Misleading Signs of God’s Favor

Not long ago, I experienced a stretch of several months when everything seemed to go right for me. Although I’m now embarrassed to admit it, these events caused me to conclude, “Wow. God really loves me these days! It’s so awesome to be walking in His favor!”

Rather than tell you about my own crash landing on this mistaken interpretation of God’s favor, let me share the story of a friend of mine named “Joe.”

After facing some hard times a few years ago, things had really turned around for Joe. He had worked for the same company nearly 10 years, with little change in his salary or position. Then suddenly he was upgraded to a prestigious new window office, overlooking a beautiful lake. “Surely this is God’s favor!” he marveled to his friends.

During this same period of time, Joe started a new exercise regime—high-energy kickboxing. He was excited to find an exercise program he really enjoyed. “What a blessing to discover this great way to get in shape and lose weight!” he said.

But the biggest blessing of all was the day Joe unexpectedly met “the woman of his dreams” at a church event. They had an uncanny list of common interests and perspectives, and Joe had never been happier. “What an incredible sign of God’s love!” he concluded when describing God’s apparent sovereignty in bringing them together. “I’m so grateful for this amazing demonstration of His favor.”

Soon Joe’s story took some unexpected twists and turns, however. His company found someone more worthy of the nice window office, and Joe had to return to his original cubicle.

Then he started having chronic aches and pains from his kickboxing workouts. His back…his knees…his big toe—it soon became clear that the pain and risk of long-term damage was unacceptable. Joe was forced to go back to walking as his exercise of choice, and this was very disheartening.

And then the bottom fell out entirely. Just when everything seemed to being going splendidly, His “perfect” girlfriend dumped him. The trauma was almost unbearable.

If you’ve been following along with Joe’s story, you’re probably asking some vital questions at this point: “What happened to God’s favor? Did Joe do something to anger the Lord and cause Him to withdraw His love?”  

I hope you see how important this issue is. If we see signs of God’s favor when “good” things happen to us, then it’s probably logical to assume we’ve somehow lost His favor when “bad” things happen to us.

Yet, is this what the Bible teaches? Certainly not!

You see, many of us have the same theology as Job’s friends. When Job was prospering financially, in good health, and enjoying the perfect family life, his friends were convinced God had great love for Job. But when he faced unspeakable adversity, they were just as certain he had somehow squandered God’s love and favor.

The Bible is full of similar stories of God’s love for people who didn’t seem to be “blessed” at some points in their life. Joseph…Naomi…Jeremiah…Daniel…Paul—the list could go on and on.

If your theology is wrong on this point, your life will inevitably be a constant roller coaster, never certain where you stand with God…never really sure if He loves you and has your best interests at heart.

If you were walking with Jesus during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:7-10), you might have seen the “Hosannas” as a sure sign of the Father’s favor upon His Son. But this kind of thinking would create a serious dilemma a few days later when the same crowd shouted, “Crucify Him!” (Mark 15:12-14) And how does Jesus’ agony on the cross square with the misguided notion that God’s favor always means a carefree life?

The point is this: It’s dangerous to assume God’s blessings are always a sign of His favor, or to see every adversity as a sign of His displeasure. Many ungodly people are healthy and financially prosperous, but that doesn’t guarantee they will find the Lord’s mercy and favor in the final judgment.

Jesus taught that God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). This means our outward circumstances are often a very misleading representation of our Heavenly Father’s love for us.

However, this has been a hard lesson for my friend Joe, and for me as well. We’ve had to repent of trusting our circumstances as signs of God’s favor, instead of simply trusting what He’s said in His Word.

Perhaps you’re like Joe and me, needing to realize this powerful truth once again: Instead of loving you with a vacillating love, God loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). His grace, mercy, and favor aren’t fragile qualities that haphazardly come and go.

So remember: If you are in Christ  today, you can be confident that you are also in His favor—no matter what difficult circumstances you may be going through.

Isn’t this a tremendous relief? Isn’t it good to know you already have God’s favor if you have Christ?  Paul said it so well: He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

Now that’s favor you can count on…rest upon…and radiate to others. Why? Because He loves you—no matter what.

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I would love to preach at your church or conference, be a consultant to your leadership team, or help your organization navigate the waters of transition. You can reach me at info@JimBuchan.com.

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2 thoughts on “Misleading Signs of God’s Favor

  1. Ohhhhhh so good!!!!!! It’s so easy to focus on our circumstances, both “good” and “bad”, hard and easy, sunny and stormy. It’s so often the yucky times that draw us into a deep part of God’s heart that we’ve not known before. Of course it’s easier to look back and rejoice. But I’m realizing that we can rejoice even when our emotions don’t feel rejoicy. It’s legitimate praise. Thanks, Jim!!!!

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