My friend (full disclosure) Brian Jones has just published a book with InterVarsity, Finding Favor: God’s Blessings beyond Health, Wealth, and Happiness. This is my review, in two parts: summary (pt 1) and response (pt 2).
Jones’s book is about God’s favor, which he defines as God’s “supernatural intervention to bring a blessing into your life” (14).
Against the shallow, superficial, even heretical views of God (and God’s blessings) found in prosperity theology, Jones asserts that God blesses us NOT by giving us what we want, but by giving us what we need (to fulfill his purposes.) It’s all about GOD’S purposes, what God wants to do in our lives; THAT is the path of blessing, sometimes (often, frequently) in spite of circumstances.
Jones then sets out a series of descriptions of the ways that God operates in our lives, and how each can serve to direct us into the path of God’s favor.
God sometimes forces us to persevere in places that we want to be delivered from. This is the path to God’s favor. “Closed doors are the last thing we thought we would receive when we prayed for God’s favor. ‘I thought I was going to be blessed,’ we say, not realizing that God limiting our options can be one of his greatest blessings of all” (24).
How should we respond? By making ourselves love what we’re doing, even if it’s not what we love. In so doing, we experience God’s favor.
Other times, God forces us to move when we don’t want to move. We grow complacent, we find a place of comfort, and God’s gift to us is to “make us unable to live with ourselves any longer” (40). Moving out of comfortable circumstances and into more difficult–but ultimately more rewarding–places is the path of God’s favor.
Other times, God forces us to seek and be satisfied with his approval when no one else recognizes our work, our effort, even our successes. (I have often thought there was no sadder epitaph than the one John hangs on the religious leaders in John 12.43: “They desired praise from men rather than praise from God.”)
Other times, God forces us to live in faith that he is good in circumstances that make us doubt his goodness.
Other times, God forces us to rely on him working through people we wouldn’t choose for him to work through; he moves in their hearts or changes their hearts so that through them he can provide exactly what we need exactly when we need it.
Other times, God uses difficulty, pain, frustration, depression, “the valley of the shadow of death” to move US into position to receive his blessings, places that he couldn’t (or doesn’t) move us any other way.
Other times, God removes “blessings” that have become traps, or distractions, so that he can move in a new way in our lives.
Other times, God uses failure as the crucible and fire that purify.