It makes a difference which friends you choose! What they say and do will have an effect on what you say and do, and their manners will have an effect on your manners. The choice of friends may well be a choice of lifestyle for yourself.
As a young man I once got a good advice: “If you see a man being used by God, keep close to that man, and learn all you can from him!” I still think that is one of the best pieces of advice I ever got. I just wish I had seen more men who had stirred my heart to want to walk with them!
Often we don´t choose our friends, we just make friends with those who happen to be near us. Of course it is always good to be friendly, but many such friendships will not be very deep, and not very lasting. I think Paul was quite careful when he chose his companions, but some of those chosen were obviously not as serious as Paul was. They got a chance to acquire wisdom by walking with Paul, but they didn´t take it. They had a chance to learn to be men of God, but they found the price too high. They were not prepared to walk with Paul when the going got rough, and the visits to prisons became more common than the enthusiasm of the crowds.
There seems always to be an easier road available, and it may be very tempting to take that instead. But it may be at the cost of never growing wise, because wisdom is imparted through longtime relationship, not through the occasional meeting. You don´t get wise by playing football together once a week, but through sharing your hearts with each other along the rocky pathway of life.
When Jesus chose His disciples, He made careful choices. A night´s prayer vigil, and that was very likely not the only preparations He made, and then He chose those twelve men. And it was a choice to allow them to walk with Him, listen to Him, and see Him both work and rest. Did they learn something? Sure! We sometimes think they got their gifting and their wisdom when the Holy Spirit came upon them, and what had been before was of little significance. Nothing could be more wrong. By literally walking with Jesus, they learned from Him: learned to think, talk and act like the Master. They learned to stay with Him, to pray with Him, and to trust Him. And when the Holy Spirit came, He gave them the authority to do what they had learnt, and also to choose other men to walk with, and impart wisdom into.
Today, if you meet a man of God, walk with him as long as you can, and as close as you can, and you will acquire the wisdom that is ‘pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere’ (James 3:17). Don’t be put off by the road leading through unexpected territory. Men of God make more visits to deserts than to palaces; spend more time in lonely places than in the pulpit. That is one of their characteristics!
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