By Denzil Holman
There are some individuals who travel with us on the journey of life and leave lasting impressions, helping to shape and mold our character. If we are blessed to have people like this in our lives, they are treasures more precious than earthly jewels.
When I refer to those who are friends of the altar, I allude to those who are friends with the God whom we meet at an altar. I want to reiterate that an altar is a meeting place where we connect with God. There is a beautiful song that is currently being widely sung in our churches that is titled “I Am a Friend of God.” To be a friend of God means many things, and one of them is having a consistent relationship with Him and frequenting an altar of prayer.
In our relationships with others, there are several degrees of friendship. The first level may consist of those who are mere acquaintances. The next one could possibly be casual friends, and then there are special, close friends who are dear to us. There is a friend who transcends all earthly relationships. The Lord is our closest friend above all others.
A man that bath friends must shew himself friendly; and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
For man to be alone is not good, and this means more than marital and family relationships. No one lives or dies to himself, and our sphere of influence may be more far reaching than we would suspect. We need friends and others need us as friends. Some things about friends also encompass our relationship with the Lord, our dearest friend.
Jesus spoke of friendships with His disciples. Just as we need earthly friends, we need God as our friend more than we need any earthly friend. There are places and times when friends can’t help us but God can go where no earthly friend can go even if he wanted to. The old song says, “Where could I go but to the Lord?” An altar is where we strengthen and cultivate our friendship with the Lord. Our visits to the altar are not limited to when we initially meet the Lord. Our relationship with our friend is meant to be consistent and frequent. Some friendships either grow stronger or wane over a period of time, but our friendship with Jesus should be our entire life after meeting Him. Friendship with Jesus, fellowship divine should describe our relationship. In the Tabernacle, they offered morning and evening sacrifices. Our friendship also needs to be constantly renewed and refreshed.
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is ‘mewed day by day (11 Corinthians 4:16).
Our friendship with God at an altar of prayer should not be infrequent or inconsistent. Jesus said to us, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).
We need to be faithful in prayer. Our relationships with friends and relatives would cool and we would drift apart if we didn’t continually renew our association. Time spent with friends is a key to a continuing relationship and so it is with God too.
Daniel prayed three times daily even while defying the ordinances of the king.
Sacrifices in the Tabernacle were offered continually.
We usually spend time with those whom we care for, and our affection and love for God must never grow cold or even lukewarm. A consistent altar experience will help keep that “first love” feeling towards God.
The Lord told us how deep and strong His love is for us and what the basis is for continued friendship. We must adhere to certain conditions if we are going to please Him. He loves us, and we should reciprocate and love Him too.
Greater love bath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you (John 15:13-14).
The value of friendships is much more than tangible possessions. When we need a friend it is good to know that we have been building friendships. It is too late in a time of need to cultivate good friendships because we haven’t been investing in each other. Some folks want to use Jesus as a crutch or a spare tire when they need Him but have no time for Him when all is going well. Make a friend at the altar, and you will find Jesus to be an ever present help in time of need. More than that, you will grow to love Him more with each passing day. We are affected by our friends and associates and often grow to become like them. “I want to be like Jesus” should be the burning desire of everyone. To maintain friendships requires cultivation or people will drift apart from each other. The same holds true in our relationship with our Lord. Jesus will never leave us or forsake us, so if there is any separation it will be on our part. A friend is not just someone who is used because of how they can benefit us, but someone whom we admire, love, and appreciate. Friends share experiences and give time and energy to each other. It may take years to forge strong friendships, and most of us try to please our friends if possible. A true friend “loveth at all times” the Scripture states, and we appreciate their being honest with us even when we may disagree. A friendship requires commitment and sacrifice. We don’t have an abundance of true, close friends because we invest so much in these types of relationships. Sometime you will need a friend because life has ways of throwing curve balls at us. If you don’t know the Lord yet, there will come a time when you need Him more than you realize. He is a friend who will be closer than even blood relatives.
A few years ago, the Lord gave me a beautiful promise that has been a tremendous source of encouragement on so many occasions. He told me simply these words, “I’ll be your friend.” It wasn’t long after that when I experienced a painful betrayal by some whom I trusted, and in my dark hour, I was reminded of the promise of God to me. God could see ahead and had given me a word of encouragement before the problem erupted. The pain of betrayal was like a knife and the pain was real, but the healing balm of Gilead soothed the hurt. He was my friend, and I was comforted to know that He was with me.
Shortly afterwards my wife began a long and protracted illness that culminated with her death. I saw the lady whom I had married in my youth lose her health and end up in a wheelchair and at a dialysis center several times a week. I experienced loneliness and despair that I didn’t realize a man could bear, and I found strength and grace in knowing that Jesus was my best friend. I found solace in the presence of God.
The old song says, “I must tell Jesus . . . I cannot bear these burdens alone.”
Jesus will listen to us anytime, and His love is unconditional. We can pour out our petitions, hopes, dreams, and troubles, too, and He will be our friend. Our friendship with God requires continual cultivation, and we do that by praying often.
A spasmodic, inconsistent prayer life is not sufficient to maintain our relationship with our Lord. We may find ourselves weak in a time of crisis if we fail to maintain our friendship with Jesus. In our flesh dwells no good thing, so we need to rely on His strength and not ours.
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).
The value of our friendship with Jesus is worth more than the whole world, and it is awesome to know that He understands us and will be honest and truthful in our relationships. The criteria for our continued friendship are to do His commandments and seek to please Him. We can’t be a friend of the world and a friend of God at the same time. Our life of separation from the world is to please our friend. We must not go to places where we can’t take Jesus with us or that make Him uncomfortable. We don’t want to grieve the Holy Spirit of God. The Spirit of God is likened unto a dove and is quick to take its flight.
A minister friend of mine has an excellent policy about gossip and improper conversation. If he is in a group or with someone and the conversation turns to gossip, he quietly gets up and leaves. He doesn’t want to contaminate his ears with verbal garbage and grieve the Holy Ghost.
A friend wants to be with his friends and the Lord desires our fellowship, but we must maintain our inward and outward holiness. Make friends with an altar somewhere and seek God if there are problems with consecration along these lines.
I became acquainted with a young man many years ago who impacted my life greatly. I will simply say that he was a Christian who dearly loved Jesus and exemplified the same in his daily life. By his devotion to the Lord, Cameron Anderson demonstrated to me and others that he was a friend of God. When he was a young man living in Phoenix and attending the church pastored by Brother Wesson, he was faithful in prayer meetings and church attendance. Brother Wesson was a strong advocate of prayer, and prayer meetings were conducted weekday mornings for the men before work. Men would leave home early for work and stop by the church to pray awhile, and Cameron was one of those faithful men who attended those meetings. He was consistent and faithful.
For a while he was working in Tucson and commuted from Phoenix during the week. On one of these trips he was driving early one morning and went to sleep because he was so weary. His car went underneath a truck, and he was critically injured. It was questionable if he would survive, and Brother Wesson was contacted to go to the hospital. When he arrived, he found Cameron unconscious with serious head injuries and in very dire condition. As he began praying for him, he reminded God that Cameron had been faithful in prayer and intercession but was now unable to pray for himself. He was telling Lord that the young man had been a friend of God and asked that he would be spared. God miraculously touched him and brought him back from the edge of death.
Cameron and I became the best of friends when we were young and single men in the local church there. For a time we each rented a room from one of the brethren in the local church. We hunted together, played softball, and most of all, prayed together many times in the morning before work at the church.
Cameron was an intercessor and prayer warrior. He was one of the last to leave the altar area after church services. When the young people were deciding to go out to eat after church, we always knew where to find him to ask him to go with us. I noticed that he seemed to carry a strong burden of intercession for a period of time. The months went by, and he persevered in prayer. One Saturday night during a special conference, I noticed a man praying in the altar and a large group of people around him. I found out later that the man was a backslider and friend of Cameron’s. He had been burdened for that individual and saw the fruit of his intercession. That former backslider is still living for God after all these years.
Abraham was called a friend of God. What a testimony to have the Lord call you His friend!
And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God (James 2:23).
He had so much influence with God that before He would destroy Sodom, He came to talk with him about it.
And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do: seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? (Genesis 18:17-18).
The audience listened with rapt attention as the youngster quoted very carefully each and every word of Psalm 23. With coaxing and help from an attentive parent, the child had memorized each word and nervously recited the familiar words. There was polite applause at the end, and then an elderly gentleman rose to walk to the podium. He began quoting the same Psalm 23 but with tear-filled eyes and a voice choking with emotion. His words were not enunciated clearly, and he stumbled through some of the words as he fought to keep his composure. When he finished, the audience erupted in a thunderous ovation. Someone asked a question, “What made the difference?” Another answered, “The child knew the psalm, but the old man knew the psalmist” God was his friend.
The Israelite people had quickly forgotten Jehovah and paid homage to a golden calf that Aaron made for them while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments. Moses was angry and the wrath of God’s judgment was being stoked. The fires of His wrath were about to consume the people when an intercessor stepped forward and pleaded for mercy. Moses was that intercessor, and his fervent prayer stayed the judgments of God that day. The Lord plagued the people and the harvest of their deed would still further be reaped, but their lives were spared that day. It is a testimony to the credence that God gives to an intercessor who unselfishly prays for others.
Shortly afterward, when Moses went into the Tabernacle, God met with him as the cloudy pillar of the presence of God descended at the tabernacle door.
And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. find he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle (Exodus 33: 11).
Joshua was obviously affected by the life of Moses before him, and when others were murmuring, complaining, and forsaking the Lord, he was faithful to God. When the
Lord retired Moses, Joshua was the man whom God wanted to lead His people.
The apostle Paul had such zeal and fervor in his walk with God! Everywhere he went it seemed there was a riot or revival or both. Someone said if you want to contact him, just send his mail to the nearest jail. It was said of him that his prison guards had to be rotated often because he kept converting them to Jesus. He had such a vehement desire that he evangelized the known world and was able to say that Asia had heard the Word of God. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that he turned the world upside down in his quest to win the lost. He said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” He was accused by Felix of being mad when he gave his testimony. He was a man who told us that he was content and that God would supply all of our needs, yet he didn’t tell us what he had for breakfast, which was probably nothing at all. He did not complain about the Mamertine prison or other places where he had been. He wrote about half of the New Testament, and his inspired writings are still blessing us today. One person said that he had “I love you, Jesus” written in stripes all over his back. With all of his accomplishments he inspires us as we read his humble, “That I may know him.” He still had a vibrant, overwhelming desire to know Jesus better. Paul told us that he was a servant of God, an apostle, and a prisoner, but we know that he was a friend of God. He had all of the characteristics of being a friend of God.
How deep is our love for Jesus? Are we fair-weather friends who follow Him for the blessings that we can derive from our friendship, or is our commitment deeper than that? Jesus asked Peter the question, “Lovest thou me more than these?” (John 21:15).
The Lord wanted to know if he loved Him more than the temporal things that surrounded him. Peter had denied Him before, and was he ready then to recommit himself? Peter passed the test and never denied Him again. He was the spokesman on the Day of Pentecost at the birth of the church and the one who was sent by God to open the door to the Gentiles.
I know a minister who grew up overseas; his father, a friend of mine, was one of our foreign missionaries some years ago. He told me that while growing up in that foreign country, he didn’t have any close friends since he was essentially a foreigner from America. Consequently, he spent much time alone when not with his family or church. He made himself a prayer closet and devoted much time to seeking God. He told me that God became his special friend instead of earthly friends, and years later he has an extraordinary ministry with a special touch of God on his life.
One of our ministers went through a lengthy trial of sickness in his family and other pressures. He said that for a year he didn’t feel the presence of God in his personal devotions. He would feel God while preaching under the anointing and then he would feel empty again. After a year he told God that whether he ever felt His presence in his personal life or not that he would serve Him and worship Him anyway. The spiritual drought and valley then vanished, and his trial was over.
The Lord desires to be our friend, and we commune with Him at an altar. It may be in a church building, in our automobile, at a special place in our home, or in our office at work. We can make an altar in many places when we choose to meet and to talk with our friend.
The above article, “Make a Friend of the Altar” was written by Denzil Holman. The article was excerpted from Chapter 6 in Holman’s book The Altar Builders.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.