It's easy to forget that even people like Paul the apostle needed—and indeed had—friends. In the book of Philippians, he named several of them, including Timothy. This man added enormous joy to Paul's life, as friends do; they ease our burdens and take the grind out of life.
To Paul, Timothy was an example of humility, of serving, loving, and caring for others. Timothy was the son of a Jewish woman and an unbelieving father, and after he gave his life to Christ, he joined Paul's mission team and became his protégé. Over time, the two of them cultivated a strong friendship.
Today I want to look at four qualities of a good, mature friend. As we go through this, I hope instead of thinking, Man, I need to find someone who will be that kind of a friend to me, you'll say, "I need to learn how to be that kind of a friend to someone else."
1. A mature friend is reliable. In Philippians 2, Paul wrote, "I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state" (v. 19). Paul planned to send Timothy to Philippi from Rome because Timothy was reliable. He had taken a number of journeys like this before, and because he had been so reliable, he had therefore become more valuable. There's a principle in that: faithfulness leads to more fruitfulness (see Matthew 24:45-47; 25:14-30).
2. A mature friend is compatible. In verse 20, Paul said, "For I have no one like-minded [like Timothy]." The Greek word for like-minded literally means equal-souled (see 1 Samuel 18:1). Paul was saying, "We are soulmates in that he has the same interests and the same goal that I do: to serve God and to serve God's people" (see 1 Corinthians 16:10). So find someone who pursues Jesus Christ as much as you do, and walk into the future with them.
3. A mature friend is thoughtful. "I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state" (v. 20). Timothy was the real deal. He genuinely cared for the Philippians' welfare. There was nothing fake or hypocritical about him. That contrasts with verse 21: "For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus." Paul knew that Timothy was a breath of fresh air.
4. A mature friend is loyal. "But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel" (v. 22). Paul didn't add Timothy to his evangelistic team day one after his conversion. He waited a couple of years, until he heard that Timothy "was well spoken of by the brethren" (Acts 16:2). The point is that there must be a testing period before there is a teaming up with another person, especially in ministry, because rapid advancement in ministry can cause someone to become proud (see 1 Timothy 3:6). Paul made sure Timothy was loyal, and that loyalty turned into a long-term reliability.
In summary, when it comes to friendships and relationships—and life in general—we all live in one of two camps: Philippians 1:21 or Philippians 2:21. Philippians 1:21 says, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain," while Philippians 2:21, as quoted above, says, "All seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus." Which of those verses do you live your life by? Which one is guiding your relationships? Don't just seek out good, mature friends; seek to be that kind of friend to others.