"Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man."
- Proverbs 3:3-4 NIV
For most of my life, I had repeatedly heard the verses in the Bible that talked about how those who were devoted to the Lord would suffer persecution and criticism from others. I got the impression that I always had to choose between having God's favor or man's. Once I started studying the Scriptures for myself, I began to realize that many times, I could enjoy both.
The verse above promises us favor in the sight of God AND man when we walk in God's ways. The apostle Paul records a similar statement in Romans 14:18 (NIV), where he describes true Kingdom behavior, and says, "Anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men." The truth is that if we just concentrate on pleasing God, HE will give us favor with others when we need it most. We can even ASK God to give us favor with others. When we do that, we are not being selfish or prideful, but scriptural.
Nehemiah was a devoted servant of the Lord. He was called by God to rebuild the city walls of Jerusalem during the reign of King Artaxerxes. As cupbearer to the king, he asked the Lord to give him favor with the ruler, so that he could complete his God-given assignment. "Give Your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man." (Nehemiah 1:11 NIV) Here, we learn an important Bible principle - that God will grant us favor with others when it will help us carry out His will and plan.
We can also pray for favor when we take a stand for the Lord. In the first chapter of the Book of Daniel, the young prophet "resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine," and he needed the cooperation of the chief official in order to carry out his commitment. (Daniel 1:8 NIV) Scripture says, "Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel." (Daniel 1:9 NIV) When receiving favor will glorify God, we should not hesitate to pray for it.
It is true that believers who are really committed to God will sometimes experience criticism and persecution. Jesus said we could count on it. He wanted us to know what we were getting into when we made the decision to follow Him. If we are making a difference for God, we cannot expect Satan to just sit back and do nothing to try to hinder us. But the Bible teaches us that we can pray for God's favor, which can be a powerful weapon against the enemy's attacks. Psalm 86:17 (NLT) says: "Send me a sign of Your favor. Then those who hate me will be put to shame, for You, O Lord, help and comfort me." And Psalm 5:12 (NIV) says, "Surely, O Lord, You bless the righteous; You surround them with Your favor as with a shield." God's favor provides us with supernatural protection and provision.
We are God's children - His chosen, His elect. And He is committed to protecting and providing for His own. When we concentrate on pleasing God, we can depend on Him to change people's hearts for our benefit. Proverbs 16:7 (NIV) says, "When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies live at peace with him." If God is willing and able to change the hearts of our enemies, surely we can expect Him to give us favor in the sight of our employers, neighbors, teachers, and others we come in contact with. But we must not assume that this favor is automatic. Often, we will have to ask God for it, expecting Him to act on our behalf.
Over the years, when my children have been treated unfairly at school by their teachers or fellow students, I have asked the Lord to give them favor, and He has always been faithful. I have also asked God to grant my family favor in the sight of bosses and coworkers, as well as potential employers. And I have seen my family acquire jobs that we were not even qualified for, often with salaries well above what we expected.
When you pray for favor, people will bless you, and they won't even know why. But don't just take my word for it. Begin today to pray for favor, and discover for yourself that "the Lord bestows favor and honor" upon His people! (Psalm 84:11 NIV)
Lord, help me to always concentrate on pleasing You above everyone else. Teach me how to pray for favor with others, especially when I need it most. Reveal to me how praying for favor can open doors that appear to be closed. Thank You that blessing me with favor will bring You glory!
- J. M. Farro