Posted on Sunday, Aug 07, 2022 by Scott Savage
In your opinion, what are the most important qualities in a friend?
I know. That list could go on forever.
Maybe an easier question is "who are two of your closest friends?" Once you get those two faces in your mind, can you identify two of your favorite qualities about each person?
These phrases came to mind when I thought of two of my closest friends:
- Willing to ask me hard questions
- Eager to show up to help
- Brings joy into my life
Whether we can articulate it or not, we know what it means to have someone show up as a friend in our lives. We've all lost or said goodbye to friends, so we know what it's like when a friend is lacking a desired quality too.
In the Bible, we read how Jesus calls His disciples His friends. In John 15, He defines friendship as laying down our lives for those we love and care about.
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One person that is not included on that list is James, the half-brother of Jesus. Though he was related to Jesus, James did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. I don't blame James for his unbelief. I wouldn't believe my brother was God in the flesh either! It was not until after the Resurrection that James believed. Like James, it would take a bodily resurrection after crucifixion for me to believe my brother was, in fact, my Lord.
Later, James wrote a very practical letter full of wisdom and insight to a group of Jewish followers of Jesus, scattered across the eastern portion of the Roman Empire. Among the many beloved verses within that book, James makes a very clear statement about the consequences of being a friend of God.
"Don't you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor."
James doesn't pull any punches, right? I know the words may seem harsh or challenging, but they are true. When we choose friendship with God, we find the same forces which were at war with Jesus are now opposed to us too. The devil who tempted Jesus and rejoiced over His crucifixion now longs to tempt and distract us.
This spiritual battle is one in which we will stumble and fall. At some point, we will give in to the temptations we face. We will become proud and then fall. That's the truth, which seems like bad news. But, it's not the full story.
The good news is that God gives grace generously. He gives grace to the humble. When we humble ourselves and turn to God, confessing our need for grace and forgiveness, He will lift us up. On the other side of our sorrow, grief, and sadness over our sin, there is laughter, joy, and restoration.
With this good news, we find the freedom to be ruthlessly honest with God and ourselves. We lose the need to live with pretense and pretending. We don't have to live for other's approval and likes. We can live as the light of the world, not like the world. We can live from the approval of God rather than for the approval of mankind.
Many have heard the famous C.S. Lewis quote about humility, where he writes, "Humility isn't thinking less of yourself, humility is thinking of yourself less." While there certainly is an element to humility which includes a lack of self-absorption, I think another critical element is thinking less of what others think about you. Humble people are not concerned with what they can get from others but rather what they can give to others.
As the Apostle Paul told his friends in Philippians, "don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too." Genuine humility produces a self-confidence which allows our interest in others to be genuinely about them and not about a selfish, ulterior motive.
This is one of my favorite qualities in a friend. The best kind of friends are those who aren't trying to get you to like them.
When I think of this quality, I think of my friend Eric. Eric is comfortable and confident in who he is. Instead of trying to impress you, he simply expresses who he is and lets a relationship emerge from there. He's the kind of guy who can walk into a restaurant in a town he's visiting, and by the time he's finished his order of wings, he's made a new friend and learned some insider information about the area.
When we become God's friend, we find both the freedom to be ourselves and the security to know that as God's friend we won't be alone in any battle.
In their song, "Perfection," the band, @Switch, helps us see where friendship in God transforms how we see ourselves and how we show up in the world. "When all I see are the flaws, You see perfection, perfection. I learn slowly, but You're teaching me to love myself, myself. Starting to believe You want me like nobody else."
Being God's friend is a high calling, as his brother James discovered. But, there are great promises and a life-changing presence that come with that calling. God's friends have all they need to do all that God wants to do in and through them.
Scott Savage is a pastor and a writer. He leads Cornerstone Church in Prescott, Arizona. Scott is married to Dani and they are the parents of three "little savages." He loves helping hurting people forgive others through his Free to Forgive course and you can read more of his writing at scottsavagelive.com.
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