Friendship With God: Part I
I recently handed in the manuscript for my next book, Finding God in the Bible: What Crazy Prophets, Fickle Followers, and Dangerous Outlaws Reveal About Friendship With God (how’s that for a mouthful?), and upon completing this book, I felt two competing emotions. 1) this is the culmination of 6 years of searching for God through my films; and, 2) this is the beginning of a new stage of my ministry.
Let me explain. Many of you know my story, but for those of you who don’t (and don’t want to read my first book, Filming God, now available on Amazon!), here’s pretty much all you need to know. Before I made Finger of God, I was barely a Christian. Oh I believed all the right stuff: Jesus is God; he died for my sins; I’m supposed to tell other people this “good news”–but I never really acted on it much. Christianity was more of a concept to me than a relationship. Again, I KNEW it was supposed to be about relationship with God, but I mean, come on, let’s get real. God was invisible and only spoke to me through my thoughts, which wasn’t the most reliable form of communication. I occasionally had small encounters with Him, but it was more like running into Him somewhere and having a little catch-up time before we were off to our own stuff on separate parts of town.
Through the making of those first three films: Finger of God, Furious Love, and Father of Lights, I learned a thing or two about God. By the time I finished this latest book, I had learned a lot more. But one thing, above all others, stood out to me the most. It is my contention that God wants, above all else, to be friends with us.
While I’m sure there are more than a few Bible scholar friends of mine who will bristle at this notion, I am now prepared to devote the rest of my life to this basic idea–that the God of the Universe has devoted the bulk of His existence to the pursuit of friendship with you.
Unfortunately most of us can’t get past our own uselessness, family issues, failures, and general lack of desire for Him to think about this fact, let alone believe it. He’s God, we say, surely He has much bigger things to worry about than little old me. Nope. Well then, we reason, He’s probably more devoted to the people who are actually close to Him, the ones out there “doing the stuff”. While He certainly seems to be quite involved with those who are pursuing Him passionately, it is my contention that the only reason those people are seeing such intimacy with Him is because they simply said yes to His advances for friendship.
In John 15:15, Jesus makes it pretty clear. “No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends.” While it takes me the better part of an entire book to drill down deeper into this concept, for those of you willing to travel with me down this road, let me give you one small morsel to chew on.
If Jesus has truly called us to friendship, then the basic rules of friendship must apply. Think about your best friends, what do they all have in common? Chances are you trust them with your life. You’ll tell them anything. If they ask you for a favor, you’ll drop everything to help them out. Trust is the underlying factor in any deep friendship, but that trust must travel both ways. When dealing with God, we need to trust Him (a much harder thing to do than you might think), but He also needs to trust us.
In 1 Samuel 15:22, God tells us that “to obey is better than sacrifice; to listen is better than the fat of rams.” He’s not talking about slavery (as we see in John 15), but is instead trying to steer us to what He really wants from us. He wants us to know what He’s up to, what He wants, and to walk in obedience in what He is asking from us. If He is truly our friend, then He knows what we want too, and in relation to our own lives and dreams, chances are the desires He has for us will in some way fulfill the deep desires of our own hearts as well. God is not a selfish God. He’s the furthest thing from selfish!
Understand, I’m not saying God wants us to be His buddies. God is still God, He is still the King, He is still our Father. But just as the best relationship with our earthly fathers tend to exhibit a healthy respect mixed with genuine affection, love, and trust, so our relationship with our Heavenly Father should exhibit these things.
Unfortunately, there are many things in life, in the Bible even, that keep us from throwing caution to the wind and pursuing true friendship with God, but it all begins and ends with trust. We must trust Him. We must trust that He has our best interest at heart, that He actually cares about us, and that He actually likes us. Once we get to that place of saying, “Okay God, I’m going to trust you no matter what my insides are telling me,” then we are finally at the starting line of a life of adventure with Him. He will then begin to put circumstances in your life that will test your devotion to trust and friendship with Him. Because, well, friendship with God takes more than just us being willing to trust Him. He has to trust us as well.
God’s love is a free gift and it is extravagant. There is nothing we can do to earn more of it or to lose it. It is given to everyone, and it boggles the mind. He will always love you much more than you love Him. But God’s trust must be earned. It is not a gift given freely. Friendship with God requires time, experience, and more than a little guts.
Next month, I’ll deal with the idea of friendship vs. acquaintanceship with God…