“Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” – Mark Twain
The Favor of God
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” Luke 2:14
I was doing some Christmas-time reading this morning when I came upon this Scripture. “How,” you may ask, “during the Christmas season, can such a wonderful, sublime, uplifting, awe-inspiring announcement by a host of heavenly angels on the announcement of a baby-Savior born in Bethlehem bother you?” It’s simple. I have trouble comprehending that I am one upon whom God’s favor rests.
When I think about the favor of God, it seems to me that His favor mostly rests on someone else, and their accomplishments for the Kingdom are proof-positive that God favors them. But what about me? What have I done to garnish God’s favor? I’m a middle-aged man who feels he has yet to make a mark on the world. Nothing I’ve done seems very significant. No magazine has written an article about me, there are no ministries founded in my name (or, thank God, in my memory!) and no schools with a “Thornber Chapel” or a “James D. Thornber Hall.”
I’m the type who sometimes thinks God is waiting to punish me, and I look for meaningful messages in everything. Since my internet provider is down this morning, I take it as a sign from God I’m spending too much time blogging and not enough time in prayer. If I have a flat tire, I attribute it to a jealous thought I had about a co-worker or the argument I had with my wife. If I lose my job, it’s because God is teaching me I didn’t work hard enough and wasted too much time.
Besides, why should I have the favor of God? And what does it mean to have God’s favor? I looked it up, and “favor” means “good pleasure and well-pleased.” What have I done that God is “well-pleased” with me and His “good pleasure” rests on my life? Nothing, really. But then, that’s the point.
In this passage, the angels ascribe glory to God for His favorable disposition towards the people of earth. That includes me. And what did I “do” to obtain God’s favor? Nothing. It has all been done for me. And that is where I err. Too often I’m still trying to “earn” His love and favor the way I earn a paycheck. However, even the faith I have is a gift from God (Rom. 12:3).
Most of us have great difficulty accepting the grace of God – His unearned, unmerited, un-worked-for good pleasure and well-pleasing thoughts about our life. All we see are our sins, mistakes and shortcomings. God sees those things too, but He also sees our future. Is His favor undeserved? Of course. But that is the way of love. Love isn’t about deserving; it’s about choosing the best for another at the expense of yourself.
To understand this better, let’s consider a family. Through a precious and intimate encounter, loving couples choose to bring a baby into the world. They love that child completely and totally, unconditionally and without restraint, even before she is born. They know the child will make mistakes and drive them crazy with worry, but they love that child anyway. What did the child “do” to earn such favor and love? Nothing. In the same way, deserving God’s favor and love was never the point. Accepting His love and favor is.
Now, as I contemplate the favor of God, I realize that His favor has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him. The angels in this passage give glory to God for His gracious and unmerited favor – they don’t say anything about us deserving it.
Now I’m finally able to understand it a little better. God’s favor does rest on me because God chooses it to be so. My faith in His forgiving act of love at Calvary insures that His good pleasure will remain on my life not because of what I do, but because of whose I am. Knowing this, perhaps I’ve just given myself the ultimate Christmas present.