SYNOPSIS: Having God’s favor—his presence, power, and protection—is not a matter of what we receive in a certain moment of desperate need, it is the result of walking with him in a life-sustaining relationship over time. It is also the result of his sovereign hand that keeps us from danger or leads us into and through it, according to his will. We don’t have to twist God’s arm by chanting certain phrases, or unthinkingly repeating his name, or having perfect attendance in church, or praying three times a day, or giving to the poor, or whatever. Some of those activities might be good and fitting, but we don’t do them to get God’s favor. We do them because we have been ridiculously blessed by God’s favor.
Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 4:3
After the battle was over, the troops retreated to their camp, and the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?” Then they said, “Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.”
Way too many believers have what I call a “lucky charm” Christianity. They believe that if they robotically go through certain motions, or if they repeat certain spiritual phrase by rote, then God’s favor and protection will be guaranteed. For instance, that is what our friend does who makes the sign of the cross before stepping to the plate to take a swing at a high fastball with the bases loaded in the ninth with two outs and his team three runs down is using God as his lucky rabbit’s foot. But that is also what our friend is doing who mindlessly “pleads the blood” of Jesus to relieve a suddenly crisis.
I don’t meant to step on your toes if any of those things are precious to you, but having God’s favor—his presence, power and protection—is not a matter of what you do in a certain moment of desperate need, it is the result of walking with him in life-sustaining relationship over time. It is also the result of his sovereign hand that keeps us from danger or leads us into and through it, according to his will. We don’t have to twist God’s arm by chanting certain phrases, or unthinkingly repeating his name a billion times in prayer, or having perfect attendance in church, or praying three times a day, or giving to the poor, or whatever….
Though some of those activities are good and fitting, we don’t do them to get God’s favor; we do them because we have been ridiculously blessed by God’s favor. Some of the aforementioned things—like mindless repetition of his name—are simply learned behaviors. But they don’t make you more lovable to God. He loves you anyway—if you don’t do them, and yes, even if you do. While I might get irritated with your “rituals”, God’s love for you is not diminished.
Yet the truth remains that God wants an intimate, moment-by-moment, love relationship with you instead of rote ritualism. He doesn’t want it to be fear-based, routine, or works oriented. He wants you to be connected deeply with him so that his life can constantly flow to you. Jesus said it this way in John 15:5-9,
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
The Israelites didn’t get that. They didn’t abide in God’s love. In fact, they had removed themselves far from him. And as a consequence, godless enemies continually harassed them—in this case, the nasty, old Philistines. When the Philistines went to war against them, Israel mistakenly assumed they got walloped simply because they didn’t have the Ark of the Covenant with them in battle—their lucky charm. How wrong they were, for when they took it into the ark into the next battle, they found out that the it did not force God to show up and win the game for them.
God wanted a relationship with his people, but he treated him like a good luck charm. That never works. Just remember that.
God wants to be in relationship with you as a loving Father to a loving child. That is where the favor flows!