This seems to be an incredibly popular word in our society.
“How are you doing?”
And you hear, for the millionth time,
“I am blessed!”
“God has blessed me with…!” Rolls off the lips of the “haves” leaving the “have-nots” to wonder what in the world they are doing wrong that God has not blessed them.
What does it even mean to be blessed? Is it the new car in the driveway? The promotion at work? Maybe it’s being healed from a major sickness like cancer. Or, finding the easy way out of a tough spot. Often it seems blessed means either not getting caught or getting off easy when we do get caught doing what we shouldn’t. What if blessing is something totally different than getting what we think we want? What if we’ve missed the correct idea all together?
What if blessing is something totally different that getting what we think we want?
Let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about what blessing is and what it looks like:
God’s provision for our needs:
- And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19
- Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-11
- “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:25-33
- And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah. 1 Kings 17:12-16
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”
God’s provision for our sanctification:
- Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? He who teaches man knowledge—the LORD—knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath. Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for he wicked. For the LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage; for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it. Psalm 94:8-15
- But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. I Corinthians 11:32
- Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. Deuteronomy 8:5-6
- For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:14-21
- Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:3-11
- For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. Philippians 1:29-30
It would seem from these texts that “Blessing” is anything that comes from God for our good and His glory!
This makes for a radically different perspective on what blessing is! I certainly don’t want to diminish the idea that God blesses with new cars and healing from disease! What I do want to suggest from these scriptures is that blessing sometimes comes in the form of trials in that we are given an opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ.
How is… (cancer, death of a loved one, loss of a job,…) an opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ? And why would that be considered a blessing?
Those are some truly difficult questions and I don’t want to give trite answers. What the above Scripture points to is the Gospel. What? Yes, the Gospel. See, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about faith in His word and His work. Specifically His work on the the cross and subsequent resurrection for the substitutionary atonement of our sins. By claiming, in faith, the Cross of Christ as our means of receiving God’s grace and forgiveness we assert that the promises of God are true and eternal. However, and this is a BIG however, Paul warns us, “… in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:1b-5a)[Italics added]. What does this have to do with suffering for Christ and believing the promises of God?
What we say we believe is not what we have truly placed our faith in, unless it changes the way we navigate through life and the world. If we believe that God’s declaration of provision for our needs is the absolute truth and that suffering makes us more like Jesus Christ, as stated in Romans 8:28-30, then we can say with confidence that God is faithful regardless of our circumstances. But, again, it is not enough to merely speak the words. We need to live in such a way as to prove our faith. (James 2:14-26)
We need to live in such a way as to prove our faith. ‘So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.’ (James 2:17)
So then, living as if God is not faithful, even in our times of suffering, preaches a false Gospel:
It preaches God as a liar.
If God is a liar then His salvation is not real and the whole of the beliefs of Christianity are a snare.
But now the good news: Going through suffering with a heart and life that relies on God’s faithfulness to His promises is a life that preaches Truth. If the life we live preaches Truth in the midst of suffering we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ. This, then, is why it is a blessing:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:3-9)
All Scripture quoted from the ESV.