Have you ever known someone who seemed to have an unfair advantage in ministry or life? It seems like every door swings wide open with opportunity and success for them. I have many friends like this, but one in particular that I envied. She is a long-time friend from high school. She seemed to get handed every ministry opportunity that I wanted, and as much as I loved her, sometimes I really struggled to like her!
We need successful and influential friends. They challenge us and provoke our growth. As much as it’s good for us to have friends who are farther along than we are, sometimes they make you want to beat your head against the wall. When you are fighting for every step forward and watch them sail past effortlessly, it can make your teeth clench involuntarily. Sometimes I have been glad and excited for friends’ successes, but other times, not so much. It’s not that I resented their advantages, but I wished for some of the favor they enjoy.
God loves everyone equally, but the Bible talks about certain people that God’s hand was on. These people had an extra measure of help toward success when God’s hand was on them. The hand of God can be brutal towards his enemies, but when it’s on you—you have the “it” factor, a guaranteed advantage.
John the Baptist was a special child. People could see something different about him and expected more from his life. “Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.” (Luke 1:66 NLT) John became one of the most influential men of his time.
Ezra had supernatural favor with the king because the hand of the Lord was on him. “This Ezra was a scribe… the king gave him everything he asked for, because the gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him.” (Ezra 7:6 NLT) God’s hand made Ezra a confident leader. “I felt encouraged because the gracious hand of the Lord my God was on me.” (Ezra 7:28 NLT)
When God’s hand rested on Elisha, he could hear God’s voice clearly and prophesy. “While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came on Elisha and he said, ‘This is what the Lord says:’” (2 Kings 3:15-16 NIV)
Clearly the hand of the Lord can give a tremendous advantage. It destines you for greatness, and gives you confidence in front of powerful people. It helps you hear God clearly and see where you are going. So how do you get his attention? Is it as simple as asking him to put his hand on you?
When I was a kid, my parents applied their hands to me frequently. A hand on my shoulder meant settle down, slow down. When dad held my hand, he restricted me. I could only move when he moved. His hand on my head was affectionate, and his hand on my backside was discipline. Most of the time, his hand was coaching my behavior, but I knew I had his attention.
Our willingness to let God take the lead makes all the difference. It’s easy to say that we want him to lead, but not as easy to actually follow. When Jesus uses leaders in our lives to correct our course, how responsive are we? If we are needed to serve in areas that we aren’t naturally interested in or passionate about, how hard do we work at it? How available are we for what he asks us to do? Does it need to fit into the hours agreed on in our staff contract, or the hours we committed to serve?
God’s favor is connected closely to God’s coaching. Coaching narrows the options for behavior, just like a hand on our shoulder. In order to enjoy the advantages of God’s favor, we have to be willing to allow him to guide our behavior and our choices.
John the Baptist was led into the desert to eat bugs. Ezra went into hostile territory to rebuild a ruined city. Elisha had to raise a boy from the dead. Evidently, God’s favor doesn’t necessarily result in a life of luxury and ease. But it does mean that what we do will have significant impact.
I have this guarantee: when God has my full attention, he pays close attention to me. The more willing and responsive we are, the more God’s hand can rest on us. “The Lord confides in those who fear him” (Psalm 25:14 NIV) “Who then are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways that should choose.” (Psalm 25:12 NIV)
What does it mean to fear the Lord? This word denotes respect, honor, and reverence, as well as raw fear. It’s the awareness that God cannot be managed, manipulated, or molded into what we prefer. He is supremely powerful, and can only be served, not bargained with. Living our lives with that awareness keeps deference for him in all our choices. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30 NIV) It’s just a smart decision. This kind of fear produces great confidence. When God’s hand is on me, I get access to all the resources he has.
Proverbs describes a woman who had the “it” factor. She is incredibly confident because she knows God is with her, coaching her and backing her up. “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction in on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:25 NIV) For a leader, it doesn’t get much better than that! I’m praying for this kind of favor to cover you, and the hand of God on your shoulder today.