The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘What Is Favor?’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 5/11/2014, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1k67r46
What is Favor?
In Acts 2, Peter gives the first sermon since the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. The Bible then goes on to describe how the disciples, “…ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:46-47). Favor is one of the characteristics we – Spirit-filled Christians – should display. What’s more, the Bible tells us that we should have favor not only with God, but also with men (Lk 2:52). So what does favor look like?
First, favor is universal. The text above from Acts 2 says that the disciples had favor with all the people. All means all. Now this does not exclude us from persecution. There should, however, be something about us that other people crave. When we interact with other people, their response should be: I don’t know what that is, but I want that.
Second, favor is contagious. It will make people want to be around you. We see this characteristic displayed in Jacob’s life, especially in his relationship with Laban. In Genesis 29, Jacob falls in love with Laban’s daughter Rachel. Before long, he asks Laban for her hand in marriage. Laban tells him that if he works for seven years, Rachel is his. But then Laban does something underhanded and deceptive. On the wedding night, instead of sending Rachel in to consummate the wedding vows, he sends her older sister Leah! Poor Jacob didn’t realize until the next morning, but by then it was too late.
Always a good sport, Jacob agreed to serve Laban another seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage. Why wasn’t Laban more straightforward, and why didn’t he want Jacob to leave? Favor. Laban begged Jacob,
“Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the Lord has blessed me for your sake.” Then he said, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.” – Gen 30:27-28
Jacob was blessed, and Laban knew that by keeping him around, he would be blessed as well. Can people say that about you?
Third, favor is permanent. The 30th Psalm gives us an amazing promise when we fear God:
For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. – Ps 30:5
I hope I’m not the first person to tell you this, but God is not an angry God. His wrath was completely spent on His Only Son Jesus Christ on the Cross. Since His wrath is poured out, that means there is none left for God to spend on me – or on you!
What Isn’t Favor?
If you’re like me, anything you’ve ever achieved in life has required blood, sweat and tears. If you’ve ever gotten a promotion at work, it’s probably because you earned it (unless your daddy works in a corner office upstairs). If you have an awesome family, it’s because you’ve put in the time and effort to raise them right. This rings true for New Yorkers especially: there is something about this city that attracts the best of the best. Even Frank Sinatra knew this was the toughest city in the world!
The result is that so many of us think we have to earn favor. We read stories about men like Jacob and David, and women like Mary and Hannah (keep reading!), and think they did something special to deserve favor from God. But they didn’t!
We have favor because of the Cross of Jesus Christ. In fact, that reality is built into the very definition of the word favor whenever it’s used in the New Testament. The word “favor” is our translation for the Greek word charis, which means “the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace” (Strong’s #5485). In fact, the King James Version of the Bible actually translates “favor” as “grace.” In other words, because we are under grace, we’re covered in favor. The two are interchangeable: we can’t experience grace without favor, and we can never earn favor because it’s the result of grace! Jesus Christ already earned it all – salvation, healing and deliverance – for us on the Cross.
It’s worth noting the impact this realization should have on the way we live our lives. Charis (favor) is also defined as “…that which furthers believers in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.” The very definition of the word ‘favor’ tells us that we can never earn favor with ‘good Christian behavior.’ The order of operations is wrong. We need favor to act right; we can’t just act right and expect to earn favor because of it. We must see how counterintuitive it is to try and earn or deserve favor. We have it unconditionally because of who we are, not conditionally because of what we’ve done. Favor is a reward: but not for anything you’ve done; for everything Jesus has! Our benefit (recompense, reward) is in proportion to what Jesus Christ did on the Cross: never in proportion to what we’ve accomplished or earned in our own lives!
Experiencing the Favor of God in Your Life
So how can you experience more of God’s favor in your life? The result might surprise you (hint: it’s not by following a list of rules). In a perfect world, every person would get plugged into a local church, and every Christian would read his Bible every day. But the reality is far from the ideal. Fewer than 20% of people in the U.S. regularly attend church, and a survey by the American Bible Society found that fewer than 19% of Christians read their Bible every day.  I’m a pastor, and I’ve seen the fruit of church attendance and Bible reading (‘good Christian disciplines’) in my own life, as well as the lives of many people in our church. But as much as I would love to tell you otherwise, the truth is this: the failure to regularly practice any ‘good Christian disciple’ cannot disqualify you from being an intended recipient of God’s favor. Good behavior can’t earn you God’s affection. However, neglecting simple truths just might prevent you from receiving the favor God already wants to put on your life.
So how can we become magnets for God’s favor? Let’s learn from pregnant women! In the time of Jesus’ life, having children meant you were favored by God. So how did some of the great women of the Bible find themselves steeped in God’s favor? They trusted God, and they had patience.
In Luke 1, Mary was visited by the archangel Gabriel, and found out that she would be having a Child. Who was the father? The Holy Spirit! Talk about a scary message. Can you imagine trying to explain that one to your parents as a young teenage girl? Yet instead of panicking, Mary made a difficult decision: she was going to trust God. Her response to God’s news for her was not fear or doubt, but, “Let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). So, what is your response when God showers you with favor? Do you tell Him it’s just too good to be true? Do you ask Him to come back another time because it’s just not convenient? Or do you trust Him with your life?
Another woman of great favor was Hannah. In 1 Samuel 1, we learn that Hannah is barren. What’s more, she takes a lot of abuse for it. One year, after her family travels to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to God, Hannah stops in the temple to pray. She asks God for a son, and promises Eli (the priest) that if she’s given a son, she will dedicate him for a life of service to God. 1 Sam 1:20 describes how “in the process of time,” Hannah gives birth to a son. What’s the message for us? Trusting in God requires patience. If we want more of God’s favor on our life, we have to trust in His Word and know His promises are true.
The next year, Hannah stays behind as her husband and family travel up to Shiloh. Hannah knew that her return to Shiloh would mean handing over her son for service to the priest, and she wanted to make sure he was grown enough before making the journey. Her husband agrees to her decision, but cautioned her with these words before he left:
So Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him. Only let the Lord establish His word.” – 1 Sam 1:23
Let the Lord establish His word. The subtle implication in Elkanah’s instruction to his wife is that Hannah could actually prevent God’s word from being established if she didn’t exercise patience and trust in God’s purpose for her son. As His children, we actually have the ability to hold God back from establishing His Word when we operate from a place of fear and unbelief. Far too often, we get restless and impatient and move around and take things into our own hands. We don’t let God establish His Word. God never intended for that to be the case!
Joseph was a man who was well versed in patience. In Genesis 37, Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery. A band of Ishmaelite raiders purchase him, bring him down into Egypt, and sell him to an officer of Pharaoh named Potiphar. So what did Joseph do? He didn’t wail and scream, complaining to God that life wasn’t working out the way he thought it should. He stayed patient, and the result was favor:
So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. – Gen 39:4
Then things get worse. He’s thrown into prison because of Potiphar’s wife. But guess what happens there? You got it: he finds favor.
But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. – Gen 39:21
God goes on to promote Joseph out of prison and up to the right hand of Pharaoh. Because of God’s favor, Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of everything he has! Joseph trusted in God and stayed patient, and the result was continuous promotion. Even when it might not seem like it, God remembers His covenant with you!
This brings us to the most important characteristic of favor. Favor is inherited. Paul makes a wonderful promise to the Galatian church that is worth repeating:
And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. –Gal 3:29
Where did Joseph get his favor? From his father Jacob. And where did Jacob get his favor? From Isaac and Abraham. Where do we get our favor? From the same God, who promises to shower all of His children with blessings, honor and favor.
– by Pastor Mike White
© Michael D. White and CityLight Church, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael White and CityLight Church with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.