This morning, we’re beginning a new message series on “Walking in the Favor of God.” This was initially going to be a single message, but after getting through just the first point of five, I quickly realized that this was going to take some time to work through.
What is favor, though?
Is it a little gift that you receive from attending a party?
Is it something that we do for someone else? As in, “Could you do me a favor?”
Is it a preference of ours? As in, “I favor Pepsi over Coke?”
Is it something that we earn? As in, “I stayed late at work to earn my boss’s favor?”
Is it a decision that is to be made? As in, “The judge ruled in my favor?”
Well, all these are technically true. Favor defined by Merriam-Webster as: friendly regard shown toward another especially by a superior. Favor, especially the favor of God, is something that humans have desired from the beginning of our creation. Walking in the favor of God ensures that we are living our lives to their full and gives us assurance and peace of mind throughout life’s ups and downs.
In fact, this is why idolatry has been such a common practice for as long as recorded history goes back. It is easiest to find favor from a god created by us whose requirements are defined by us. Walking in the favor of the one, true, living God is less of a self-seeking venture and more of a fulfilling and blessed way of life! This great desire of ours for God’s favor is found immediately following Adam and Eve’s fall into sin with their first two children.
2b Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
It was the lack of God’s favor upon Cain that motivated the first murder in our history. Of course, killing Abel didn’t exactly gain God’s favor toward Cain’s life, either.
Thankfully, gaining God’s favor is not an ever-shifting and changing goal. God makes very clear what His expectations are. God’s standards for us are also always within our reach and for our own benefit and good. To walk in His favor is to walk in obedience to His will and toward His purposes for our lives. God explained just how simple walking in His favor truly is; to do what is right. If we choose not to do what is right, sin is crouching at our door waiting to ensnare us and drag us away from God. Thankfully, we can rule over sin and choose God’s favor.
The Greek word used in the New Testament that we translate to our English word favor is the word charis. This is the same word that we far more frequently translate to the English word grace. In fact, in the King James Version of the Bible, this same root word is translated to the word grace 130 times versus only six times to the word favor. Although we have different words for grace and favor in our English language, Biblically speaking, the two are essentially the same thing.
I’m sure that you’ve often heard, and I’ve even preached that the grace of God is His unmerited favor. I’ve taught that it is a free gift of God that we can never earn through our works. Though this is true, it is only barely scratching the surface of what favor and the grace of God truly is. Though grace is a free gift of God, we must receive it. We receive it through an exchange. It is God’s grace, through our faith, which we are saved and receive anything from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is His grace and my faith working together in a powerful exchange that unlocks His Kingdom here on the earth.
Although God’s grace and favor is a free and unmerited gift, the increase and decrease of His favor is clearly associated with the choices that we make. For us to walk in the favor of God is a matter of stewardship and management of what we do with God’s grace that determines His favor.
God’s grace is freely given to us when we accept His offer of salvation. It was made available to us when the blood of Jesus was shed and our sins atoned for. We received a portion of God’s grace when we made the choice to follow Jesus and accept His salvation. Depending on how we steward His grace in our lives, we can increase or decrease God’s favor upon our lives.
If we walk faithfully to Him, then we receive an increase of His favor. If we take His grace for granted and live to please ourselves regardless of how contradictory it is to God’s will for us, we will begin to lose His favor upon our lives even as Cain did.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m only beginning to understand the fullness of God’s grace and that I’ll probably never understand it in this perishable mind and body. This morning, however, we’re going to start diving in deeper to His grace and favor.
Very little about the childhood of Jesus is recorded in our scriptures. However, one thing was certain to be recorded. I believe that it reveals much to us about favor.
41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house (or in other translations about my Father’s business)?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew (increased in other translations) in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
Jesus walked in favor with God and man; even at the young age of twelve.
So also, we should walk in favor with God and man!
How do we do it, though?
How do we grow and increase the favor of God in our lives?
Well, even as God’s word clearly states, I believe that this singular account of young Jesus was recorded to give us insight into these answers.
Growth and increase cannot happen aside from opposition and resistance. Walking in the favor of God cannot happen without a choice. Difficulties often force a choice upon us, a choice to either follow God’s desires or ours. Adam and Eve had two trees not to eat from, Cain and Abel had to choose what costly offering to bring before God, Jesus had a choice to return with His family or to remain in His Heavenly Father’s house, Jesus had to choose His own will or to take on the cross, Paul had to choose between a life of ease and one of pain and suffering for the sake of the gospel.
I believe that there is a special grace or favor of God that we receive in certain situations. I believe that there are people that will receive a favor of God that I’ll likely never be able to receive in my own life. For example, when a parent loses a child and still chooses to praise God through their difficulties. Someone like Job who suffers such a tragic loss and yet still they fall to their knees in worship and declare, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, yet still His name is to be praised.”
Paul said it this way:
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
7b Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
In this midst of Paul’s sufferings and difficulties being tormented by Satan’s messenger, Jesus said that His grace is sufficient. I believe that Paul received the grace or favor of God in a unique way that few of us will ever have the opportunity to receive.
However, when we find ourselves facing the most difficult of circumstances, we are reminded that the stage has been set for us to be able to walk in the favor of God in a unique and powerful way. We are reminded that the power of God can be demonstrated through our lives in the midst of our weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties. When we are weak, then through Christ, we are strong!
Instead of complaining and whining at God about our circumstances, we can reach out to Him and receive His grace and favor in abundance as we trust in Him and thank Him even for the difficult seasons of life. It is then that we begin to grow and increase in His favor as our faith is proven.
In fact, James teaches us that in the midst of these difficult seasons of life that we can gain such favor of God in our lives that it will be uniquely rewarded as well!
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
Jesus walked in the favor of God by faithfully following His Heavenly Father’s will no matter the cost and difficulty that it meant for Him. Since Jesus obeyed His Father’s will through difficulties, He not only found favor with God, but was seated at His right hand and given the name above every name and authority over all things!
Jesus increased in favor not only with God, but also with man. Although we are not to fear man nor to ever follow any person instead of Jesus, it is God’s will that we walk in the favor of man if at all possible. Remember that the entire fulfillment of God’s law is to love the Lord with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and also to love others as we love ourselves.
Jesus never stopped loving God and loving others. The only exception to man’s favor in the life of Jesus were those whose hearts had to be hardened against Him in order for His blood to be shed on the cross. Since I sincerely doubt that it is God’s will for any of us to be martyred by those who don’t like us, I’ll go out on a limb and say that we should live in such a way as to find favor with God first and foremost, but also with man as much as it is possible.
To find favor with man, we’re given the following tips. As we read through the gospel accounts, we can see that Jesus did all of these things, which increased His favor with God and man.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
In light of difficulties, we can gain favor with people when we are there for them throughout their difficult seasons of life. We can lend a listening ear, pray with them, and help them to walk in the favor of God when they simply feel like giving up. Though their faith may grow weak, we can encourage them in their faith and trust in God.
We’re reminded this week that to increase in God’s favor first requires opposition, resistance, and often, difficult circumstances. God’s will for permitting this difficulties is not to break us nor cause harm to us. These difficulties are temporary seasons to bring about revelation and increase in our faith and to create the potential for us to grow and increase God’s favor in our lives. Even as His word reminds us:
Lamentations 3:25-27 (MSG)
God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope for help from God. It’s a good thing to stick it out through the hard times.
Join us next week as we continue to learn how to walk in the favor of God as we recall the lost art of waiting on God and seeking after Him.