During most of my growing-up days, I was competitive. Raised to enjoyed sports, the out-of-doors and every game imaginable, everything was a contest, whether the opponent was a rival school, an individual or just myself; I strove to win (1 Corinthians 9:24), always exacting from myself the best performance or effort possible (Ecclesiastes 9:10). However, in La Pryor, Texas, I learned that there would always be someone better than me, no matter how good I got. This revelation came to me in the form of one of my best friends: Kyle Walker. He was better at tennis, a better shot in basketball, faster on the track and, most distressing, a much better shot with a rifle.
Some may mistakenly think I’m whining but such is not the case. Much of the progress and expertise I acquired during our years of companionship occurred while viewing Kyle’s backside. He pushed me, chided me and encouraged me, both of us knowing I did not have the talent, skills or capacity to best him but, in trying, I excelled. I’ve never had the opportunity, these many years later, to thank him for his friendship and, especially, for beating me at everything we did together because, in doing so, he made me better.
It is interesting that Jesus chose this method to teach His disciples. He could easily have dictated His will and lived as He pleased; He is God, you know (Psalm 119:105). He could have been satisfied to give us the data in written form and just mandated “Do it!”; we are, after all, expected to do his will (Matthew 7:21-23). He chose, however, to give us this added incentive. He said “Follow Me” (Luke 9:23), and “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done” (John 13:15). Even facing the horror of the Cross, He promised, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow me afterward” (John 13:36), “And, if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, you may be also” (John 14:3). He is God, our Savior and so much more; but, also, He is a true friend.
“You’re not Jesus” people often say (usually to excuse some sin in their life). We say: “You’re absolutely right!” And, though we will never be Jesus, we follow Him. He is always ahead of us, leading us, guiding us, encouraging us and challenging us with goals far beyond our capacity, yet encouraging us by His constant companionship. He makes us better. That’s what a true friend does.