When we serve a living God who is so faithful to us, there are two inherent flaws in logic for serving Him to which we might fall prey. As He answers prayer and proves Himself mighty in many unbelievable ways, we may think our actions are bringing on God’s favor. Two errors of logic start to creep in when we look at God’s power in this flawed way. We may be defining miracles entirely differently than God does. And, we might think that we had something to do with it.
As we see others enjoy things come their way, they seem to have His favor. I relate so much to the mother’s request in the Book of Matthew. In Matthew 20, Mary, the wife of Zebedee, had “two sons of thunder,” John and James. When she realized Jesus’s Kingdom was about to manifest itself, she saw an opportunity for her sons to rise to greatness. She asked Jesus, in verse 21-well, she didn’t even ask. Her words to Jesus were, “”Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” She realized they, too, could be great as Jesus came into His power. She probably thought that time would come very soon as she saw Jesus increasing in popularity. Her own sons could then be the two top guys with Jesus. After all, they were with him when he was not famous, and they worked diligently beside Him, serving Him. They deserved this honor, she presumed.
When we serve God, the more we do, the more we risk pride entering the picture. “So, what are you doing to advance the kingdom?” becomes an opener not so much to ask others about their journey with Christ, but to tell others what all we do on His behalf. Self righteousness creeps in, and we think surely we’ll have God’s favor the more we do for Him. There is so much false teaching out there on what the favor of God looks like. Getting a parking space when you pray, getting a job, becoming exalted in your church or in your work for all you do. God does do all of these things. But answered prayer and elevation of position can start to feel like God likes you a little more than your neighbor down the way, or the homeless guy in the street, or the one who seems to have God’s judgment on him all the time.
I have a news flash for those who believe good is defined like this: God’s favor almost always looks different than we might think. There is an inherent error in serving God that the closer we draw to Christ, the more we might feel we have His favor and, consequently, deserve more. God’s promises are different. “Blessed” can look very different on each of us, and certainly different in human eyes than the divine. Jesus tells James and John, “You really don’t know what you are asking. Are you able to drink from this cup (of suffering that I am about to partake)? He then reveals, “…whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
It has been my personal experience that God has does have good things for us, but those things might not even look good to the average bear. Unmistakably, (as bad as it feels at times) it is a privilege to suffer, to do without, to be a servant, to welcome a lower, behind-the-scenes position whenever possible. From the least to the highest, we are called to serve Him with humility and meekness, and to expect suffering. To be certain, God’s favor is a blessing, and He offers it without reserve to each of us. His presence is His promise. Joshua 1:5 “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Our promises are not for ease or a comfortable life, or for position or power. They simply are promises that are better than any “thing” we might need here on earth. All we need is Him.