. But above all, Lord, help me to value and cherish my friendship with You, above all else…in a more meaningful way every day of my life. Thank you Jesus for the amazing friendship we have had over many years. You alone are worthy to be called a true friend.”