Many Christians are called to live in unfavorable situations and circumstances. They usually find themselves a minority in a Non-Christian majority environment. This causes a sense of helplessness and frustration at times.
But the fact is that we cannot escape these realities. We have to live in the midst of them. But there is one secret that can keep you afloat in this turbulent ocean of ungodly people and circumstances. That secret is enjoying the favor of God.
The Bible gives us two instances where God’s children who enjoyed His favor also obtained favor in the eyes of those in authority who were people without fear or knowledge of God.
Reflection 1: Esther
(Esther 1 and 2)
Xerxes was a great Persian king who ruled over 127 provinces occupying a huge geographical area. In the third year of his reign he held a great exhibition displaying his vast wealth and splendor for six months. At the end of this period he gave a banquet lasting seven days.
On the last day he was in high spirits after drinking wine. He then commanded the seven eunuchs who served him to bring Queen Vashti wearing the royal crown before him. He wanted to display her beauty to all those present at the banquet for she was lovely to look at. But she refused to go before the king. And the king became very angry.
He consulted with the wise men and experts in their law to ask what should be done. They advised him to remove the queen from her position as her example if left unpunished would create disorder in every family. They also asked him to give her royal position to someone better than her.
After some time when the king’s anger had subsided he remembered what the queen had done and the fact that he had removed her from office. His attendants advised him to have a search made for beautiful young virgins throughout his kingdom.
They advised him to have them brought into the harem in the citadel of Susa. They asked the king to have the virgins put into the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch in charge of the women and beauty treatments given to them. Afterwards the girl who pleases the king could be made queen.
Now it so happened that in this citadel there lived a Jew named Mordecai. He had been taken into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar many years ago. That was how he came to be there. Along with him was his cousin named Hadassah, otherwise known as Esther. Since her parents had died Mordecai had brought her up as his own daughter. And Esther was lovely in form and features.
When the king’s order for bringing young virgins into the care of Hegai came, Esther was also brought in. The Bible records that “The girl pleased him and won his favor” (Esther 2:9a). He immediately provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. She was given seven maids selected from the king’s palace. She, along with them, was moved into the best place in the harem.
Esther never revealed her nationality and family background because Mordecai had asked her not to do so. Remember that they were living there because they had been taken there as exiles from Jerusalem.
Now a virgin selected to appear before the king could do so only after completing twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. And this was the manner in which the selection procedure or interview with the king took place.
Whatever the girl asked for would be given her to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace. A girl would go in the evening to the king’s palace and in the morning would return to another part of the harem to the care of Shaashgaz who was in charge of the concubines. No girl would go back to the king unless the king was pleased with her and summoned her by name.
Soon, the turn came for Esther to go to the king. She took with her only what Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem, suggested. She won the favor of everyone who saw her. She appeared before the king in the seventh year of his reign.
He was attracted to her more than any of the other girls. She also won his approval and favor more than anyone else. He therefore set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. And the king gave a banquet.
As we look at these incidents in the life of Esther we find that she enjoyed God’s favor in an unfavorable environment. She was a foreigner who had come to that land in a group of Jewish exiles. Yet when it came to the time of selection to the position of queen God showed her favor. It is reflected in the favor that Hegai showed to her.
She also responded to his favor by only taking to the king only what he suggested. Again, she won the favor of all who saw her. Finally she won the favor of the king and was made queen.
Two more things need to be noted her. One, we need to think of the favor she found in Mordecai’s eyes because she was brought up by him when she became an orphan. He also walked near the courtyard of the harem everyday all the time of her beauty treatment to know what was happening to her.
Secondly, we need to note the fact that if she had not won the king’s favor, she would have been reduced to the not honorable position of one of the king’s concubines. So by enjoying God’s favor on her life she also enjoyed the favor of all around her at the most needed times of her life.
Reflection 2: Daniel and His Three Friends
This incident occurred at the court of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon almost hundred years before Esther’s story. The settings are almost similar. Daniel and his three friends were also taken captives from Jerusalem and taken to Babylon as exiles.
Now King Nebuchadnezzar had a good administrative services. He wanted to have some of the best young royal and noble blood from the Israelite captives to be selected to his service. So he ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials to select these young men. The conditions were that they should be handsome, without any physical defect, with an aptitude for learning and having good sense.
The chief official had to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The students would be allotted a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. And the training period was three years, on the successful completion of which they would enter the king’s service. As a first step the names of Daniel and his three friends were given new names.
But Daniel resolved not to eat the royal food and wine which were their daily portion from the king’s table. One of the chief reasons behind this decision not to defile himself with royal food was that God had given the Jewish people strict laws regarding meat that they could eat. So he approached the chief official and he asked his permission not to defile himself with royal food. His friends also followed his example.
The Bible says: “Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel” (Daniel 1:9 NIV). But still the official had a problem to solve because he was under the king’s orders. So he told Daniel and his friends that if the king would see them looking worse than the other young men of their age, he would have him executed.
But Daniel had a solution. He struck a bargain with the official. He asked him to test them for ten days. In those ten days he asked him to give them nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. He further told him to compare their appearance with the others who ate royal food after the ten days were over. Daniel concluded by saying that the official was free to decide what to do after seeing the results.
And when the ten days were over, Daniel and his friends looked healthier and better nourished than all the other young men. So the guard took away the royal food and continued to give them vegetables and water. God also honored their faith in Him by giving them knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. Daniel was also given ability to understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
At the end of their training period they were brought before the king. He interviewed them and found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. And all four of them entered the king’s service.
As we look back at this incident we find that Daniel and his three friends enjoyed God’s favor in an unfavorable environment. We also note that God caused them favor also because they chose to honor God in unfavorable circumstances by resolving not to defile themselves with royal food.
These young men were so confident of God’s favor on their lives that they asked the official to test them for ten days and decide on the basis of results seen. God not only caused them favor but also blessed them. Finally they were exalted in the court before all others.
Both Esther and Daniel went through similar circumstances. They were exiles in captivity. Both of them had to undergo a preparatory stage before they could appear before the king. Esther did not do anything special to earn favor. In fact, God is not once mentioned in the book of Esther though His presence is felt throughout.
Daniel and his friends, on the other hand, chose not to defile themselves with royal food. Then God caused the officials to show favor. And finally God exalted both of them in the court of powerful kings to be His shining lights. In fact as we think about it, they were the King of King’s Ambassadors in the court of those pagan kings.
The lesson for us from their lives is simple. They teach us one secret of successful survival in a difficult world we live in. Whatever field we are in, the secret for success is enjoying God’s favor.
This is so relevant when we consider all that others do to gain success in life. People who do not know God or don’t have real trust in Him, are ready to bribe, cheat and manipulate to get to positions they desire. They are strongly aggressive and dominant and pushy. Many arrive at their desired positions by these methods. But maintaining that requires them to continue all their wicked scheming throughout.
But Esther, and Daniel and his three friends show us that there is a better method to go up the success-ladder. That is by enjoying God’s favor. Not doing anything worldly-wise but relying on God alone. If you chose their method, you will see God showing you favor wherever you go.
This recipe is not only for great achievements. It is true for daily living too. God will cause others to show you favor wherever you go: In your place of business, in your travels, in your talks with others, in decisions that need to be made in your favor etc.!
The secret is to meet God before you meet men. Just ask God to cause others, especially those who are your superiors, to show you favor when you meet them. Make this prayer a habit and trust God to cause others to show you favor. Now, start enjoying God’s favor!