Some 15 years ago, my wife, Ceci, said that I would someday write a book called The Pleasure of His Company. Hearing me speak of my times with the Lord, and witnessing first-hand how they impacted me, Ceci recognized that by sharing my experiences with others, I could help guide them along a journey to intimate friendship with God.
I called myself a Christian for seventeen years before I discovered I could have a truly personal relationship with God. Prior to this, I certainly knew Him as God and I definitely knew Him as my Savior. I did not, however, know Him as my Father, and walking with Him as a friend wasn't even in the field of view.
I was not a hypocrite; I simply did not know how to connect with God personally and at any real depth. Satan and his team, with lots of help from religion, had painted God as a very distant, non-relational being.
Then came 2 years of rebellion. In 1973, when God lovingly pursued me into a bar, however, and loved on me through my anger, rebellion and drugs, how could I turn down His invitation to try a new relationship with Him? That night, I opened my heart to several months of talks with God, through which my heart was healed enough to respond to His seeking. Like the prodigal returning to his father's embrace, I walked back into the loving arms of my Papa God. When I did, I found more than pleasure; I discovered purpose.
Today, the thought of friendship with God is more than simply intriguing to me. It messes with me! It tugs at my heart and calls out to me. Like the natal homecoming of a sea turtle experiencing the invisible but irresistible pull to the place of its birth, it woos me. Somehow I know in the deepest part of my nature that it is my destination, my home. His desire for friendship was the place in His heart where we were conceived. Our quest and destiny should be to find it again.
A Monument to Friendship
A few years ago I was elk hunting in the mountains of Colorado when I saw a monument to friendship. High on a mountain, near the edge where one of the most majestic views imaginable could be seen, was a plaque encased in a rock. Tears came to my eyes as I read the words carved into the plaque.
In memory of my friend and hunting partner, [name], with whom I roamed these mountains from 1963-2003. He loved these mountains, streams, snow-packed peaks and beautiful valleys. I miss him.
It may sound overly dramatic, but I removed my hat and stood in silence, saluting the friendship enjoyed by these men. I tried to imagine the joys and memories created, as well as the pain of the loss he must have felt as an old warrior climbing this hill, memorial in hand, to honor the memory of a true friend. One can only imagine the hours they shared together. The only way to truly understand the camaraderie that develops when friends share the wonder and awe of creation together is to experience it. I thought of this as I stood looking over the vastness of the Rocky Mountains. Then I thought how much greater is the awesomeness of sharing moments such as these with the Creator Himself.
A friendship implies closeness and takes time to develop. It is comprised of trust, compatibility, affection, and, of course, a high level of interpersonal knowledge. I have many acquaintances but very few people I call my friends. The few I classify as such are those I enjoy spending quality time with, sharing life's experiences together. We're vulnerable with one another, freely communicating our hopes and dreams.
I celebrate my victories with them and am comforted by them when I'm hurting. We keep it real. My walls are down when we're together; I'm unguarded and transparent, unafraid to let them see the real me—the unpolished version. I know they will always "be there" for me and I for them. Many more defining characteristics of friendship could be stated, but this much is clear:Friendship defines the highest level of relationship.
Our Destiny, God's Dream
Most Christians, unfortunately, have no true intimacy with God, spend very little time with Him, and have a very limited knowledge of His heart and ways. "A casual acquaintance" would best define their relationship with Him. We mustn't cheapen friendship by lowering the standard.
I want to quickly point out, however, that friendship with God is possible for every Believer and is His desire for us. After Adam's fall, Abrahams walk with God was the first and probably the most in-depth revelation of this type of relationship. Three times in Scripture God called him His friend—and it's what He desires with each one of us. This is not only a part of our destiny, it's part of God's dream.
In exposing our shallow understanding of friendship with God and the fact that so few experience it, I don't mean to impugn our intentions and motives. The fact is, we're much like Abraham was at the beginning of his journey with the Lord. Most of us begin our walk with God just as he did—wanting the benefits He offers. We aren't terribly interested in His dreams; we probably aren't even consciously aware that He has any. But we are aware that He can help us with our dreams, the basis of our needs, and remind Him that He is our Father—our source.
We are all so incredibly human. We see God as Provider. Do we really know Him as friend? No, not at the beginning of our journey. God understands this, however, and in His love and humility is willing to meet us where we are. "He first loved us," the Scriptures tell us (1 John 4:19), not the other way around. His love embraces us and makes us His child. And just as a natural child doesn't begin its relationship on a friendship level with Mom and Dad, our heavenly Father knows we won't with Him, either.
A Friend to My Father
Most of us, when younger and in our parents' home, trusted them to provide for us. Appropriately so. But for most of us the day arrived when we wanted to be more than just a well-cared-for child. I know I did—I wanted to be my parents' friend. At that point I cared more about their happiness, well-being, and dreams than I did their money. I wanted to give to them more than I wanted to take from them. We no longer talked only about my happiness; we discussed things that interested them, as well. Over the years their faith had been transferred to me, and we dreamed together about making a difference for God. Our relationship had matured into a friendship.
The same was true of Abraham. He started his journey with God looking for lands, blessings, and greatness. He embraced the promise of a biological son through whom he would produce a great nation. When God didn't provide the son He promised Abraham and Sarah in the way they expected, they demonstrated their lack of trust by choosing to have a son through Hagar, Sarah's maid. There were some rough spots along the way, but thankfully, the relationship grew.
Still, though Abraham demonstrated humanness, in the end he proved his trust in God had grown to a level few people ever attain. He was even willing to sacrifice Isaac, his long-awaited son, believing if he did so, God would raise Isaac from the dead. What trust!
The Lord so cherished His friendship with Abraham that, when Abraham died, He saw to it Abraham was buried at Hebron, which actually means "friendship." I can't help but believe that, like the hunting friend's mountaintop plaque, this was God's tribute to their friendship. Upon Abraham's arrival in Heaven, I like to think perhaps Jehovah stood, got everyone's attention, and honored the old patriarch: "This is Abraham, my friend. We dreamed together, and enjoyed the pleasure of one another's company."
When God is looking for someone in His family He can be vulnerable with, a friend with whom He can share His hopes, dreams, and, yes, even His disappointments, I hope He feels He can look to me. And when my life is over and my body laid to rest, if it can be said that He and I were friends, I will have been a success.
Won't you make this your life goal as well? Father God truly longs for your friendship. He wants to make some memories with you. Respond today and begin enjoying the pleasure of one another's company. Your Father will become your very best friend.
This article was adapted from Chapter 15 of Dutch's newest book, The Pleasure of His Company.
Dutch Sheets is an internationally known speaker and was recently named the Executive Director of Christ for the Nations Institute. Dutch is a successful author who has written many books including the best-seller Intercessory Prayer and his recent book, Dream. Dutch travels extensively, empowering Believers for passionate prayer and world-changing revival. Dutch and his wife, Ceci, reside in Dallas, Texas.
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