Something amazing happened last Saturday evening. My family and I were at a football game my 17 year old high school senior was playing in. This is only Ryan’s second year playing football. He went out his freshman year but ended up sitting on the bench for the season. He opted not to play his sophomore and junior year. For some reason he chose to go out again his senior year and has ended up on the starting defensive squad as corner back. He also plays on all special teams.
As the game got underway, I found myself hoping he would do well and not make any major mistakes or suffer any injury. I have to admit, tracking down negative paths has tended to come rather natural for me. Anyway, somewhere into the second quarter, I consciously made a shift in my thinking and began to declare God’s favor over Ryan. I declared that Ryan was a favored son and asked God to make that favor visible by allowing him to make a pick (an interception) and run it back and even score a touchdown (a pick six).
I had been declaring these things only for a few minutes when suddenly a pass from the opposing quarterback was tipped by his intended receiver and was grabbed in the air by Ryan. Ryan charged off down the field managing to out run two pursuing defenders. As he approached the end zone, he was pushed from behind, fell forward, and landed in the end zone for a touchdown. He had covered 63 yards on the return. Luanne and I were ecstatic. The pick and run back alone were amazing. The touchdown was icing on the cake. I was impressed with the speed he crossed those 63 yards.
As I was taking it all in and celebrating I began sputtering to Luanne, trying to explain to her what I had just been declaring over Ryan. This was no coincidence. God had responded to that faith declaration over Ryan, and he had done so almost immediately. I was awed. Later in the game I again declared more favor over him, and once again, within a few short minutes, Ryan made his second pick of the game.
Now, I’m not suggesting there was some kind of magic in my words. What I do believe is that God was teaching me a simple yet profound lesson regarding the connection between my thoughts, my words and my faith.
Days prior to this game I had began reading a book by Joel Osteen entitled “Your Best Life Now”. I had come across this book at my mother-in-law’s on a visit to Sacramento and just casually began reading it. Now, you must understand, Joel Osteen has never been on my list of favorite authors and I have rarely listened to him on TV. However, as I began reading this particular book I sensed God saying to me, “Joel has something to say to you. Hear him out”. So I borrowed the book and brought it home.
Joel is, what some might label, an eternal optimist. Every page resonates with his positive, faith filled attitude. You would have to be a deeply committed pessimist not to find yourself being encouraged and hope beginning to rise a little higher just by his positive outlook and the stories illustrating his points. However, for one whose default mode tends toward the negative, Joel’s perspective and language can, at first, come across as something a bit trumped up. Something along the lines of a spiritual “happy meal”. As I was able to put my biases aside, his words of encouragement were feeling more like a refreshing splash of cold water on a hot day.
The truth of the matter is, those of us who are followers of Jesus really have every reason to be the most encouraged and positive people on the planet. This is not to say that we will not encounter hardship, disappointment, discouragement, heartbreak, or any other difficulty that is common to the human condition. It is to say, we should have a perspective, based on a belief system in God and his view of us, that transcends all that stuff, and can provide in the midst of it, an abiding hope, joy and optimistic outlook. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b NIV)
What Joel was reinforcing in my thinking is that we need to live not for favor but from favor. That little shift is huge. As one who has already been accepted by God in Christ, I am a favored child. I have been seated with Christ in heavenly places! That’s quite a position of favor if you ask me. Living favor minded is simply accepting the truth of God’s love and delight in us and trusting the goodness of his heart toward us. His thoughts and plans for us are not to harm us, but to prosper us and to give us a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)