I had a rough week last week. You know what I mean, those days where it seems like there is no end to the emotional pounding and strain. I had a surprising phone call that served as an intervention on Friday. It was a dear friend, who had no idea what I’d been through. But, God knew, and He knew the right person to send my way with just the right words of encouragement. Isn’t God amazing, He knows where we are, and what we need!
The phone call made me think about the importance of being drawn to and assembling with the right people. Most importantly, being drawn to and the desire to find favor with God.
1. Walk with God intimately – like Enoch. Scripture says Enoch “walked with God” for 300 years (Genesis 5:22-24). We don’t have any details of what Enoch did during his life, other than that he “walked with God.” Enoch and God must have had some great talks as they walked. Let your life be characterized by a meaningful walk – not a brisk, hurried run – with God. Take the time to get to know Him, to recognize His voice, to hear His heart through His Word, and perhaps even take long, uninterrupted walks with him every morning or evening. Leave a legacy, like Enoch, of having been one who “walked with God.”
2. Be His “friend” – like Abraham. God told Abraham to leave his country, his people and everything he knew and “go to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). Even though Abraham knew very little of God at that time, he left everything familiar and went out “even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). That is faith. Hebrews 11:6 says “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Furthermore, Scripture tells us “‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23). Is God asking you to take a step of faith even if you don’t have the numbers, the statistics, or a “comfortable feeling” about it? Do you even recognize His voice enough to know when He is urging you to take a step of faith? Grow in your faith by growing in your knowledge of Who God is. Study His attributes. Be convinced He can be trusted. As you show tremendous faith in a tremendous God, He will likely call you His friend, too.
3. Strive for obedience – even in difficult circumstances – like Joseph. Joseph, the favored son of Jacob, had a life of difficult circumstances that included abandonment by his family, being sold into slavery, being falsely accused, and years of imprisonment. Yet Joseph was able to see the hand of God in all his suffering and declared at the end of his life to his brothers (who earlier attempted to murder him): “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph’s obedience and continual acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God touched God’s heart so much so that God continued to grant Joseph favor in every circumstance he was in, ultimately promoting him to second in command of all of Egypt. On Joseph’s authority, his family and the entire tribe of Israel was spared during years of severe famine in Egypt. Are circumstances in your life less than perfect? Are they downright painful? Thank God in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and capture His heart by praising Him in spite of how you are being treated. Keep a humble heart that ever acknowledges God’s sovereign will and He will honor you for it.
4. Be meek and humble – like Moses. In Isaiah 66:2, God said: “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” We also learn in Numbers 12:3 that “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” Perhaps it was his meekness and humility that caused God to meet with Moses “face to face” and ultimately show him His glory – something He didn’t do for anyone else. In Exodus 33:17, God told Moses: “for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name” (Exodus 33:17). God dwells with, provides for, and shows favor toward the humble. Not to those who want to share the same level of leadership and glory as the Almighty. Be one who is humble and realizes that promotion comes from God alone, who “puts down one and exalts another” (Psalm 75:6-7, NKJV).
5. Desire to do His will – like David. David, the Psalmist, wrote songs of devotion to God. He poured out his heart to Him. And because of the time he spent in sweet devotion with his Lord he cultivated the kind of faith and loyalty to God, as a mere teenager, who could take down a giant with just a pebble and a slingshot. David became Israel’s greatest king because of his heart to please the Lord. And even after a season of sin (in which he slept with and impregnated the wife of one of his “mighty men” who was out at war for him, and then had him murdered to cover up his sin), God still gave David the enduring legacy as “‘…a man after My heart, who will do all My will’” (Acts 13:22, NASB). How can you not fall in love with a God like that – one Who sees your heart over your horrific mistakes? Study the songs of David in Scripture and get a look at the kind of heart that is pleased to obey God over anything else. That kind of devotion leaves a lasting impression on God.
6. Seek God’s wisdom above anything else – like Solomon. As a young man – possibly insecure as he took the role of Israel’s king in the shadow of his larger-than-life father, David – Solomon was humble and dependent on God. So much so that when God appeared to Solomon in a dream and asked Solomon what he desired God to give him, Solomon didn’t pause to consider riches, fame or even success as a king. Solomon immediately asked for a discerning heart to govern God’s people and to distinguish between right and wrong. Solomon’s answer to God’s “million-dollar question” pleased God so much that God gave him wisdom, along with more riches and fame than any person on earth had ever known (1 Kings 3:5-15). What do you want more than anything? To succeed in your business? To be known as a “good person”? To raise children who love the Lord? To be respected and admired by others? When God sees that your heart’s desire is the same as His desire for your life, He will be pleased to grant it (Psalm 37:4).
7. Be surrendered – like Mary of Nazareth. The angel Gabriel called Mary of Nazareth “favored one” when he announced that she would bear the long-awaited Messiah. But his news also meant public scandal and the possibility that Mary would be an outcast in her community (because she was still a virgin). Yet, despite those legitimate concerns, she showed no reservation, only a humble, surrendered response: “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, NASB).
In other words, “I’m Yours, Lord, for whatever You have in mind.” Can you say that when God unfolds a path before you that looks uncertain, undesirable, or maybe even threatening? What if His plan, like His plan for Mary, means no wedding, loss of your reputation, and a life that will be misunderstood and burdensome in a way that few will understand (Like 2:34-35)? Develop an obedient, surrendered heart like Mary and you may find yourself “favored” by God.
8. Love God extravagantly – like Mary of Bethany. Mary of Bethany was the woman who sat at Jesus’ feet, hanging on his every word as her sister, Martha, scrambled about the kitchen, taking care of the dinner preparation. Mary wasn’t being lazy by sitting it out when there was work to be done. She was seizing the moment to sit at the feet of her Master, and Jesus commended her for it (Luke 10:38-42). We read later that Mary, shortly before Jesus’ death, anointed Him with expensive perfume she had saved possibly for her own wedding. She realized her “Bridegroom” was at hand and she spared no expense to honor Him. Jesus again commended her, saying wherever the gospel was taught, the story would be told of what she did, as a remembrance to her (John 12:1-8; Mark 14:3-9). Would you rather be with Jesus than do a bunch of things for Him? Can you risk the misunderstanding or judgment of others for not joining in the busy work, but instead sitting it out to spend more time with God? God honors the heart that reveres and loves His Son without hesitation, without reservations, and without regard for cost. Love God’s Son extravagantly and spare no expense to show Him what He means to you.
9. Lean in close to Him – like John the beloved disciple. John, son of Zebedee, described himself throughout his gospel as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Didn’t Jesus love them all? Of course, He did. But John was especially close to Jesus. John was the one who leaned on Jesus’ breast as they reclined at the dinner table the night Jesus was betrayed, and John wasn’t afraid to ask Jesus the question everyone else feared to ask Him (John 13:21-25). John, incidentally, was the only one of Jesus’ disciples not martyred for his faith, but died in exile on Patmos, after seeing and recording the vision of God’s glory. John wasn’t perfect. Scripture calls him one of the “sons of thunder” (that tells me he was a “hot-head” when it came to his temper!). Yet John stayed close to Jesus and it made all the difference in softening him to become the one who wrote First John – the Bible’s book on love. Can you stick close to Jesus, no matter what He says that you don’t understand? Can you stay near Him even if all your friends walk away? John stayed at the foot of the cross with the women closest to Jesus on the night Jesus died after all the other disciples had scattered for fear of their lives. Be the one who stays close to Jesus no matter what. God notices.
10. Become like Jesus – God’s beloved Son God clearly showed favor to His beloved Son. God gives us eternal life when we embrace His Son (1 John 5:11-12). He promises to give us whatever we ask for on behalf of His Son (John 16:23). He seeks to mold us into the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29). If you want to have favor with God, be fully committed to His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Worship and revere Him, identify with His pain, gain a heart like His, and display His characteristics in your life. Jesus prayed that we would have the kind of unity with our Heavenly Father and with one another that He had with His own Father (John 17:20-21). That means just as Jesus shared intimacy with God, you and I can share that intimacy with God, too, as we love Him like Jesus did – with all our heart, mind, soul and strength (Mark 12:30).