“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Are You God’s Friend, by Randall D. Kittle

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In James 2:23 we see Abraham called the friend of God. “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God.” What better epitaph could be written on your gravestone than …“He was called a friend of God.” That would be a great thing. But if you or I were to stand up and declare “I’m God’s friend” that would be beyond bold. The creature declaring his Creator a friend would be brash and brazen. But we do not have to proclaim this, God proclaimed this. Abraham didn’t stand up and say “I am God’s friend.” It was God Himself who called Abraham His friend. The prophet Isaiah was speaking the words of the Lord when he said, “But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham My friend” (Isaiah 41:8). This is the living God of the universe, the Creator of all things, who knows all things, who is timeless, declaring of Abraham “This is My friend.” What an awesome thing!

Again in the New Testament, it was not the disciples who boldly declared “I’m a friend of Jesus!” It was Jesus who said to them
“No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). We must understand that all of Christ’s friends are His servants, but not all servants of Jesus Christ are His friends. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you’” (Matthew 7:22–23). There will be many who have diligently served Jesus Christ who at the end of the age will hear Him say “I never knew you.” They will say “But we did this for You, we did that for You, we were Your servants!” He will respond to them with a sadness in His voice, “Yes, you served Me, but you were never willing to come into relationship with Me. I never knew you as My friends.”

In our relationships, people can be put into three groups: friends, enemies, and those who you are indifferent to or ignorant of. Can that same thing be said about God? We can be His friend, or we can be His enemy, but can we really be indifferent to God? Can we really be a lukewarm believer? Perhaps for a short time, but then He will cast us out of His presence.
“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:15). Obviously, being indifferent to God doesn’t work.

Deep Calls To Deep
The Bible shows us clearly that all born-again believers are called to be God’s friends. You and I not only can be, but are supposed to be the friends of the living God. We must begin to grasp this in our heart and in our minds, and then enter into the rest of being friends of God. But do we even understand what friendship means? In our society today, friendship is under attack. The busyness of our self-focused, get-ahead society leaves little time for developing true friendships. Eroding values have made betrayal very common. Long-time family friends betray one another. Business partners step on each other scrambling to get ahead. People who have deep, long-standing friendships have become the exception, not the rule.

Friendship is an ongoing, building, growing relationship. Most of us have many acquaintances, but we don’t have many real friends. One reason for this is that most people aren’t truly communicating their hearts with each other. Today we live in an era of “broad spectrum”communication where people like to “touch base” and “keep in touch.” People spend more time now than ever communicating, yet relationships are more superficial than ever before. They give you a quick call on their cell phone, but don’t really stop and talk about personal, deep things. After all, it’s hard to have deep conversations when you are walking around talking on the phone with hundreds of other people listening. Deep conversations need a more intimate setting. You also cannot build solid friendships IM-ing each other on the internet. That is touching base, not intimate friendship. Richard Foster says that
“Superficiality is the curse of our age, especially in friendship.” Real, true friendship takes time and effort and focus.

What are the attributes of true friendship? How can we know if we are really functioning as friends of God? Here’s a five-fold test of friendship:

#1 – Caring And Loving Each Other
It is important that we understand that friends care for and love one another. There is no friendship without loving concern. If you do not care for someone’s well-being, they are not your friend.
Because friends care about each other’s concerns, they delight in meeting their friend’s desires. My wife has a friend who, while she was visiting Chicago, stood in line for more than half-an-hour to get a bag of Garretts’ caramel corn because she knew how much my wife loves it. Not everyone knows about my wife’s affection for this treat, but when her friend discovered it, she delighted in blessing her.

Second Samuel 23 tells us that while they were hiding in the cave at Adullam, David’s mighty men heard of how thirsty David was and how he longed for water drawn from the well near Bethlehem. Despite the fact that a garrison of Philistines was at Bethlehem, his mighty men risked their lives to break through the enemy lines and draw water from this well for their king — their friend. Friends love each other and delight in satisfying each other’s desires.

To be Jesus’ friend also means we will obey Him, for in the kingdom of God obedience is the proof of love. Jesus didn’t say “If you love Me you will tell Me and everyone else how much you love Me.” Jesus said
“If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). Love is expressed to God through obedience. In John 15:14 Jesus told His disciples “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you.” Obedience is the test and declaration of friendship with God. If we love our friend Jesus, we will be obedient to Him by following the precepts and principles He has laid out for us in the Bible.

The reason for this is clear. It keeps us in fellowship. Amos 3:3 asks
“Can two walk together unless they are in agreement?” God walked with Adam in the cool of the day, Enoch walked with God, and if we are His friends we, too, are on a spiritual journey walking with Him. If we want to walk with God, we will have to walk on His straight and narrow pathway. He is not going to walk any which-way we choose. We have to choose to have our will line up with His, to walk in obedience with Him on His path. As we yield our lives to follow the principles and precepts of the Word of God, we will walk and have fellowship with Him. Whenever we choose to walk away from this, we walk out of fellowship with God. Let us walk according to His Word, for we do not want anything to hinder us from being in close friendship and communion with Jesus.

#2 – Friends Trust Each Other
Friends should trust and believe in each other. Mutual confidence is the very life-blood of every friendship. When suspicion creeps into a relationship, the friendship becomes weak, wounded, and soon dies. While suspicion is severely harmful to friendship, betrayal is lethal. Betrayal is so hard and hurtful because the very one who should believe in you has betrayed you. You cannot say a person is your friend if you can’t trust them. They are not your friend if you don’t trust them, for a friend is one you believe in — one you have confidence in.

One reason Abraham was called a friend of God was because he trusted God. He believed the word of God as it was spoken to him.
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:8–10). While Abraham was dwelling in the house and land of his parents God came to him and gave him a promise. The Lord said “Abraham, come away with Me. I am going to give you a special place to live and set you apart as My very own.” God didn’t give him a ticket for an airplane and say “When you land, this is the place where you are going to be.” He said, “Will you come and be a wanderer pursuing Me, relying upon Me, trusting Me? Will you believe for this promised land and for this inheritance?” Abraham said “Yes” and left, seeking to be one who dwelt with God. Abraham set off in obedience with only his faith and trust in God.

This is what the friend of God will say: “No matter what happens, no matter what comes or goes, Lord, I will love You and trust You through it all.” That is the type of trust to which we are called, a trust that believes the very Word of God. How often are we “unbelieving believers” who trust in our own strength, our own finances, our own skills and abilities, but don’t trust in the living God? We don’t trust God enough to let go and let Him take over. God says something, and we think we must help it along with our own fleshly efforts. (In fact, that’s how Abraham got Ishmael.) Unless we trust God and believe in what He has done for us and what He said about us, we are not His friends. We are only God’s friends if we believe Him and trust what His Word says.

#3 – Friends Enjoy Each Others Company
If I have never invited you over to my house, if I have never just stopped by to talk to you, if we have never gone out to dinner — you are not my friend. You might know who I am, and I may know who you are, but obviously we are not friends. For one mark of friendship is that friends enjoy spending time together.

It is never a problem getting together with your friends. When someone is your friend, you love their company so your thoughts are toward them and you want to be with them frequently. The problem in a friendship is not trying to find the time to get together, it is leaving once you have gotten together. The difficulty of a close friendship is getting other things done because you so enjoy just spending time together.

If we are true friends of God, we will desire to meet with Him in prayer, in His Word, in times of personal worship, and in times of gathering with other believers. We won’t have to be coerced or need someone to check up on our “quiet times” to see if we have “done our duty.” That is slavery … slavery to the rule book. We have been called to friendship, not slavery. As friends of God, we should naturally desire those things. If you are not one of those who is so fond of His company that you cannot wait for the next opportunity to be with Him or meditate on His glory and splendor, you should ask yourself if you really are a friend of God.

#4 – Friends Have Frank, Familiar Conversations With Each Other
There is a simple informality that happens with friends. You don’t have to entertain friends. When you have company over, you plan activities and entertainment. But when friends come over, you can just “hang out” together. With your friends you can be yourself, warts and all. When you are really close friends, you are like part of the family.

When I was a child, my best friend was John Sands. John and I were at each other’s houses all the time. When I went to John’s house, I didn’t have to ring the front doorbell and ask Mrs. Sands if John could play. We were so close that I could let myself in the back door and call for John while I greeted John’s mom with “Hi Mom.” If I had to wait for John, I could go see what was in the refrigerator. When you are really good friends, you don’t have to worry about formality. You can just be yourself. The pretense is gone.

That is the kind of relationship we are to have with God, without pretense, without masks, having ongoing open discussions without secrets. (You don’t have any secrets from God anyway, since He is all-knowing.) Every room of your heart should be open to Him. Are you really God’s friend if you find yourself distant and speaking to Him in some formal, regimented way? No. If you are His friend there will be a relaxed simplicity in your communication with Him.

#5 – Friends Stand Up For Each Other
Friends protect each other and are sensitive to the honor and good name of their friends. When God’s good friend Abraham was threatened by the Eastern kings, God told Abraham “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am you shield, your exceedingly great reward” (Genesis 15:1). What God was saying was, “Don’t worry, you’re My friend. They have to come through Me to get to you!”
Doesn’t it hurt to walk up behind a group of people, learn that they are assassinating your character, and see your friend in the group saying nothing in your defense? That is not the type of feigned friendship to which we are called. If we are true friends, we will protect the name and honor of our friends, always believing the best.

A number of years ago someone came to me and began telling me some terrible things that they had heard a friend of mine had said and done. I stopped them after a few sentences and asked them what they were talking about. They began to repeat what they had just said. So I stopped them and told them they must be wrong. I explained to them that because I knew this friend of mine, I knew he would never do or say anything like what was being said. They were flabbergasted that I wouldn’t listen to their report. After all, “they heard it directly from the person!” I responded that it didn’t matter what anyone thought had happened. I knew my friend, and he wouldn’t do that. I finished our conversation by telling them that these reports were either wrong or a lie, and asked them not to besmear my friend’s name any further by repeating the things they had heard. My reaction to their “report” was to stop them from running down my friend, and to keep his name from being soiled by gossip. What we found out later was that my friend had, in fact, not said or done any of the things this person was accusing them of.

Likewise, if we are God’s friends, we have to take up His cause and defend His good name. When we are in a group that is belittling God’s name we need to either rebuke them or leave their company. We must not stand by and hear our Friend denigrated. This is how friendship works.

Friendship Has Its Privileges
While close friendship takes effort, it also has its privileges. There are things you can ask of a close friend that you could not ask of anyone else. You can’t call up any passing acquaintance in the middle of the night to elicit help with a problem. If you did, you would probably hear the amazing “Excus-O-Matic” start up, as they explained why they are unable to help you, though they wished they could … click. A friend, on the other hand, will do whatever they can to help you out when you are in need. Why? Just because they are your friend.

When I was an eye doctor, there were times when my schedule was just a zoo — every appointment was booked, and even my lunch hour was filled with emergency patients. The receptionist would call me about patients with emergencies, and I would have them see one of my partners. But if my friend Kelly Moore called with a problem, I would instruct the front desk, “just have him come in.” You may ask, “Why did you see Kelly when there were other patients you referred to your partners because of the schedule that day?” The reason is simple. He is my friend, and friendship has privileges. If Kelly has a problem and I can help, I need to see him because he is my friend.

I could talk about the privileges of being Jesus’ friend from now until eternity and barely scratch the surface of all the benefits there are to being a friend of Christ. But one privilege I want to mention is that at the end of the age you will not hear, “I never knew you.” What you will hear when you stand before Him is, “Welcome home friend.” We are called to be friends of God, and friendship has its privileges.


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