May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us–yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:17
One of the buzz words we often hear is sustainability. Sustainability is the capacity to endure. We hear it mentioned in talk about the use and abuse of the earth’s resources. And we hear it in the context of discussions about the pace of life both in the corporate world and in the lives of individuals.
A biblical word for sustainability is the favor of the Lord. When God’s favor or blessing rests on someone or something they are endued with the power not only to endure but to flourish even in the face of adversity. God’s favor upon an individual’s life is of inestimable worth and more to be desired than any measure of riches or success. God’s favor protects us, provides for us and prospers the work of our hands.
How does a person secure God’s favor? Proverbs 3:3-4 gives us some insight with a prescription for God’s favor. “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”
There are many Biblical examples of individuals who experienced God’s favor in their lives; people like Abraham and Sarah, Daniel, Esther, and Nehemiah. Because of their love for God and their faithfulness to follow His leading without compromise God’s blessing rested on their lives.
One of the remarkable modern day examples of God’s favor resting upon an individual and sustaining the work of his hands is the story of Billy Graham. Looking back over the 60 year history of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association most insiders would agree that the secret to God’s favor dates back to what has come to be known as the Modesto Manifesto.
In 1948 Billy Graham, Grady Wilson, George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrow were meeting together in Cliff’s hometown of Modesto, California. This was during the formative stage of their association. Billy challenged them to look at the pitfalls of evangelism and evangelists and seek God for ways to protect themselves from similar snares in their ministry. They identified four key temptations every evangelist faced and often led to the cause of a ministry’s failure. They were money, immorality, exaggeration (pride) and criticism.
Now before I outline their accountability agreement to avoid these pitfalls it is important to understand something. These four robbers of the favor of God don’t just apply to evangelists. They are the very things that tempt every individual seeking to love and follow God’s leading in their lives. And the Modesto Manifesto for securing God’s favor can and should be adapted to every person’s life and relationships.
Here are the four areas that these four men swore mutual accountability with one another to uphold a standard of righteousness.
1. Money – It was common practice among evangelists to put a lot of emotion and flourish into taking love offerings. This could bring unnecessary criticism – and temptation. The men vowed not to emphasize the offering. To avoid criticism they would always have the local campaign committees oversee the offerings and disbursements of funds – they would accept a straight salary regardless of how high the offerings were.
2. Immorality – Religious leaders especially those who traveled were regularly falling to this temptation. The men agreed continually to pray for God to guard them from it. They also set up some rules to follow. They would never allow themselves to be alone with women – lunches, counseling sessions, or rides to auditoriums or airports. And they would always get their hotel rooms close together as another safeguard.
3. Exaggeration –The phrase “evangelastically speaking” has been coined to label exaggerated figures of the number attending meetings or the number saved. The men vowed not to fall to this practice. If numbers were mentioned they were the ones generated by the local police, fire departments, or arena managers.
4. Criticism – Often evangelists would criticize local pastors and churches from pulpits. The men vowed not to do this, nor would they ever criticize pastors who openly criticized them. (This summary of the Manifesto is taken from the Discipleship Journal, Issue 84, Nov/Dec 1994, Page 45)
Why does God favor this kind of commitment to Him and to one another? Can you think of any illustrations related to God’s favor?
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