Steven Furtick - Finish With Favor
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will toward men and women on whom his favor rests. Somebody put in the chat, "He's talking about me. That's me. His favor rests on me". I used to let you touch your neighbor, but I'm scared they'll lock us up in jail if I have you touch your neighbor right now, so just look at somebody, wink at them, and say, "I've got the favor of God". Say it like that with a little bit of swag. "I've got the favor of God". Anybody who knows that, just put it in the chat. "I have the favor of God". Not a fancy favor. "O Lord, I thank you for my parking space. Thou hast given me a parking space. It's very convenient".
I'm not clapping for convenience. That's fancy favor. I'm clapping because I could have been dead. I could have lost my mind. I could have gone crazy, but he kept me. I've got favor! If you know you have it, celebrate it! How many are excited about the favor of God? I love y'all. It's a delayed reaction. You're like, "I've got to think about that". That's exactly what we're going to do today. We are going to consider as this year ends…
I wonder how many of you are new to our ministry. By that I mean you've been a part of this ministry for less than a year. Put it in the chat. Say, "I'm a newb". Did I use it right? I'm so sorry. My kids just cringe every time I try to say something that's remotely relevant. "You can't say that". It's weird. But this message is for those of you whether you're brand new to the ministry or been here a long time, because we end each year kind of wrapping a word from God around the year. You are not going to believe what God told me to call this year end. I had to get this one from the Spirit. I could not do this with my mind, because I would have tried to figure out what to call 2020.
If you are on planet earth and watching this in a future year and everything looks weird… I can just imagine if you watched Elevation in 2019 and then turned it on in 2020. You'd be like, "What happened to the people"? If you didn't know, if it was much later and you didn't have the historical context, that would be kind of crazy. But I want to give you some context that every year we finish the year with one word from God, and this year, the Lord told me we were going to finish with favor.
That's my message today: Finish With Favor. I said, "Lord, I can't say favor is the word for 2020 in good conscience. They'll think I'm crazy". It was as if the Lord said to me (not out loud), "They already know that. The people who are still there figured that out a long time ago, and they like it". That's the right kind of crazy. I'm the right kind of crazy. At least I want to be. I've been all kinds of crazy. I really have. Isn't it weird to call this the year of favor? I've heard a lot of people use a lot of words to describe 2020. Some of them even started with the letter F, but they didn't say it was the year of favor. I went through a lot of options. I was thinking, "Well, Lord, we should call the year what people have experienced".
The first thing that came to my mind… I don't know where your mind went when I said the letter F, but I thought the year of fear would be an appropriate thing to call it, but it didn't look right when I saw it in print. I was like, "Well, that's not really too terribly inspiring". We're giving an offering next weekend. How many of you are excited to give to God? How many of you have been excited to keep giving to God? Then we go above and beyond. I made my check out this week. I'll tell you, I fought God like never before writing my check this year, because there's more fear. I thought it was hard to give in previous years, because we always try to stretch, but this year I was like, "Uh…"
I had to practice writing the number down a few times before I put it on the check, because I knew what he was speaking, but there was so much fear. I think the year of fear would be a good thing to call 2020 if we're going to keep it 100, as the kids say. We have found things to be afraid of that we didn't even know we were supposed to be afraid of. I was never afraid of a handshake until this year. The year of fear I thought we could call it. The fear offering. That didn't sound right. It didn't sound very biblical. So, I thought about that, and then I thought, "No. If you really want to be accurate about it, we should label it the year of frustration, because that starts with an F and you can say it in church".
The year of frustration. The frustration of trying to figure out what in God's name you are going to do… Not next month. I have to check my phone every five minutes to see if it's safe for me to go outside of my door, I feel like. It's frustrating to me, because I'm a rule follower. I know that surprises you, because some people say this church breaks all the rules, but I really like people to tell me what I'm supposed to do. What I can't figure out is… I live in North Carolina, but sometimes I go to South Carolina, and even between two states, I can't figure out what the freakin' rules are. Do you see what I'm saying?
The frustration. Do you feel my frustration? I am terrified to go on a plane, not because it might crash but because I don't want to have to deal with the… It was already bad enough before the year of frustration set in. You're telling me I have to pull up my mask in between sips. I just don't think I can do it yet. I'm not ready for it yet, and I don't want to end up on the news, so I'm staying away from planes until further notice. I'm frustrated. I'm frustrated right now because the church is supposed to be full, and there are like 300 people, and they're all spaced out, and there are empty rows. It stresses me because it's bad crowd dynamics, and I don't like it. But I have the right 300 in the room. But I'm frustrated. It has certainly been…
If we just want to label this year according to the facts, I think we could call it the year of fighting. All things that start with the letter F. We have found places and spaces to fight. We fight over syllables. We fight over punctuation marks on Facebook in this year, the year of fighting. You can get canceled when you use a comma instead of a semicolon in the year 2020. Somebody will pick you apart for everything you say. Maybe it's different for people who have a microphone or a platform or something, but I think everybody has experienced it at some level. Everything is controversial. Everything you do is some big epic message, and we're all supposed to figure it out.
I thought of calling it the year of Fauci, but that felt a little bit limiting on what we could say. The Lord said, "You can call it any of that or you can call it what Luke 4:19 says and tell my people…proclaim this over my people…it's the year of favor". Put it on the screen. It's supposed to come up. Yeah, that's the one. We had to wait for it for a minute. We had to get to the end to figure it out, but it's the year of favor. "The Spirit of the Lord is on me". That's what Jesus said. Favor. Are you familiar with that word? The kids don't say favor much anymore. This is a word… See, my kids introduce me to new words that I'm unfamiliar with, but I want to introduce some people who are spiritually growing into your faith to a word you may not have heard. The word is favor. Now I can't figure out… This is what I've been trying to figure out.
Go on over to Luke 4 in your Bible, because we're going to study this today. We're going to talk about the year of the Lord's favor and how to finish with favor. What it's going to require you to do is maybe forget how the first 11 months went. Paul said, "This one thing I do: forgetting what's behind and straining toward what's ahead, I press toward the mark". I'm like, "That's two things: forgetting and straining". He's like, "No, you have to do them both. In order to move forward, you have to forget".
So, let's just make a deal right now. I won't bring it up if you don't. All of the little temper-tantrums and pity parties you had this year, all that other stuff that is not appropriate for us to talk about in a big group like this… Did you hear the whole crowd go silent? The stuff this year, the other stuff that was fear based, frustration based, fighting against people you're supposed to be fighting for… I won't mention it if you don't.
Today we'll talk about favor. Specifically, the Lord said we are going to… I want to personalize this. You are going to finish with favor. Nothing in me wanted to tell you that, because I cannot prove it by the percentages of COVID cases, and I certainly cannot tell you that a flip of the calendar is going to wave a magic wand and all of a sudden make all the conflict disappear. I can't say any of that, but I think the word favor, although it's unfamiliar to some, is overly familiar to others. I can't figure out which one is harder: to get somebody who is overly familiar with a concept to unfamiliarize themselves… Sometimes I think I'd rather teach somebody who had never heard of Moses or, as the country preacher said, somebody who doesn't know the book of Ruth from a Baby Ruth.
I'm telling you, I think it's harder sometimes to get someone who has heard the word favor… "I went to the store, and I got some shoes, and they were 20 percent off. It was favor". No, it was Black Friday. That's all it was. It wasn't favor; it was marketing. We cheapen it. Or we will think favor is like fame. It's a false equivalent. We'll say, "Oh, look at how…" I heard somebody say about a person one time who was getting very popular… They said, "They're blowing up".
See, I knew the person personally, and I knew they were blowing up. They were blowing up their marriage. They were blowing up their physical health. They were blowing up their emotions. So, while one person saw the climb of their fame, I didn't really think it was favor. See, we have a hard time knowing what the word means. "Did I use that right? Did I say that right"? I'll be honest. The last time I preached on favor at Elevation was 2011. I thought maybe the word needed to be retired, but then I realized it just needs to be reclaimed. So today, you came on the right day. You clicked at the right time. We are reclaiming the favor of God in our lives. I am reclaiming God's favor for my family, for my perspective, for my business, for my church, for my ministry, for my emotions. I am reclaiming the favor of God.
So, what is the favor of God? It's kind of hard to give you a definition, because I don't know that we have a worldly equivalent. If I'm trying to explain to you the favor of God, it's easier for me to show you than to tell you. Remember when you used to say that all the time, Mom? "I can show you better than I can tell you". She said that a lot, and it was never a good thing, but in this case it's a good thing. I could give you a picture better than I could show you a definition.
Now, what some of you need to do, and you don't know this yet, is you need to take a selfie and look at it, and the fact that you're still here with light in your eyes and a smile on your face is a picture of the favor… I wish I could see a selfie right now on Instagram. Tag me and say in the tag, "This is my definition". What you are doing when you do that is defining to the Devil that the proof of the favor of God on your life is not the absence of attack or ambiguity in your life this year. It's a picture of God's favor. Sometimes a picture is better than a definition.
So, we're going to see a picture of God's favor from Jesus. He gave it to us in Luke 4:13 all the way through verse 30. This is so good. Are you familiar with the favor of God? Have you heard about it? Even if you're not familiar, it's probably better, because, again, I can't really explain. It's not like luck. It's different than luck. It's something different than that. Luck is validated and proven externally, so it's different.
I knew when I said, "It's the year of the Lord's favor" it would make some people just think, "What, are you in an alternate reality"? No, but I am in an alternate kingdom, and I do have a different spirit than the spirit of the world. I have the favor of God. When I heard Elijah's friends the other day, and they were calling one of the kids a simp, I didn't know what a simp was. I said, "I'm not familiar with this term simp. What meaneth this"? They said, "It's kind of hard to describe".
Have you heard this term simp? Your kid is not old enough. When Joel gets a little older, he'll start saying crap you won't have a clue what it means, so you'll try to correlate the word to things we used to say when we were growing up. Sometimes there is no equivalent. He said, "It's a guy who will do anything for a girl and doesn't care how it looks". They named somebody, and they said, "He's a simp". I was like, "Okay, I got it now". I thought, "Wow, it was easier for you to give me a picture of it than a definition of it". What did we call it? I mean, some of the things I'm thinking of you can't say like that, but I don't think we had an exact word. Y'all stay with me. It has been a weird year, so it requires some different kind of preaching. I don't think I could put it in a word for you.
Let me give you a picture. I thought about Moses, how he found favor with God. I thought about Noah, how he found favor with God in a flood. I thought about Ruth, how she found favor with Boaz. God can give you favor with a person. So, I thought we would skip right to the one who not only spoke of the favor of God but showed the favor of God, who was the favor of God, who is the favor of God. Get ready. This is why I can tell you it's the year of the Lord's favor and I haven't looked at your bank balance. This is why I can tell you it's the year of the Lord's favor and I haven't looked at your medical report. This is how I can tell you it's the year of the Lord's favor and you don't even like to go home right now because you can't stand who you're living with. This is how I can tell you it's the year of the Lord's favor.
Luke 4:13: "When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him…" How many of you want to get to that part? Let me read that again. Doesn't that sound good? "When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Jesus". I thought about calling this sermon "Are you done yet, Devil"? Jesus has been out there fasting 40 days and 40 nights, and he's doing this not only for preparation for his own ministry, which is about to really, really take center stage in the passage I'm going to read you, and I can't wait to show you. But I had to put verse 13 in. It seemed important. If you don't realize the announcement of God's favor came after a season of testing for Jesus, you might not recognize God's favor in your life.
Now I want to read it again so we don't misunderstand it. "When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time". It doesn't mean it's over. See, this is one thing you can know about every battle in your life: it won't last forever. This is what you can know about every blessing in your life: it won't last forever. So, if you're in a blessing right now, enjoy it, because there will be another battle. If you're in a battle right now, endure it, because there will be another blessing. So, there was a temptation. It was 40 days and 40 nights. There will be another one. I kept reading that over and over again, how the Enemy tempted Jesus in the wilderness. Then the part I'm about to read you shows Jesus in the synagogue, which was kind of like church.
So, he's in the wilderness all alone, and he's in the church with people he knew and who knew him, and God showed me it was the same favor in both places. I saw that the same favor we're about to encounter working through Jesus in the worship service was with him in the wilderness. That's what let me know the favor of God is not contingent on a place. You can find favor anywhere. That's why I don't know what to compare it to, because I can't say that about anything else in life. I can't say, "You can find great pizza anywhere". No. There are some places where the pizza is better than others. "You can find a good man anywhere". I can't just say, "You can find a good man anywhere".
There are some places… But the favor of God can be found anywhere you want to look for it. It was the same favor that enabled him to endure the isolation and testing of the wilderness that enabled him to proclaim the truth in the synagogue. You can find favor anywhere. Or maybe a better way to say it is favor can find you anywhere. Can I be honest? There were some times I wasn't looking for God's favor at all. I was looking for other stuff. Just about the time I thought I couldn't make it, the angels of God came to minister to my spirit. When my flesh was weak, when my tears were falling, when my hope was kind of foggy and faded and fuzzy, here came favor. Here came grace. Here came love. Here came mercy. Here came favor. I wasn't looking for it, but it came. I wasn't praying about it, but it came. I didn't even think it was possible at this point, but here came…
How many have that testimony? "Favor found me". Oh, that's a good one! "Favor found me". Thank you, Lord. All this year, the goodness and the mercy of the Lord were following me. I saw a table, and I saw enemies. I sat at the table in the presence of my enemies, and I was fed by the favor of God, and I was fed by the mouth of ravens, and I was fed by every word that proceeds… Favor found me. Here I am, God. I need you in this wilderness. I wanted you to know that the favor of God that was with Jesus at the resurrection was with him in the wilderness. The same favor of God that came to Mary that was with Jesus in his mother's womb, that was with you before the beginning of your life… That same favor is with you.
Same favor, different place. Favor with a mask on. Favor with a church on YouTube in your home because you can't go out to church because you live with your aging parent and you're scared to get them sick. Favor where you are. Same favor, different place. Y'all, please pray for me. That's just verse 13. I'm so scared to go any farther, though, because it felt familiar to me. Forty days, forty nights in the wilderness. Forty days to make up for 40 years. When Moses was in the wilderness, he failed. So before Jesus began his ministry, he set up a rematch with the Devil. See, Moses' story in the Old Testament… He struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it. He became so afraid he became frustrated. He became so frustrated he started fighting.
Do you remember that from the beginning of the sermon? So Moses' story ended in failure. He didn't get to go into the land he led the people to. But Jesus came so that what Moses ended in failure he could finish with favor. I can't explain this to you, because it's like a newb or it's like a simp. I don't really know how to describe this to you, because we don't have a context for it. You are so familiar with earning, so you're reflecting on the year, and you're thinking of all of the failures you had, but Jesus said, "I want to set up a rematch. I want to redeem the year. I want to redeem January, February…" He said, "I'm stepping into the last month of the year so you can finish with favor".
Thank you, Jesus! I receive your favor, and I receive your grace, and I am your righteousness. I thank you that you beat that Devil that was beating me. You took away that sin that was suffocating me, and you stripped that shame that was sabotaging my life. I thank you that you broke the back of fear. I thank you that you broke the yoke of frustration. I thank you that I no longer have to fight from a place of defeat. I don't have to fight in my flesh. I don't wrestle against flesh and blood. The Spirit of the Lord is on me. He has anointed me. He broke that failure. He broke it off your life. That's why you're going to finish with favor. When you're afraid, when you're frustrated, and when you're in it, when you're fighting, you just do familiar stuff. That's why you call people you love names. That's why you yell at people who are trying to help you. Because when you're in fear… That's why you strike the rock twice. That's why you do it.
Now let me show you this, because this is so powerful. When Jesus finished in the wilderness… It said the Devil was done, but Jesus wasn't. The Enemy got tired before the Savior did. You're going to overcome. You're going to endure this. You're going to finish with favor. You started with some other stuff. I know you did, but you're going to finish with favor. The Lord told me to tell you that. This is how we know. Luke 4:14. Did we really only do one verse so far? The Bible says he left the wilderness. That's the first place. If you want to study this later, there are several places we're talking about. We're talking about the wilderness where the Devil was finished but Jesus wasn't. He outlasted him. And he lives in you, so you have that spirit of perseverance in you.
After the point that you give up, when you're tired and hungry and lonely, and all of those things, and the Devil is trying to get you to do crazy stuff… People are doing crazy stuff this year. That's all right, because it said Jesus did what Moses couldn't do. Then in verse 14 it says, "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit…" That in itself is amazing, because he didn't return in the pessimism or in the pain. He returned in the power after 40 days of being tested by the Devil. It let me know the favor of God doesn't mean he stops the test. It means he continues the transformation so that he keeps working in my life, so that he has unlimited patience and grace. So, he outlasted the Devil.
I'm just laughing because Graham, my cockiest child, was telling me the other day he thinks he could beat Mike Tyson in a fight because Mike is 60. He was serious. He said, "I think I could outlast him. He's old". Anyway, that's what made me laugh. I was thinking about Jesus outlasting the Devil. I thought, "That's crazy". But I guess that's some kind of self-confidence… delusion. Y'all pray for Graham is what I'm saying. "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside". This is the real breaking news. He broke the chain. He broke the shame. That's what I mean by it's the year of the Lord's favor. That's what the Lord said. So, it spread through the whole countryside. "He was teaching in their synagogues…"
Remember, he was in the wilderness. Now he's in their synagogues. "…and everyone praised him". He didn't pay any attention to that. He knew that man's empty praise and treasures that fade are never enough. Look at verse 16, because it's important. "He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.'"
Breaking news. Good news. But wait a minute. They're poor. No, no, no. I'm not talking about situation. I'm not talking about circumstance. I'm not talking about fame. I'm talking about favor, good news to the poor, a report that contradicts the reality. "Let the weak say, 'I am strong.'" Good news to the poor. I love all this stuff. "He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor". I put "2020" by it in my Bible. I don't see that necessarily right now, but I believe it, because faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things I can't even see.
So, I want to ask you something. Will you proclaim something you can't currently perceive? He said, "Proclaim to the poor". That's not easy. "To the blind". That's not easy. "To the prisoners". Let me tell you something. When Jesus was on earth, there is no widespread record of people getting out of prison en masse, but he still said it was the year of freedom and favor. The year of the Lord's favor. Watch what he did. Y'all know how I haven't had the stool out here in a while? I brought it today just for this moment in the sermon. It's a prop. "Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down". That's why I wanted to bring this out: to show you what Jesus did while you were stressing out, to show you what he's doing in heaven right now.
I was surprised to see in Revelation, chapter 5, that he was seated on the throne. I thought that was weird. I'm like, "Well, that's the whole problem, God. If you'd get up and do something about this crazy mess… How are you going to sit down at a time like this"? "Mary, help me in the kitchen". You know, Martha. Remember that story? I'm thinking, "How could you be seated right now"? What really got me was that Jesus is quoting Isaiah 61. Let me show you this real quick. Now, Jesus didn't have YouVersion, Craig Groeschel Bible app. None of that "verse of the day" for Jesus. They handed him the whole scroll. It was probably the synagogue leader there in Nazareth… It was probably his decision which scroll he handed him, and Isaiah… The whole thing was probably on the scroll.
Do you know how you have the verse markers in your Bible? I say, "Turn to Isaiah 61, verses 1-2," and you're like, "Okay. Isaiah 60, 62… The one between is 61". That's how we do it. There were none of those in the scroll Jesus read. He didn't need them. He found the place. He knew the Word that good, because he was the Word. It's kind of easy to find the place when you are what you're reading. All that to say, when you know who you are, you know where you belong, you can always find a place. When you know the favor of God is on your life, you can find your place anywhere. Isn't that good? Don't you want to live like that? I'm not there yet. You're not either, but Jesus was.
So, he's like, "Okay. We're reading Isaiah. Okay. All right. This is the part… This is something I wrote about me". How cool is Jesus? He wasn't talking about circumstances. He wasn't talking about lemons and lemonade. He wasn't talking about vaccines. He wasn't talking about candidates or any of that. He so knew his purpose he found his place. Same favor, different place. So, he unrolls the scroll. He goes, "Yeah, this one. This one right here. This is what I want to say. Are you listening, Rodney? Are you listening, Carol? Are you listening, David"? Because he knew these people, because it's the place where he grew up, and they knew him. They thought they did. We think we do. We're so familiar, aren't we?
I wonder if familiarity is sometimes the enemy of God's favor. The reason I wonder that… Isaiah 61. This is Isaiah, hundreds of years before Jesus. Isn't that amazing? He said, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God…" Does that sound familiar? Some of it does. Give me Luke 4 again. Let me show you this. It said he stood up and unrolled it, found the place.
"'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back, and sat down". Go back to Isaiah 61:2 one more time. He said, "To proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God". Go back to Luke 4:19, the same verse I just read to you, one more time. He said, "To proclaim the year of the Lord's favor". One more time I want you to see this. This is powerful. In Isaiah 61:2, the prophet said, hundreds of years before Jesus, "To proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God". Go back to Luke 4. Jesus said, "To proclaim the year of the Lord's favor," and he sat down.
Why did he stop there? See, this was the problem. It wasn't that the people listening didn't know the Scriptures. They were very familiar with the Scriptures. We think that's the problem. "If people knew the Bible more, if people knew the Word of God more, then America would turn back to God," and all of that. No, no, no. They knew the Bible. They knew the rest of the verse. "The year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God". That was in their Bible.
So, when Jesus said, "The year of favor of the Lord" and then rolled up the scroll and sat down, they were confused, because they were waiting for the vengeance part. "When are you going to finish this"? Remember Mortal Kombat? "Finish him". That's what they wanted for the Roman oppression. That's what they wanted him to come and do. That's what we want the Lord to do. "Get rid of this. I want this to stop. I want this to be done. I want the bad people punished. I want the wrong to be made right. I want the favor of…" What we say when we say the "favor of God" is we want all of the enemies eliminated.
Jesus came to save the people they wanted him to wipe out. Oh yeah. He came to fulfill the law, not abolish it. He did it. He came to fulfill the vengeance of God. Sin has to be punished and shame has to be dealt with, but he did not put it on you, and he did not put it on me. See, this is the breaking news. This is the good news of the gospel. This is what will set the captive free. He didn't come to put it on you. He came to take it on himself. He became sin who knew no sin, that you might become the righteousness of God. This is the gospel. It's good in 2020. It was good in 20. It was good when he said it, and it's good to the last drop.
Now take this gospel and drink this blood and receive this word. It is finished. I need you to know what he did. I need you to know he said it's the year of the Lord's favor. Period. You're looking at it. Don't look for the new car. That might be favor. It might be payments. Don't look for that for favor. Don't look for Boaz. Don't look for any of that. He sat down. He said, "I don't know how to tell you what favor is. Let me show you a picture of this". It would be so cool to end the sermon here, but I can't, because I didn't write the Bible. I wish at that moment they would have put "Finish with favor" in the chat, subscribed on YouTube, turned on the bell, and gave the tithe to the year-end offering. We could have built the kingdom. They didn't do that.
Remember, we read the Bible… It's what it said and it's where it said. So, saying that he defeated the Devil in the wilderness… Where it happened tells us he was doing for us what we could never do for ourselves. That's the grace of God. If it starts with grace, it ends in favor. If it starts with effort, it ends in frustration. Finish with favor. Start with grace. He stood up, and he read, and he stopped at the part he came to fulfill. He came to do that for you. You can't do it for yourself. That's the whole point. He rolled it up and gave it back to Timmy, the synagogue assistant. He put it back in the ark, and Jesus said, "I'm the ark. I am the Word of God".
Isn't that amazing? He opened the scroll and read the passage. He's going to set the prisoners free. Good news to the poor. What you don't have, God is going to make up the difference. All of these things that we can take symbolically. They don't even have to be literal. That's what he's doing in your life this year. This is not Andy Dufresne style. Do you remember when he got out of prison? This is a spiritual prison. This is spiritual blindness. What really ministered to me in the text is to know that he said he came to open the eyes of the blind. He said in verse 21, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing". Look at the whole verse. "He began by saying to them…"
He finished with favor. He began to speak. He sat down. When God sits, he's not tired; he's finished. The work is finished. It's accomplished. He began by saying, "Today…" Not January 1, 2021, when absolutely nothing changes and we all promise to go on diets and to do better and we think something magic… No, no, no. Today. This is the year of the Lord's favor. "This Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing". They were amazed. "All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips". Watch what they said next. "'Isn't this Joseph's son?' they asked". That messed the whole thing up.
I didn't tell you this, but when we went to see Jody and Emily a while back… This is my brother-in-law. He works at North Greenville College where I went to school. It's North Greenville University now. They've really moved up. We were talking about how beautiful the campus was. Not necessarily the buildings. The buildings are fine, but it was the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background. He said something to me. I can't get this out of my head. He said, "Can you believe we had this the whole time we were here as students"? I said, "What do you mean"? He said, "Bo…" That's what he calls me. We call each other that. He points to the mountain range. It was a really pretty day too. He goes, "This was in our backyard. The Blue Ridge Mountains were in our backyard".
Holly and I went to that school. We never went on one hike. It was in our backyard. Crazy. I looked at it. I was like, "This is the kind of thing I would pay to vacation at now". Not the dorm room. The dorm room was crap. I think that was the problem. This is what I said to him. I was looking at it. I said, "We were so focused on what we were living in we didn't even realize what we were looking at". When you're living in it, you don't even know what you're looking at. That's why we really have to be careful not to wish away stages of our lives, because that was in your backyard.
It took 2020 to get some of us to see that showing up early to get a seat at Ballantyne at 9:30 on a Sunday morning was a privilege back when we could all do it without fear. We had the favor of God. We still do. But some of it… It was our backyard. I just looked at it. I was like, "Dude, this is trippy. Are you sure they didn't move these mountains in since we left? Are you playing with me? Did you slip something in my turkey? What's going on? Is this really here? Am I hallucinating"? It was there. He was there. He had been brought up there. He was in Nazareth. That's where he grew up.
Is familiarity the enemy of favor? I think it is sometimes. I really do. I think we choose what is familiar even at the expense of God's favor sometimes. I'll prove it to you, not from psychology. I have no degree in that. I'll prove it to you not from sociology; I'll prove it to you from theology in the text. Why is it that in the place where Jesus should have been able to do the most he was able to do the least? That should have been the place for the greatest favor of God.
Now, I need to say this to you. This might sound rough. Some of the places where God should be working the most in your life you're letting him do the least, and the reason is you're choosing what is familiar, and you are chasing away God's favor. For many of us, we're waiting on the vengeance. We think we know so much. When he rolls up the scroll and sits down, we think, "Well, it must be over, because God didn't do what I wanted him to do". It's finished when he says it's finished. He is who he says he is, not who you think he is. And you are who he says you are, not what they say you are. Whether they is your thoughts, your addictions, your insecurities, your secret stuff, you are not what that says you are, or your life. That's not what we mean by favor. We don't mean the facts. We mean the Father.
So, when they were looking at him, there's a Greek word they use, and it's used 10 times in the book of Acts, only twice in Luke. It says when he said what he said… He said, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing". Faith comes by hearing, but not with physical ears…spiritual ears. It's a terrible thing to have sight but be blind, Helen Keller said. It's a terrible thing. He's talking about opening blind eyes, but they are blind to the Blue Ridge Mountains that are in their own backyard. He is favor and he's right in front of them, just like the favor of God is right in front of you. I promise it is. It's everywhere. You bumped into it trying to get in a fight on your way out of the house today. You bumped into the favor of God. You had to push the favor of God out of the way to get to your bad attitude.
He said, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing". And he sat down, and they spoke well, but they were so familiar. "That's Joseph's son. Wow, he talks good, but we know him". Familiar. Favor. Familiarity. Is familiarity keeping you from God's favor? Are you addicted to feeling miserable? It feels familiar. If fear is your natural habitat for long enough, you'll seek it out. You'll find something to be afraid about. I started looking up estate taxes the other night and freaking out, and I don't think I'm dying. I just needed something to be worried about. I just needed something to freak out about. I didn't have anything in the moment. It was too good. I had to make something up in the moment. Isn't that crazy? I think I was seeking what was familiar. To receive and accept God's favor… When he says, "The year of the Lord's favor," the other translation is "The acceptable year of the Lord".
Now, the Jewish people knew a concept called Jubilee, every cycle of seven years. On that fiftieth or forty-ninth year (the rabbis differ as to which one it fell on originally), the debts would be forgiven and the prisoners would be released. Jesus was saying, "I am your Jubilee. You don't have to wait until the fiftieth year". You don't have to wait until 2021. You don't have to wait until you get married. You don't have to wait until you get divorced. Everybody is trying to go somewhere else. He said, "Today…" This is the year. But if frustration is a more familiar state for you, you will create frustration. You do this.
I know this is hard to hear, but please hear me with spiritual ears. Some of the frustration you just have to get through because it's not your fault. Some of it you're creating. You're creating it when you compare yourself to other people. You're creating it when you overload yourself with all this stuff you're looking at. You are making yourself frustrated. I'm going to tell you why you're doing it: because it feels familiar. You want what's familiar, because that feels like Nazareth. Favor feels funny. There's no equivalent for God's favor. People don't love you like that. So, when God tries to, you push that away. "That's not familiar. I can't just trust that my sins are forgiven. I can't just pray to God in any situation. I can't just give God this burden. I can't just roll in on him and trust that he cares for me. I can't smile while I'm going through this. I can't trust wholeheartedly. I can't take the next step without knowing all of the details. That's not familiar".
So, I will create frustration through a spirit of manipulation just to feel what feels like home to me. It said they fastened their eyes on him. The word is atenizo. It's used to describe a very emotional attention. I have to show you this. It's too important. This is what makes the difference. This is why I didn't see the mountains. This is why I couldn't see the Blue Ridge Mountains. Verse 20: "The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were [atenizo]". It's an emotional focus. It's the same word when he was taken up in Acts 1:10. They atenizo. They watched, because they wondered, "If he's leaving, what's going to happen to us"? That's how you felt all year. "Well, if I'm losing this, if it's not like this anymore, what's going to replace this"?
That's what the word was. It was the same word when Peter was cussing, when Jesus was being taken away to be crucified. The servant girl atenizo, fastened her eyes. It's not just like you look. It's like you're emotionally focusing on something. Here's the thing I found out about God's favor: my emotional focus determines whether I go to frustration, fear, fighting, or favor. The Lord said he wanted to give you the gift this last month of the year, whoever this is for… He wants to give you your emotional focus back. What that is going to require…
I want to make sure you're down, because this is not going to be easy. You are going to have to let go of some certain attachments to familiar things that are blocking God's favor. I don't mean you're going to leave the city. I don't mean you're going to flee the state. I don't mean you're going to move to Canada. I mean that in this moment, you are going to decide what has been in your backyard all along that is bigger than what you're going through and living in right now. My focus is my favor, not your favor. God gave you a favor; God gave me a favor. God gave you a family; God gave me a family. God gave you a gift; God gave me a gift. Every preacher watching me, God gave you a church; God gave me a church. Everybody watching this who wants God to do something he's doing for somebody else, it is time for you to focus on the favor God has given you in this season of your life.
And I promise you this. Atenizo. You will find what you're looking for. If you want to look for goodness, it's on your right hand. If you want to look for mercy, it's on your left hand. So, he rolled up the scroll, and he sat down and said, "You want favor? It's right in front of you". It is not out there somewhere. It is not to be found in any earthly promotion. It is not to be found in any earthly acclaim. It is in the wilderness. It is in the synagogue. It is in Nazareth. But the place where he was brought up was the place where they were so familiar with him they could not receive the favor, because they chose what was familiar. "That's Joseph's son".
Are you open to seeing the favor of God? I asked the Lord to do three things for us: make us conscious of his favor (you have to see it), to help us cooperate with his favor (to stop fighting against what God is doing in my life), and then the biggest part of all (this is why I want to give my offering next weekend), to make me a conduit for his favor. I want that, because this is the year of the Lord's favor. I don't know about tomorrow. He opened the scroll. That's the same thing he did in Revelation 5. They couldn't find anybody to open the scroll and break the seals, and then there was a Lamb next to the one who was seated on the throne, not stressed, not freaking out, and neither should you be, because no matter how it started, it's going to finish with favor. What sin started in the garden Jesus dealt with on the cross and buried in his tomb.
So, I'm making the declaration: you're going to finish with favor. Do you receive that or are you going to chase it away? That's what the people did to Jesus. He started speaking about the favor of God. He said it's the year of the Lord's favor, and they were atenizo. They were looking at him. They were expecting one thing, like we all are. "This is how it's going to be. This is how it's supposed to work". They're looking at him. They're focused on what they think he's going to do, but he said something very powerful. He said in verse 24, "Truly I tell you (amen, I say to you), no prophet is accepted in his hometown". Do you accept what God is doing in this season of your life? I know what you expected him to do, but will you accept what he is doing?
He said, "You are too familiar to receive the favor that is sitting right in front of you. You are so used to rejection you find it when it's not even there. You are so unfamiliar with acceptance you can't receive the love I'm sending you". Whoever you are and whatever this year has been like for you, the Lord sent me with a message. Today is the day of the Lord's favor. It is right in front of you. I don't care how it started. I don't care what it looks like. It doesn't matter what happened up until now. You will finish with favor. Confess it. "I will finish with favor". He sat down right in front of them. He said, "The problem with you, why you can't receive the favor…" This is to the Jewish people who should have really known him, the people who saw him running around when he was 2 years old. Their familiarity killed their favor. This is kind of sad that Jesus was rejected by the people who should have recognized him.
Listen to this. Verse 25: "I assure you…" This is Jesus speaking to the people he knew who should have known him but couldn't see it because their emotional focus was on what they expected God to be like. Is that where your focus is? What you expected your kid to be like at age 18? That you expected you would have kids by now? What you expected to happen this year in your career? If that is your emotional focus, it is going to kill your favor. That's what happened here. Jesus goes all the way back to their history. "…there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time…" Do you remember this story? I hope you don't, because if you're unfamiliar with it, you'll hear it better. He said there was a drought for three and a half years. There was a famine caused by the drought.
Verse 26: "Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet…" These are famous Bible stories: 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 5. You can look these up later. What you'll see is that God sent his greatest favor to the people who were least familiar. I wonder… Do we know too much? Do we have too much of a blueprint of how God is going to bless us? Have we lived in it so long we no longer see it for what it is? He said God had to go to a woman at Zarephath, had to go to a Syrian commander named Naaman to show what he could do, because the people who should have received his power couldn't recognize what was right in front of them. Can you?
God has given you some great opportunities this year. He has done some amazing things in your life this year. He has shown you some ugly stuff that if he didn't show it to you would have killed you. Can you receive that? Is this the acceptable year of the Lord? He's talking about his salvation, his deliverance, his ministry. I wonder if we have accepted this for what it really is yet, because that's the key. Will you accept the favor of God or are you pushing it away because it feels weird? That's what they did. It says in verse 28, "All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this". They heard about God's favor and they were furious? Yeah. Because it wasn't what they were familiar with. "I don't like this. I'm done".
What if Joseph would have said that when his brothers threw him in a pit? What if Mary would have said that when the angel visited? "I don't like this. This doesn't feel good". Do you understand that somebody else is counting on you to find your favor in your situation? They don't have the last word. That's why I love God. If he said this is the year of his favor, this is the year of his favor. If he said I'm anointed, I'm anointed. If he said I can do it, I can do it. If he put it in my hand, if he gave it to me, I'm going to unroll it. I'm going to read it. I'm going to sit down with him and trust that it is finished.
Verse 29: "They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff". Watch this. They chased away God's favor because it was not familiar. You have been chasing away the favor of God because it has been coming looking like trouble. You have been chasing away the favor of God because it has been coming looking like challenge. You have been chasing away the favor of God because it's not comfortable. Are you going to chase it away or are you going to embrace it?
I believe God's favor is finding someone right now, and what I want to leave you with on this message Finish With Favor is verse 30. When the favor of God is on you, you can do what Jesus did. "But he walked right through the crowd…" Six feet back. Six feet back. Six feet back. "But he walked right…" Go ahead and take a selfie right now for a picture of favor, because guess what. There were some times in April and May and June and July… I'm starting my New Year's Eve sermon early. I'm starting it right now. We're going to finish with favor. So, go ahead and take the picture right now and post it with #finishwithfavor.
Watch this. The Devil should have killed you while he had the chance. He should have killed you in the cradle. He should have killed you before you found out that the power of God is on you. He should have taken you out before you found out "I've got the favor of God". It can't kill you. And he went on his way, because it is not finished when they say it is. It is not finished when hell says it is. It is not finished when a government official says it is. Jesus said, "I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail". I declare over Elevation this is a ministry that was started in the mind of God. I declare it over your family. I declare it over your calling. You didn't start it, you don't have to finish it, and you don't have to figure it out.
So, walk right through in the favor of God. "And they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they'll mount up on wings like eagles". Oh, it feels good to get above it sometimes. "They will run and not grow weary". I like progress when I'm getting there fast, but one thing it said… "They will walk and not faint". I don't know if you got very high this year. A lot of us didn't. I don't know if you got very far this year or very fast. It has been slow progress for a lot of us, and even some steps backward, but I'm still walking in the favor of God. Are you going to chase it away?
They chased Jesus out of their town. Or are you going to embrace it? The favor of the Lord. It's right in front of you. It's not far off. It's not in some distant galaxy. It's not waiting for some future version of you that has better Scripture reading habits. No, no, no. The favor of God is here. Lord, we're really tempted right now. That's the truth. We're tempted to be afraid. It's familiar. Everybody is doing it. It's a really foreign concept for us to resist the temptation to fear. It's really easy to fear. It's familiar. We know how to do it. We're good at it. We are professional fearers. We're frustrated about the things that keep on slipping on us.
It's hard for us to believe you're at work even in those areas. Some of us are born fighters, but the problem comes when we start fighting against the very favor you gave us…the gift, the situation, and yes, Lord, even the thorn. So, Lord, when you gave me this proclamation, I thought it was weird. I thought the "year of the Lord's favor" didn't sound right for 2020. But then you showed me that the fear, the frustration, the fight… That's what favor is for. That's why you gave us that favor: to raise that child. That's why you gave us that favor: to be patient as we wait. That's why you gave us that favor: to battle that addiction. That's why you gave us that favor.
We take our seat with you now. People are taking stands everywhere this year. Just for a moment, we want to take a seat with you. We thank you that you're worthy to open the scroll. You know what's going to happen in the future. You've already been there, and you declare that because you finished with favor, we will too. "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever". I will finish with favor. Give him praise if you receive this word. Thank you, Lord.