WHAT’S GOD’S FAVOR? HOW TO GET IT?

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The best definition of the word favor is “demonstrated delight.” The favor of God can be described as “tangible evidence that a person has the approval of the Lord.” When we favor someone, we want to be with him or her. We delight in him. We connect with her in a way we don’t connect with everyone. We usually favor people who also favor us. In the same way, God shows favor to the ones who delight in, connect with, and give honor to Him. Isaiah 66:2 says, “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” Second Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong on behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” To be “perfect” toward Him means we seek His favor more than we seek the favor of anyone else, even ourselves.

Favor is closely related to grace in the Bible. Those who have received Jesus as their Savior are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9). They know the favor of God. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), but those who have saving faith in God’s Son are declared righteous (Romans 4:5; Philippians 3:9) and live in God’s favor. The most basic answer to “how can I get God’s favor” is “believe in the Lord Jesus.”

God seeks out those who love Him and love His commands so that He can bless, guide, and protect them (Psalm 37:23; Proverbs 3:5–6). This does not mean that everyone who is prosperous or healthy has found favor with God (Jeremiah 12:1; Psalm 37:7; 73:16). Nor does it mean that those whom the Lord favors will never suffer difficulties. Many people in the Bible had the Lord’s favor but also suffered hardship (2 Corinthians 6:4; Acts 14:22; 20:23; 1 Peter 2:19). Heroes such as Noah (Genesis 6:8), Moses (Exodus 32:11; 33:13), Daniel (Daniel 10:19), and Mary (Luke 1:28) were favored of the Lord, but they also struggled with difficulties like anyone else.

Those who are favored of God know that God is with them and that nothing can happen to them apart from His good purpose (Romans 8:28). They have His ear as they walk through dark valleys (Psalm 34:15) and know that their struggle to remain true to Him will not go unrewarded (Matthew 10:42; Revelation 2:10). In addition to outward evidences, God’s favor can be felt in the spirit. When we have the favor of the Lord, we rest in quiet confidence that our sins are forgiven (Romans 4:7), we are within the plan of God (Psalm 86:11), and that He is there for us at all times (Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 28:20). We walk with God as with our closest friend. We begin to see and appreciate the little blessings that God provides for our enjoyment—blessings that we once took for granted.

The Lord invites us to seek His favor (Psalm 119:58, 135; 2 Kings 13:4; Jeremiah 26:19; Zephaniah 2:3). When we seek His favor, we humble our hearts before Him (2 Kings 22:19); seek Him for Himself, not just for the blessings He gives (Jeremiah 29:13); and arrange our lives around loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). We seek first His kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

One way to obtain favor from the Lord is to seek wisdom. Proverbs 8:35 says, “For those who find me [wisdom] find life and receive favor from the LORD.” Psalm 5:12 says, “Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.” Finding favor with the Lord keeps our lives and thoughts pure because we desire to please Him more than we desire to please ourselves. Hebrews 11:25 says of Moses, “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” When the same can be said of us, we know we have found favor with God. His delight in us will be demonstrated.

Prophet Nathan Emol

DOES GOD KNOW OUR THOUGHTS?

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Thoughts are the most private parts of our human experience. No one else can know our thoughts unless we communicate them, so we tend to imagine that anything we think is safe, as long as it stays in our minds. But there is one Person who always knows what we are thinking; God knows everything about us, and He also knows our thoughts.

God knows our thoughts no matter who or where we are. Psalm 139 begins this way: “O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar” (verses 1–2). God searches the hearts and minds of people, seeking those whose hearts are turned toward Him (Jeremiah 12:3; 1 Chronicles 29:17; Acts 15:8). Two of the Ten Commandments deal with our thoughts. The first commandment is to have no other gods before the Lord (Exodus 20:3). That is a heart matter. The tenth commandment warns us not to covet what others have (Exodus 20:17). Coveting is also a sin of our thoughts. When Jesus walked the earth, He knew people’s thoughts and answered before they even verbalized their questions (Matthew 9:4; 12:25; Luke 9:47; 11:17). In this way, Jesus exhibited the divine trait of omniscience.

It can be intimidating to realize that God knows our thoughts. He knows the angry thoughts, lustful thoughts, vengeful ideas, secret greed, and hidden coveting. God also knows about those secret longings, hopeful desires, and private dreams. And He understands. First John 3:20 assures us that “if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” Sometimes we are harder on ourselves than God is. He knows we are frail humans made from dirt and born with a sin nature (Psalm 103:14).

If we have given our lives to Christ, then we should find comfort in remembering that our loving Father knows us better than we know ourselves. God knows our desire to please Him (Psalm 37:23), even though we stumble at it. Within that loving relationship, we have confidence to cry, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23–24). We don’t have to be afraid of being vulnerable to our Creator. And there’s no sense in trying to hide things from Him. Whatever the issue, He already knows about it and wants us to feel safe enough to confess our thoughts to Him (Psalm 50:15; 91:15; 1 John 5:14–15). God knows our thoughts, and He helps us to know ourselves better when we talk them over with Him.

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHY DOES GOD TEST US?

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When we ask why God tests us or allows us to be tested, we are admitting that testing does indeed come from Him. When God tests His children, He does a valuable thing. David sought God’s testing, asking Him to examine his heart and mind and see that they were true to Him (Psalm 26:2; 139:23). When Abram was tested by God in the matter of sacrificing Isaac, Abram obeyed (Hebrews 11:17–19) and showed to all the world that he is the father of faith (Romans 4:16).

In both the Old and New Testaments, the words translated “test” mean “to prove by trial.” Therefore, when God tests His children, His purpose is to prove that our faith is real. Not that God needs to prove it to Himself since He knows all things, but He is proving to us that our faith is real, that we are truly His children, and that no trial will overcome our faith.

In His Parable of the Sower, Jesus identifies the ones who fall away as those who receive the seed of God’s Word with joy, but, as soon as a time of testing comes along, they fall away. James says that the testing of our faith develops perseverance, which leads to maturity in our walk with God (James 1:3–4). James goes on to say that testing is a blessing, because, when the testing is over and we have “stood the test,” we will “receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). Testing comes from our heavenly Father who works all things together for good for those who love Him and who are called to be the children of God (Romans 8:28).

The testing or trials we undergo come in various ways. Becoming a Christian will often require us to move out of our comfort zones and into the unknown. Perseverance in testing results in spiritual maturity and completeness. This is why James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). The testing of faith can come in small ways and daily irritations; they may also be severe afflictions (Isaiah 48:10) and attacks from Satan (Job 2:7). Whatever the source of the testing, it is to our benefit to undergo the trials that God allows.

The account of Job is a perfect example of God’s allowing one of His saints to be tested by the devil. Job bore all his trials patiently and “did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22). However, the account of Job’s testing is proof that Satan’s ability to try us is limited by God’s sovereign control. No demon can test or afflict us with beyond what God has ordained. All our trials work toward God’s perfect purpose and our benefit.

There are many examples of the positive results of being tested. The psalmist likens our testing to being refined like silver (Psalm 66:10). Peter speaks of our faith as “of greater worth than gold,” and that’s why we “suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 1:6–7). In testing our faith, God causes us to grow into strong disciples who truly live by faith and not by what we see (2 Corinthians 5:7).

When we experience the storms of life, we should be like the tree that digs its roots ever more deeply for a greater grip in the earth. We must “dig our roots” more deeply into God’s Word and cling to His promises so we can weather whatever storms come against us.

Most comforting of all, we know that God will never allow us to be tested beyond what we are able to handle by His power. His grace is sufficient for us, and His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). “That is why,” Paul said, “for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Prophet Nathan Emol

DOES GOD REALLY EXIST?

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The existence of God cannot be proved or disproved. The Bible says that we must accept by faith the fact that God exists: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). If God so desired, He could simply appear and prove to the whole world that He exists. But if He did that, there would be no need for faith. “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John 20:29).
Does God exist? — What does the Bible say?

That does not mean, however, that there is no evidence of God’s existence. The Bible states, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4). Looking at the stars, understanding the vastness of the universe, observing the wonders of nature, seeing the beauty of a sunset—all of these things point to a Creator God. If these were not enough, there is also evidence of God in our own hearts. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us, “…He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.” Deep within us is the recognition that there is something beyond this life and someone beyond this world. We can deny this knowledge intellectually, but God’s presence in us and all around us is still obvious. Despite this, the Bible warns that some will still deny God’s existence: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). Since the vast majority of people throughout history, in all cultures, in all civilizations, and on all continents believe in the existence of some kind of God, there must be something (or someone) causing this belief.

Does God exist? — The Logical Arguments

In addition to the biblical arguments for God’s existence, there are logical arguments. First, there is the ontological argument. The most popular form of the ontological argument uses the concept of God to prove God’s existence. It begins with the definition of God as “a being than which no greater can be conceived.” It is then argued that to exist is greater than to not exist, and therefore the greatest conceivable being must exist. If God did not exist, then God would not be the greatest conceivable being, and that would contradict the very definition of God.

A second argument is the teleological argument. The teleological argument states that since the universe displays such an amazing design, there must have been a divine Designer. For example, if the Earth were significantly closer or farther away from the sun, it would not be capable of supporting much of the life it currently does. If the elements in our atmosphere were even a few percentage points different, nearly every living thing on earth would die. The odds of a single protein molecule forming by chance is 1 in 10243 (that is a 1 followed by 243 zeros). A single cell is comprised of millions of protein molecules.

A third logical argument for God’s existence is called the cosmological argument. Every effect must have a cause. This universe and everything in it is an effect. There must be something that caused everything to come into existence. Ultimately, there must be something “un-caused” in order to cause everything else to come into existence. That “un-caused” cause is God.

A fourth argument is known as the moral argument. Every culture throughout history has had some form of law. Everyone has a sense of right and wrong. Murder, lying, stealing, and immorality are almost universally rejected. Where did this sense of right and wrong come from if not from a holy God?

Does God exist? — No Excuses

Despite all of this, the Bible tells us that people will reject the clear and undeniable knowledge of God and believe a lie instead. Romans 1:25 declares, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” The Bible also proclaims that people are without excuse for not believing in God: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

People claim to reject God’s existence because it is “not scientific” or “because there is no proof.” The true reason is that once they admit that there is a God, they also must realize that they are responsible to God and in need of forgiveness from Him (Romans 3:23, 6:23). If God exists, then we are accountable to Him for our actions. If God does not exist, then we can do whatever we want without having to worry about God judging us. That is why many of those who deny the existence of God cling strongly to the theory of naturalistic evolution—it gives them an alternative to believing in a Creator God. God exists and ultimately everyone knows that He exists. The very fact that some attempt so aggressively to disprove His existence is in fact an argument for His existence.

Does God exist? — The Conclusion

How do we know God exists? As Christians, we know God exists because we speak to Him every day. We do not audibly hear Him speaking to us, but we sense His presence, we feel His leading, we know His love, we desire His grace. Things have occurred in our lives that have no possible explanation other than God. God has so miraculously saved us and changed our lives that we cannot help but acknowledge and praise His existence. None of these arguments can persuade anyone who refuses to acknowledge what is already obvious. In the end, God’s existence must be accepted by faith (Hebrews 11:6). Faith in God is not a blind leap into the dark; it is safe step into a well-lit room where the vast majority of people are already standing.

Prophet Nathan Emol

IS GOD’S LOVE CONDITIONAL OR UNCONDITIONAL?

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God’s love for mankind, as described in the Bible, is clearly unconditional in that His love is expressed toward the objects of His love despite their disposition toward Him. In other words, God loves without placing any conditions on the loved ones; He loves because it is His nature to love (1 John 4:8). That love moves Him toward benevolent action: “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).

The unconditional nature of God’s love is most clearly seen in the gospel. The gospel message is basically a story of divine rescue. As God considered the plight of His rebellious people, He determined to save them from their sin, and this determination was based on His love (Ephesians 1:4–5). Listen to the apostle Paul’s words from his letter to the Romans:

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6–8).

Reading through the book of Romans, we learn that we are alienated from God due to our sin. We are at enmity with God, and His wrath is being revealed against the ungodly for their unrighteousness (Romans 1:18–20). We reject God, and God gives us over to our sin. We also learn that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and that none of us seek God; none of us do what is right before His eyes (Romans 3:10–18).

Despite the hostility and enmity we have toward God (for which God would be perfectly just to utterly destroy us), God revealed His love toward us in the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ, as the propitiation (the appeasement of God’s righteous wrath) for our sins. God did not wait for us to better ourselves as a condition of atoning for our sin. Rather, God condescended to become a man and live among His people (John 1:14). God experienced our humanity—everything it means to be a human being—and then offered Himself willingly as a substitutionary atonement for our sin.

This divine rescue, based on unconditional love, resulted in a gracious act of self-sacrifice. As Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). That is precisely what God, in Christ, has done. The unconditional nature of God’s love is made clear in other passages of Scripture:

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4–5).

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9–10).

It is important to note that God’s love is a love that initiates; it is never a response. That is precisely what makes it unconditional. If God’s love were conditional, then we would have to do something to earn or merit it. We would have to somehow appease His wrath or cleanse ourselves of sin before God would be able to love us. But that is not the biblical message. The biblical message—the gospel—is that God, motivated by love, moved unconditionally to save His people from their sin.

Also important is the fact that God’s unconditional love does not mean that everyone will be saved (see Matthew 25:46). Nor does it mean that God will never discipline His children. To ignore God’s merciful love, to reject the Savior who bought us (2 Peter 2:1), is to subject ourselves to God’s wrath for eternity (Romans 1:18), not His love. For a child of God to willfully disobey God is to invite the Father’s correction (Hebrews 12:5–11).

Does God love everyone? Yes, He shows mercy and kindness to all. In that sense His love is unconditional. Does God love Christians in a different way than He loves non-Christians? Yes. Because believers have exercised faith in God’s Son, they are saved. The unconditional, merciful love God has for everyone should bring us to faith, receiving with gratefulness the conditional, covenant love He grants those who receive Jesus as their Savior.

Prophet Nathan Emol