Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Friend of God

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Day 11 and 12 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comments section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

It truly amazes me to think that God wants to be my constant, closest and most faithful friend. My first thought is that this shows how generous God is, that the Creator of heaven and earth wants to have fellowship with a flawed and fragile human like me. If I go deeper, what it really reveals is the depth of His love. The more we grow in the knowledge and awareness of that love, the more we want to deepen our relationship with Him.

Day 11, Becoming Best Friends With God teaches us to develop the practices that draw us into relationship with God. The two practices that Rick Warren focuses on in this chapter are prayer and meditation. On page 91, Rick Warren shares the insight that "Prayer lets you speak to God, meditation lets God speak to you. Both are essential to becoming a friend of God."

First is prayer, which Rick Warren describes as constant conversation. Just as Nicole shared in her last post, God wants us to talk to him in ways that go beyond formal prayers. He wants us to involve him in our thoughts, conversations and every action. Talking to Him throughout the day and making Him the first person you go to with your thoughts, concerns and needs gives Him the power to make your thoughts His thoughts. Rick Warren also shares the story of Brother Lawrence, a cook in a 17th century monastery. Brother Lawrence used everything he did, however menial or small it may seem, to honor God and deepen his relationship with Him. On page 88, Rick Warren states, "Everything you do can be 'spending time with God' if He is invited to be a part of it and you stay aware of His presence". Awareness of God's presence in our lives at all times helps us to see immeasurable value in all the "little" things we do that don't seem important. Everything done with love for God is of great importance and is never unnoticed.

The second practice to help us develop a friendship with God is meditation, or as Rick Warren describes, thinking about God's word throughout your day (p. 90). Part of being someone's friend is paying close attention to what they say. We have a tremendous advantage in having the word of God in the Bible. The more we get to know what is written in the Word, the more we know the nature of God; what He likes/doesn't like, how we are to live in a way that is pleasing to Him and how much He loves us. When I think of meditation, I think of it as being something really hard, where you have to completely empty your mind (and keep it that way) and stay in a state of physical and mental stillness for an extended period of time. I usually don't last very long this way and feel ready to give up in a matter of seconds. Rick Warren showed me in this chapter that I have great potential for meditation by comparing it to worry. On page 90, he states, "When you think about a problem over and over in your mind, that's called worry. when you think about God's word over and over in your mind, that's meditation. If you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate! You just need to switch your attention from your problems to Bible verses." (Rick Warren) This completely changed my mindset regarding meditation and will no doubt free me as I develop my friendship with God.

Chapter 12, Developing Your Friendship With God gives us four tools to make our relationship deeper and more authentic. First, we are encouraged to be completely and sometimes, brutally honest with God. Rick Warren reminds us, "In the Bible, the friends of God were honest about their feelings, often complaining, second-guessing, accusing and arguing with their Creator. God, however, didn't seem to be bothered by this frankness; in fact, he encouraged it". (p.93) Abraham questioned and tried to negotiate the fate of Sodom, David spoke candidly about his praise and also his affliction, Job complained and vented about his sufferings. These were God's closest friends! On page 94, Rick Warren cautions us about the dangers of hiding our resentment or anger at God because it can lead to bitterness, which is the greatest barrier in our relationship with God. Confessing how we really feel in a given situation allows us to face the truth. Working through these feelings with God helps us to see that God is always for us in all things, even if it is painful and we don't understand ( Rick Warren, p.94). He goes further to say that "releasing your resentment and revealing your feeling is the first step to healing" (p.94)

The second thing we must do to deepen our friendship with God is to obey Him in faith.
Our friendship with God is different in this respect. In most friendships, we will test or at least consider what the other person suggests before doing it. With God, we already know that He has knowledge, love and insight that surpasses that of any person with regard to our lives. Obeying what He commands us to do is the sure way of making our lives better, it reaffirms the foundations of love and trust in our relationship with Him. Rick Warren makes this clear by stating, "We obey God, not out of duty or fear or compulsion, but because we love Him and trust that He knows what is best for us. We want to follow Christ out of gratitude for all He has done for us, and the closer we follow Him, the deeper our friendship becomes" (p. 95)

Third, we must choose to value what God values. When you really care about someone and want to know them in a more intimate way, you learn about what matters to them. Over time and as this person's importance in your life grows, what matters to them starts to matter to you. Rick Warren states, "The more you become God's friend, the more you will care about the things he cares about, grieve over the things He grieves about, and rejoice over the things that bring pleasure to Him." (p. 96) God's beloved and precious son Jesus, the sacrifice of His life and the power of sharing this with others mean the most to God. The more God means to me, the more I am saddened by a lost soul and also more inspired and overjoyed by a life that has been redeemed.

Finally, we must desire friendship with God more than anything else.
David, Jacob and Paul were deeply passionate about their relationship with God and prized it above even their own lives. Each were used in monumentally powerful ways for God's purposes. God promises that He will reward those who seek after Him and that we will find Him if we seek Him with our whole heart (Jeremiah 29:13). Rick Warren talks about how God will use pain to ignite our passion for Him and how we can reignite our passion at any time. He states "Pain is the fuel of passion-it energizes us with an intensity to change that we don't normally possess." (p.98) We aren't called "Warrior Moms" for nothing, just think of how passionate we are to help and heal our children. This is how passionate our God is for us, and how He wants us to desire a deeper friendship with Him. As hard as it seems to "work" at this, it is very comforting to know that we can be as close to God as we choose to be through our actions and choices.

Bible Verses:

John 15:13-15
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his 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.

James 2:23
And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,"and he was called God's friend.

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Jeremiah 29: 12-14
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the Lord

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