I have been thinking about what it really means to be a friend. Did you know there is someone described in the Bible as being God’s friend? His name is Abraham. “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God,” (Jas. 2:23). Abraham was called the friend of God in two Old Testament passages, 2 Chr. 20:7 and Is. 41:8. Why was Abraham identified this way, and was actually called God’s friend? What is there about Abraham that makes that description appropriate, and how can we be sure we too are friends of God?
Who wouldn’t want to be a friend to God? Of all of the people we pass in this life, the many acquaintances and companions, who can we really call a friend? And of all the friendships we might seek, there is none more important than God’s. We want God to be our friend throughout life, and we certainly want him to be our friend on the day of judgment! So how can we be sure that we are like Abraham, the friend of God?
Friendship involves loyalty. Your true friends are loyal, not ashamed of you. Yes, there may be times they are disappointed, there may be times of disagreement or even sharp contention between friends, but friendship involves the ability to see past temporary differences. It involves loyalty. It involves standing with someone “through thick and thin,” through the good times and the bad. Abraham was loyal to God. He stuck with God throughout all of his life, even when it was difficult, or when he did not fully understand what God was doing. When God told Abraham to leave his homeland, and when he later told him to offer his only son, Abraham was loyal and dependable. You could always tell wherever God was, Abraham would not be far away.
We need to be loyal to God. We have made a commitment to follow him, and we need to take that commitment seriously. We must be faithful and dependable in caring it out, wherever it may lead. “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother,” (Pr. 18:24). In this disposable age, where commitments are often taken lightly, and a person’s word is sometimes worth very little, we need to remember that “A friend loveth at all times,” (Pr. 17:17). Fidelity to God is the hallmark of being his friend.
Friendship involves trust. A true friend is someone you can count on, someone you can trust. Someone you know will be there when you need them. Many people want to be with the popular, the rich, the powerful. But when the money and fame disappear, so do they. Like the so-called friends of the prodigal son, they run away and leave you alone and in want, (Lk. 15:11ff). We must trust that friendship with God is the best possible way.
There may be times in the Christian life where everything is “peachy keen” and going our way. But there will likely be other times quite to the contrary. Times where we are saddened and disappointed. There are many things to confuse and discourage. There may be times where we think God has left us. What will we do? Being a friend to God means staying close to him, even when he is difficult to see through her tears.
James gives us some insight into why Abraham was called the friend of God. He says that Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness,” (2:23). We notice that being a friend to God means believing God, to the point of total and complete obedience. Christianity is not a matter of faith only. Faith must be coupled with obedience. Only then may it be said that we are righteous. “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven,” (Mt. 7:21).
When we obediently act like a true friend to God, even when others do not understand, or ridicule us, we can rest assured that we are righteous before him. When we are loyal and dependable, faithful to him, he “reckons” or counts it as righteousness.
When it boils down to it, there is only one friendship which really matters. One friendship which towers above all the others. Though all the world forsake us, may we ever strive to hold our friendship with God. That is the friendship we must cultivate and maintain at all costs. What a tribute to be called, like Abraham, a “friend” of God. In the beautiful words of John Ernest Bode (1869), “Oh Jesus, thou hast promised to all who follow thee, that where thou art in glory there shall thy servant be; and Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end: O give me grace to follow my master and my friend.”
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.