I don’t want favor, or to be #blessed. I want Jesus. And I will take whatever else that comes with.
Recently, I was talking with someone about this and they asked me this,
“If I look at someone’s life and I see what looks like ‘blessing’ or ‘goodness’ in relation to their life should I call it God’s favor, should I assume God is favoring them?”
I responded, “Nope.”
So, I am going to come right out and say it (or I guess write it?) that I want that word to go away forever. And honestly the whole idea too.
It is so easy to assume that when “good” things happen it is God’s favor.
And when “bad” things happen it is the guy in the red pantsuit with the horns that made it happen. But this sort of belief system sets us up for failure and confusion and a ton of heartbreak when God doesn’t favor us as we believe he should.
Let’s take a look at Paul..
I think it is safe to say that Paul is the greatest missionary the world has ever seen.
I would venture to say he was pretty deserving of favor…
He lived a good life.
He was a good person.
He wrote the majority of the New Testament.
He was by all estimates the greatest Christian the world has ever seen.
If God was a fan of favoring his people based on their relationship with him or because that was their right, or because that is what he did, then we would all agree that Paul would have been, should have been #blessed.
He would have lived the favored life that we all hope for. Nothing bad would have ever happened to him.
Paul writes this about his life:
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. - 2 Corinthians 11:23-30
So, yeah, Paul’s life sucked, at least when it comes to external circumstances. He got the snot beat out of him on a daily basis as he travelled preaching the gospel.
If we assume that the good things we experience in life, success, wealth, health, job growth, a general sense of things going well, if we assume all of these things happen as a result of God’s favor then what are we to assume about Paul’s life?
We would have to assume that Paul did not have God’s favor.
But if we assume that then we have to wonder why?
Why wouldn’t God want to favor Paul and bring him blessings in this life if he was such a valuable disciple of his?
Maybe Paul wasn’t really that great of a guy and God needed to discipline him.
Maybe Paul was actually quite terrible.
Maybe God didn’t like Paul.
Or maybe… the circumstances in our life do not tell us a single thing about our relationship with God. Maybe we aren’t supposed to look at our external circumstances and judge whether or not we are blessed or favored or in right standing with God?
Here's the reality: God doesn’t work in the same currency as we wish he did.
See we work in the currency of success.
The currency of money.
New car smells.
The easy life.
That feeling of, “Ahhhh. Life is good…”
Cocktails by the pool.
Netflix binges 'cause why not?
Spring break and careless nights.
Rocking chairs & porches and lemonade.
Dying old, in your sleep, with all your teeth.
Every country song ever.
You know.. the good life!
God doesn’t work in that currency. We wish he would. But he doesn’t. God doesn’t have much desire or time to think about our short sighted currency of today. He thinks about tomorrow. He thinks about what is actually important.
He thinks about himself and us getting more of him.
See, God is the greatest blessing you and I can have or experience.
It isn’t money, or success, or easy living. It is himself. It is knowing him, like really deep down in our bones, knowing him and then one day our hope is that we see him face to face and truly know him.
This is what God calls favor or what he would consider #blessed.
This is why Paul looked like he wasn’t favored because his God doesn’t use the currency we use. He doesn’t look to make us feel favored or blessed as we want to, he looks to actually bless us. And actual blessing, like real, long term realized abundant life comes through suffering. And hardship. It might feel like not a good thing in our minds, but we don’t see God’s plans.
What we call suffering and hardship and shipwreck, God calls love. God calls discipleship.
God calls it favor.
God calls it #blessed.
(Actually no, he probably doesn’t because God probably thinks hashtags are dumb.)
My son is almost 2 years old and we work hard every day for him to understand discipline and respect and all that. It isn’t easy all the time. We have to be consistent. He doesn’t speak in sentences yet but let’s imagine if he could, he might be pretty frustrated with how often we make his life difficult or we make him suffer.
“Ugh! Why do you make my life so difficult?! I don’t want to come inside even though it’s raining! You are the worst.”
“AHHH! Stop trying to change my diaper. I hate when you change it.”
Our son, if he could talk, might say we make his life difficult, but that’s because he’s an infant. He doesn’t understand why he has to get his diaper changed. He doesn’t understand that it’s probably not a good idea to be outside in the rain, even though it might be fun. Infants are pretty terrible judges of what the good life is. He might call getting his diaper changed “suffering”. He might refer to it as something other than being blessed.
But he’d be wrong.
It is in those difficult times for my infant that we are caring for him. It is in those times that we are loving him really, really well.
We cannot look at our lives, and when we see the good things that everyone else sees, and everyone else calls good and say, “God has favored that person…”
God’s love and care for us is not measured by the goodness we experience in this life in material things, but rather it is measured by our nearness to Him.
Our desire should not be to have more of this life’s good things, but rather the ultimate Thing which is God himself. That is our greatest good. God is our greatest good. We should seek to know Him more no matter what circumstances we go through.
I don’t care what comes of it, I want more of Jesus. If I have to go through hell to get more of Jesus, give me hell, give me hardship, give me death, give me sickness, give me whatever I have to go through, I want more of Jesus.
And if I get more of Jesus, and my life is a mess, say what you want, that’s the sort of favor I want.