And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).
As my sister and I were growing up, my parents prayed this prayer over us: That as we grew in stature, we would also grow in wisdom, and in favor with God and man.
Looking back over our growing up years, I can see the much evidence of God’s favor over our lives, and one of the most obvious ways He has shown us His favor is through the favor shown to us by man.
At this point, some people may want to say, “Now wait a minute. Why would you pray to find favor among man? We’re not supposed to care what people think, right? Isn’t God’s opinion the only thing that matters?”
Well, yes and no. When it comes to our security and our identity, yes. Who we are and how we perceive ourselves should not be dependent on what other people say and think. Placing our self-worth on how others see us is dangerous because it leads to a false sense of success or failure. Either way, it’s bad.
When people sing our praises, we float to the top of the world and bask in temporary glory and then as soon as people criticize and attack us, we come crashing down and fail to get back up again until and unless someone else comes along to re-inflate our ego.
You can see how such a way of living is unhealthy and detrimental in the long run. Our motivations for the things we do should not be contingent upon other people’s responses to us. If we allow other people’s opinions of us to get in our heads, it prevents us from doing what God wants us to do. In that case, yes—Why care what other people say?
The important thing is that we know who we are in Christ, and Jesus says that we belong to Him. It doesn’t matter if everyone thinks you’re amazing or a total idiot, as long as you know where you stand with God. If God is for us, who can stand against us, right?
However, not “caring” about what others think of you is not the same as not caring at all about what people think. Loving God comes with another command, and that is to love people. That’s really all there is to life.
Jesus says in Matthew 22:37-40 to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
After all, what is life if we do not love God? And what is loving God if we do not love people? God’s heart is for people, and so should ours be if we love Him. We ought not allow people’s thoughts and opinions of us to dictate the way we live and act, but we should definitely take their cares and concerns into consideration.
And so when it comes to carrying out our tasks as children of the Most High God, then no. God’s opinion is not the only thing that matters, because caring for others includes caring about what they think. To pray for favor among man is to ask God to draw people to us and to allow us to see them through His eyes so that we can be that salt and light to the world that He has called us to be.
It is not a request to be taken lightly, but one that is made with the understanding that with favor from man comes a responsibility of showing them God’s love, and it is with the favor of man, that we are all the more in need of wisdom, and God’s favor—thus making that prayer go a complete circle.
The more of God’s favor we receive, the more of man’s favor we receive, and the more of man’s favor we receive, the more we depend on God for His wisdom and in turn, gain more of His favor.
Perhaps you may find it a little conceited to pray that God would cause people to like us, but when we see the evidence of how God orchestrates little encounters throughout the course of our lives and how we are the ones given the privilege to show someone the love of Christ, it is a beautiful sight to behold.
By simply finding favor in our workplace—with a difficult boss or with a nasty colleague, or in school/university—among our teachers and lecturers, we are given an amazing opportunity to show God’s love to people who may be hurting in ways we may never even come to know.
So pray for one another that we would grow in wisdom and find favor with God and man as we make our way through life; and be careful not to pass up on these moments. We never know what a simple smile or kind word could mean to a person.
My sister and I may no longer be growing in stature, but we still constantly find favor with the most unexpected people even when we don’t try. Everywhere we go, shopkeepers, cashiers, security guards, janitors—all kinds of people—are drawn to us and shower us with kindness. We may cross paths with them on a daily basis, or we may never see them again.
Either way, they are an encouragement to us, and we count it a blessing that we get to be an encouragement to them in return. When we go through rough times and when it seems like the world around us is going from bad to worse, little moments like these are what restore my faith in humanity, and strengthen my faith in our sovereign God.
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