“ These are the ones I look on with favour: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.”
In the early stages of my life, favour was an elusive friend! I was by all accounts quite a naughty little boy, though I prefer to think of myself as mischievous rather than being a person tarred by the naughty brush. I remember one particular moment of gaining the favour of my dad, and the circumstances were quite unusual.
At the time I lived in the South of England in a beautiful home in Hertfordshire. The house was in a rural, remote area and was serviced by a septic tank in the middle of the garden. The garden was overlooked by our very nice but uppity neighbours, Mr and Mrs Roper.
Coming from an engineering family, whenever anything broke down, we would fix it. On this occasion a large crack appeared deep in the septic tank and the only way to fix it was to abseil into the tank suspended on a rope. Dad went first but quickly emerged stating that the smell would knock him unconscious and if he went limp on the rope, I, at nine years old would never be able to rescue him. So, he kindly volunteered me to repair said tank. It was dark and didn’t smell of roses. To add to my sense of impending doom, Dad closed the lid of the tank on me so that the neighbours wouldn’t see our “common” behaviour! Did I mention it was one in the morning? Eventually, I emerged from the tank triumphant having repaired the damage and, though feeling a little faint, the embrace and pleasure of my dad made the unpleasant experience all worthwhile.
To be favoured literally means to experience somebody’s delight in you. To be favoured is to know the approval of another person. It is the greatest comfort to know that I can experience approval in this life. It is easy to imagine that the Father’s approval and favour must be earned through acts of good behaviour or works of service, however, the prophet Isaiah shines light on the character of people who will experience God’s favour. He writes, “These are the ones I look on with favour: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word” Isaiah 66:2.
The Lord’s favour is not earned by performance or good works, it is given to those who recognise their deep need of God’s help to live each day. Without a rope tied around my waste, entering that tank would have been a dangerous business. When we are tethered to the Father, when we fully depend upon on His power, His provision and His presence in our lives, we will experience the beauty of His favour.
As a Spirit-filled Christian, I’ve found that when the presence of God hits - when I encounter God in a close and tangible way - everything changes. I can be anywhere; in my bedroom, in my car or hiking up a mountain, and when His presence hits, I know I am with Him. There is so much peace, joy and love - for me! His voice is incredibly easy to hear.
As a new Christian, these precious times in God’s presence were my absolute highlights. Out of hunger for more of His presence, I decided that I would try my absolute hardest to be a good Christian: reading my Bible, praying, and serving in several ministries. As the months rolled by, I was more tired and more frustrated. One day I said, “God, I thought I would have the right to enter your presence more often by now with all the evangelism that I do.” It seemed like the harder I tried, the further away God’s presence seemed to get. The realisation? This is not the way to enter God’s presence.
Bit by bit the truth began to sink in, that good works and serving well in ministries are not a ticket to His presence - that’s called legalism and it doesn’t work; rather, it hinders! There is only one way to enter God’s presence: for free, by believing that Jesus made me worthy to do so. Romans 4:5 is shocking but so gloriously clear!
The word “favour” describes so well what I entered as a result of this simple faith. Suddenly I could enter God’s presence whenever I wanted to, and verses like Hebrews 4:16 made sense. I quickly forgot all my previous efforts, enjoying Jesus’s favour every day. What’s more, it will never be taken away because He promised never to leave or forsake me! Legalism was crushing me but the amazing truth set me free.
What has God said to you through today’s promise?