The Power of Favor 9 | 3.1 An Abrupt Shift

by Glenn on March 27, 2020

Chapter 3 opens with a story of when Joel Osteen in his teenage years was pulled over by the police “for driving too fast.” When the officer saw Osteen’s name on the license,

“he asked if I was related to the pastor that he watched on television each week.”

Osteen told him it was his father. The response of the officer:

“He returned my license, told me to slow down, and said I could go.”

Osteen’s lesson:

“I received favor because of who I was connected to … because I was in relationship with him, his favor spilled over onto me.”

I believe this story is true. But I’ve heard and read of incidents where exactly the opposite thing happened. (Or stories where someone was pulled over not because they had done something wrong but because of the color of their skin.) But Osteen wants to make a point about making “Favor Connections” as this chapter is titled. He references Noah:

“The Scripture says, ‘Noah found favor with the Lord.’ When a great flood covered the earth, Noah’s family was the only one saved It never says his sons had favor or his daughters had favor, but because they were connected to Noah, their lives were spared. The principle is, when you’re connected to people who are favored, people who are further along, people who are more successful, that favor is going to flow down to you.”

A few thoughts. First, this arc of this book appears to be shifting. Chapter 1 said that favor was coming my way from God. Chapter 2 said that favor was coming my way but I need to declare it or it might not. Now here in Chapter 3 I’m getting the idea that I may not have favor at all, so I need to find someone who has favor so I can have what they don’t need or use.

Second, this idea of connecting “to people who are favored” sounds an awful lot like working with successful people, which seems like common sense. Osteen is trying to spiritualize what is just simple practical wisdom. We should want to associate with successful people. If you’re going to college, you should go to the best one you can afford. [1] If you’re a plumber looking for work, you want to be associated with high-functioning, highly motivated plumbers, with high standards for personal conduct.

Third, I don’t like this idea of conflating favor with success because it’s hard to isolate success from other things. Or at least we need a clearer definition of success. There are successful mob bosses and drug dealers. Do we call them favored? There is an x factor here, I believe, that should be addressed.

Osteen goes on to advise,

“There should be people you’re in relationship with who inspire you, who challenge you, who make you strive to do better.”

No criticism here. That is more good advice. But it feels a little contradictory. Earlier, Osteen said that people would be moved out of the way so we could get a promotion. Now he’s saying that perhaps we should be content to be working for someone who is successful. We shouldn’t want them out of the way so that the overflow of their success will fall on us.

Osteen goes on to make the point that we become like the people we are around. It’s way more fun to work around motivated, upbeat people, than cranky, problematic people. There’s an important point, here, in that we can’t help but have the attitudes and ideas of the people around us rub off on us. And, yes, since we become like the people we are around, there is a cautionary tale here. Osteen says it like this:

“You need to disconnect from people who are hindering your growth, limiting your potential, and causing you to compromise. Find some favor connections, people who are going places, people who are at a higher level, people who have what you’re dreaming about. You need some eagles in your life. You cannot hang around with chickens and reach your destiny. You can’t spend all your free time with crows, people who complain, or with turkeys, people who have accepted mediocrity. You need people who are soaring people who are taking new ground, people who are out of debt, people who think bigger than you, people who are exposing you to levels that you’ve never seen.”

While true, there’s something about this that feels like an abrupt shift in focus. Where did God go? Up to now we’ve been told about all that God was going to do to favor us. But now we are being told to find favor in favored people. Suddenly this is no longer a message of how favor is coming to me. Now it’s a message of how to piggy back on others. We’ve shifted from “God is favoring you” to something more along the lines of “God helps those who help themselves.”

Osteen offers some personal advice based on a success he had. He once sat with a person who told him he was about to offer $80 million for a television programming contract. Osteen said his temptation after the meeting was to say, “Wow. Those were some incredibly big numbers,” but he decided to remain quiet. He said it was a lesson in learning to be around people who are more successful than you. You need to “Get used to it,” because this is God’s way of showing you what the next level is like. Don’t be afraid of the next level. And so this is interesting. Osteen now suggests there may be things in us that need to be improved. It’s not just that God is going to favor us and we’re going to be taken to a new level. We need to be around people who are on another level and learn how to act like they do. He relates how five years after that meeting he was in his own big numbers meeting where he was purchasing the Compaq Center for $120 million. By hearing the other man talk about big numbers, he now wasn’t nervous to talk about big numbers.

The message of this chapter so far: Hang around favored (i.e. successful, I guess however you would define that) people so they can help you be better than you are. I guess I would add, be clear about what you mean by success.

 

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[1] This, of course, refers to when we actually went to college. With the COVID-19 virus raging, it’s hard to see how we go back to what was normal and hard to anticipate a new normal.

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