The 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…
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.”
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…
- God has sovereignly chosen a recipient of His grace.
- God has blessed that recipient in one way or another.
- 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.