Satan and his team, with lots of help from religion, have painted God as a very distant, non-relational being. If thought of at all, our Creator is primarily considered the Judge or, in times of crisis, a possible but unlikely means of help. Our adversary is nothing if not a very skilled deceiver. But God’s desire for friendship was the corner of His heart where we were conceived. Our quest and destiny should be to find it again.
A few years ago, I was elk hunting in the mountains of Colorado when I came upon a monument to friendship. After hiking several hours up a mountain, near the edge, where one of the most majestic views imaginable could be seen, was a plaque bolted to a rock! I couldn’t believe what I had stumbled upon. Tears came to my eyes as I read the words carved into the plaque.
“In memory of my friend and hunting partner, [name], with whom I roamed these mountains from 1963-2003. He loved these mountains, streams, snow-packed peaks, and beautiful valleys. I miss him. [Name of deceased friend] 1930-2003”
It may sound overly dramatic, but I was so moved, I removed my hat and stood in silence, honoring the friendship enjoyed by these men. I tried to imagine the joys and memories created, as well as the pain of the surviving warrior’s loss as he climbed this hill, memorial in hand, to honor the memory of a true friend. One can only imagine the hours they shared together. I thought of this as I stood looking over the vastness of the Rocky Mountains. Then I thought how much greater is the awesomeness of sharing moments such as these with the Creator Himself.
A friendship implies closeness and takes time to develop. It is comprised of trust, compatibility, affection, and, of course, a high level of interpersonal knowledge. I have many acquaintances, but very few people I call my friends. The few I classify as such are those I enjoy spending time with sharing life’s experiences together. We’re vulnerable with one another, freely communicating our hopes and dreams. I celebrate my victories with them and am comforted by their presence when hurting. We keep it real. My walls are down when we’re together; I am unguarded and transparent, unafraid to let them see the real me – the unpolished version. I know they will always “be there” for me, and I for them. Many more defining characteristics of friendship could be stated, but this much is certain: Friendship defines the highest level of relationship. Even higher than family.
Most Christians have no intimacy with God, spend very little time with Him, and have limited knowledge of His heart and ways. “A casual acquaintance” would best define their relationship with Him. We mustn’t cheapen friendship by lowering the standard.
I want to quickly point out, however, that friendship with God is possible for every believer and is His desire for us. Abraham’s walk with God was an example of this level of relationship; three times in Scripture, God called him His friend. And He desires this relationship with each of us. This is not only a part of our destiny, it’s part of God’s dream.
In bemoaning our shallow understanding of friendship with God and the fact that so few experience it, I don’t mean to impugn our intentions and motives. The fact is, we are much like Abraham at the beginning of his journey with the Lord. We begin our walk with God just as He did - wanting the benefits He offers. We aren’t terribly interested in His dreams; we probably aren’t even consciously aware He has any. But we are aware that He can help us with ours, so we cut deals with Him, talk to Him primarily on the basis of our needs, and remind Him that He is our Father, meaning our source of provision.(1)
In a sermon called “The Disciple’s Prayer,“ Haddon Robinson tells the following story, which pictures the unenlightening and inappropriate beginning of our relationship with God.
“When our children were small, we played a game. I’d take some coins in my fist. They’d sit on my lap and work to get my fingers open. According to the international rules of finger opening, once the finger was open, it couldn’t be closed again. They would work at it until they got to the pennies in my hand. They would jump down and run away, filled with glee and delight. Just kids. Just a game.
“Sometimes when we come to God, we come for the pennies in His hand.
“‘Lord, I need a passing grade. Help me remember this material.’
“Lord, I need a job.’
“Lord, I need a car.’
“We reach for the pennies. Then we walk away.” (2)
We’re all so human. We see God primarily as our Provider. Do we really know Him as a friend? No, not at the beginning of our journey. God understands this, however, and in His love and humility, is willing to meet us where we are. “He first loved us,” the Scripture tells us (1 John 4:19), not the other way around. His love embraces us and makes us His child. And just as a natural child doesn’t begin its relationship on a friendship level with Mom and Dad, our heavenly Father knows we won’t with Him, either. Initially, it’s all about us.
Most of us, when younger and in our parents’ home, trusted them to provide for us. Appropriately so. But, hopefully, the day arrives when we want to be more than just well-cared-for children. I know I did – I wanted to be my parents’ friend. At that point, I cared more about their happiness, well-being, and dreams than I did their provision. I wanted to give more than take from them. We no longer talked only of my happiness; we discussed things that interested them, as well. Over the years, their faith had been transferred to me, and we dreamed together about making a difference for God. Our relationship had matured into a friendship.
The same is true of Abraham. He started his journey with God looking for lands, blessings, and greatness. He embraced the promise of a biological son through whom he would produce a great nation. But thankfully, the relationship grew. There were some rough spots along the way; when God didn’t provide the son He promised in the timing he expected.
Still, though Abraham demonstrated humanness, in the end, he proved his trust in God had grown to a level few ever attain. He was even willing to sacrifice Isaac, his long-awaited son, believing if he did so, God would raise Isaac from the dead. What trust!
Yahweh so cherished his friendship with Abraham that, when Abraham died, He saw to it His friend was buried at Hebron, which actually means “friendship.” I can’t help but believe that, like the hunting friend's mountaintop plaque, this was God’s tribute to their friendship. Upon Abraham’s arrival in heaven, I like to think Yahweh stood, got everyone’s attention, and honored the old patriarch: “This is Abraham, My friend. We dreamed together, and enjoyed the pleasure of one another’s company.”
When God is looking for someone He can be vulnerable with, a friend with whom He can share His hopes, dreams, and, yes, even His disappointments, I hope He feels He can look to me. And when my earthly life is over, and my body is laid to rest, if it can be said that He and I were friends, well, I will have been a success.
Pray with me:
We are grateful, Father, that friendship with You is Your desire for us. Thank You, Jesus, for restoring the potential for friendship with God to every believer, fulfilling our destiny and the dream of God’s heart.
Thank You for lovingly receiving our child-like interactions as genuine offerings, though they often come from immature hearts. Your love is so great that You meet us there and woo us tenderly toward the place of deep intimacy and trust. May the quest of our lives be to find this place of true friendship and walk with You.
God, when You are looking for someone in Your family You can be vulnerable with, a friend with whom You can share Your hopes, dreams and, yes, even Your disappointments, we want You to feel You can look to us. We want to enjoy the pleasure of Your company, and we want You to enjoy the pleasure of our company.
We decree that we will relentlessly pursue friendship with God, life’s greatest pleasure.
Click on the link below to watch the full video.
Today’s post was taken from my book The Pleasure of His Company and published by Baker Books.
1. Adapted from Dutch Sheets, Dream (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2012), pp 101-106.
2. Haddon Robinson, “The Disciple’s Prayer,” Preaching Today no. 117, quoted in Greg Herrick, “Knowing God and Prayer,” https://bible.org/book/export/html/6336.