If we want to be great, we have to follow the example of the great One; we have to follow in the footsteps of the one who was chosen to be great. I am careful to use the word ‘chosen to be great’ because although Jesus was called to be great, as a man, He had to show Himself worthy to be chosen! It was not until He had proven Himself worthy that everything was given into His hands (see John 13:3). Although God called Jesus to save humanity (see John 3:16) and then proceeded to equip Him with the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 3:16), God had to test Jesus before releasing Him unto His ministry. If you do not believe me, just read what the scripture tells us in the fourth chapter of Matthew.
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” – Matthew 4:1
See, it was the Spirit of God that Jesus the man was equipped with that led Jesus into the wilderness (into hardship) to be tested by the devil for the express purpose of seeing whether Jesus was ready for the mammoth task that was before Him. I love that Jesus did not shirk away from this challenge. Jesus did not complain, moan, and groan at the difficulty that He was going to face like some of us do when any difficulty come our way. Instead of complaining and perhaps ‘justifiably’ deciding not to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in going into hardship in the wilderness, Jesus simply yielded Himself to obedience.
Just because things are hard does not mean it is NOT God. God never promised it would be easy, He has promised there will be victory.
But Jesus did not simply say ‘Oh, well! God is sending me into hardship! He sanctioned this and it is all down to Him to save me.’ Rather than simply throw His hands up in fatalistic surrender, Jesus embarked upon a period incredible preparation. The bible tells us that He fasted forty days and nights. He did this so He would be prepared for the test that was to come. Yes, the preparation took a lot out of Jesus, but it was the same preparation that made Him ready to combat the test the devil threw at Him.Without this preparation, would Jesus have failed the test in the wilderness? We will never know! Likewise, when we adequately prepare for our God-given mission, we will not have to undergo failure. We may undergo setbacks, but we will not fail!
Preparation is vital if we are to enter into greatness; this part of the journey is solely our responsibility.
It is in preparation that most of us who are called miss the boat so that we are not chosen. Most of us are looking for favor; we want to be noticed by someone and be elevated without putting in the work to be noticed. Without preparing, we are found wanting when the test, which is simply an opportunity to show what we are made of, comes.
See, Jeremy Lin understood the importance of being prepared (being ready and staying ready). When he finally got His opportunity with the New York Knicks, He was ready to pass the test! He was worthy of what He wanted. Would he have been granted another opportunity? We will never know!
Preparation is what makes us worthy of the greatness we aspire towards, therefore, we should stay ready for we never know when God says to us ‘it is your turn to be great’
What are you doing with God’s favor? (listen here)
God’s grace is multifaceted! His grace saves us from eternal separation (through the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ), covers us in a myriad of situations and covers our sins when we confess, and empowers us (through the Holy Spirit) to live righteously and to attain all the covenant blessings or promises (favor, healing, prosperity, wisdom, might, and much more) that has been won for us.
Since we receive grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8), as we grow our faith (belief and trust) in the Lord through the study of His Word (see Romans 10:17), we ensure we experience more grace (power, gifting) in our lives. Thus, a life of faith is an empowered life that leads to the manifestation of the fullness of His covenant blessings in our life.
Yet, many of us receive the grace of God in vain when we fail to realize that God lavishes His grace on us not just to proper us but for us to be His hands and feet and to fulfill the requirements of love through His gifts – to walk in His purpose for us, to reveal Christ to others, and to be a blessing to others. Paul puts it this way:
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me – 1 Corinthians 5:10
Light-bulb moment: We receive grace in vain when we stop laboring to fulfill the requirements of love by walk in His purpose for us, revealing Christ to others, and being a blessing to others. When we think it is just for us and we become lazy
Favor Gone Berserk
Favor goes berserk when we receive favor in vain. I started thinking of how favor goes berserk when I was asked this question: What would you rather have – favor or blessing? I found the question puzzling, not because it is difficult to answer, but because it makes a fundamentally flawed assumption. The question assumes that favor and blessing are mutually exclusive.
The will of God is to pour out his blessing on us and doth on us as a loving Father. He longs to bless us so that we can be a blessing to others – not to hog all our blessings in selfishness. By blessing others, we show God’s heart and walk in obedience. We open the door to God’s blessing when we obediently follow the path the He has for us. Favor is something that God grants us as we continue on the path of obedience. It is God’s favor that propels and catapults us towards the blessings that He has in store for us. So the relationship between favor and blessing is simply this:
Light-bulb moment: Favors are simply doors that God opens to accomplish His purpose through us
The mindset that favor and blessing are exclusive keeps us from reaching our destiny! People who chase after favor rather than blessings can be compared to those that base their performance on effort rather than results. They congratulate themselves on effort without ever achieving much. Hence, favor minded people often find themselves stuck in the same situation in life.
Light-bulb moment: Favor is the means to an end, and not the end in itself.
The story of Mark lays out the peril of being solely favor minded
Mark Receives Grace in Vain (listen here)
Mark is a favor-monger! He loves favor. Mark does not have much but he does very well on favor. He is favored everywhere he goes – he gets free parking in places others need to pay; he gets the closest parking at sporting events, and a friend usually picks up his tab at dinner. Mark enjoys so much favor that he has come to expect it. It has come to the point where he can just about budget favor into his monthly financial plan. For this, He is very thankful to God and prays to God for even more favor. From the outside looking in, it would be nice to be Mark right? Wrong!
Here are some things that being solely favor minded has done to Mark
He Cannot Bless Others: Mark is never able to pick up the tab for any of his friends. He is never able to help or bless anyone as he is the one that is always in need of a blessing. He needs others to continue favoring him and so is unable to be God’s hands and feet.
He has Become Lazy: By being solely favor minded he has imbibed a poverty mentality where he is satisfied with barely scraping by. He has the ability to achieve more, but laziness has crept into him. He has become the servant that the master admonished in the parable of the talents for being lazy (see Matthew 14:26). Mark has buried his potential under the seductive soil of favor!
He is Dissatisfied: Mark is never fully satisfied with any particular blessing his friends bestow upon him as he is always looking for more! His friends have noticed that while he always smiles and thanks them for blessing him, Mark becomes very sad, withdrawn, and even cold when he does not obtain their favor. They secretly wonder if Mark is only friends with them because of what they do for him. They wonder if their friendship with Mark is built on being his cash cow, and they wonder why he does not do more with the talent he possesses. On the other hand, Mark wonders why his friends have not picked up the tab especially when they are able and he is unable! He rationalizes it as his friends being cheap and not really loving him. He judges them for not following the biblical injunction of caring for the “needy” – as he is one who is in need! He conveniently forgets about all the other times they pick up his tab……. Mark has truly become a burden. And since he is never truly satisfied, he is never truly content. As such, he always nags. He has become a person that bible calls quarrelsome and nagging (see Proverbs 21:19).
He Cannot Keep a Relationship: Mark cannot maintain relationships because he is always the “taker” in them. He never gives because he rationalizes that he has nothing to give – but a whole lot of condemnation which he considers advice. He sees nothing wrong with always being a taker. In fact, He thanks God for blessing him and for putting people in his life he can take from. They are such a blessing! But in time, his partner realizes that Mark loves favor more than her and leaves him. Mark is stunned! He cannot see his own selfishness. He prays that God sends him another partner – another partner to drain!
Mark has forgotten that the bible says we should give and it shall be given unto us. It does not say to take so that we can get more.
“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” – Luke 6:38
Mark’s Heart Condition(listen here)
The story of Mark illuminates what can happen when favor goes berserk – when we make favor the goal and not a means. It may lead to laziness, ingratitude, inability to fulfill our potential and broken relationships. As heirs to the throne, Jesus has unlocked for us covenant blessings; not just covenant favor for our selfish gain. We must not allow the enemy to twist favor in such a way as to keep us from God’s best. If this is happening, we have to examine our hearts. If we truly have a heart for God (a heart of love), then we will have a heart to be a blessing to others. We will have a heart to be givers.
So to answers the originally levied question of whether I would rather have favor or blessing, I say give me bless me so that I can be a blessing to others.
Food for Thought: The path to God’s blessing is paved with favor