Charles Stanley - Walking In The Favor Of God
The Bible says, "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth and that every intent and thought of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth and He was grieved in His heart. The Lord said, I will blot out man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth. From man to animals to creeping things, the birds of the sky, for I am sorry that I have made them. But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord".
And that's what I want to talk about in this message, and that is, "Walking in the Favor of God". And this is the first of three messages on this title, "Walking in the Favor of God". And when I think about that, I think, first of all, what do we mean by the favor of God? We mean, first of all, of God's approval. And His acceptance of us and His support, His provision, His divine energy, His joy, all of that and all of these are expressions of the favor of God. So ask yourself the question: do you feel like you're walking in the favor of God? Do you sense His presence and power in your life? Do you see evidence that God is guiding what you say, what you do, where you look? Are all of these evidence of the favor of God?
The Scriptures says that, "Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord". And also, you remember that Mary the mother of Jesus also found favor before the Lord. And the truth is every one of us should have the desire to find favor with God in our life. And so, I would ask you: do you feel like you have God's favor? Do you sense God's presence and favor, goodness and kindness, and love and joy and forgiveness, and His presence and power and enablement in your life, or do you feel like you just sort of out there alone working your way through life and hoping things will get better? He said he found favor in the eyes of the Lord, that is, He sensed God's presence in his life in a very special way. And when you were saved, the Holy Spirit came into your life to seal you as a child of God. And in the process of doing so, I am certain that He intended for every one of us to sense His favor, to feel His favor, to experience His favor and to know that the love of God had been poured out upon us to save us from our sin.
So then I'd ask you simply this: does your lifestyle and the habits that you live out every day indicate to people around you that you have the favor of God? Is there anything in your life that would cause people to think, "Well, maybe they're a Christian, maybe they're not"? Do you have the favor of God? Is the favor of God evident by the lifestyle you live? And so, when I think about that, I think about three things. That's evident by our conversation, by our character, by our conduct. All three of those which we live out every day in front of everybody. They indicate whether we have the favor of God or if we're not, or if God is favored us in our salvation, in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Is He evident by the life that we live? And so, I ask you, do you worry about things? Do you fret over them? Do you wonder where God is? Do you sense His presence? Do you know that He's answering your prayer? Do you know He's in your life, in your conversation, conduct, and the way you live it all out? What is one of the evidences of the favor of God in your life? The first indication is simply this: that you are listening to Him. That you're listening to God, that you've learned how to listen to God. Until you learn how to listen to God in your life, you'll never have His favor. Because you'll be living outside of His will, justifying what you're doing, declaring everything is all right and that you're a Christian, but it takes more than that.
So, when I think about that, learning to live in His favor, these verses are very important. Turn, if you will, to Psalm thirty-two, verse eight and nine. Psalm thirty-two, verse eight and nine. Listen to what He says, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go". So, I've got to be listening, "I will counsel with you with My eye upon you. Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, or otherwise they'll not come to you". So, if we going to be listeners, listen, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go".
In order for me to know the will of God and the way of God, the first lesson is, I've got to learn to listen to Him. How do you listen to God? Have you thought about that in your own life? Do you listen to Him? When you get down to pray, do you take time to listen or do you do all the talking? This is why the Holy Spirit came into our life the moment we were saved, to be our internal guide and director. He's the one who points us in the right direction. He's the one who gives us awareness of what's happening. He's the one who shows us on the other side of the question that you and I couldn't figure out without His good counsel. So, learning to listen to God is the basic lesson of being a Godly person. So, in order to listen to God, we must learn how to identify His voice.
So, let me ask you a question, don't raise your hand naturally. Now, think about this soberly and seriously, if you had to answer this to God, do you know how to listen to God? Do you know, are you aware when God is trying to speak to you? Do you know in your heart when you may say, "Well, my conscience said this or my conscience said that"? Do you think about the fact the Holy Spirit is speaking to you? He's trying to say something to you, sometimes it won't make any sense to you at all. But that's not the issue, the issue is that He is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. He knows exactly what we need, when we need it, and how we need it. And He knows how to say it to us in a way that we can understand it. All of us, every single day, should want to listen to God from the moment we wake up, till the time we lose consciousness going to sleep at night.
So, in order to listen to God, we got to learn how. First of all, God's voice will be consistent with Scripture. The one thing that you always have to remember, God is not going to tell you something that is a violation of the Word of God. Never. I may not understand it, but He'll never ask us to violate the Word of God. So, it's going to be consistent with Scripture. And secondly, oftentimes it's going to be in conflict with human reason. Somebody says, "Well, this is the reasonable thing to do". If you obey God, it will not always be the reasonable thing to do. If you listen to God, it won't be sometimes the reasonable thing to do, because He knows past, present, future. He knows your abilities, talents, skills, and He know His will for your life.
A third thing is it's going to clash with fleshly desires, sinful desires that crop up in a person's life. We all have to be sensitive to that, and listening to God, what you hear is going to clash. There'll conflict, you'll sense the conflict. This is what happens when you are tempted in some particular area of life. You feel this conflict on the inside. That's the Spirit versus the flesh trying to give you direction for what to do. Oftentimes, it'll challenge your faith when you listen to Him. You listen to what God is trying to say to you, it'll challenge your faith to do what you probably don't think you're capable of doing. Sometimes, it calls for courage in your life. And that is, "God are you sure you want me to do this," yes. Because, listen, when God gives a command, He also accompanies that command with His power, strength, energy, know-how, in order to help you be able to do what He called you to do.
So, when somebody says, "Well, I know God's calling me to do thus and so, but I don't think I can". Remember this, God does not call you without giving whatever is necessary to help you and enable you to do it. He speaks quietly. Every time somebody says, "Well, I've never heard God speak". Well, you expect Him to shout? He's not going to shout. Because He has the Holy Spirit living inside of you and the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, God the Father, God the Son, all three persons of the Trinity. They whisper to us quietly, this is My will. This is the way, walk ye in it. One thing about it, He speaks very clearly. I can't ever remember God saying, "Figure this out". He always speaks clearly.
Somebody says, "Well, God's never spoken to me". Yes, He has. You may not have been listening. It may be a shock to you that He spoke to you. He may have spoken to you in a way that you didn't expect, you didn't anticipate. But to say that you've been saved by the grace of God and God didn't speak to you, surely He did. That's the reason you got saved. He convicted you of your sin. Somebody was preaching or you read something and you felt convicted of your sin. That was the Spirit of God speaking to your heart. He told you that you needed to be saved, that was the Spirit of God. Yielded your life to Christ, that's the Spirit of God. God doesn't stop talking to you when you're saved. That's the beginning of the voice of God in your life, to not only bring you to conviction and salvation, but to bring you to live a daily life of obedience and surrender to Him.
He speaks personally. Watch this, God will never say, "You all". He speaks to you and to you and to you and to me, never to you all. He may say to all of us as a fellowship, "I want you to do thus and so". But He's speaking to each of us individually. That's our God's awesome, personal, loving, individual care for you; that He loves you enough to speak to you about your situation. It may be about your marriage, about your children, about somebody you're going to marry, or your finances, or whatever it might be. Watch this carefully. God speaks clearly and individually to us about every single concern that we have. Or things that we're not concerned about that we ought to be concerned about. Convicts us of sin, He's always speaking.
For example, have you not said to your children, "Listen to me"? Have you ever said to them, "If you don't listen to me, who are you going to listen to"? And they have an answer. If you don't listen to God, who are you listening to? You listening to somebody who doesn't really know you. There are lots of people who know you who want to tell you how to live your life and what you should do and what you shouldn't do. And they can influence you in different ways, but here's the important thing. God, who created you, who indwelt you with the Holy Spirit the moment you were saved, He is the one whom we are to listen to above everybody else in the world no matter who they are. He's the only one who is infinite in His wisdom. He's the only one who knows everything about you. He knows your potential. He knows His will, His purpose, His plan. He knows who best suites you. He knows where you ought to live, what you ought to drive. He knows everything about us. We should consult Him about everything in life. Name me one thing you should not ask God about?
So, ask yourself this question. Would you say that you're a listener? Among God's children, would you say, "Count me in as a listener to God. I pray to Him and listen. I listen to the messages. I listen to the voice of those speaking the truth. I listen to the words in the songs. I'm listening to God. It is a sacred duty, an absolute essential in our relationship to God to listen to Him. So, how does God get our attention? Well, He gets our attention in different ways. And probably if we had you just stand and say, "Well, here's the way God gets my attention," would be different in different people's lives. One of the ways He gets our attention is to feel restless. You can't quite put your finger on it, but you have this restless feeling inside. You don't know what's happening, you look around, you can't put your finger on it. It's not that somebody's wronged you or that you've made some bad mistake or that you've sinned against God in some awesome way, but you have a restlessness.
And think about this, think about how busy you are from the time you wake up, you start thinking about what you're going to do and your plans and so forth. The things that you worry and fret about. And so, God has to get in on all of that; and so, the way He begins to get our attention is make us restless. So, you think about all these things and none of them seem to be the issue, and finally, what does He do? It's like He just pulls the sheet by sheet by sheet by sheet by sheet off of our minds and our thinking and we get down to this restless feeling. Well, God is trying to say something to me. And that doesn't come automatically, that comes by experience.
And so, you get down to pray and you don't feel like you're getting through. Or you kneel to pray and you think, "Well God, what are you trying to say to me"? And sometimes, He has to get us very restless about our life in order to drive us to finally say, "Well God, you must be saying something to me". Because watch this, it's natural and normal for us to look at the first thing that we think could be the issue and think, "Well God, you must be saying this," or not even include God in it. "This must be happening, my kids this, my husband this, my wife this, our relationship," on and on we go. The things about our debt. And so, God gets us restless enough to get us quiet enough to say, "Well Lord, what are you trying to say to me"?
And so, it's very important that He get our attention. Sometime, it's a message from somebody else. Sometimes, God may say something to you through someone else because God has spoken to them about you because He cares about you. Watch this, God is not tattling on you, that's not the issue. God wants to get your attention, and sometimes somebody else has to be the avenue through which God speaks. So, I learned a long time ago, when somebody says, "Well, here's what God told me to tell you," I have two thoughts, first of all, who is this; what kind of life are they living, before they start telling me what God's saying. Because some time I've heard the most bizarre things that God absolutely could not, would not, should not, can't say. And then sometimes, somebody would say something, I'll think, "Well God, I needed to hear that. Thank you very much".
So, we have to be careful of the messages that we receive from somebody else; and likewise, be careful of the message you give somebody else. If you tell somebody else, "Well, here's what God told me to tell you," you'd better be sure about what you're saying, or you'll mislead somebody. And before you say that, you need to ask the Lord, "Now Lord, is this right in my life? Before I start giving somebody else direction Lord, is this right in my life? So, we have to be careful about a message we give to somebody else. And so, one of the ways He gets our attention is to bless us. And what does that usually do? We usually say, "Well Lord, I surely didn't expect this, I don't deserve this, thank you very much". We can't thank Him enough. That would be our choice way of God getting our attention. But it's not His usual way, because usually He has to get to something deeper than that. But that is one way He gets our attention, to remind us how good He is.
Do you ever think about how good God is to you? One of the ways God gets our attention is when we stop to think, "How good you are to me, God". Then of course, His unanswered prayer will get our attention. Now, is that bad? No, it's not bad. Because I can think about some times in my life when God was making a major change and direction in my life that came to me, first of all, as a little sense of restlessness. I didn't know what was going on. And I would pray, and when I got through praying, I was just as dissatisfied as when I started. And a day went by, a week went by, and a month went by, and two or three months went by, and I'm still talking to God about the same thing of which I do not have any idea of what's it about. And so, God knows how to get our attention. And He knows how to get us intense.
And when I think about a few times I've made big moves in my life, have usually been times when I've been through a season of asking and searching and seeking, and usually those times are introspection, looking in my life to be sure everything is right between God and myself. And is there anything I can correct or change or whatever? And so, unanswered prayer is one of His methods of getting our attention till He gets to the root of the issue, until we are able and willing to say, "Okay God, I'm willing to do it". When they came to me to talk to me about coming to Atlanta, I said, "No, I have no interest in coming to Atlanta, Georgia". Never had been to Atlanta, but one time I remember flying over it, and just looking a little bit of the skyline, which was not very big at that time. I said no week after week after week, and they'd come to see me, and I'd say, "No, no, no".
One night, got down to pray, and before I got up from praying, I knew that I had to be obedient to God against my will, against my wishes, against everything in me. And my wife would have told you I complained all the way to Atlanta. I didn't want to come. I finally had to say, "Yes, Lord, I'll come". Sometimes He gets our attention by disappointments. Everything's just going along fine and we have a big disappointment in life. And so, we think, "Well, what did I do? How could I have avoided this disappointment"? Sometimes, that's the way God gets our attention. So, when we get disappointed, what do we do? We back off and say, "Okay, God, what are you trying to say to me"?
And then sometimes there's failure. Failure gets our attention. All failure is not bad. If failure in any given area of your life gets your attention, gets you on your knees before God. Once that happens, then it's not all bad because failure, what does it do? It drives us to God. Sometimes, it's financial problems that oftentimes gets people's attention, especially if they could lose their house. Especially if, for example, they could lose their job, lose their opportunities; and so people, instead of turning to God, they go borrow some money. And so, instead of listening to God, obeying God, they try to avoid this uneasy feeling, and that uneasy feeling is God's goodness. It's God's grace. Getting the person to realize, maybe you made the wrong decision, maybe you weren't listening. And God can correct any decision we make if our hearts are genuinely committed to Him and sincere in the process. Sometime, it's sickness. Sickness or injury gets our attention. And I've met people down through the years who've said, "You know, I was heading in the wrong direction, and God's laid me out and here I am".
And here I've been, and I can remember the last time I fell and was laid out for a little while. And I thought, "Well, what's going on"? It took me about six weeks of praying and listening to God. But when He got my attention, I said, "Yes, Lord. Thank you, thank you, thank you. If this is what it took to stop me, this is what it took to get my attention, I want to thank you, thank you, thank you for it". So sometimes, that's what He uses. So, to walk in the favor of God, whatever it takes, it's worth it. When the Scripture says that amidst all the sin and wickedness in the world, that Noah found favor in the eyes of God. Look what God did with him, when He found favor in him.
So, ask yourself this question: am I walking in the favor of God in my life? Be honest. Am I walking according to my pattern of what I want? Am I walking in His favor? Is that the witness of the Spirit to my spirit? That God and I are on the same track. We're on the same time table. We want the same things. I desire the same objectives in my life. I desire the same goals in my life as God's wants. Am I walking in His Spirit? By His Spirit? Do I want the same things that God wants for my life? Are my desires the desires of God? Ask yourself the question: is this what God wants? Sometimes, watch this, God will want more for you than you want for yourself. Sometimes, He'll want something better for you. You'll say, "I don't deserve it". That's not what God says. Sometimes you'll think, "Well, I couldn't ever deserve it". That may be exactly what God wants.
Watch this, God is not a task master. God is an awesome, wonderful, exciting, beloved Heavenly Father, who wants the best for us in every area of our life. He wants us to do what? He wants us to walk in His favor. But to walk in His favor, I must learn to listen to Him. That's the first step. What does that mean? That means I want to walk with His approval. I want to walk with His acceptance, His support, His provision, His divine energy, and His joy. Learning to listen to God is lesson number one. Amen?
Father, we thank you for loving us. Thank you for reminding us that, as we want to teach our children very early in life to listen to us, when we're saved, first lesson, listen to You. I pray for people seated here this morning who are not listening. They're making up their own mind. I pray that You'll bring great conviction upon them, which will be an act of love on your part to stop them dead in their tracks this morning, from heading in that relationship which should not be. Bind that which they should not do, going there, living there, doing this, doing that, without asking for Your direction and guidance. I pray that You'll stop them dead in their tracks to remind them that you are willing to give clear direction. And with that direction comes your blessing. And I pray the Holy Spirit will speak to somebody here today who has never trusted Jesus as their Savior. They've been living on their own, doing pretty good, they think. But Lord, what they don't know is what's coming. I pray that they'll be willing to stop right now, ask you to forgive them of their sin, repent of their sin, right where they sit. Lord, be willing to be honest with themselves and acknowledge that You've been trying to speak to them for a long time, and they have been ignoring you. But today, they're listening, they're surrendering their life to you. I pray the Spirit of God will be heavy, heavy, heavy, heavy, God, on every--upon every heart that's living in sin, living in disobedience, have plans to sin, plans to disobey you. Make them so heavy, dear God, they have to repent right here and now, sitting right where they are, in order to get right with You before they walk out of this service today. Thank you for Your awesome love for us. Lord God, we surrender ourselves to You today and we praise You for Your forgiveness, Your love and Your goodness towards us. In Jesus's name, amen.