“Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected: and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,’ and he was called the friend of God.”1
Most of us who’ve read the epistle of James are familiar with his exposition on faith and works. Many have concluded that James is refuting Paul’s assertion of salvation by grace alone (apart from works). While it makes an interesting topic for debate, I want to focus on the phrase of the last sentence: “…he was called the friend of God.”
I have over the last several weeks read blogs which speak of having a friendship with God. Last night at church I sang a song about being a friend of God. As a young man, whenever I heard the song, God is Love2, I would join in to sing:
|Don't go and talk about my father|
Cause God is my friend
Jesus is my friend
He loves us whether or not we know it
Just loves us, oh ya
And He'll forgive all our sins
Forgive all our sins
And all He asks of us, is we give each other love.
In spite of singing this song of my youth, I never saw myself or even considered the thought of being a friend of God. Looking back I can only think of a handful of people I called my friend but I never extended a trust to them. I learned very early in life not to trust anyone. I believe this is because of a constant reminder that my grandmother repeated time and time again to stress the dangers of getting involved in activities in the streets. Eventually, for a season, I did succumb to the call of the streets. I look back at that time of trying to be a gang banger, hustler, thief, drug user and I see that I held trust for no one; there was only me. It didn’t matter who I hung with, there was always a buffer I kept between them and me. I would never allow anyone to get close enough to betray me.
That’s how I viewed relationships. At some point, you would do something that betrayed our friendship. I came to expect that pivotal point to occur and I often found myself analyzing situations that would trigger that event. The truth is that I was the one who often sabotaged the friendship by an act of betrayal. I’d undercut a friend to take his girl. I’d keep drugs hidden for myself. Any money I made from my activities I’d lie in order to keep for myself; I trusted no one and yet the truth is:
I was totally untrustworthy.
In my mind, I was the epitome of trustworthiness.
The mind can be a terribly wasted thing.
So I developed this mindset that I could not trust anyone and although at a conscious level, I thought that I extended trust to others, in reality I still withheld trust. My wife recently told me that it has been painfully difficult to accept that I didn’t fully trust her.
Wow! That came as such a shock because I thought she was the one person I did trust.
I admit there have been occasions when doubts crept in my mind, but I actually thought I extended trust to her.
This has led me to a fundamental question on friendship.
Is it possible to love someone and not actually trust them?
I can recall friendships with many of my old gang banging boys I hung out with. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I loved any of them. I supported them in the gang concept of camaraderie. If any of them were threatened by some rival gang, I stood with them but this wasn’t from an understanding of love or trust; so the loyalty wasn’t truly friendship-based.
Realizing that I’ve held a twisted and perverted view of friendship, I recognize at least one of three characteristics that were absent from my relationships:
I believe the Holy Spirit is changing my heart in this area because I now desire meaningful relationships that are based on me being a friend. This began with the realization that I wanted to be God’s friend.
Someone (I wish I could remember who the blogger was) recently blogged about trusting God to the extent that God has demonstrated that He is trustworthy to them. When I read this, I began to see a pattern of behavior on God’s part that clearly demonstrated that I could trust Him; God was saying by His actions, I want to be your friend.
As I absorbed the thought that I could trust God in my conscious mind, the Holy Spirit perforated me with a question:
Can God trust you?
I was hesitant to answer this question which I’d never pondered before. For me, the issue of trust has always been a one-way road. Here was God asking me to get on His multi-directional highway where I’d interchange love, trust and friendship; with Him.
Thoughts of drowning in an ocean would be an apt description of what I was feeling at that moment.
I wondered what Abraham must have felt when God asked him to take his son’s life. What did he think?
But You promised me this son God! I’ve waited years for his birth and now You ask me to take his life?
I can’t accept the notion that Abraham had doubts about this. The scriptures do not make reference to this. On the contrary, the scriptures point to Abraham’s obedience.
How did Abraham reach a point of obedience that he no longer questioned God?
As I looked back in scripture, I found something interesting:
“Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.'”3
This is a good breaking point for me, so I'll resume this topic with its conclusion on Saturday. I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you on Saturday (Lord willing).
Thank you that you reveal Yourself as the Almighty God, who has always existed. You desire to call each of us friend as I seek that kind of relationship with you. I find it as a buring desire in me that I cannot extinguish. I am learning what trust, loyalty and love really mean and I acknowledge I want to walk in this new knowledge. I believe you will give me opportunities to trust, to be loyal and to love. These opportunities are like seeds planted in me to produce a life of love, trust and loyalty. Thank You Lord for giving us opportunities to grow. May we each grow in wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of You. Amen.
- James, 2:21-23, NASB
- God is Love, Performed by Marvin Gaye, Lyrics by Anna Gaye; Elgie Stover; James Nyx; Marvin Gaye, © Jobete Music Co Inc., released May 20, 1971
- Genesis 22:1-2, NASB
- Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
- Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
- The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
- Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6