"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 in-depth, 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're 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 shouldn't hesitate to pray for it.
It's 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're making a difference for God, we can't 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 89:17 (NLT) says, "Our power is based on Your favor." And Psalm 5:12 (NIV) says, "Surely, O Lord, You bless the righteous; You surround them with Your favor as with a shield."
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 teachers, employers, neighbors, and others we come in contact with. But we mustn't assume that this favor is automatic. Often, we will have to ask God for it, expecting Him to act on our behalf.
The Lord tells us: "Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice." (Isaiah 41:10 AMP) One of the ways that the Lord “hardens [us] to difficulties” is to allow us to encounter hardship and heartache as we seek to follow Him in obedience. If we never had opportunities to exercise our faith and trust in God during hard times, we would never grow spiritually, or come to know the Lord in deep and intimate ways. We would become arrogant and self-reliant, rather than humble and dependent upon the Lord’s wisdom, guidance, and grace. And we would never fulfill our God-given purpose or potential.
The Lord has extraordinary rewards and blessings “on the other side,” just waiting for you. Don’t “fall away” when trouble comes, and forfeit the good things God has in store for you. Start seeing your “intervening trials” as faith-building bumps in the road that God will use to your advantage and for His glory!
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. 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)
Prayer: Lord, help me to always concentrate on pleasing You, and 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