Joe Cocker died yesterday (December 22, 2014) at the age of 70 in Crawford, Colorado. His “one of a kind” voice echos down through the hallways of time and takes me back to my wannabe hippie days. I was never very big on using drugs, but I did love my tequila sunrises and margaritas for a time in the hippie bars. Token’ marijuana (we called it “smokin’ dope”) turned me into a wallflower, and who needs that? However, I used to say I could live my life on a two-margarita high. Yeah, the buzz was just right–not enough to be drunk but just enough to take the edge off of anything that might be bothering me at the time (like all that “free-love” stuff the guys wanted–and there’s nothing free about love, especially that kind of “love”).
The birth control pill first made it’s debut in American society back in the early 1960’s, and by 1965 6.5 million women were taking it (source here). I tried it once when I was 19 but it made me sick, and I wasn’t exactly the promiscuous type anyway. Legalized abortion didn’t show up on the scene until 1973 with Roe v. Wade which opened the door to promiscuity even wider and in a really big way. Unrestrained sex had vaulted its way into mainstream American culture. I just didn’t partake as I had been told by a Sunday school teacher when I was in the 7th grade that even dancing with a boy could get me pregnant. She really did tell me that, too. Sigh . . . I knew better but that wasn’t the reason I didn’t partake. Being used isn’t fun for anyone (except maybe for the user).
Yeah, I know . . . I was raised in a Baptist-type nondenominational church and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior at the ripe old age of ten, but life has a way of distracting us in all sorts of ways (and throughout an entire lifetime), and as I hit adolescence and entered high school (1967-1970), the hippie heydays were well underway. The Beatles came out with their Lennon/McCartney song, “With A Little Help From My Friends,” on their album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, in 1967. Joe Cocker first performed the song in 1969 at Woodstock, and it’s the song he is most remembered for having sung it with “that voice” (YouTube Video below.)
I get by with a little help from my friends
I get high with a little help from my friends
Going to try with a little help from my friends
There was a lot of “gettin’ high with a little help from my friends” back then. The drug culture was no longer underground. Illegal drugs including psychedelic drugs were easily accessible and getting high was a frequent weekend event. While I was mostly a bystander at those parties where cocaine was lined up on the coffee table and LSD was frequently dropped, I usually had a drink in my hand (mostly White Zinfandel, my favorite wine). I wanted to be cool, hip, and enlightened–“turn on, tune in, drop out”–a phrase made famous by Timothy Leary (1920-1996), who was actually a member of my father’s generation.
Decades have now passed since those days of long ago. The death of Joe Cocker brought them back to me this morning. No matter what generation we find ourselves in, we are all searching for something. Whether we do it with drugs, alcohol, free-wheeling sex, or whatever our particular proclivities happen to be, as the song goes on to state:
Do you need anybody?
I need somebody to love
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love
We are all looking for love. Unfortunately, nowadays we seem to be getting it all wrapped up with money, too. In America, we live in a land of unbelievable excesses that are available to anyone who has the money for them. In fact, money might very well be the ultimate drug in America today. It’s that constant, never-ending quest for more. And money, oftentimes, has replaced love. In fact, as I’ve gotten older, it seems that many people, if they can manage to find someone who has a fair amount of it, will marry for money before they will marry for love. And what people are willing to do nowadays to get their hands on more money for themselves is oftentimes astonishing. They will betray spouses, family members and friends, and just about anyone else if there is money in it for them. And that crosses all socio-economic levels and religious affiliations. The religious among us can be and often are just as greedy as the non-religious.
The hippie generation, with their claims of being non-materialistic and their message of peace and love to all, grew up to become one of the most materialistic and greedy generations to date in America (in general and not specific to all individuals in that generation). While the drug culture has not abated much since the hippie heydays, materialism and greed have grown exponentially. Money is, indeed, the latest drug to come along and entice just about everyone. Of course, the greedy have always been among us (and in us). Starting with the deregulation of Wall Street in the 1980’s, greed has become legal in massive quantities. And that constant quest for more is a vicious cycle with a very high price tag at the end (e.g., enabling the two biggest Wall Street crashes in history–2001 & 2008). In the movie, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (2010) starring Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, he states: “Money is a bitch who never sleeps, and if you don’t keep an eye on her, then you wake up in the morning and she’s gone” (quote source here). It’s no surprise that I Timothy 6:10 states, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Unfortunately, we usually don’t believe that until it’s too late.
Regarding the issue of love, genuine love has nothing to do with money. When money rules, love is gone. When love rules, money is put in it’s proper place and it is not the “all-consuming” focus of our lives. With genuine love (see I Corinthians 13 for the definition of genuine love), others become the focus of our lives and we become far less narcissistic. As Jesus stated in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Unfortunately, we often try to do both in ways we don’t often recognize as money is such a huge focus in our society.
The original theme of this blog post has to do with friendships, and friendships come and go throughout our lifetime. But what does true friendship really look like? Here is a good definition of what true friendship looks like from GotQuestions?org:
The Lord Jesus Christ gave us the definition of a true friend: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:13-15). Jesus is the pure example of a true friend, for He laid down His life for His “friends.” What is more, anyone may become His friend by trusting in Him as his personal savior, being born again and receiving new life in Him . . . .
The principle of friendship is also found in Amos. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). Friends are of like mind. The truth that comes from all of this is a friendship and a relationship that is entered into by individuals, and it is only as good or as close as those individuals choose to make it. Someone has said that if you can count your true friends on the fingers of one hand, you are blessed. A friend is one whom you can be yourself with and never fear that he or she will judge you. A friend is someone that you can confide in with complete trust. A friend is someone you respect and that respects you, not based upon worthiness but based upon a likeness of mind.
Finally, the real definition of a true friend comes from the Apostle Paul: “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8). “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). Now, that is true friendship! (Quote source here.)
Genuine friendships do not have ulterior motives. As stated above, “Someone has said that if you can count your true friends on the fingers of one hand, you are blessed. A friend is one whom you can be yourself with and never fear that he or she will judge you. A friend is someone that you can confide in with complete trust. A friend is someone you respect and that respects you, not based upon worthiness but based upon a likeness of mind.”
“Based upon a likeness of mind,” and I’d like to add that a true friend is also one who will never use you to get ahead, financially or otherwise, and is not jealous of you for any reason. This is, no doubt, another reason why the statement above is true when it states, “if you can count your true friends on the fingers of one hand, you are blessed.”
Proverbs 18:24 states, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Yes . . . there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, and his name is Jesus Christ. He is a loyal friend like none other, and he sticks with us to the very end (see Hebrews 13:5). He is an ever present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1), and a never-ending source of encouragement even in the toughest of times (see John 16:33 and an additional source of encouragement at this link at GotQuestions?org). He is a friend we can always count on to be there for us and go through anything that comes our way. In John 16 Jesus encourages us to not fall away and to be aware of the fact that tribulation in this world is the norm (unfortunately, we don’t hear this very often from today’s pulpits). And in the last verse (33) he states, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Joe Cocker sang about friends in this world of ours. However, when the hard times come and those friends vanish, there is, for those of us who believe in him, a Friend (Jesus Christ) who sticks closer than a brother, and who gave up his own life on our behalf (see John 3:16-18). And he’s right there going through everything we go through, and if we only ask he will give us the guidance we need on a moment-by-moment basis. We are not promised a palace on this earth of ours, and this life is not about our material wants and what we can get while we are here. As the apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” And there’s a vast difference between “wants” and “needs.”
As of this writing, Christmas is only two days away. Many folks will be spending it with family and friends, but there are just as many who might be spending it alone for a variety of reasons. If you happen to be one of them, like I am, if you know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are never alone. He is, indeed, a Friend who is always available to give you the encouragement you need no matter what you might be going through.
While the world is singing, “I get by with a little help from my friends,” those friends might not be around to help in your time of need. And if that is the case, remember that “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1) . . .
And run to Him–he’s the greatest Friend you will ever have . . .
In this world . . .
And the next . . . .
YouTube Video: “With A Little Help From My Friends” (John Lennon & Paul McCartney) sung by Joe Cocker: