We have all gone through a bruising year of ministry challenges and even exhaustion. Thankfully, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and the season is coming again when we can do the Lord’s work unhindered by the events of last year. But many of you feel as if you’re trying to restart your engines from a dead stop, whether your ministry method is making and multiplying disciples or your focus is on caring for the church entrusted to your care.
I would like to discuss the ONLY THING NECESSARY to recover your ministry’s momentum. It can be found in one word, and I will not keep you in suspense: That word is FAVOR.
It is the favor of the Lord that accomplishes everything for the Kingdom of God. When you have His favor, any plan will do. When you do not have His favor, no strategy will succeed.
We often think that we have to come up with just the right sequence of actions … just the right combination of behaviors, and that if we will do the right things, in the right order, then chances are good that we will succeed. This “thinking error” has caused an entire industry to grow up around helping churches to be huge “successes.” At any moment, you can Google “church growth seminar” or “church health seminar” or any similar combination of words, and you will be inundated with resources being offered by experts.
But 99% of those notebooks collecting dust on your shelf do nothing to grow your church or to make it robustly healthy. Aren’t you tired of collecting them?
I can say without fear of contradiction that our pastors would be better off emptying their shelves of unused seminar notebooks and simply deciding, “Lord, I am going to find out how to have Your favor in everything I do.”
As I wrote those words, I felt convicted, and so I paused writing this article and threw a bookshelf’s worth of musty seminar notebooks into the garbage bin outside. (That’s the most fun I’ve had in a week!)
The FAVOR OF GOD trumps all of the experts that have sold me materials, no matter how well-meaning they were. (And the best of them would agree!)
You say, “Steve, that sounds so true, but how can you say that this one word is GUARANTEED to bring results? Aren’t there many other factors? Aren’t you making things too simple?”
Let’s think about that question together:
First, whenever the Lord begins His encounter with someone in the Bible by saying, “Greetings, you who are highly favored!” or “You have found favor in the Lord’s eyes,” you can GUARANTEE that something wonderful is about to happen.
- When Noah found favor in the Lord’s eyes, God saved him (and all of us!) from the judgement of the global flood (Genesis 6:8).
- When Abraham found favor in the Lord’s eyes, God helped Sarah to become pregnant despite her age (Genesis 18).
- When Lot found favor in the Lord’s eyes, he was rescued from the fiery devastation of Sodom (Genesis 19:19).
- When Moses found favor in the Lord’s eyes, God agreed to accompany them to the promised land (Genesis 33:12).
- When Gideon found favor in the Lord’s eyes, he was granted proof that he would be used to conquer their enemies — despite Gideon’s lack of military experience or even courage (Judges 6:17).
- When Mary found favor with God, she was chosen to bear the body of our Lord Jesus in her body and to give birth to our Savior (Luke 1:30).
WHENEVER SOMEONE FINDS FAVOR IN GOD’S EYES, WONDERFUL THINGS BEGIN TO HAPPEN!
Are you beginning to see how important God’s FAVOR is to your lives, your ministries, and your churches?
Second, the FAVOR of God is accessible to ANYONE who seeks it!
How do we know this? Because God has declared that He does not show favoritism or partiality (Romans 2:11).
God shows FAVOR, but He is not guilty of FAVORITISM! This is EXTREMELY important!
I urge you to meditate on this distinction.
How could God show FAVOR to some, and yet not be guilty to even the tiniest degree of showing favoritism or having favorites?
For many of us, the answer to this question is a powerful revelation: Since God does not show favoritism in showing favor, then the GROUND RULES FOR RECEIVING GOD’S FAVOR MUST BE CONSISTENT FOR EVERYONE.
If He has shown Himself mighty to SOME who have found favor with Him, then in some way or another He will show Himself mighty on behalf of ALL who find favor with Him!!
THE FAVOR OF GOD IS ACCESSIBLE TO ANYONE WHO SINCERELY SEEKS IT!
Third, the path to God’s favor is LEARNABLE.
As Paul taught the Ephesians in chapter 5, verses 8 and 10, “Live as children … and find out what PLEASES the Lord!” The word that we translate “find out” in English is dokimazo in Greek. It means to find something out by trial and error — to TRY things until you see which ones work!
EVERYONE KNOWS that children learn very quickly how to get what they want by seeing what works on their parents. That’s actually what young children do for a living: they find out how to interact successfully with their parents, who hold all the cards. They do that by trying things. The things that work, they do more of; the things that don’t work, they stop doing.
Because they are fallen creatures, our children’s methods might involve nagging, or pouting, or temper tantrums. But in better cases, our kids learn what will PLEASE us and they do it, whether it is asking politely, or demonstrating obedience, or expressing affection, or whatever. And we ENCOURAGE them in that learning by giving them revelation about what will work on us. “Say ‘please’!” we tell them. “Thank your grandma for bringing you a cookie!”
Or we help them learn the conditions by which they can be successful. “Did you finish cleaning your room? OK, then you can go play until bedtime.”
Did you know that we are encouraged to be God’s children and find out by trial and error (dokimazo) what pleases Him? We have to LEARN how to find favor in God’s eyes.
Someone begs, “Steve, please make this concrete and practical!” OK, here it is.
God can’t be manipulated because He sees right through that. But …
When we HONOR God
by intensively interacting with Him to learn how to please Him, He
graciously bestows FAVOR on everything we do!
Edilson De Silva, our friend and ministry partner in Brazil, summarizes it like this, “When honor goes up, favor comes down.”
Did you know that even Jesus did this when He was a child? I’ll prove it: Luke 2:52.
“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and with man.”
The word translated grew in this verse is proekopten in Greek. This is the only verse in the entire Bible in which it is used in this particular form. It comes from a root word that means “to advance by effort.” (By the way, that’s why I believe that the word stature in this same verse doesn’t refer to height, which you cannot attain by effort, but rather maturity, which is the other meaning of that word.)
But the point is that Jesus advanced by effort in doing all those things that bring anyone favor with God (as well as favor with man).
AFTER LAYING THIS GROUNDWORK, what can we conclude?
The most important thing that you can do to regain your ministry’s momentum is to show God that you are setting aside time to seek His face and doing whatever it takes to honor Him by intense interaction. As you speak to Him about every aspect of your life and ministry and do whatever He reveals to you (however seemingly small it might be), GOD TAKES NOTICE and begins to bestow favor on you, whether you see it happening or not. He begins to guide your circumstances, whether you hear any guidance from Him or not.
And a “momentum of divine favor” begins to accompany your efforts. He rewards those who diligently seek Him!
This is no guarantee that you won’t face challenge or hardship, but it is a guarantee that those challenges and hardships will never succeed in defeating you. Jesus came to declare “the year of the Lord’s favor!” And BECAUSE HE HAD GROWN IN FAVOR WITH GOD all of His life, He SUCCEEDED IN EVERYTHING THAT HE SET HIMSELF TO DO despite the fact that He experienced hardship and opposition like no other man, ever!
Oh, dear brothers and sisters, whatever you do, seek the Lord’s favor!
The cry of our heart in this regard for our denomination is found in the words of Moses: “If You are pleased with us, teach us Your ways so we may KNOW You and CONTINUE to find favor with You.”
And my prayer for you (and for us all!) is found in the psalm that Moses himself actually wrote (Psalm 90:17), “May the FAVOR of the Lord rest on us. Establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands!”