Friday, January 28, 2005

Playing Favorites

I spent some time today in discussion with internet friends about music. What is your favorite Beatles song? What is your favorite Rolling Stones song? What is your favorite British group song not done by the Beatles or Rolling Stones? It was an interesting conversation, but I had a hard time coming up with favorites. It's not because I didn't know the music. After all I spent ten years working on-air in the radio business. But the problem was just picking one. How do you pick only one? How can a person have a favorite?

My boys can't understand why I don't have many favorites. They ask me for my favorite IndyCar driver and I can't give them just one. They ask for my favorite singer and I can't answer. I try to tell them that I don't have a favorite, but that idea seems to be lost on them.

It's not that I don't have any favorites at all. I have a favorite football team - the Chicago Bears. I used to have a favorite baseball team, but I've lost interest in Major League Baseball. With most everything else, my favorite tends to change with my mood. One day my favorite food is steak. The next day it could just as easily be sugar creme pie. Next week who know what I'll be craving.

Sometimes it's good not to have favorites. Tommy Smothers always used to tell his brother Dickie that "Mom always liked you best." As a parent, I know I can't have a favorite kid. Thankfully, I'm never tempted to have just one favorite out of my three. But most every kid wants to be a favorite. Not just my kids, but all of them. I wanted to be a favorite son. And when that didn't work, I wanted to be the teacher's favorite. Then the urge switches so that a boy wants to be the girls' favorite and the girl wants to be the boys' favorite. But why?

God doesn't show favoritism. That's what the Bible says. And so far as salvation is concerned, I believe that's true. But God also picked a few favorites to do His bidding. Noah was the lone bright spot on the earth. Abram was chosen to be the father of God's people. Moses was picked to lead Israel out of Egypt. Other favorites were chosen also: Joshua, Samuel, Saul, David, Elijah, Nehemiah -- the list goes on and on. The thing is that being one of God's favorites didn't mean you could coast. God's favorites often had a tougher time than the rest of the folks.

A teenage girl named Mary was chosen by God to bear the Christ Child. But this most favored and blessed young woman had much to endure as God's favorite. Besides the gossip about Jesus' conception and the flight to Egypt to save the young boy, Mary also had to deal with a grown Son who was so embarassing that she and the family thought He was crazy. Then when she came to believe, her baby was taken from her; first at the cross and then at the Ascension. It's not easy being God's favorite.

In many ways I feel like God's favorite. I have been blessed not only with family and material things, but also a business and a position as pastor. And with all those blessings come responsiblilites. Sometimes I think it would be much easier without all those blessings. Then I snap out of my laziness and realize what I've been given. Any weight on my shoulders is from the riches God has placed upon me. I think I can handle that. With God's help, of course.

To some extent Americans are God's favorites too. Let me explain. We are so blessed as Americans to be able to worship God without the fear of a government spy reporting us. We can share Christ without being arrested. We can gather together without worrying about gunmen coming in with AK-47's blazing. We have the oppotunity to hear about Jesus Christ our whole lives long, whether in person or via broadcast ministries. And with all these blessings come responsibilities. It would be easy to sit back and enjoy the bounty of the favorites. But when we rest on our laurels, we are exactly the opposite of what Christ wants us to be.

The poor and disadvantaged somehow seem to be rich and advantaged when it comes to faith. With no bank account to rely on, they have to rely on God. With no well-equipped hospital to go to, they must depend upon the Great Physician. With no religious freedom, they treasure every page of Scripture in their possession and every moment of corporate worship. For us "favorites" the world invites us to vacation in the great La-Z-Boy of comfortable materialism, and it's mighty tempting to kick our shoes off and stay awhile. But the price of being God's favorite is having to deal with the temptation of materialism and learning to lean on Christ instead of bearing the weight ourselves.

Luckily God doesn't play favorites when He offers the precious gift of forgiveness. When John 3:16 says "whosoever will" there are no qualifiers to deal with. While God blesses people differently, He saves people from every possible walk of life because there are no favorites. God doesn't like me best. But He loves me enormously.

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