Being a Friend to God
Gary has been preaching on Friendship. The word friend in the OT and NT is a word that means a covenant relationship.
2 Ch 20:7 Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?
Jas 2:23 Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.
Isaiah 41:8 But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
What is a covenant relationship?
Marriage is a good example: you join bank accounts. Your debts become both your debts, your assets also theirs. You live together, you protect each other, and hopefully you would die for each other.
Covenant relationships mean that you share whatever you have if the other person has need of it. If you are good in publicity, but they are good in finance, your promote their business while they finance yours. You would never let your covenant partner starve while you have food. You would die before you let anyone harm them.
Jesus gave us an example of this commitment to one another:
Jn 15:13–16. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
Today I want to talk to you about Lazarus. Jesus called him a friend:
“After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.”” (John 11:11–12, ESV)
What was Lazarus’ Ministry? Was he an apostle? A disciple?
In the scriptures, Lazarus has a very special relationship to Jesus. He is not like anyone else. Though he too believed in Jesus and trusted in him, as we all must, Lazarus was not called Jesus’ disciple. The disciples were those who followed Jesus around from town to town as he went on his ministry. In the gospels, we watch as the disciples are trained to preach and to teach, and we witness as they follow their master around. We do not see Lazarus undergoing such training, or following Jesus around. Nor was Lazarus’ relationship to Jesus like that of the apostles’. The apostles were also being trained for the power, authority, and leadership of the ministry. We see Jesus constantly struggling with them–correcting them, teaching them, rebuking them, instructing them, and encouraging them. He was working with them so that they would be ready for their mission and their purpose once he was gone.
But Lazarus’ role was like none of these. Other people had jobs to do with Jesus and for Jesus, but not Lazarus. He had a special relationship. His relationship with Jesus was both a privilege and an honor. He was the one whom Jesus loved. And Jesus did not call him a disciple, but he called Lazarus his friend.
Think what a special relationship Lazarus had with our Lord. He was Jesus’ friend. He did not have to go out on missions or preach or anything, instead he was called to stay put. He had a stationary ministry. And what was that ministry? You might say, Lazarus’ ministry was his friendship with Jesus. Lazarus did not have any other special task to perform. It was a ministry that was very important to Jesus. Of all the people whom Jesus served, you might say that Lazarus was the one who served Jesus.
How important was Lazarus and his friendship to Jesus? Lazarus was someone Jesus needed; someone he didn’t want to live without. Do you recall when Lazarus died, what was Jesus’ reaction? When Lazarus died, Jesus cried. It is the only record in the gospels of Jesus crying over a single individual. Jesus loved him so much that when Lazarus died, Jesus wept.
This special, covenant relationship existed between Lazarus and Jesus before Jesus began his official ministry. Something of deep love and mutual fellowship must have existed before then in order to have established a covenant between them. They probably shared meals together, went to services together, played together. Lazarus’ house was a place where Jesus could go and relax.
Well, Jesus loved Lazarus as one friend loved another. Think about what it means to have a friend. When you get tired and worn out, and the pressures of the world get you down; you want someone to talk to; someone who will listen, someone who will share your sorrows, who will understand, and who will just be a friend.
Lazarus was that kind of friend. He was the one person to whom Jesus could go when he wanted to get away from it all. Lazarus’ home was a refuge for Jesus. When Jesus got tired; when he needed a place of peace and quiet, he knew he could go to Lazarus’ house, and there he knew he would be welcome, anytime, day or night. When Jesus just wanted to get away from it all, sit back, and kick up his feet, he knew he could go see his friend Lazarus. And every time Jesus passed through Bethany, he knew he always had a place to stay. With his good friend Lazarus, he had an open invitation; to him, Lazarus would say, “my home is your home; come and go as you like.”
Martha and Mary were Lazarus’ sisters. Martha was busy serving Jesus, but wasn’t happy about it.
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”” (Luke 10:38–42, ESV)
Martha and Mary were Lazarus’ sisters. Martha was a servant, but Mary was soaking in Jesus’ presence.
But most of us are not friends to Jesus. So many times we busy ourselves with the Lord’s work, always doing something for him. We strive so hard to please him, we are like the disciples; full of good intentions, but a source of endless headaches to the Lord. We are so busy trying to do great things for him, we never sit back and relax with him. We are on an endless treadmill of work and service, but we are so busy with our work, we never sit back, kick off our shoes, and just enjoy the presence of our friend, Jesus, our friend who is also our God.
And what is more, God cannot find a resting place in us. He cannot find a place where he can sit down and share the welcome of our homes. Or simply be at peace in the hearth of our hearts. Like the disciples, we are so busy, we do not take time to listen. We rush, rush, rush; bustle, bustle, bustle. I tell you, Jesus would rather have a thousand friends than one disciple. But because we do not share the home of our heart with him, we give up this special relationship of privileged friend for that of a servant.
But doesn’t the Gospel say that he no longer calls us servants, but he calls us friends; for a servant does not know his master’s business, but to us he reveals everything? We are supposed to be his friends. In fact, he wants us to be his friends.
So, instead of trying so hard to please the Lord, try instead just to be his friend. Open the doors of your heart, and give him a place where he can feel welcome. Open up your doors and make room for him. Give him a place where he can come in and stay. Give him a place where he can sit back and just enjoy your presence as one friend to another. Be his friend. Make him feel at home. Listen to him. Let him find a retreat in your heart. Give him a place where he will not feel rushed or pressured. Make your heart a refuge, where he can come in and you can find rest from this weary and troubled world. More than he wants you to get up and endlessly do things for him, he just wants your company and to share your friendship and your love. He wants someone he can talk to. As a good friend, be still and listen. Just sit back and relax with him as he pours out his heart; make him feel welcome and at home. Be a friend to God.
Open up your hearts. Let Jesus find a resting place in you. It isn’t what you do for God that matters, because it is who you are to God that really matters. True ministry comes out of fellowship with Jesus. It comes out of resting in His presence. Out of that relationship of love effective ministry comes.