Sunday Sermon: ‘A Three-strand Cord is Not Easily Broken’ (I WILL Series #3)



Most of the time all we hear or talk about are the negative things happening in the world. Yet there are also some very positive things that happen that are amazing. One such incident occurred last Sunday during a marathon that was being ran in Mexico.

Two brothers from Britain were running in the race: Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee. Jonathan was leading in the race and had only about 1,000 meters to go. But then he collapsed from exhaustion. Alistair was just behind his brother and could have easily passed him and won the race; but he didn’t. He stopped to help his brother and a runner from South Africa passed them and won the race. Alistair gave up the opportunity to win in order to help his brother. But that’s not all. When they finally reached the finish line, Alistair gave Jonathan a nudge to make sure he crossed the finish line before him. The runner from South Africa came in first, Jonathan second, and Alistair third. Afterward, Jonathan thanked his brother by saying – “your loyalty is incredible.” [1]

If you are one of the ones reading the book ‘I Will’, you know that we’re on chapter three – ‘I WILL GROW TOGETHER.’ To help us understand the principle here I want us to focus on the concept of Christian friendships. We read in the book of Acts –

Acts 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart…

Notice, the early church met together both in large groups and in small groups. The Bible says that with one accord they met together in some area near the temple, and in their homes. Their example reveals to us that we need both the larger settings such as a worship service and smaller settings such as a Sunday School class.

Someone might ask, “But why do I need to be a part of a smaller group? I can take care of myself.” That may be true. You can come to Christ and be a child of God all by yourself. However, being by yourself does not completely fulfill God’s will for your life. We read from the book of 1 Corinthians –

1 Corinthians 12:12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

Do you see what Paul is saying? One Christian isolating themselves from other Christians does not fulfill what scripture calls ‘the body of Christ’ or ‘the church.’ It’s all the members united and working together.

We’re all in this together. According to scripture, we need each other. If I had to select one verse of scripture to capture the focus of my message today it would be this – “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:12) What are the three strands of this unbreakable cord? It’s me, you and our Savior Jesus Christ.

Of the many friendships found in the Bible, perhaps none is greater than the friendship between two men named Jonathan and David. Their story is found in the book of 1 Samuel.

1 Samuel 18:1 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house. 3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 4And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.

I. What Drew Jonathan and David Together as Friends?

A. Two Very Different Men

In many ways, Jonathan and David were very different. They were different ages from different backgrounds and by all means should have been rivals. Yet they became very deep friends.

1. David, the Shepherd Boy

Who was David? David was a teenager from a blue collar family. Many suppose David to be in his late teens and he was from a family that lived near Bethlehem. Scripture says that David grew up watching over his father’s sheep. He was the youngest of eight brothers and not even his own family believed that he would amount to much.

2. Jonathan, the Prince

Who was Jonathan? Jonathan was the exact opposite. Jonathan was the oldest son of the king of Israel. Whereas David was probably in his late teens, Jonathan was probably around age forty. He was a full grown man of maturity. Not only that, he was next in line to become the king of Israel. Whereas David was raised out in the fields, Jonathan was raised in the palace. To borrow a line from Mark Twain; Jonathan was the prince and David was the pauper.

B. Two Men Who Were Very Much Alike

Whereas in many ways Jonathan and David were very different, they also had some things in common.

1. Both Were Fearless Men

a. David’s Courage

The Bible describes David as a valiant solider, gifted in speech, and handsome. He was also a talented poet and musician. (see 1 Samuel 16:18) David’s bravery can best be seen in his defeat of the giant named Goliath.

1 Samuel 17:4 And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass. 6 And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. 7 And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.

Goliath was over nine feet tall and covered from head to foot with a suit of armor that weighed over 100 lbs! He was massive and the Bible says that the army of Israel shook in their boots whenever Goliath challenged them to a battle.

Yet there was one man in Israel who wasn’t’ afraid to go up against Goliath. That man was the shepherd boy named David.

1 Samuel 17:32 And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. 33 And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth. 34 And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: 35 And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. 36 Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. 37 David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee.

Most of you know the rest of the story. David faced Goliath head-on and defeated him. A teenager did what no other man in Saul’s army could do. David killed Goliath.

b. Jonathan’s Courage

We all know that young David was brave, but what about Jonathan? Go back with me a few chapters and let’s read about some of Jonathan’s courage.

The Bible says that one night, while everyone else was sleeping, Jonathan and his armor bearer snuck off from the rest of the army and went to the camp of the Philistines.

1 Samuel 14:6 And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few. 7 And his armourbearer said unto him, Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.

If we had time to read the rest of the story we would see that Jonathan and his armor bearer whipped an entire garrison of Philistines. Therefore I have no doubt that when Jonathan saw the courage of young David, he was naturally drawn to him.

2. Both Were Faith-filled Men

Jonathan and David were not only fearless men; they were also ‘faith-filled’ men.

a. David’s Faith

Listen to what David said as he went up against Goliath –

1 Samuel 17:45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. 46 This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee…

David was courageous because he had faith that the Lord was with him. What about Jonathan?

b. Jonathan’s Faith

1 Samuel 14:6 … nothing can hinder the LORD. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!” NLT

Notice that phrase – “…for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few…” Another way of stating this would be – “The LORD can win a victory as easily with a few men as He can with many.”

II. The Bonding Together of Jonathan and David

Jonathan and David became very close friends, yet their friendship was much more than what many of us think of friendship today. Today with a click of a button you can become friends with thousands of people on Facebook. The only problem with that kind of friendship is that tomorrow you can ‘unfriend’ many of these same people. To be honest, I feel sorry for people who have to rely on something like Facebook to find their friends; especially when you know that God has something for them that is much deeper and fulfilling. The Bible says – “A friend loves at all times, and a true brother is born for a time of adversity.” (Proverbs 17:7 NIV) The Bible also says – “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6 NLT) You and I need real friends that can lift us up when we’re down and help us get right when we are wrong.

So deep was the friendship between Jonathan and David that they made a covenant with each other.

1 Samuel 18:1 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house. 3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 4And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.

What is a covenant? A covenant is more than a promise. One resource defines a covenant as: “a solemn, binding arrangement between two parties and entails a variety of responsibilities, benefits and penalties.” [2]

Have you ever heard the term – ‘cutting an agreement?’ Do you know where that saying came from? During Bible times, when two parties made a covenant, often they would slay an animal and cut it in half. Then the two parties would walk together between the two halves, reciting the terms of their agreement. By doing so they were acknowledging the sacredness of their covenant and their binding obligation to keep it.

Consider the three aspects of the friendship covenant between Jonathan and David:

A. It Was Based Upon Their Kindred Spirit

The Bible says that the soul of Jonathan was ‘knit with the soul of David.’ When I hear the word ‘knit’ my mind immediately goes back to when my mom used to take a spool of yarn and two pointed sticks and somehow weave it together to make a sweater. The Spirit of God wove together the souls of Jonathan and David.

What is the soul? The soul is the inner most part of our being. It’s the real me and you. When you peel away everything else, what you are left with is your soul. It’s your mind, emotions and will.

We read from the book of Amos – “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3)  The New Living Translation says – “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” NLT The obvious answer to that question is – ‘No – they can’t.’ That’s why the Bible says that we as believers should not be unequally yoked with non-believers. (see 2 Corinthians 6:14-18) That’s true not only in marriage, but in every aspect of our lives. Two people with two different philosophies of life can’t walk together in the same direction.

As you read of the early church you quickly see that they were walking together in the same direction. One of the terms often used in the book of Acts to describe them is – ‘one accord.’ They prayed together with one accord. They worshipped together with one accord. They studied the Bible together with one accord. They ate their meals together with one accord. They sought to evangelize their friends and neighbors with one accord.

They were the body of Christ. They were the family of God. They were a ‘three-strand cord that could not be broken.’

And brethren, so must we be as well. Jonathan and David entered into a covenant relationship with each other. Did you know that we, as the body of Christ are also in a covenant relationship with each other? The covenant I am talking about is not the covenant in the front of the little booklet that contains our by-laws and constitution. The covenant I am talking about is the covenant we are in with Jesus Christ.

A few weeks ago we observed the Lord’s Supper, or Communion as it is commonly called. Matthew records Christ as saying –

Matthew 26:27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Let me point out three very important truths found in that passage.

1. The word ‘testament’ means covenant

This is the new covenant that is being initiated by My blood” Jesus was saying.

2. Being made a part of this covenant brings forgiveness of sins

Jesus said, “this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” The word ‘remission’ means forgiveness. The Bible says that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin. (Hebrews 9:22) If you are not a part of this covenant, you are not a child of God. If you are a part of this covenant, you are a child of God and completely forgiven of all your sins.

3. All the disciples were to drink of the same cup

Matthew 26:27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it

One translation says – “Each of you drink from it…” Other translations say – “Drink from it, all of you.” I don’t have my cup of salvation and you have your cup of salvation. There is only one true cup of salvation and that is the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We all must drink of that same cup in order to be saved. By drinking from that cup of His sacrificial death on the cross, we are brought into a covenant relationship with God. Therefore, I submit to you, by drinking of that same cup we are brought into a covenant relationship with all other believers. We are a body. We are a family. We are a three strand cord that is comprised of: you, me, and Jesus Christ.

B. It Involved a Sacrificial Commitment

The Bible says –

1 Samuel 18:4 And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.

What Jonathan did was pretty incredible. He was the eldest son of King Saul and therefore next in line to sit upon the throne. He was destined to be the future king of Israel. Yet Jonathan willing laid aside the symbols of his position as prince and gave them to his friend David. Why did Jonathan do this? No doubt it was because he knew that God had chosen David to be the next king of Israel.

One of the things that makes Christian friendship much greater than normal friendships is our willingness to make personal sacrifices. Jesus said – “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Jesus is the man who laid down His life for us and thus we become His friends. John went on to write – “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16)

One of the great problems in the church today is that believers no longer see themselves as being in a covenant relationship with the rest of the body of Christ. We all believe that we should be able to come and go as we please. One of the problems in many marriages today is that husbands and wives no longer see themselves as being in a covenant relationship with each other.

I believe with all my heart that in order for Christians to survive what lies ahead, we have to return to principles followed by the early Christians. We have to stop viewing ourselves as consumers that have the right to pick and choose as we please, and we have to make a commitment to our Savior and to each other.

C. It Promised Enduring Devotion

Lastly it promised an enduring devotion. Jonathan demonstrated his devotion to David when he gave his young friend his princely garments. Jonathan laid it all down for David that day. It’s amazing! In a sense, he’s a type of Jesus Christ. The Bible says of Jesus – “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8 NIV) Do you see the similarities?

What did David give to Jonathan? David’s part of the covenant involved two things:

1. When David Became King, Jonathan Would Be by His Side (1 Samuel 23:7)

2. David Would Always Take Care of Jonathan’s Family (1 Samuel 20:14)

David did eventually become king, yet unfortunately Jonathan never had the pleasure of sitting by his side. Jonathan was killed in battle along with his father Saul and the Bible says that David wept bitterly over the death of his friend.

After David became king, he asked a question – “Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1)  David never forgot his friend Jonathan, nor the covenant they had made.

As it turned out, Jonathan had a son who had been crippled since he was a child. The boy’s name was Mephibosheth. Some thought that David might have Mephibosheth put death since he was the grandson of Saul and therefore possibly a rival. Yet David did something pretty amazing. David had the crippled boy brought to the palace and he said to him –

2 Samuel 9:7 And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually… 13 So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king’s table; and was lame on both his feet.

Mephibosheth lived in David’s palace the rest of his life and he ate his meals at the king’s table.


God has placed our church on a journey entitled – I WILL.  (Nine traits of an outwardly focused Christian) I believe that God has some great things in store for our church, but before these things can happen, you and I have to come to the point of saying to God, “I will.” I will what?

1) I will make a commitment to be an active part of the body of Christ

2) I will make a commitment to invest in the lives of others

3) I will pray for, support and encourage my fellow believers

4) I will grow and serve together with my brothers and sisters in Christ

My prayer is that each of us today who names the name of Christ will say – “I will.”


[1] He Could Have Won The Race. Instead, He Helped His Brother Cross The Finish Line, Huffington Post,, September 22, 2016

[2] Precept Austin, Covenant – Beriyth (Hebrew Word Study),, September 22, 2016

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