Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Become a Friend of God?
“LOYALTY.” “Personal devotion.” These are terms people often use to describe their attachment to their closest friends. Did you know that these terms can also describe an attachment to the Grand Creator of this awesome universe—that God himself can be your personal friend? Yes, the Bible speaks of having godly devotion, and that expression involves not only obedience but also a personal attachment to God, a closeness that springs from an appreciative heart.
Previous articles in this series have shown that such an attachment is both possible and beneficial.a But just how do you attain this personal friendship with God? It is not something that you are born with or that you automatically inherit from godly parents. Rather, it is something that comes only through genuine effort. The apostle Paul told the young man Timothy to ‘train himself with godly devotion as his aim.’ Yes, he had to put forth the kind of effort that an athlete puts forth in training! (1 Timothy 4:7, 8, 10) You must do likewise if God is to become your friend. But how can you begin training in this regard?
Personal Knowledge of God
Since godly devotion springs from the heart, you must fill your heart with knowledge of God. Sad to say, when over 500 youths were asked “How often do you read the Bible alone?” 87 percent said either “occasionally,” “hardly ever,” or “never.” Most youths evidently think that reading the Bible is dull and boring. But it doesn’t have to be! Consider: Why do some youths memorize all kinds of sports statistics or learn the words of their favorite songs? Because they are interested in those things. Similarly, studying the Bible becomes interesting if you become absorbed in it. (1 Timothy 4:15) The apostle Peter urged: “Form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word.” (1 Peter 2:2) Yes, you must form, or develop, such an interest in the Scriptures. This may take effort, but the rewards are worth it.b
For one thing, reading and studying God’s Word and Bible-based publications will reveal “the pleasantness of Jehovah.” (Psalm 27:4) One young Christian named Amber made it her goal to read the entire Bible. This took nearly a year. “I doubt there will be many things in my life that require so much time and effort but bring so many rewards,” explained Amber. “When I was reading it, I felt as if Jehovah were sitting me on his lap like a father and teaching me. I learned so much about Jehovah—things that drew me closer to him and made me want to fear him for the rest of my life.”
When you read the Bible, you learn of many occasions when God loyally supported his friends. (Psalm 18:25; 27:10) You find out that his standards are always best and are for our lasting good. (Isaiah 48:17) Reading about God’s matchless qualities, such as his love and wisdom, inspires you to want to imitate him. (Ephesians 5:1) But for such information to stir your heart, you must also meditate. As you read, ask yourself: ‘What does this tell me about Jehovah? How can I apply this in my thinking and actions? How does this show that God is the best friend I could ever have?’
The knowledge you gain about God through personal and congregation study will help you grow closer to him in another way. A French proverb states: “They only are true friends who think as one.” But how can you “think as one” with God? Young Denise explains: “The more you study and research a subject, the more you find out Jehovah’s viewpoint on it. It helps when you know how he feels about something.”
Upright Conduct Vital
God chooses as his friends only those who respect his moral standards. “His intimacy is with the upright ones,” says Proverbs 3:32. A youth striving to be upright will “take care to walk in the law of Jehovah.” (2 Kings 10:31) How close will such obedient conduct bring a person to God? Jesus Christ said: “My Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our abode with him.” (John 14:21-24) What a heartwarming picture! Imagine, the two greatest persons in the universe giving their constant thought and care to a human! That will happen to you if you take care to walk in Jehovah’s law.
Does being upright mean that you have to be perfect? Not at all! Making a mistake because of weakness does not mean that you have abandoned ‘the pathway of God’s commandments.’ (Psalm 119:35) Consider what the Bible tells us about King David. Despite being a loyal friend of God, he made some serious mistakes because of weakness. Even so, Jehovah said that he had walked “with integrity of heart and with uprightness.” (1 Kings 9:4) King David always showed heartfelt repentance for any wrongdoing he committed and tried hard to do what was pleasing to God.—Psalm 51:1-4.
Though David loved God, he knew how hard it could be at times to do the right thing. That is why he begged God: “Make me walk in your truth.” Yes, he developed a sincere dread, or fear, of offending God. David could thus say: “The intimacy with Jehovah belongs to those fearful of him.” (Psalm 25:5, 14) This is not a morbid fear but is a deeply felt reverence for the Creator and a wholesome dread of displeasing him. This godly fear is the bedrock upon which proper conduct is based. To illustrate, consider the example of a Christian youth named Joshua.
Joshua received a note from a schoolmate saying that she liked him and wanted to have a “relationship” with him. Joshua, though attracted to her, realized that association with an unbeliever could lead to immorality and could damage his friendship with Jehovah. So he told her in no uncertain terms that he was not interested! When he later told his mother how he had handled the situation, she exclaimed without thinking: “Oh, Joshua, you probably hurt her feelings!” Joshua replied: “But, Mom. I’d rather hurt her than hurt Jehovah.” His godly fear, his dread of displeasing his heavenly Friend, moved him to maintain upright conduct.
Seek Good Associates
A youth named Lynn, however, kept getting into trouble. The problem? She was running with the wrong crowd. (Exodus 23:2; 1 Corinthians 15:33) The solution? Finding new friends! “If you have friends around you who love Jehovah,” Lynn concluded, “it helps you keep a sensitive conscience and stay out of trouble. When they express disgust for wrongdoing, it makes you feel the same way.”
Actually, your bad choice of friends can be the biggest obstacle to having a friendship with God. Eighteen-year-old Ann admitted: “Your associates have a big influence. Sooner or later you will be like them. They mold you into their thinking. The conversations may be mostly about sex. It may make you curious. You wonder what it would be like.” Ann learned this the hard way. She says: “I know this is true. I got involved in immorality and got pregnant at 15.”
Ann finally came to appreciate the truthfulness of the Bible’s words: “Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) Yes, Ann wanted to be—was determined to be—a friend of the world. But this only led to one heartache after another. Fortunately, Ann came to her senses. She felt deep regret over her course and sought help from her parents and the elders in her congregation. She also found herself a new set of friends. (Psalm 111:1) With much effort on her part, Ann was again able to be a friend of God. Now, several years later, she says: “My relationship with Jehovah is much closer.”
Through personal study of the Bible, meditation, upright conduct, and wholesome associations, you too can cultivate a close friendship with God. Maintaining that friendship is another matter, however. How is it possible to do so despite difficulties and personal weaknesses? A future article in this series will discuss this matter.
a See Awake! issues of July 22 and November 22, 1995.
b See “Young People Ask . . . Why Read the Bible?” in our August 8, 1985, issue.
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Will my associates help me to be God’s friend?