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Defining the Favor of God

Kindness of StrangersThe phrase “favor of God” seems to be growing in popularity, and I’m glad. It’s a biblical phrase – a good phrase. But it’s often misunderstood. I once heard a guy talk about finding a parking spot right up front on a busy shopping day because of the “favor of God.” I pictured in my mind the pregnant lady with triplets who had to park a football field away because of the favor of God upon this Pastor.

A recent story from LarkNews (satire, by the way – don’t start an email rumor mill – it’s fake) highlights our western view of God’s favor…

Christian family blessed through others’ misfortune

NEW CASTLE, Del. — Sam and Victoria Gutman have always been smart shoppers, but they have gone to another level during the recent recession, buying automobiles, computers and more from distressed owners.

“God continues to bless us,” says Sam. “All things really do work for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. We’re living proof.”

Last week they bought a Lexus coupe from a man who lost his job — and pension — when his employer collapsed.

“He was weeping when he gave me the keys,” Sam says. “I got that car for a third of what it’s worth. Beautiful leather seats, new tires. God is so good.”

Victoria fondly recalls buying a bedroom suite from a couple going through an acrimonious divorce.

“That was one of our best deals yet,” she says. “They drove the price down just to spite each other. That lovely set adorns our bedroom and is a lasting testimony to God’s provision.”

Even the home they live in was purchased as a foreclosure after weeks of aggressive counter-offering.

“God helped us negotiate that one down until we were practically stealing it from them,” Victoria says. “It belonged to a guy who was laid off and had to get a job at McDonald’s. The tilework is unbelievable.”

“…God continues to bless.”

via LarkNews

Scripture, however, presents a different understanding of the favor of God, and it comes out in the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!… Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!”

~ Luke 1:28-30 NLT

Mary and Joseph certainly didn’t enjoy rich circumstances. Situationally, they seemed anything but blessed. Joseph worked as a carpenter to earn the family’s daily bread. The trek to Bethlehem was challenging because of Mary’s pregnancy and we all know that there was found no room for them in the inn in such a small town. But she still enjoyed the favor of God like few in history had.

If the favor of God isn’t necessarily material or financial, then what is it? It’s simply the undeserved kindness of God. God, in His sovereignty and His good will toward His children, chooses at His own initiative to show undeserved kindness to people.

I don’t know why Mary was chosen for this role, but I do know that it wasn’t on the basis of how good she was. She, like the rest of us, was a sinner, saved by the grace of God. While I do believe we can live in such a way that we are more ready recipients of His favor, I still believe His favor is granted in His sovereignty, which makes it all the more beautiful when we see it.

We can identify God’s favor when we see three things happening…

  1. God has sovereignly chosen a recipient of His grace.
  2. God has blessed that recipient in one way or another.
  3. God has intentions that His blessing be shared with others.

I don’t see, in Scripture, God’s favor granted to people simply for their own enjoyment, but rather so that the lives of others can be changed and God can be glorified. Our enjoyment of His blessings brings Him pleasure and glory in the eyes of others.

God’s gracious kindness is His to give, and He gives it when, to whom, and how He chooses. But Scripture also invites all of us to be partakers – to come by faith and receive the gift of Jesus Christ, freely offered for all the world. In other words, while none of us can demand or expect God’s favor, we can claim it on the basis of grace – on the basis of the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

The favor of God isn’t about having more money or easier circumstances. It’s about enjoying the kindness of God, sovereignly, yet freely offered to all who will receive Jesus Christ and the life He has to offer.

Not by Bread Alone

And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”—Luke 4:4

There are multitudes of lessons to learn from Jesus’ confrontation of the enemy in the wilderness. We learn of Jesus’ moral perfection and His impeccability. We learn of His use of the Word of God against temptation. We learn of His reliance upon God instead of self. But there is another, more practical lesson for us and it is this: we should not live by bread alone, but by every word of God!

You see, this was written in a day when people lived day-to-day. Most of the people who would end up reading the gospels were simply survivors, average wage-earners who received their salary each day, bought bread on the way home, and had dinner. Few people could afford to think beyond the next meal, much less to eternal and spiritual things.

America happens to be a privileged nation. Though our wealth is based on debt and depends on continued consumption, we do enjoy plenty of “things.” Our picture is quite different from poverty-stricken first-century Jerusalem. But our spiritual picture is quite the same. You see, a lack of having bread can cause an inability to focus on the eternal, but it also prepares our hearts for a message of hope. For America today, we also have a hard time focusing on the eternal because of our focus on material things. But that materialism will leave us empty and searching.

Jesus’ words are as important for us today in our world of wealth and luxury as they were to the first-century individual who was barely scraping by. Hope comes from the spiritual things in life, namely, God’s Word. Can you see beyond your daily bread? Can you see past things into the spiritual realm of life? If not, look through the lens of God’s Word.