When I Tried to Earn the Favor of the Lord


One of my favorite things on the internet are the posts where cats bring their owner a gift, and by gift I mean to the capacity a cat can give. They’re fantastic because the cats are sitting down with a mixed expression of accomplishment and concern. Lying at their feet are dead mice, birds, or leaves. Apparently cats do this because they are concerned when they don’t see their owners hunt so they think we’re starving. As much time and effort might have given to hunt down their gift and no matter how nice the gesture, ultimately what we end up with at our feet is something we didn’t really want.

I feel sometimes that is exactly what we do with God. Maybe it’s going to church again. Maybe it’s reciting prayers we don’t really mean. Maybe it’s even serving the church because not doing so would be unusual. In our minds, obeying God and being faithful in the small things, no matter how petty or pointless they may seem, will buy us some brownie points with God. We should get bonus points if we endure in a time of trial or sacrifice for Him. Down the line, God must see our many points all saved up and then grant us “a desire of our heart.” Having a positive balance would be the goal of life.

I thought this way for almost my entire Christian walk. At a recent prayer meeting, it became clear how enslaved I was to this mentality. I found within myself a belief that constant serving bought me favor with God. It felt like parts of my soul that I had turned off flicked back on. Instead of being some high and mighty, one dimensional God who I was desperately trying to please, He became one who wanted me more than any gift I could bring him. All the verses that spoke of God’s love went from being Sunday School answers to real truth. It became real, not because someone told me, but because I finally experienced this reality for myself.

What led me to this place? This past year, I had been thinking about how to be a father. As I contemplated upon fatherhood, I thought to myself, “I wonder how God thinks as a Father.” I remembered the relationship between God and me is first a Father-Son relationship. From this simple understanding, I already started to break down the lie that God merely desired burnt offerings. God began to remind me that a loving Father simply wants to be with His child.

In every regard, I was the cat and God was the master. I would abide by the master’s rules, making an effort not to scratch up anything too bad. I hoped that one day he would eventually like the things I brought him. The master would in turn provide me the bare necessities and if He was in a good mood I would get some affection.

In that moment I came to realize this was simply not the case, that no matter how many gifts or talents we bring Him, He would not receive those things for it is not with the services and talents you bring to Him that pleases Him but it is the sacrifice of your whole heart (Psalm 51:16-17). The greatest of words, the deepest of services, the whole investment of time all come secondary, but instead He desires our worship and praise, our time with Him, to know and be known by Him, and in the most cliche words, a relationship with us.


Kevin Lee graduated from UC Santa Cruz where he studied electrical engineering. He is currently living in San Diego, CA.

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