DIVINE FAVOR 2-26-17

DIVINE FAVOR

February 26, 2017

 

                   There is a difference between being in someone’s favor, and being their favorite.  The Bible is quite clear that God does not show favoritism (see Deuteronomy 10:17, Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, Galatians 2:6, and Colossians 3:25).  But that does not mean that everyone has God’s favor. 

          “Finding Favor” (especially divine favor) according to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology means gaining approval, acceptance, or special benefits or blessings. There is also a close association among favor, grace, and mercy.  The favor that human beings receive from God depends on his good pleasure and is often extended in response to prayer or righteous living. Those whose walk is blameless, such as Noah or Moses (Genesis 6:8 ; Exodus 33:12-13), receive favor and honor from the Lord (Psalm 84:11). In Moses' blessing on the twelve tribes he speaks of Joseph's prosperity and fruitfulness as the one who enjoyed God's favor (Deuteronomy 33:16). Gabriel told Mary (Luke 1:30) that she had "found favor with God" and would bear the Christ-child. When Christ was born the angelic host announced to the shepherds that God would send "peace to men on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14). At age twelve Jesus enjoyed the favor of God and men as he "grew in wisdom and stature" (Luke 2:52), a description similar to the one about the boy Samuel (Samuel 2:26).

          Often the bestowal of God's favor comes in answer to prayer as people cry out for mercy. In our second Scripture reading this morning you heard how Moses sought the favor of the Lord and pleaded that God would spare Israel in spite of their sinful worship of the golden calf (Exodus 32:7-14).  Then, in the following chapter Moses prayed that he might know God and learn his ways so that his favor might continue (Exodus 33:12-13). Sinful kings such as Manasseh humbled themselves and sought the Lord in their distress, and he graciously showed them favor (2 Kings 13:4; 2 Chronicles 33:12). Sometimes, however, the Lord withheld his compassion and brought judgment on his people (cf. Isaiah 27:11).

          Still, when the full force of his judgment struck Israel, God did not abandon the nation but restored them from exile. He showed compassion to this people and saved them from their distress (Psalm 106:4 ; Isaiah 60:10). Isaiah calls this deliverance the "time" or "the year of the Lord's favor" (49:8; 61:2), which is linked with the day of salvation in the New Testament (Luke 4:19 ; 2 Corinthians 6:2). Those who believe the gospel receive the ultimate gift of God's favor: eternal life through Christ.

          Human approval can be gained through faithful and effective service. Joseph enjoyed the favor of Potiphar as he wisely administered Potiphar's estate, though ultimately this recognition came through God's blessing (Genesis 39:4, Genesis 39:21). Ruth found favor in the eyes of the wealthy Boaz because of her kindness to her mother-in-law, Naomi (Ruth 2:2, Ruth 2:10, Ruth 2:13). Although David was badly out of favor with Saul, even the Philistines realized how quickly David could have regained that favor through his military skill (1 Sam 29:4). A king's favor brought many benefits to the recipient (Proverbs 16:15).

          Because of sin God requires sacrifices to make atonement and restore his favor. In the Old Testament animal sacrifices were presented at the sanctuary with the hope that God would accept them and forgive the sins of the offerer (Lev 1:3-4). Such acceptance was not automatic, however, for the offerer had to have an attitude of repentance and humility (cf. Gen 4:4-5; Micah 6:7-8 ). When Christ died on Calvary, the perfect sacrifice was presented, making it possible for all who believe to enjoy God's favor (2 Corinthians 6:2).

                                                (see http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/favor/)

          Yes, Christ’s sacrifice is what makes it possible for us to enjoy God’s favor.  But there is something required on our part.  First and foremost is faith.  Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God.”  But faith must lead to obedience.  I have used the following verses in James 2 in numerous messages, but I don’t think they can be stressed enough… “do you want evidence that faith without deeds is worthless? Was not our father Abraham justified by what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that his faith was working with his actions, and his faith was perfected by what he did.  And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called a friend of God.”  (vs. 20-23).  It upsets me greatly that there are pastors preaching that all you have to do to get God’s blessing is ‘claim’ it.  Speak it.  And voile’ - you will be prosperous! God’s favor will rain down upon you!  Your next breakthrough is right around the corner and success is yours for the taking.  And what happens when their listeners keep right on living as they were living, and that miracle they are expecting because Pastor Wonderful promised them it would happen, doesn’t happen?  They become disillusioned, their faith a distant memory, and they are worse off than before.  But that empty spot in the church pew will be quickly filled by the next person looking for an easy blessing, a quick fix to their life, and a rosy future with no effort on their part.  Don’t believe the lie!   Even with God’s favor, an easy life isn’t promised.  Noah had to work hard building an ark for over 100 years, while being taunted by unbelievers, before he was saved from the flood.  But if he hadn’t, he and his family would have perished with everyone else.  Mary was blessed for her purity and faith and willingness to bear God’s Son, but her life was anything but easy, and filled with great sorrow as she watched her son give His life for us.  The Bible even says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”  (Luke 12:48).  So if you want much from God, you must be willing to give much in return. 

          So while salvation is not by works (Ephesians 2:8), but is only through faith in the shed blood of Christ upon the cross as the final sacrifice for our sins, and His resurrection from the dead which defeated death for us; God’s favor rests upon those who are willing to go where He wants them to go, do what He wants them to do, and makes their love for Him supreme in their lives.   Are you willing?  How about some additional incentive…

          When Moses interceded for the children of Israel, and pleaded with God for His favor upon them, God spared them and gave them a chance to repent of their disobedience.  So, too, God hears the prayers of the righteous when they pray for those who have fallen out of God’s favor.  Therefore, our obedience will not only bring God’s favor upon us, but it will give power to our prayers for others. 

          Yes, we need to do this, not only for ourselves as individuals, but as a church.  For God’s favor to rest upon this church we must heed what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” Or as he said to the church in Philippi, “…conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. …stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.”  If we, as a church, dedicate ourselves to sharing the gospel and living in a manner worthy of it, God’s favor will rest upon us.  We may not fill the pews like the churches that preach the sugar-coated version, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will bring lost souls to true faith, and bring those who already know Christ to greater spiritual maturity.  And there could be no greater joy than that.  Amen.

CHILDREN'S MESSAGE:

Your mom asks you to clean you room, and says you have two hours to do it, and then she will give you an ice cream cone.  So you think, I have two hours, no need to start already.  And then you have 15 minutes left, but your favorite cartoon is on...  So your mom comes in after the two hours are up, and sees your room still isn't clean.  Do you get an ice cream cone?