How many Christian preachers have you heard speak about the blessing of God? I have heard many who claim that God longs to give us every good thing in this life; for example a nice house, a good job, and a car that runs well. Sermons like this make us feel good, because we want a God that is convenient and rewards us for our “faithfulness”. For some reason, so many of us secretly believe that we deserve to be thanked or recognized by God because of all the service that we have given Him.
The problem with this philosophy is a Scripture passage like Luke 6:20-26 and many others like it. Jesus seemed to blow their minds when He blessed those who were poor, hungry, distraught, and hated for His sake. How could these things possibly be blessings? On the contrary, Jesus shot down the things that they had believed to be God’s blessings: riches, a full stomach, laughter, and a solid reputation. Passages like this intrigue me, because it seems that we don’t talk about them very often, and when we do, we assume that Jesus is speaking metaphorically.
Let’s take a closer look at this disturbing piece of Scripture. Verses 20-26:
“Looking at his disciples, he said:
‘Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when men hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
‘Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
‘But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.’”
Here’s a question to think about: in light of this passage, if God could give you a gift, what would it be?
I don’t know about you, but I get frustrated around people who have always gotten everything they have ever wanted. It turns my stomach when I meet someone who feels they are entitled to a particular service or reward simply because of who they are. I think we would all agree that we have met people like this in our lifetimes, and if we were honest, it makes us kind of jealous inside that they have had the luxury of feeling that way for so many years and being satisfied.
On the contrary, we tend to distance ourselves from those who have befallen opposite circumstances. As we pass a homeless man on the road, we wonder what choices he made to arrive at such a sad and pathetic position. We see children on TV so hungry that their bones are sticking out of their sides, so malnourished that their stomachs are infested with worms, and we say a prayer before moving on about our day. Maybe we allow ourselves to hurt for them, but a fleeting moment later we thank God that He has blessed us by allowing us to be born in an established country or a family that was able to provide for our needs.
These attitudes are so natural for us that we can hardly imagine thinking any differently. Maybe it is worth exploring the possibility that God’s eyes see life in a much different way.
If God could give you a blessing, what would He give you?
Looking back over my life, I could definitely say that God provided for my “needs”. I have up to this point never gone hungry and have always had a place to live and a job that paid my bills. People would look at my life, and I would agree that I have been “blessed”.
However, when I look at my life and evaluate the circumstances that have truly equipped me in ways of responsibility, I would have to point out the times that I have hit rock bottom in failure. If I could describe the moments that have prepared me most for ministry, I would have to tell you stories of times I spent with those whose suffering was beyond my comprehension. It seems so anti-anything that we believe to think that those who have failed or those who suffer could be blessed by God more than us.
If I could be honest, I would say that the greatest gift that God ever gave me was my illness. Although I am sure it broke His heart to watch me cry myself to sleep night after night, I could not have asked for a better avenue to grow. Through that time I learned what it meant to have faith, how to persevere through seemingly endless pain, and how to rely on a strength that was beyond my own. My heart was softened toward others who suffer and my eyes were opened to the truth that often what is best for us in light of the Kingdom of God is that which seems the worst for us at the time. Call it ironic or whatever you like, but I would not trade in those years for any “blessing” in the world. Would I give up my illness for good health? I’m sure that it would be nice, but at what cost?
Perhaps there are things in life that are more important than our comfort and our security. Perhaps there are things—eternal things—that matter beyond the boundaries of our short lives on earth. In times when it seems that we are cursed because our situations are not pleasant or easy, maybe God is really giving us eternal blessings. In light of the death we deserve for all the sin that we have committed against a holy God, we should be falling down on our faces before Him in gratitude that He would see fit to work for our GOOD in every circumstance. God longs to build a holy character in our lives, and many of those lessons can only be learned in the Refiner’s fire. Does God want His children to suffer? No, but He longs for us to have GOOD things that are more important than our state of comfort.
Am I saying that it is wrong to be rich? Absolutely not. However, if you are rich, you must guard your thoughts and attitude that much more. Am I saying that it is desirable to be poor and destitute? Perhaps, but not necessarily. What is most important is a heart that understands what it is like to hunger and thirst for God. If you are truly seeking after God, and most likely even if you are not, circumstances will come into your life that will make you question all that you once thought was good. Turn to the Word of God for the answer to the age-old question, “Why?” You just might be receiving the blessing of God.