It is a fact of Christian experience that life is a series of troughs and peaks. In His efforts to get permanent possession of the soul, God relies on the troughs more than the peaks. And some of His special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. –Peter Marshall, pastor and chaplain to the U.S. Senate
So, on the next day when Agrippa came together with Bernice amid great pomp, and entered the auditorium accompanied by the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. Acts 25:23 (NASB)
“King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do.” Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.” And Paul said, “I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.” Acts 26:27-30 (NASB)
Do you feel as though you are favored by God? What are your criteria for thinking this way? Do you have (or lack) a great family? A body worthy of envy? Innate talents and abilities? More than a thousand social media friends? A fantastic career? Lots of money in the bank?
Deceived is the person whose perspective of God’s favor depends upon outward appearances, or material possessions.
The Apostle Paul
Contrast, if you will, the Apostle Paul with King Agrippa (II) and his sister Bernice. Agrippa and Bernice had been born into royalty, their great grandfather being Herod the Great. This fabulously wealthy family managed to garner extensive favor with the Roman emperors. To ice the cake, Agrippa was given supreme power over the Jewish state.
Paul, on the other hand, was a prisoner, probably chained to a Roman guard. He must have been a sight to see, having received numerous beatings for his Christian faith. This once prominent Pharisee had given up everything to follow a new and strange religion. Further still, because of intense hatred by the masses, and more than one imprisonment, Paul was eventually abandoned by most of his companions. Based on his circumstances, it appeared that God had abandoned him as well. In the eyes of the world, Paul was a supreme loser. But who do you think was more favored by God?
The historian Josephus recorded that Agrippa and Bernice had a secret, incestuous relationship at one point in time. Bernice later married and deserted the King of Celicia, eventually becoming the mistress of the Roman emperor Titus. Also, Agrippa largely abandoned his Jewish faith to gain the wealth and power of Rome.
A snapshot of Paul’s circumstances might have left a casual observer feeling pity for the poor guy. And yet, Paul was honored to play a crucial role not only in helping to establish the church, but also by penning an entire one-third of the New Testament. Billions of lives have been deeply touched by Paul’s less than envious existence. Paul was highly favored by God. Agrippa and Bernice were not. But that is not the way that things appeared.
How much time do we spend wishing that we had what others have? And how does such envy enhance our happiness? We still have an abundance of wealth in our nation and yet we live in misery as though we were cursed. I am not an advocate of poverty, nor do I believe that material possessions are totally unimportant. I am saying, however, that these things pale in importance when compared to the true, eternal blessings of life (see Ephesians 1). Envy will sap the very life from us.
Favored by God
Being favored by God may be, at times, intangible, but it’s no less real than the material world surrounding us. When the sovereign King of the Universe smiles upon us, what will we lack? Those who are favored by heaven can trust that their every need will be met in its appropriate time.
Being favored by God is in no way dependent upon one’s appearance, performance, personal charm, or external circumstances. Nor does God’s favor come to us by our own merit, but rather through Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. When we enter into a covenant relationship with God the Father through faith in Christ, we are blessed with the very same measure of favor He bestowed upon His Son.
God’s extreme favor, when appropriated by faith in Christ, will manifest through all manner of unforeseen blessings. We never know exactly how God’s blessings will come but we can be sure that our faithful Father will never abandon His beloved children.
This post is drawn from Chapter Forty-Three of Bob’s devotional: Champions in the Wilderness—Fifty-Two Devotions to Guide and Strengthen Emerging Overcomers
Photo by StAnselm – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10631570