I love relating to God as Father, and I worship Him as King; I want to obey Jesus, my Lord and Savior; and I desire to listen to the Holy Spirit as a Counselor and Teacher to me.
However, I realized I don’t often call God my friend. I know some people worry that we might become over-familiar with God and lose a sense of reverence for Him if we think of God as our Friend.
While preparing for a talk on this subject recently however, I had the occasion to think about God as my Friend, and what friendship with God means.
Jesus calls us His friends
One of the most famous verses about friendship with Jesus is from John 15:13-15, where Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
Wow. Who are we that the Creator of heaven and earth, the Alpha and the Omega, would desire a friendship with us? It’s mind-blowing! As I meditated on this, I also reflected on what it means to be Jesus’ friend. He may call us His friends, but do we consider Him to be our Friend?
I hope the following things I’ve learned from the Bible will challenge you, as it has inspired and challenged me, to grow in your friendship with the Lord.
We are friends of God when we. . .
1. Make time to draw close to Him
Scripture records that “[t]he Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11). Nothing fosters my intimacy with God more than spending time with God alone—meeting Him face to face, as it were. Isn’t that how we would cultivate closeness with our friends, too? Likewise, we need to regularly meet with God and spend quality time to get to know Him more intimately.
2. Revere Him
While we can enjoy closeness with God, our intimacy with Him is also built on a deep reverence for Him. The Bible says, “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant” (Psalm 25:14, ESV).
When we think in terms of human relationship, this may be difficult to understand. After all, what does it look like to revere a friend? One way that helped me think about this was to imagine what it’s like to make friends with a king. Friendship with God does not mean we lose a sense of reverence for Him; after all, God is the Lord of lords and King of kings.
As we befriend our King with reverence, He will confide in us what’s upon His heart.
3. Listen to Him tell us what’s on His heart
And this is why Jesus tells us, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).
Just as friends would listen attentively to what each other are saying, so we, too, can cultivate our friendship with Jesus when we pay close attention to what He reveals to us about the Father’s business.
4. Rejoice at His counsel and trust His corrections
When we read the counsel of God in the Bible, do we see it as tedious rules to follow, or do we delight in His wise instructions to us? Check out this verse: “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice” (Proverbs 27:9).
When our close friends give us good, sincere counsel, we appreciate them deeply for it. A measure of how much we are a friend to God is how much we find joy in the pleasantness of His counsel to us in His Word.
There are also times when our friends would correct us out of love. It may hurt us for a while, but we know that they care for us and want to see us grow. We wouldn’t like for them to only tell us what tickles our ears. For “[b]etter is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:5-6).
Similarly, God rebukes us from time to time when we aren’t walking right, because He loves us and desires us to grow in maturity. Do we trust the rebukes of our Friend, who always knows better than us?
5. Obey what’s on His heart
It’s not just enough to listen to God tell us what’s on His heart—including His counsel and corrections for us—we also must do what He confides in us. Jesus says as much: “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). We build our friendship with God when we obey what God commands us to do.
6. Celebrate, and not compete with, Him
When John the Baptist was being compared to Jesus, he didn’t claim glory for himself, but exalted Jesus, saying, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:29-30).
Friends naturally rejoice with each other and want the other person to succeed; their joy is our joy. We don’t see healthy friendship as competition. In the same way, when God’s glory is shown in a situation in which we are involved, do we celebrate our Friend’s moment, or do we want to compete with Him and divert the limelight to ourselves instead?
7. Have a pure heart and speak with grace
I find this proverb interesting: “One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend” (Proverbs 22:11). Since God is the King of heaven and earth, might this verse also speak to what He looks for in a friend?
Who wouldn’t enjoy hanging out with friends who carry purity in their heart and convey graciousness in everything they say? Perhaps, as we grow toward becoming a person like that, the King will enjoy our friendship with Him all the more.
8. Love Him unwaveringly, intimately, and sacrificially
Loving God as a friend involves loving Him loyally, in spite of difficulties; loving Him intimately; and loving Him self-sacrificially, just as He loves us.
Proverbs 17:17 compares friendship with loyal brotherhood: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Good friends weather thick and thin together, instead of abandoning each other when the going gets rough. There will be times in our relationship with God when things becomes difficult. Would we love our Friend unwaveringly through these times as well?
Scripture also paints friendship as a beautiful picture of intimacy, as in the friendship of David and Jonathan: “Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. . . . And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself” (1 Samuel 18:1, 3). In a greater way, because of Jesus, we are now “united with the Lord” and “one with him in spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17). Would we also love our Friend this much and this intimately?
Finally, the love of friendship is self-giving. After Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13), He proved His love for us by laying down His life on the cross, so that we can be made alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5).
Would we, in our love for our Friend, love Him self-sacrificially, too? He gave His life for us. May we reciprocate by loving Him more than our own lives, so much so that we do not even shrink from death (Revelation 12:11).
There’s still much I need to learn as I continue to meditate on what the Word says about friendship with God. While I grow in this, I’m incredibly amazed and grateful that the King of the universe loves me so much that He wants a friendship with me. It made me realize that even as I worship and revere Him, I can draw close to God as my best friend. I can always confide in Him, and He’s also eager to share His heart with me. In Jesus and through faith in Him, I can now approach my Friend in His throne room with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:16).
Would you join me in building a friendship with God? We share in His fellowship when we give our lives for Him—to follow Him, serve Him, and “love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” (Ephesians 6:24)
There is no greater love than this that we can give to our beloved, precious Friend.