In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,  to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”  Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”  “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.  For no word from God will ever fail.”  “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. …
"And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God." (Luke 1: 30 KJV)
There's a lot of talk about God's favour in the church today. Most of us would like an increasing measure of favour on every aspect of our lives but I have realised that when God places his favour upon us, it can often cause us to feel fear. This seems strange because favour is such a good thing. Favour opens doors, favour brings promotion, favour propels you forward, favour births new opportunities. I want as much of God's favour in my life as I can have! And yet, as with Mary here, we need to understand that favour carries within it challenges and change, both internal and external. These are what can bring fear.
You see: ALONG WITH FAVOUR COMES RESPONSIBILITY: For Mary this involved carrying the son of God in her womb for 9 months. For you, favour may lead to promotion in work which is great because that may mean a pay increase etc. But along with that promotion comes a new level of responsibility, decision making, pressure and increased workload. We see this in the life of Joseph in the Old Testament:
"...while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warder. So the warder put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there." (Gen 39; 20-22)
ALONG WITH FAVOUR COMES OBSTACLES: Again for Mary, this would include convincing Joseph she hadn't been unfaithful to him and also when Jesus was born, having to escape from Herod. For Joseph in the Old Testament, it was hatred from his brothers and unwanted attention from Potiphar's wife. Opportunities and opposition often arrive at the same time. The door may open wide, but the path it leads to may be rocky and tricky to navigate. It will take courage, wisdom and perseverance.
ALONG WITH FAVOUR COMES VISIBILITY: If Mary hadn't been favoured to carry God's son, we'd most likely never have heard of her. The favour upon Joseph got him noticed by Potiphar, then the prison warden and eventually Pharaoh himself. You often discover that people have been talking about you behind your back, but in a good way! You thought no one noticed you, but realise later that you had caught the attention of those in positions of authority.
ALONG WITH FAVOUR COMES RESOURCES:"The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you." (Luke 1: 35) When we step by faith into His favour, by obedience into His opportunities, God gives us the power, provision and resources we need to accomplish His will. He often stretches us beyond ourselves and teaches us dependence on Him, that it's truly: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty." (Zech 4: 6)
Like Mary, I pray that you experience an increase in God's favour, that He would give you opportunities to demonstrate His goodness, that provision would overflow to you as generosity is released from you, and that you would know His empowering as you faithfully steward all He has given you.