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The Bible-study class fell suddenly quiet. A 40-something woman who had  been raised in the church had just confessed that the God she knew wasn’t a God she could come to for comfort or for affirmation. After years  of dedicated service to the church, this woman was going through one of the toughest desert experiences of her Christian life. Illness, job loss, and a teenager in rebellion were shaking her faith to its very foundation.

Clutching a wad of tissue, this woman said that she had a hard time coming  to God for help, because, in her words, “He’s scary.” She didn’t feel wanted by this God—a God she had been raised to fear. The God she had been serving all these years was a God who demanded absolute perfection and had no tolerance for failure.

The God of this woman’s belief system was angry. Coming to this God for love and acceptance and understanding was unthinkable. She could fear God—but be His friend? Never.

So what does it take to be friends with God? How could this woman be friends with God? More important, how can you and I be friends with God?

Friendship factor #1: True friendship begins with mutual affection

The basis of any friendship is that the parties like each other and want only the best for the other. Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon are not friends. Al Qaeda and America are not friends. They don’t have mutual respect and admiration for one another, so the basic element of friendship just doesn’t exist.

In order to be friends with God, we need to know just where we stand with Him. Is this God someone we want to know? What are His intentions  toward us?       

Let’s allow God to speak for Himself. One of God’s closest friends, Moses, asked to see God’s glory. God placed His friend in a mountain crevice and covered the opening with His hand to prevent Moses from seeing His face. As He passed by the opening, God proclaimed who He was, saying, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”1

Let’s hear more from God.

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See,  I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”2

The popular saying is true, “If God had a refrigerator, your face would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it.” But He’s done better than placing a paper photo in a billfold or on a refrigerator; He has you “engraved” on the palms of His hands! This God doesn’t hate you. He isn’t  mad at you; He’s mad about you! He loves you with an everlasting love,3 and His plans for you include prosperity, hope, and a future.4

God wants us. And for many, like the woman at the Bible study, this comes as a surprising revelation. But God doesn’t express His friendship just in words. 

Friendship factor #2: True friendship involves self-sacrifice

Humankind chose to break friendship with God and embrace sin, which results in death.5 God could have left us to suffer the consequences of our choice to live without Him. But a friend doesn’t give up without a fight. So intense was God’s love for us that “He gave his Son, his one and only Son.  And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”6

In Jesus, God became man and showed us once and for all how God feels  about humankind. Jesus came to reveal the good news that God is not angry, but was willing to die so that we may live. Jesus Himself said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”7

You can love a friend like that. You can trust a friend like that.

Friendship factor #3: True friendship with God requires believing and receiving

Our first step toward God is a step of faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”8

Next, we receive the friendship and the gift of eternal life He offers. His promise is that “all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” 9  When we say Yes to God’s plan and to God’s Son, we become part of God’s family.

Friendship factor #4: True friendship with God requires spending time together

We get to know people by talking with them. We get to know God the same way. Talk to God every day through prayer. Prayer is talking to God  as to a friend. Tell Him your joys, your hopes, your fears, your successes, and your failures. He made you and wants to share every part of your life.

Another way to spend time with God is to read His Word. The Bible is God’s love letter to each of us. Read it and find out all the marvelous blessings and privileges that are available to God’s friends. God’s will (or purpose) is contained in His Word. If we want to know God better—understand where He’s coming from and what He wants for us—His Word is a bestseller we cannot afford to miss!

Friendship factor #5: True friendship with God involves regular times of worship

Going to church may seem old-fashioned or even boring, but hear me out. Friends hang out together, and church is where God and His friends get together. Today, people associate churchgoing with formalism, ritual, and rules. But the church is one of the special places on earth where believers come together to worship, study, pray, and put their friendship with God to  the test by learning how to care for one another. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”10

Friendship factor #6: True friendship with God requires trust

Go ahead. Put God’s friendship to the test. Receive Him, obey Him, spend  time with Him in prayer and in His Word, hang out with Him in church, and see if God is a friend worth having. It’s hard to trust someone you don’t know. Your knowledge of who God is and what He wants will grow as you do these things. To know God is to love Him and to love Him  is to trust Him.

That woman in the Bible study class is still a member of my church. She’s had to deal with a lot of “baggage” in her relationship with God, but through it all He’s kept His promise never to leave or forsake her.11  That’s  something else friends do—keep their promises. She’s learning that she can count on Him to keep His word. Are you ready to make the same discovery? C’mon. Let me introduce you to my best Friend.

1Exodus 34:6, 7, emphasis added.2Isaiah. 49:15, 16. 3Jeremiah 31:3. 4Jeremiah 29:11. 5Romans 6:23. 6John 3:16, The Message. 7John 15:13. 8Hebrews 11:6. 9John 1:12. 10Hebrews 10:25. 11Hebrews 13:5.

Randy Maxwell writes from Nampa, Idaho.

How to Be Friends With God

by Randy Maxwell
From the February 2005 Signs