This post is from a larger series under the category Friend to Jesus. It is a detailed exploration of the three stages of faith: the believer, the servant and the friend of God. If you want to start at the beginning, it begins with the post How Looking at a Caravaggio Painting Can Change Your Life and then continues chronologically.
But for us the road unfurls itself, we don’t stop walking, we know there is far to go. Denise Levertov
There are some givens when discussing how one enters into a friendship with God. First, I think it’s helpful that by looking at someone else’s life we can also see our own. In upcoming posts, by briefly looking at the lives of three people in the New Testament—Judas, Peter and Barnabas—we will see these stages of faith come alive and perhaps be able to see ourselves in their stories. I also integrate my own story into this—someone who is no different from you—sharing how God has always been after me, pushing me to come closer to Him. This is how He is with everyone. By hearing some of my story, perhaps, you will be able to hear your own. By looking at some of these steps, I believe, we can discover not only who we are, but who we are to become.
Second, these three stages of believer, servant and friend are distinct and it is important that you begin to look at your own life and see where you are, but then also find out where you’ve come from. What is your journey been like? It is distinct and you must discover those special features. On the one hand, your relationship with Jesus is entirely common, exactly like mine, and yet it is also entirely different compared to my own. God deals with each of us individually and in his own way. There are ways he relates to me that make sense to me, but wouldn’t make sense to you and vice-versa. This uniqueness of relationship is illustrated in a striking manner in the book of Revelation. It shares that when we see Jesus face-to-face, he will give each of us a stone. Written on this small stone will be your unique name, which only you and he will know (Revelation 2:17). This is incredible if you think about it. This is how incomparable and exceptional you are and how distinct your relationship is to Him. God singles each of us out. This is why this relationship with God is so difficult for us to fathom now. This is how personal he desires a one-on-one relationship with you. Even though we won’t receive this small relic until we get to heaven, this unique relationship begins now and is one that is built with each day. It’s important that you really think about this; you have your own story and Jesus is persuading you to come along into something that will not only just transform you today, but your future as well. Begin to think about this—what is your story and how do you fit into his life? Most likely, it is a peculiar and a strange one; one that only fits you and no one else.
You must also understand that these stages of growth are something that God does, but it’s also something that you must do. Each of these steps requires you to make a decision and then act on that choice. I decided to become a believer in Jesus. I decided to become a servant of Jesus. I decided to become a friend of Jesus. You must do the same. There are no special gimmicks you have to follow; there are no hoops you have to jump through; there isn’t any conference you can attend. A relationship with God is a hand-in-hand experience—he holding on to us and we grabbing on for dear life to Him. God never forces us to be in relationship with him and therefore, some of the responsibility lies upon us. He woos us, but we must follow. So often, he says—Come, follow me—but he never demands it. It’s always a request. I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is exactly where God wants us to be—in a reciprocal friendship with him where both parties are invested. This is his greatest desire and he wants us to follow, because he knows all that is in store for both of us.
Finally, and this may seem odd and contradictory, but this process is not about trying to get through the “steps.” Growing in friendship with God is always a natural process. It’s day by day and it will last the rest of your life. Each day you must decide, will I be a believer, will I be a servant or will I be a friend to Jesus today? Likewise, this is not written so that you can become religious or spiritual. Again, at its core, it’s about coming into a relationship with the One who created you and desires you. Brennan Manning makes this challenge way better than I ever could in his book The Ragmuffin Gospel and so I might as well just quote him. To end, listen to what he has to say:
- This book (or blog) is not for the super spiritual.
- It is not for muscular Christians who have made John Wayne and not Jesus their hero.
- It is not for academicians who would imprison Jesus in the ivory tower of exegesis.
- It is not for noisy, feel-good folks who manipulate Christianity into a naked appeal to emotion.
- It is not for hooded mystics who want magic in their religion.
- It is not for the complacent, hoisting over their shoulder a tote bag of honors, diploma’s, and good works actually believing they have made it.
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In: Friend to Jesus
Tags: Faith, God, Jesus, spirituality, stages of faith