Best Friend Ever – Part 3

A common story line in romantic comedies involves two people who dislike each other on their first meeting — and reinforce that opinion in subsequent interactions — but eventually realize their understanding was inaccurate or incomplete and fall in love. This can happen in friendships as well. First impressions can provide an incomplete picture. Sometimes we must be willing to put our initial reactions aside and look deeper to see the value in pursuing a friendship.

The same can be true in our friendship with God. A distorted view of Him can keep us from pursuing a relationship at all or keep us from deepening that relationship. Here are four ways our view of God can be distorted:

We may think God cannot be a real friend. We may doubt His existence or the possibility of being friends with a spirit. We trust our emotions, which cannot feel Him. We put more faith in people because they seem more present. We may test Him by praying, “If I am not alone, You need to show Yourself to me,” rather than seeking Him by asking, “Lord, I feel alone, help me believe You are with me”. But He is real and Scripture boldly states God is visible to everyone who is willing to look for Him.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20, NIV)

Far more life seeks out a friendship with God.

We may believe God is distant or disinterested. Our closest friends are usually people we have regular interaction with, those who share both the big moments of life and the dailyness. Because we cannot see God’s body with our eyes, hear His voice with our ears, or touch Him with our hands, it is easy for us to think of Him being far away and detached. It is tempting to test Him, asking Him to prove His presence, interest, and connection. Misinterpreted Bible verses can reinforce our belief that God is distant or disinterested. Consider this verse:

But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:3, NASB)

While it is easy to interpret this as describing God as distant and disinterested, reading other parts of the psalm offers a different perspective:

Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth…
You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.
The Lord has been mindful of us; He will bless us. (Psalm 115:1, 11-12a, NASB)

Far more life follows the admonition to handle the Word carefully (2 Timothy 2:15) to develop sharp spiritual vision and grow a friendship with God.

We may think God is like Santa Claus. Many religions place high value on works and teach that doing good earns God’s approval. That is how Santa Claus operates, not God. Santa watches to see if kids are good or bad then weighs their actions to determine if they get coal or gifts in their stockings. If you were nervous on Christmas Eve as a child, wondering how Santa would judge you, you can rest assured: you never have to wonder about where you stand with God. He knows we are incapable of being good without His help (Romans 3:12, 6:11-12). He paid the penalty for our sin and invited us into a relationship that can never be jeopardized, no matter what we do (Romans 8:38-39). Far more life knows God is not weighing our good works (like Santa Claus) and confidently pursues a friendship with Him.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13, NIV)

We may think of God as a cosmic vending machine. This distortion depicts an impersonal God who spits out blessings in proportion to the amount of good we do. It believes logging enough prayer time and believing hard enough leads to answered prayers. It thinks going to church often enough or making a big enough donation, guarantees a life free from trouble. It embraces the idea that if we make God look good, He will give us wealth and success. But this is not how God works!

Paul – also known as Saul – was an influential Jewish man while persecuting and executing God’s people (Acts 9:1-2, 13-14). After encountering Christ and dedicating his life to sharing the truth of Christ with others, Paul was rejected, beaten, and imprisoned (2 Corinthians 11:24-28). His good works did not lead to material blessing. But Paul realized the spiritual blessing of knowing God was better:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ…I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:7-8).

Far more life desires to love and serve God because of who He is, not because of how it might benefit us.

How do we overcome distortions in our view of God? By doing the work necessary to see God clearly and understand who He truly is. This happens when we:

  • Invest time learning about His character and His attitude toward us.
  • Welcome Him into every aspect of our life so we can experience Him in action.
  • Strive to become like Him in what we think, do, and say.
  • Study areas of His Word that are hard until we understand them.
  • Obey His instructions.
  • Fight through the obstacles that hinder us from making Him our best friend.

Sisters,
Was your first impression of God good or bad?
How has your understanding of Him been distorted?
Which action item will help you gain clear vision and grow your friendship with Him?
Thank God for being available as a best friend and for offering you far more life!
-Shari


Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Far More Building

Luke chapter 4 describes the encounter Jesus had in the wilderness where Satan tempted Him to sin. Twice Satan starts his offer with the phrase, “If you are the Son of God…” Although Satan probably knew Jesus’ identity and was taunting Him, he voiced a common human concern.

All of us, at some point, have asked the questions, “Is God real?” and “Is Jesus truly God?” Many examples of this are recorded in the Bible, and people of all generations have wrestled with this question. We want proof! Throughout history, once proof is offered, some people believe and become followers of Jesus while others do not. We lay the foundation of far more life when we believe that God IS real and Jesus IS God.

Once we know God, through Jesus, we do not need to keep revisiting those questions; our foundation is secure and we are ready to build a relationship. My friends who are adopted illustrate this. Those who have sought their birth parents needed proof before accepting them. But once that proof was offered and validated, the question “Are you my parent?” was put behind them. There was no need to revisit it time and again. They were free to move forward in building a relationship.

But I know some Christians who miss far more life because they continue to question whether God is real and if Jesus is truly God. Why? Because they have an enemy! Satan knows that if they doubt God — and the reality of their relationship with Him through Jesus — they cannot experience far more life. They cannot share Christ with others. They cannot fulfill the purposes for which God created them. So he strives to cripple them by making them doubt the foundation of their faith.

Others never doubt God’s existence or Jesus’ deity, but they miss far more life because they don’t recognize God’s work. Their experiences leave them with unmet expectations about God’s character and actions. So the words of the Bible do not feel true and they are unsure how to reconcile them with the circumstances of their lives. Their foundation lies empty and their lives lack joy and spiritual fruit. But if we believe God is truthful, then we should also believe the Bible is His written Word. He said it is Truth (John 17:17), so we can take hope from this declaration:

For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment. (Luke 1:37, AMPC)

Far more life rests in the fact that God’s Word is flawless while our interpretation can be flawed. It is a willingness to believe that seemingly irreconcilable circumstances indicate we are missing something, that our perspective is skewed due to incomplete information or sin. I like how The Message explains it:

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. (Matthew 5:8, MSG)

God is unchanging (Hebrews 13:8), so we find far more life when we adopt His perspective and work to understand it. Then we are able to experience all He has promised. And what wonderful experiences those are! Even when our circumstances are challenging, we traverse them with joy and peace because we are confident God is working in and through them for our good and His eternal purposes (Romans 8:28).

Although we are surrounded by change, God knows our need for stability and provides it. His reassurance of what is unchanging gives us something to hold onto during the times we are shaken or struggling. Right after He destroyed the earth by flood due to man’s wickedness, He made this promise:

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:22, NIV)

What a comforting knowledge! Each day the sun rises and each night the moon rises is a reminder of God’s faithfulness and truthfulness. Each change of the season, we are reminded His promises are reliable. Each year crops are planted and harvested, we can have confidence in Him. We can build our life on Him, on His instructions, and find far more life! He stands the test of time. This reminds me of lyrics from a wonderful hymn:

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ love and righteousness…
When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace…
His oath, his covenant, His blood support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

(“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” by Edward Mote)

Jesus is the best foundation we can choose! Far more life starts with Him, builds on His truth, and changes us to be like Him. The life we build on Him is secure and will last forever. Why would we want to build on anything else?

Sisters,
What proof convinced you that God is real? That Jesus is God?
What tempts you to trust your perspective and experience over what God’s Word says is true?
What reminds you of God’s faithfulness and truthfulness?
What have you built that will last forever?
Praise Him for making our foundation secure and offering far more life for all of our days!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso