Everyone wishes they could just get an advantage in life: someone to speak up for them, put in a good word, or maybe “pull of few strings!” So many times in my life, especially when I was younger, I felt like I just couldn’t catch a break. It seemed that in every situation someone else had the advantage!
Like most people in those situations I felt that life was just not fair. I even wondered at times, “Where is God in this? Why isn’t He here for me? Why aren’t my prayers getting answered?” There were times when I felt like the psalmist who lamented, But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked… their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like other men. …They have more than heart could wish (Ps 73:2-7).
I had read God’s promises of favor to the Israelites. In my heart I knew by the witness of the Spirit that the land of milk and honey was supposed to be mine even before I knew the theology of the promises of God. Like most believers, however, my idea of God’s favor was rooted in religious mysticism. I thought favor was a work God was going to do in others toward me.
Like many, I knew everything with God happened by faith. But like too many others I thought faith was when I believed hard enough to get God to act on my behalf. Little did I know that my idea of faith was actually what the Bible calls dead works. I didn’t understand that faith simply believes everything God has said and done.
Over time I walked out of that crisis, trusting God as much as I knew how, only to find myself again facing overwhelming adversity. Religious condemnation always says, “Either God is doing this to you, allowing it to test you, or using it to punish you for something you’ve done wrong.” Yet, the Bible says just the opposite. Let no one say when he is tempted tested, tried, scrutinized or made to strive, “I am tempted, tested, tried, scrutinized or made to strive by God (Ja. 1:13). I knew God was not my problem; I just wasn’t sure, however, what the problem was!
We are in Jesus and God relates to us just as He does Jesus… right now as He sits at the right hand of God! I can’t see God doing anything to me He would not first do to Jesus at this moment. When I want to know the promises and protection of God I look at the death, burial, and resurrection. When I want to see the wisdom of God I look at the life of Christ. The Bible says He is the wisdom of God. He perfectly demonstrated the practical application of God’s truth. He is our Model. I am His disciple! If I can identify anything in His life that I am fully committed to experiencing the grace of God will empower me to live it! I just wasn’t sure why He grew in favor!
One of the most intriguing Scriptures about Jesus’ life says: Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Lk. 2:52). God didn’t just wave His hand or speak the word from Heaven and cause Jesus to have favor. He grew in favor! I also recognized this verse had to be balanced against a verse in Isaiah: He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him (Is 53:2). If there was nothing that caused people to be drawn to Him from the outside, then there must be something else that caused Him to grow in favor. I came to realize THE key factor in favor. Favor is not something God does to men outside of me; favor is something God gives
My biggest revelation about favor (or the lack thereof) came when a pastor made all manner of accusations against me. I didn’t know it, but he was having an affair and he thought I knew. So he stirred his elders up against me. I was invited to an elders meeting to give them some suggestions for outreach (or so I was told.) He told the elders that I had criticism of their church and he was going to give me the opportunity to express them. I was told they wanted my suggestions about outreach. Consequently, all of my suggestions came across as attacks! It was emotional bloodshed.
When the meeting was over my head was spinning. I couldn’t understand why they were so reactive and attacking. I went downstairs to my office and wept and prayed. Fortunately for me, I didn’t ask the wrong questions. In fact, the main question I asked as I prayed was this, “What is it about me that makes it so easy for them to believe the worst about me?” This started me on a journey of learning how I communicated, identifying body language, recognizing sensitivity, and other communication skills that had been severely lacking in my personal and ministerial development.
This is when I did my first study in Proverbs looking for every Scripture about the tongue, words, lips, or any form of communication. I had been taught to just tell the truth. Be honest and other vague expressions of idealism. After reading and meditating on these Proverbs about communication the one overall realization for me came from Proverbs 18:6 in the Amplified Bible. A fool’s lips bring contention, and his mouth invites a beating. I realized that the way I communicated antagonized people. It caused contention and invited everything except favor!
My religious idealism had taught me that if I was trying to help, if I was sincere, or if I was right people should just understand. This was before I realized that Jesus brought us the truth of God’s Word. He showed us what it would look like if applied in love. That was the time in my life when I decided I was going to make walking in love my highest priority! Another powerful Scripture that rocked my world also came from Proverbs. A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver (Pr. 25:11). Words have to be fitly spoken. NO matter how valuable our communication, it must be presented in a way that is appealing!
As I made this journey I discovered another important reality. Much of my early Christian life had been spent in desperation. I was a street evangelist in the Jesus Movement. The things I did make for wonderful stories of discovering God’s provision. But the truth was I didn’t move from glory to glory, I moved from crisis to crisis. I would get in a car and drive as far as my gas would take me, witness on the streets, win people to Jesus, and then pray for the money to eat and travel back home. I had many weeks of fasting out of necessity! But it didn’t matter; I was sacrificing for Jesus.
When one lives in desperation he or she tends to take shortcuts. Shortcuts aren’t outright dishonesty, but they are things that make you look dishonest. They make it hard for people to trust you. It is actually a message that is sent from your heart to everyone around you. They don’t know why, they just don’t feel comfortable with you. But once again my youth and idealism justified the way I lived because I was doing it for Jesus! Again, I had to go back to God’s Word and allow the Holy Spirit to teach me the wisdom, i.e., practical application of truth about responsibility in finances, sound business practices, and living in peace. I had to allow the grace of God to develop an aspect of character that was severely lacking in my life.
While I face the same challenges as others, I have found that place where life works… it’s easy and light. I have incredible favor around the world in ministry, with government, and in business. I get better than I deserve. Things work out better than I am smart enough to make happen. I want to share the New Covenant promise of Divine Favor: The Unseen Advantage that is available to all of us.
It all starts with your basic concept of God. Do you believe He is good – all the time? Do you believe He always wants you to have better than you deserve, even when you are not experiencing it? Is your New Covenant foundation the Gospel of Peace? How you answer these questions is paramount in your capacity to make this journey of favor because all that God desires to do He will do in, through, and from your heart.
The word for favor in the Greek New Testament comes from the word for “grace” and means “a divine influence on the heart that reflects in our life.” The early Church had favor with all the people… the very people who watched Jesus be crucified, the very mobs that accused Him, and the innocent people who were afraid of the religious power brokers. Did God just speak a word that caused people to like them? No! It’s this type of ultra-sovereignty doctrine that causes people to blame God for everything that doesn’t work in their lives.
When we yield to the Holy Spirit God’s grace works in us. When we walk in love, mercy, and kindness it compels others to reciprocate! God explained to the children of Israel that walking in His statutes, His justice, and all of His directives would be the very factor that would cause the nations to respect and fear them. It was not God imposing Himself on the other people; it was God’s people reflecting His character that would give them favor making it possible for them to live long and prosper in the land.
In Luke 6:35-38 Jesus gives us an understanding of favor based on the immutable law of sowing and reaping…love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. This is how He relates to man. If we are His children and desire to be like Him this is how we should relate to others. Then He explains how this brings favor back to us from others: Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. Whatever we give to others they give it back… and more!
When we commit to a godly life His grace makes us able and the true law of attraction kicks in. People want to help us. They want us to prosper and succeed. They want to give back to us what we have given to them. They are attracted to us because our heart literally sends out a signal that says, “I am trustworthy. I am safe. I want to benefit you. I’m not just a taker; I’m a giver!”
Are there exceptions to this rule? Of course! Will everyone like us? No! Will everything go our way? Obviously not! But we will discover we can always win without anyone else losing. We can be a blessing to everyone around us on our way to living our dreams. We will follow the Great Shepherd who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (Eph. 3:20). We will eat the fat of the land, live in houses we didn’t build, and eat from vineyards we didn’t plant.
God didn’t tell us how to treat people just so we would have rules to obey. We are not earning His righteousness. He wants us to walk in love first, because that is His nature. Second, He wants the world to see and experience Him through us. And finally, this is the key to the Unseen Advantage… Divine Favor!