Finding God’s Favor – Introduction: Most people, especially those with a heart for adventure, like wide, open spaces. On our travels too, we prefer to move away from crowded cities looking for open spaces. We look for beaches, mountains, open roads, rivers etc to enjoy open spaces and the beauty of nature
In sporting events like rugby, soccer, cricket and basketball, when a team gives the opposing team additional room or extra space to make a move, it can lead to giving them an opportunity to score and maybe even win the game. I am reminded of Carlos Alberto’s legendary goal for Brazil in the final of the 1970 soccer World Cup. Yes, finding extra room can even be a deciding factor between victory and defeat.
Even when it comes to career promotions, we see how an individual gets extra room, for with a promotion comes perks like a bigger salary, a spacious office, a bigger desk, a larger car, and room for more staff. Unfortunately, a promotion sometimes even brings a bigger head!
Our main text today is taken from Genesis 26:22 where Issac testified that God’s favor had given him ‘room to flourish’. This talks about God’s abundant blessings on Isaac and the success that came his way. Through God’s favor and blessings, he received room to flourish. You know, sometimes the word ‘blessing’ can be looked at in a misunderstood way, particularly because of the over emphasis on prosperity in some sermons. So, what does the word ‘blessing’ indicate?
I would like to share some meanings of the word ‘Blessing’ that I have come across. Blessing is identified as “receiving God’s favor; receiving His grace, His help and protection.” Also as “God’s approval”, and as “A gift of God that brings happiness or spiritual good”. Unfortunately, as I said a while ago, the word “Blessing’ is often equated only with material and financial prosperity.
When I encountered the saving grace of Jesus in my life, some of the beautiful blessings I received as a result of God’s favor were – His forgiveness, His amazing grace, a transformed life, the presence of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit, peace, joy, a purpose and a hope for life, and freedom from all manner of superstitions and the fear attached to them, besides eternal life. I was later healed of chronic asthma too. None of these were material benefits but they were powerful blessings and clearly showed God’s favor upon me.
Unfortunately. To some today, blessing is only identified in the form of luxury vehicles, luxury homes, business class travel, billion dollar business deals, private jet planes and so forth. The end result of such thinking is that the many Christians who don’t receive such luxuries feel that they are not blessed. What a sad situation! So let’s look at the main thought for today’s sermon.
Proposition: God wants to give us ‘favor (room) to flourish’.
From Genesis 26, let’s look at 4 thoughts now as to how Isaac was blessed. According to Dr H. L. Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible, Isaac has been described as “the mediocre son of a great father (Abraham), and the mediocre father of a great son (Jacob)”. In fact, it is said that Genesis 26 is the main chapter that deals extensively with Isaac’s accomplishments. So, how did Isaac find ‘room to flourish’?
1) God’s Favor Came Because He Followed God’s Guidance
Let’s first look at Genesis 26: 1-3 “Now there was a famine in the land—besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time—and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. 2 The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. 3 Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham”.
In these verses we find that a famine had arisen and God told Isaac to stay in a place called Gerar in Philistine territory. (Longman’s Dictionary describes a famine as being a situation with ‘an extreme lack of food for a large number of people”). Issac unquestioningly followed God’s guidance and settled in Gerar, a foreign land. He would have been tempted to go to Egypt, like his father Abraham had done on an earlier occasion, but God clearly told him not to go to Egypt. He implicitly followed God’s guidance, although he may have had misgivings about moving away from home and familiar territory. But he obeyed.
The move also meant that Isaac would now have to consider a serious career change in moving from a semi-nomadic life to an agricultural one (refer Genesis 26:12). As he obeyed God’s voice however, he also received a promise of covenant blessing and of God’s favor as shown in Genesis 26:3-5. He therefore stayed where God wanted him to be, not where he probably thought he should be (Egypt).
When we too obey God’s guidance, He will give us ‘room to flourish’. We can be assured that He will be with us, wherever He places us. Some in Sri Lanka feel like God can only bless them if they migrate to a more prosperous country or travel abroad. Thank God if that opportunity comes your way, but remember, ‘He is a good God, even if you’re not abroad’!
Obey God’s guidance faithfully and see how He will open room for you to flourish.
2) God’s Favor Came When He Faced the Hindrance of Fear
Genesis 26:7 “When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”
According to Genesis 26:7, Issac got very, very scared when the men in Gerar began to inquire about his beautiful wife, Rebekah. He even thought that they might kill him as a result of her beauty. So, he came up with what he thought was a great solution! His great solution was to lie, purely to save his skin, and to pretend that Rebekah was his sister. What a terrible way for a man to treat his wife! All you wives, I wonder how you would feel if your loving husband did a similar thing to you to save himself! Sad, but true.
Eventually, according to Genesis 26:8-9, his lie was found out by Abimelech, the King of that territory, who noticed a romantic moment between Isaac and Rebekah. He therefore confronted Isaac about his deception, because he realized that Rebekah was actually his wife, and not his sister. The unbeliever was convicting the believer of his deception! Thankfully, Isaac accepted and confessed his sin and that opened the door for God’s blessing to start flowing into his life. Similarly, any form of sin or unhealthy fear hinders us from receiving God’s best for our lives.
Fear is one of the most crippling challenges we face in this broken world and it paralyzes us in such challenging moments. We are reminded however that Jesus removed the spirit of fear wherever He ministered and set people free. He can do the same for you and me today because He is still the same Jesus! In fact, one of the most endearing terms Jesus used in His ministry was the term “fear not”. Remember that if you are battling fear today.
Psalm 91 is also a powerful scripture passage for us to read and meditate on. Although its author is not clearly defined, Psalm 91 brings assurance of God’s protection against 4 types of threats and 4 types of wild beasts. It also shows 8 symbols of God’s protection and concludes with many blessings that God has in store for His children. God can help you overcome your fears.
As Isaac faced up to his failing. God’s blessings began to flow into his life. The blessings God gave Isaac are shown in Genesis 26:12-14 which says, “Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy”. This shows that he reaped a 100 fold harvest on his crops, received much wealth, and had become too powerful for the people of the area. What a testimony! (refer Genesis 26:16)
Illustration: I remember the day I was told that the retina in my left eye had broken (collapsed), and that there were issues with the retina of my right eye as well. I would need urgent surgery on one of the eyes. I was the father of two small sons at that time and the thought of possibly losing my eyesight brought a crippling fear into me. The surgery itself would be a complicated one (there were 2 in fact).
As I was battling this fear while preparing for the surgery, the Lord gave me strong assurance through the words of the hymn, ‘In Christ Alone’. As a result, I trusted Him through this challenge and He was faithful. The surgery was successful and after many years, I am still doing well by His grace.
3) God’s Favor Came Because He Didn’t Fret Over Challenges
Genesis 26:19-20 “Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him”.
Isaac reopened the wells of his father Abraham that had been closed up deliberately by the Philistines (Genesis 26:18). Isn’t it similarly true that there are many who are waiting to block any progress we make in our lives? This could happen in our jobs,in our careers, and in our ministries. Sad, but true! So many times I have heard people complain that someone either blocked or stole their idea, their project, their presentation,etc.There’s plenty of people waiting to put a spoke in our wheel, to try and kill our vision and our faith, and to put dirt in our well.
Further trouble was ahead for Isaac because when his servants dug and found fresh water, the herdsmen of Gerar came along and claimed the fresh water supply. But Isaac, instead of fretting and creating further dispute on the matter, wisely moved away peacefully without getting into what could have been an unnecessary battle.
A man of God once told me, “Choose your battles wisely” and I guess that’s what Isaac did. This happened a second time around as the hostile herdsmen forcibly took over the next well too. Once again Isaac moved away from what could have been an unnecessary, or unwise quarrel. However, he did not fret or give up his quest for water. It was then he struck gold!
Friends, as we follow God’s direction in our lives, we too will face unexpected challenges from man and evil forces. Let’s not fret over these challenges or consider giving up because God will come through with His favor. He will help us to flourish. We therefore need to move on in spite of any injustice that comes our way and keep digging. We need to move on even though we may have faced rejection in a relationship, been humiliated in a situation, or faced a failure in our work or our ministry. That’s what Isaac did.
Illustration: I once read that the Author of a best-selling book was initially informed by a Publishing Editor that his book was too long, had too many chapters, and would never sell. Well, the Author could have accepted the unpleasant advice received and given up on his book idea. He refused to do so however. When the book was eventually accepted by a publisher and put into print, it soon became a best-seller.
Don’t fret over the challenges that come your way. Move on in faith and trust God for favor.
4) God’s Favor Gave Him (Room) To Flourish
Genesis 26:22 “He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.”
As Isaac’s servants continued digging, they found more water and this time, there was no one to create any further dispute. He named the new well ‘Rehoboth’ saying, “Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land”. Yes,the Lord gave him room (favor) so that he could flourish in the land. The word ’Flourish’ can mean ‘to be alive and well’ or ‘to be active and successful’. Both those meanings suited Isaac perfectly at this time.
As we read further, we find in Genesis 26:25 and Genesis 26:32, that after Isaac built an altar and gave honor to God, his servants dug another well at Beersheba, and once again they found water. The blessings were now overflowing and to further endorse the favor that He had given, God appeared to Isaac and reminded him of the covenant blessings promised to Abraham (Genesis 26:24). Even those who had opposed him had to admit that they had seen God’s favor on Isaac, resulting in a treaty of peace being initiated by them (Genesis 26:26-31). God had truly given room to flourish!
Illustration: I recently came across a beautiful song by Michael Combs titled ‘Drinking from my saucer’, and it goes well with what I have been sharing today. The lyrics say, ‘I’m drinking from my saucer, because my cup has overflowed’. This identifies with a familiar sight in our country Sri Lanka, because we drink a lot of our world famous ‘Ceylon Tea’.
As you well know, when a cup of tea is very hot and filled to the brim, we pour the tea into a saucer to cool it down a little and then we drink it off the saucer. But as we keep pouring the tea into the saucer, the volume of tea in the cup decreases. The song says that when God’s favor comes upon us, we will be constantly drinking from our saucer because our cup will be overflowing with His blessings!
Remember that God’s favor and blessings aren’t necessarily limited to material things. As mentioned earlier, when I looked back over my life, I thanked God for His salvation and transforming power, for the Holy Spirit’s work in me, for healing in my body, for His unfailing presence and the peace it brings. He set my family free from occultic and superstitious beliefs. I also thanked Him for my precious family, for the ministry He has given me, and for the opportunity to minister to thousands in this church. I could go on and on. What a privilege!!
Closing: At the beginning of this sermon I shared a quote about Isaac where he was identified as: “the mediocre son of a great father, and the mediocre father of a great son”. This probably is a true statement. But when the history of God’s work among man was written, we see a familiar refrain constantly in the scriptures. God revealed Himself as not just the God of Abraham and Jacob. He revealed Himself as the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Exodus 3:6, Acts 3:13, Matthew 22:32). That’s a great way to be remembered!
God bless you and like with Isaac, may He give you room (favor) to flourish!
Closing Question: What thought in this sermon will guide you closer to finding God’s favor? I would love to have your response in the comments section.
For further reading on God’s provision, click on the link below: