Now think about this statement from “The Greatest” a YouVersion Reading Plan;
“Did you know that God doesn’t play favorites? Now, this might seem like good news or bad news depending on how your week is going. Okay, but really, the truth is that this is GOOD news for everyone. Not only does God love all people, He wants us to do the same. We’re supposed to accept, love, and value everyone—no matter how different they may be. Today, ask God to help you resist playing favorites. Ask Him to help you be open to loving and accepting people who are way different than you. Accepting all > favoring some, every time!”
James 2:1 NIV My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.
So, you can understand my surprise when I read that God has given some people over others.
The author, Cindi McMenamin, in her article “What is God’s Favor and How Do We Get It?”, points out that the scripture we quote to show that God is impartial, when taken in context is referring to God’s impartiality in salvation only.
Acts 10:34 NIV Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism
Here it is in context.
Acts 10:23-35 NIV Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.” While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?” Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.” Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.
So maybe we should change to say that God doesn't play favorites when granting salvation, but He does give some favor over others in some things in the church and for His Kingdom. When it comes to working through individuals for His purposes here on earth, God clearly singles out some over the rest. The decision to grant favor is His alone and may or may not be the answer to a request for favor. When He grants favor it is for His glory alone.
In fact, there is a scripture that says God is looking for specific people to receive His favor.
2 Chronicles 16:9 NIV For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.” (Emphasis mine)
After that “aha” moment I remembered that Paul said that we are rewarded for what we do in this life. Yes, rewards are earned, but everybody doesn't get them. That’s a form of favor.
2 Corinthians 5:6, 8-10 NIV Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
The question now is how I become one of those who gets God special favor. Cindi gives us ten people from the Bible as examples for us to follow so that we can receive favor and reward from our very generous Father who shows no partiality in giving us the opportunity to obtain in His favor.
by Cindi McMenamin
* ALL Bold Emphasis mine
God doesn’t have favorites…right? That would seem impartial or unfair. And yet, look through Scripture and you’ll find ordinary people whom God chose to get up close and personal with. They were individuals whom God used in a particularly powerful way and they clearly had His anointing, protection, and extraordinary blessings.
While Peter said “God is not one to show partiality” (Acts 10:34), and Romans 2:11 says “there is no partiality with God,” those verses, in context, refer to God’s impartiality when it comes to saving both the Jew and the Greek. God is impartial when it comes to salvation, “not wishing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9). But when it comes to working through individuals for His purposes here on earth, God clearly singles out some over the rest.
Second Chronicles 16:9 tells us: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (NKJV). In essence, God is looking for a few committed, surrendered hearts so He may pour His favor out on them.
So what can you and I do to get in God’s “inner circle?” How can we be singled out for His purposes and blessings? By looking at 10 people in Scripture who were clearly favored by God, we can learn more about what it is that attracts the heart and favor of God:
1. Walk with God intimately – like Enoch.
Scripture says Enoch “walked with God” for 300 years (Genesis 5:22-24). We don’t have any details of what Enoch did during his life, other than that he “walked with God.” Enoch and God must have had some great talks as they walked. Enoch must have done a lot of listening, too. And they must have gained a true intimacy because God longed for Enoch’s presence so much that He “took him” home to heaven rather than leaving Enoch to die a natural death. I imagine God thought Enoch, your father, Jared is going to live 962 years, your son, Methusaleh, will live even longer! I’m not waiting nearly that long to see you face to face. Get up here… now!
Do you want to be someone whom God can’t wait to be with? Let your life be characterized by a meaningful walk – not a brisk, hurried run – with God. Take the time to get to know Him, to recognize His voice, to hear His heart through His Word, and perhaps even take long, uninterrupted walks with him every morning or evening. Leave a legacy, like Enoch, of having been one who “walked with God.”
2. Be His “friend” – like Abraham.
God told Abraham to leave his country, his people and everything he knew and “go to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). Even though Abraham knew very little of God at that time, he left everything familiar and went out “even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). That is faith. Hebrews 11:6 says “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Furthermore, Scripture tells us “‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23).
Is God asking you to take a step of faith even if you don’t have the numbers, the statistics, or a “comfortable feeling” about it? Do you even recognize His voice enough to know when He is urging you to take a step of faith? Grow in your faith by growing in your knowledge of Who God is. Study His attributes. Be convinced He can be trusted. As you show tremendous faith in a tremendous God, He will likely call you His friend, too.
3. Strive for obedience – even in difficult circumstances – like Joseph.
Joseph, the favored son of Jacob, had a life of difficult circumstances that included abandonment by his family, being sold into slavery, being falsely accused, and years of imprisonment. Yet Joseph was able to see the hand of God in all his suffering and declared at the end of his life to his brothers (who earlier attempted to murder him): “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph’s obedience and continual acknowledgement of the sovereignty of God touched God’s heart so much so that God continued to grant Joseph favor in every circumstance he was in, ultimately promoting him to second in command of all of Egypt. On Joseph’s authority, his family and the entire tribe of Israel was spared during years of severe famine in Egypt.
Are circumstances in your life less than perfect? Are they downright painful? Thank God in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and capture His heart by praising Him in spite of how you are being treated. Keep a humble heart that ever acknowledges God’s sovereign will and He will honor you for it.
4. Be meek and humble – like Moses.
In Isaiah 66:2, God said: “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” We also learn in Numbers 12:3 that “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” Perhaps it was his meekness and humility that caused God to meet with Moses “face to face” and ultimately show him His glory – something He didn’t do for anyone else. In Exodus 33:17, God told Moses: “for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name” (Exodus 33:17).
God dwells with, provides for, and shows favor toward the humble. Not to those who want to share the same level of leadership and glory as the Almighty. Be one who is humble and realizes that promotion comes from God alone, who “puts down one and exalts another” (Psalm 75:6-7, NKJV).
5. Desire to do His will – like David.
David, the Psalmist, wrote songs of devotion to God. He poured out his heart to Him. And because of the time he spent in sweet devotion with his Lord he cultivated the kind of faith and loyalty to God, as a mere teenager, who could take down a giant with just a pebble and a slingshot. David became Israel’s greatest king because of his heart to please the Lord. And even after a season of sin (in which he slept with and impregnated the wife of one of his “mighty men” who was out at war for him, and then had him murdered to cover up his sin), God still gave David the enduring legacy as “‘…a man after My heart, who will do all My will’” (Acts 13:22, NASB).
How can you not fall in love with a God like that – one Who sees your heart over your horrific mistakes? Study the songs of David in Scripture and get a look at the kind of heart that is pleased to obey God over anything else. That kind of devotion leaves a lasting impression on God.
As a young man – possibly insecure as he took the role of Israel’s king in the shadow of his larger-than-life father, David – Solomon was humble and dependent on God. So much so that when God appeared to Solomon in a dream and asked Solomon what he desired God to give him, Solomon didn’t pause to consider riches, fame or even success as a king. Solomon immediately asked for a discerning heart to govern God’s people and to distinguish between right and wrong. Solomon’s answer to God’s “million-dollar question” pleased God so much that God gave him wisdom, along with more riches and fame than any person on earth had ever known (1 Kings 3:5-15).
What do you want more than anything? To succeed in your business? To be known as a “good person”? To raise children who love the Lord? To be respected and admired by others? When God sees that your heart’s desire is the same as His desire for your life, He will be pleased to grant it.
Psalms 37:4 NLT Take delight in the Lord , and he will give you your heart’s desires.
7. Be surrendered – like Mary of Nazareth.
The angel Gabriel called Mary of Nazareth “favored one” when he announced that she would bear the long-awaited Messiah. But his news also meant public scandal and the possibility that Mary would be an outcast in her community (because she was still a virgin). Yet, despite those legitimate concerns, she showed no reservation, only a humble, surrendered response: “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, NASB).
In other words, “I’m Yours, Lord, for whatever You have in mind.”
Can you say that when God unfolds a path before you that looks uncertain, undesirable, or maybe even threatening? What if His plan, like His plan for Mary, means no wedding, loss of your reputation, and a life that will be misunderstood and burdensome in a way that few will understand?
Luke 2:34-35 NLT Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”
Develop an obedient, surrendered heart like Mary and you may find yourself “favored” by God.
8. Love God extravagantly – like Mary of Bethany.
Mary of Bethany was the woman who sat at Jesus’ feet, hanging on his every word as her sister, Martha, scrambled about the kitchen, taking care of the dinner preparation. Mary wasn’t being lazy by sitting it out when there was work to be done. She was seizing the moment to sit at the feet of her Master, and Jesus commended her for it (Luke 10:38-42). We read later that Mary, shortly before Jesus’ death, anointed Him with expensive perfume she had saved possibly for her own wedding. She realized her “Bridegroom” was at hand and she spared no expense to honor Him. Jesus again commended her, saying wherever the gospel was taught, the story would be told of what she did, as a remembrance to her.
John 12:1-8 NLT Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Mark 14:3-9 NLT Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head. Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why waste such expensive perfume?” they asked. “It could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor!” So they scolded her harshly. But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”
Would you rather be with Jesus than do a bunch of things for Him? Can you risk the misunderstanding or judgment of others for not joining in the busy work, but instead sitting it out to spend more time with God? God honors the heart that reveres and loves His Son without hesitation, without reservations, and without regard for cost. Love God’s Son extravagantly and spare no expense to show Him what He means to you.
9. Lean in close to Him – like John the beloved disciple.
John, son of Zebedee, described himself throughout his gospel as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Didn’t Jesus love them all? Of course, He did. But John was especially close to Jesus. John was the one who leaned on Jesus’ breast as they reclined at the dinner table the night Jesus was betrayed, and John wasn’t afraid to ask Jesus the question everyone else feared to ask Him.
John 13:21-22, 24-25 NLT Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!” The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”
John, incidentally, was the only one of Jesus’ disciples not martyred for his faith, but died in exile on Patmos, after seeing and recording the vision of God’s glory. John wasn’t perfect. Scripture calls him one of the “sons of thunder” (that tells me he was a “hot-head” when it came to his temper!). Yet John stayed close to Jesus and it made all the difference in softening him to become the one who wrote First John – the Bible’s book on love.
Can you stick close to Jesus, no matter what He says that you don’t understand? Can you stay near Him even if all your friends walk away? John stayed at the foot of the cross with the women closest to Jesus on the night Jesus died after all the other disciples had scattered for fear of their lives. Be the one who stays close to Jesus no matter what. God notices.
10. Become like Jesus – God’s beloved Son
God clearly showed favor to His beloved Son. God gives us eternal life when we embrace His Son.
1 John 5:11-12 NLT And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.
He promises to give us whatever we ask for on behalf of His Son.
John 16:23 NLT At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name.
He seeks to mold us into the image of His Son.
John 16:23 NLT At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name.
If you want to have favor with God, be fully committed to His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Worship and revere Him, identify with His pain, gain a heart like His, and display His characteristics in your life. Jesus prayed that we would have the kind of unity with our Heavenly Father and with one another that He had with His own Father.
John 17:20-21 NLT “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
That means just as Jesus shared intimacy with God, you and I can share that intimacy with God, too, as we love Him like Jesus did – with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
Mark 12:30 NLT And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’