February 2, 2012 – Aaron Bird
The people you surround yourself with most are the ones who naturally have the most significant impact on your life. So, think about it: who are your closest friends? Who do you call when you have a few extra hours on your hands? Who do you go to looking for advice? Who do you spend weekends with? Who immediately comes to mind when you think about sharing your life with someone? Those people, especially the five people with whom you are closest, those are the people whose words, actions, and beliefs have the largest influence on your character. The question that remains then, is two parts:
1. Who/what do you really want to be like…
- Giving or taking; patient or demanding; loving or spiteful; edifying or destructive; strong or timid; compassionate or arrogant; conversant or domineering; honest or needy; trustworthy or deceitful; Godly or worldly?
- Do you want to be evidence of the saving grace and perfect love of Christ?
- Are you friends helping or distracting you from what God has called His children to be? Are they encouraging or pulling you away from righteousness?
- God has called us each to a process of sanctification – of making us ever more holy. God has called us to walk with Him in an effort of becoming ever more Christ-like.
And don’t think, even for a moment, that just because you and your friends are all Christians that you are exempt from reevaluating the impact of your friendships. Chew on this hard-hitting truth for a moment:
“If it weren’t for Christians, I’d be a Christian.” – Mahatma Ghandi
We are all flawed, and we all fall short of what God has called us to be, but we should never use that as an excuse to behave in such a way that makes others question our beliefs or, worse yet, question the perfect love and truth that is found in Jesus Christ.
Now, what that does not mean is that you have to drop your friends because they are human. Every single person you meet on this earth is going to have flaws, some more glaring than others, and we can’t start going around pointing fingers at our brothers and sisters, exploiting and condemning their mistakes, while we too are just as flawed and just as apt to sin. What it does mean is that, if God was not one of the names that came to mind when you considered your ‘Top 5 People I Spend the Most Time With,’ He most definitely should be.
We are meant for community. We are meant to share our life with the people around us – to form friendships, share joys and sorrows, to love and grow together – and the sense of belonging that comes from that kind of openness is wonderful, but that in and of itself is not truly transformative. Hanging out with God – having community with Him, sharing your life with Him, allowing Him to love and challenge you – that kind of relationship is what we were, above all else, intended for. Spending time with the God of the universe, gives you a beautiful spirit, and a truly beautiful life.
Still unsure? Just take a look at the life of Daniel. He was a teenage slave in Jerusalem while it was occupied by the Babylonians. But, despite his lowly status, people recognized that he was different; they saw his beautiful, Godly spirit. In fact, people were so aware of his unique spirit that King Darius actually agreed to make Daniel the governor over all of Babylon! Of course, in a world corrupted by sin, not everyone was happy for Daniel; jealously drove some men to find anything they could to discredit him in the eyes of the world, and yet they found nothing! Finally, they realized the only thing they could use against him was his faith in the Lord, so they concocted a scheme to make Daniel’s worship of the one true God illegal. King Darius legitimized the law, and had no other choice but to condemn Daniel to death in the lion’s den when he was found in violation of it. When morning came and Daniel was still alive, thanks to the intervention of the Lord, King Darius was so moved that he enacted another law – this time, however, he commanded all of Babylon to worship Daniel’s God, because it was obvious to him that Yahweh was the one, true God! Daniel’s spirit was so saturated by God that other people couldn’t help but stand back, take notice, and recognize the greatness of the King of Kings.
When you commit your life to Christ, you commit to living out His perfect gift of salvation – in practice, that means you’ve committed to living differently, both in word and in action, than people who don’t know the Lord. By placing your faith in Jesus, you join Him both in His death and resurrection, meaning you too have died to sin and been raised to life: you have accepted His identity as your own. But with this gift, comes a certain responsibility; you have been called to be an embassador of Christ while here on the earth, and that thought should never be far from your mind. Seek to glorify God in all that you do, and while, in this life, you won’t ever give Him the honor He deserves, you can and should be attempting to live up to His call. And that means, at least in part, spending time with God.
Surrender your life to Him; when you do, He’ll do beautiful things with it, things you can’t even dream of. And if hanging out with God seems less exciting or less enticing than hanging out with other people, then maybe you need to reevaluate the way you’re hanging out with Him… If prayer is boring, it’s probably that you’re forgetting to listen; prayer is a conversation, and a conversation has two speakers. Next time you pray, instead of trying to change God’s mind or convince Him to act in a certain way, let Him change your heart. If the bible is uninteresting, well then, quite frankly, it’s probably because you’re not reading it right. There is no book more important, no story more significant, no text more life changing than the holy bible sitting on your night stand/book shelf right now. So, once again, I’ll ask you two questions: who do you hang out with most often, and who do you want to start hanging out with more?
““I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
“For He is the living God and He endures forever; His kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end. He rescues and He saves; He performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”
So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrusthe Persian.” – Daniel 6:26-28
When God made Eve, He did so because it was simply not good for man to be alone. We were made for community; the need to form friendships and create bonds with other people is ingrained into our very souls – our spirit literally longs for that relationship, and that longing is truly a God-given desire because sharing our lives was what we were made to do. But, just like so many other God-given desires, sin oftentimes corrupts that longing, and we fail to seek out the kind of friendships God wants for us. Instead of spending time with God and people who constantly point us back towards Him, we often look for people the world tells us are ‘cool.’ And, maybe at first, that won’t change your behavior, but if you’re not intentional about who you’re becoming, you may find that you start to believe that the things of this world are ‘cooler’ than the things of Heaven. Again, I am not trying to say that you shouldn’t hang out with people who believe or behave differently than you. In fact, I believe Jesus has called us to do just the opposite; He has commissioned His children to spread the gospel to the world, savory and unsavory, goody-two-shoes and rebellious people alike! What I’m saying is that you need to consider how your friendships are impacting your walk with Christ.
Are you a part of a strong community of Christ-followers? Are your friends people who will challenge and encourage you to be more like Jesus every single day? Do you seek out time with God, knowing that your relationship with Him is really the only important thing you could pursue? Do your closest friends reflect the kind of person you dream of becoming? If not, then, as harsh as it may seem, you might need to make new friends. Notice how I didn’t say to ditch the old ones, though! As much as you need to be edified and encouraged, so does everyone else, Christian or not, pursuing a Christ-like lifestyle or not. So, even if you discover that your relationship focus needs to shift, try to not completely extricate yourself from current friendships. Instead, let your newly renewed (or maybe newly found) pursuit of God shine through every conversation, every coffee date, every discussion section, and every social event. Be like Daniel; make people stand up and take notice. Give them reason to praise your God!