In my blog post, “Instead, I Have Called You Friends,” I talk about the shift in the relational dynamic that takes place when we consider the implications of calling God our friend. The service we extend to him is not done out of obligation or dread, but free-willingness and excitement. We don’t serve God because we have to; we serve God because we want to, with him doing the same for us. Our friendship with God is one that ebb and flows on his grace, not out of a dutiful obligation to follow his commands because that’s the job description or social expectation he places on us, but out of the freedom that friendship brings.
Having a friendship with God changes everything. But do you know what one of the biggest changes is when we befriend the Lord?
Christianity becomes a lot more fun.
If you’ve grown up in the church for awhile, then I have no doubt you’ve heard of the spiritual disciplines that are drilled into us as things we have to do as Christ-followers. We have to go to church, we have to read Scripture, we have to pray, we have to tithe, we have to be silent and fast and confess and serve and live simply. For two millennia, the disciplines have been painted as acts we have to do if we want any shot of actually growing in our relationship with God. And there is truth to that. These are God-ordained disciplines we must put into practice if we want to grow in him. But the sense of obligation that is instilled into Christians very quickly make them out to be chore-list items rather than life-giving practices.
This is when friendship with God saves the day. You don’t have to do these disciplines. You get to do these disciplines. And the best part?
You can actually have fun doing the spiritual disciplines in a way that’s unique to you. And that you can actually enjoy.
Think about it. Friends have fun together, don’t they? Having fun is one of the greatest parts of friendship! Friends do life with one another based around the things they love and value, and those things differ from friend to friend.
For example. I love sushi. During one season of my life, I’d go out to eat sushi with Pastor Jason and his wife, Edie, and several other friends who also love sushi every Tuesday night. That was a fun dynamic that was unique to my friendship with them.
Another example: I love coffee. I’m partially obsessed with it, actually. So naturally, since my friend, Luke, and I both work at a specialty coffee shop, a lot of our conversations revolve around this shared love for the best beverage in the world. But I don’t have the same depth of coffee conversation with my other friends. Where describing the tasting notes of our latest Ethiopian Banko Gotiti coffee when pulled as a shot of espresso would bore most of my friends to tears, it gets Luke and I as excited as a middle school boy being asked out to a Sadie Hawkins dance by his crush. Coffee obsession is a dynamic unique to my friendship with Luke.
One last example: I love playing video games from time to time. I love the Halo franchise and crushing noobs in a game of Rocket League on my Xbox One. Since my brother and my best friend from college, Matt, both love playing video games, this activity becomes a unique time for me to catch up with them over Online Gaming. But this isn’t my primary means of catching up with other good friends from college, such as my buddy Ethan over a weekly FaceTime appointment at 10:15am Central Standard Time.
See what I mean? I relate with these groups of friendships based on different activities that I enjoy and are unique to myself and happen to share with them. Although the method for spending time with them differs quite a bit, from eating sushi to talking coffee to playing video games, what doesn’t change is my need to spend time with them.
That’s the exact same way it works with our friendship with God. Too many preachers and Christian radio hosts will tell you that you need to spend time with God, but they do so with typical fixed methods that are blanket statements which assume work with everyone: Read a devotional on the Bible app, pray for 15 minutes as soon as you wake up, read a chapter of Scripture a day. It’s a prescribed chores list.
However, friendship with God invites you to creatively spend time with him in ways that resonate with what you love and who you are.
When we have the freedom to exercise the spiritual disciplines in ways that we love, then Christianity becomes a whole lot more fun. If you feel like you struggle with praying the way you should or worshipping the way you should or reading Scripture the way you should, then chances are you haven’t thought about doing them in a way that’s actually fun and enjoyable. You’ve felt obligated to do them one specific way because a preacher or another friend told you it was “the” way to do it.
So I ask: What are hobbies or passions God wired you to love that he’s waiting to be discovered in?
Let me give you some examples from my own life. For awhile, my Scripture reading consisted mostly of reading a small passage and reflecting on what it means and how it applies to my life. This worked great for a season, but after awhile it started to become more of a chore that I didn’t really look forward to. Later on when I was working on my Master’s degree, I discovered how much I love to read books. So I had this idea to invest in this thing called Bibliotheca, which splits the Bible up into 4 individual books, takes out all the chapter and verse numbers, boosts the font size to a size that’s actually readable, and turns it into a story that I can just sit down and read straight through. That revolutionized my Scripture reading to be a way for me to spend time with God that I enjoy.
I also love to write. Prayer-writing in my Moleskine journals with Pilot G-2 .07 gel pens is a really unique way for me to process my prayers. It helps me zero in on precisely what I want to pray, otherwise my attention span just goes out the window. I even call my journals my “Bethels,” because it is where I wrestle with God, similar to when Israel named the place Bethel in Genesis to remember the night when he wrestled with God.
On my Sabbath days, I go to one of my favorite coffee shops, enjoy a crisp, 12 oz. pour over, read Scripture and a good book, and write about what God is doing in my life. I take three things that I love—reading, writing, and coffee—and combine them into a hangout time with God that I look forward to, just like I look forward to eating sushi with Jason, talking about coffee with Luke, or playing video games with Andrew and Matt, or FaceTiming with Ethan.
But friendship with God goes even beyond how we do the disciplines – it invites us to see God in the things we love. Not only can we set creative, fun ways to explicitly spend time with our God, but we also have the privilege of inviting him into our daily lives. He becomes an active participant in everything we do, including working out, cooking meals, being with family, driving to places, working in the office, painting, knitting, kayaking, playing basketball, going on road trips.
He isn’t just a friend we devote 30 minutes a day to. He’s a friend we do our entire life with, who’s there with us even in the most mundane of things.
So again, I ask: What are hobbies or passions God wired you to love that he’s waiting to be discovered in? When you consider all this, I guarantee your life will increase in richness, because the things you love are now done with God as your friend.