Posts Tagged ‘life’

Taken from Desiring God

Feeling blessed is in vogue.

A quick look at Facebook and Twitter shows how many people today feel #blessed. In our social-media world, saying you’re blessed can be a way of boasting while trying to sound humble.

College scholarship? #Blessed. Unexpected raise? #Blessed. Wonderful family? #Blessed.

As Christians we use that term too, of course. We pray God will bless our family. We attribute our undeserved gifts to “God’s blessings.” We talk about ministries being blessed. But what does it really mean? How should we understand the blessing of God?

The Good Life

For believers, is the blessed life synonymous with the successful life? Is it the Christian version of the good life? A loving marriage, obedient children, a vibrant ministry, a healthy body, a successful career, trusted friends, financial abundance — if these are the characteristics of a blessed life, then having all of them should translate into an extraordinarily blessed life.

But does it? If someone had all those things, would they be extraordinarily blessed?

Rather than turning to God, they might feel self-sufficient and proud. Perhaps a bit smug and self-righteous. After all, their hard work would be yielding good fruit.

Moreover, they wouldn’t need to cry out to God for deliverance; everything would already be perfect. They wouldn’t need to trust God; they could trust in themselves. They wouldn’t need God to fill them; they would already be satisfied.

God’s Richest Blessings

My desire for God is greatly fueled by my need. And it is in the areas of loss where I feel my need most intensely. Unmet desires keep me on my knees. Deepen my prayer life. Make me ransack the Bible for God’s promises.

Earthly blessings are temporary; they can all be taken away. Job’s blessings all disappeared in one fateful day. I, too, had a comfortable life that was stripped away within a span of weeks. My marriage dissolved. My children rebelled. My health spiraled downward. My family fell apart. My dreams were shattered.

And yet, in the midst of those painful events, I experienced God’s richest blessings. A stronger faith than I had experienced before. A deeper love than I had ever known. A more intimate walk than I could explain. My trials grounded my faith in ways that prosperity and abundance never could.

While my trials were not blessings in themselves, they were channels for them. As Laura Story asks in her song “Blessings,” “What if your blessings come through rain drops? What if trials of this life — the rain, the storms, the hardest nights — are your mercies in disguise?”

This revolutionary idea of blessing is also firmly established in Scripture.

The Common Thread

One translation of the New Testament (ESV) has 112 references with the words bless, blessing, or blessed, none of which connect blessing to material prosperity. Consider these passages:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . Blessed are those who mourn . . . . Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake . . . Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:3–11)

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28)

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven. (Romans 4:7; quoting Psalm 32:1)

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial. (James 1:12)

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. . . . Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:13, 19:9)

There is no hint of material prosperity or perfect circumstances in any New Testament reference. On the contrary, blessing is typically connected with either poverty and trial or the spiritual benefits of being joined by faith to Jesus.

According to the Key-Word Study Bible, “The Greek word translated blessed in these passages is makarioi which means to be fully satisfied. It refers to those receiving God’s favor, regardless of the circumstances” (emphasis added).

What is blessing, then? Scripture shows that blessing is anything God gives that makes us fully satisfied in him. Anything that draws us closer to Jesus. Anything that helps us relinquish the temporal and hold on more tightly to the eternal. And often it is the struggles and trials, the aching disappointments and the unfulfilled longings that best enable us to do that.

Truly Blessed

Pain and loss transform us. While they sometimes unravel us, they can also push us to a deeper life with God than we ever thought possible. They make us rest in God alone. Not what we can do or achieve for him. And not what he can do or achieve for us.

In pain and loss, we long for Presence. We long to know that God is for us and with us and in us. Great families, financial wealth, and good health are all wonderful gifts we can thank God for, but they are not his greatest blessings. They may make us delight, not in God, but in his gifts.

God’s greatest blessing always rests in God himself. When we have that, we are truly #blessed.

Related Post:

The Perception of Blessing – Part 1

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I was having a long conversation with my children’s uncle, Wayne Grant, about my frustrations with God (which can be read in my Can I be honest post) which and in his own words, every now and then, he gets a ‘spiritual download’ from God. He told me the following and it really did help me see things a bit differently especially when it comes to prayer.

A Mom and Dad with unlimited funds raise an 18 year old son whose birthday is coming up.

The son is aware of the unlimited funds and they have great relationship and they know absolutely everything about him.

They know that all he wants for his birthday is a Bugatti and he has asked for one many many times.

The parents think about buying him a Bugatti, then knowing their son so well, instantly foresee that in three months times, he would wrap it around a tree and die.

So the parents think about buying him a nice Mercedes, then foresee that all is friends will use him like a cab to take them here, there and everywhere and as soon as the son says no he is busy or can’t be there to collect them. They all turn against him, talk about him, slander his name and turn their back on him. So the son gets depressed and kills himself.

So the parents think about buying a very old rubbish car. Then the parents foresee the car breaking down all the time and causing the son to be resentful and bitter towards them and eventually the car breaks down while driving through the ghetto and the son gets killed.

Then parents decide to get the son a 12 month Oyster Card (for those who are not in the UK, it is a London Transport travel pass) and foresee the son sitting next to a young lady on the bus who ministers to him and eventually he becomes a Christian, gets married and has a most wonderful life and is truly fulfilled and happy.

So the sons 18th birthday finally arrives and the parents say “Happy Birthday” son, your present is on the table.

The son unable to hold in his excitement runs over to the table the get the keys to his Bugatti and finds an envelope with an oyster card. He gets very angry and resentful and accuses his parents of not caring about him and hating him not realising he is just been truly blessed.

So I suppose the question is, what does it truly mean to be blessed? This will be addressed in my next post

 

I started writing this some time back but couldn’t finish it and didn’t feel comfortable posting it (hence why I have been quiet on the blogging front) as I was still processing a lot of stuff but I think it is important to post it anyway as I hope that my transparency will help someone. Me and my Christian friend were having the exact same questions and going through the same frustrations with God. Anyway, things have changed for both of us since, so I have put an update at the end.

I’ve lost my confidence in God. Yeah I said it

One of things that we as Christians are very good at is putting on a mask and showing the ‘good’ side of us as if we have it all together but we are terrible at showing our bad side.We don’t like to show any kind of weakness or doubts in our faith. But the bible is full of characters who have fallen, verbalised their struggles, been upset with God and scripture does not try to hide that fact. One person who is very transparent about his Christian journey is Michael Patton who has recently blogged about his addiction to pain killers and you only have to read some of his subsequent posts to see how he is getting on in rehab and how God has used this situation. Kind of reminds me of Paul in prison but I digress.

This year, I have seen quite a few people now beginning to question the norm in churchianity which I think is a good thing because it means that they are not just blindly swallowing anything that they are being fed.   This includes one of my favourite UK (ex-gospel) rappers Jahaziel who has unfortunately now publicly now renounced his Christian faith. And even though there are a lot of things that he has posted on his instagram that I do not necessarily agree with, there are difficult questions that I’m sure, a lot of us as believers do ask, which are at the back of our minds and those questions never really go away because we never really get a satisfying answer.

So what is my struggle? In a nutshell, I struggle in believing that God is interested in my personal desires on earth. The big stuff like creation, salvation, the resurrection of the dead, judgement etc is not a problem for me but little ol’ me who wants ‘X’ which is not sinful, and never seems to be in reach after praying for it, yet an unbeliever who is not praying at all, gets it without nearly as much as a struggle does make me question things. I’m not talking about the one offs but I’m talking about it almost becoming the norm up to the point where you almost expect God NOT to give you the desires of your heart.

Now as I have been in the Christian thing for quite a bit of time, I basically know the standard responses but I will type up everything that basically goes on in my head and the typical responses (TR) that I expect to get.

Me: Why is it that when I pray for ‘X’ which is my personal non sinful desire, more than likely, I will not receive it? Whilst the other unbelievers don’t pray at all and seem to go further than the believers. If that is the case, what exactly is the benefit in praying for my earthly desires?

TR: Remember what happens to the end of the unbelievers as spoken in Psalms 73

Me. I understand their end but I am talking about the here and now on earth.

TR: God is developing your character. Be patient. He maybe saying ‘wait’or ‘no’

Me: Well I have been trying for ages and and nothing is happening or I get near and then constantly come against a brick wall. Its almost as if I am being teased only for the rug to be swept under my feet on a constant basis. How long do you keep trying before you decide to give upon your personal desire/dreams and come to the conclusion that its a no?

TR: Maybe God has something better for you.

Me: If you mean something better within the field I want, then see my previous answer. If you mean something else which means that I shelf my desire, then it goes back to my original point where I do not believe that God is that interested in my personal desires on earth

TR: You asked with wrong motives

Me: Nope.There was a time that I did ask with wrong motives when it was all about me, and God pulled me up about that . This time, I have examined my heart and I know it is not the case

TR: Faith without works is dead. You can’t expect God to do everything for you.You have to do your part

Me: This is a very true statement. If someone wants to pass their exam.They cant expect to pray to get an ‘A’ grade without revising and studying first. But this does not apply to me

TR: You are saying what YOU want a lot and it may not be God’s will. Remember Jesus said to the Father “Not my will, but thine be done”

Me: If this is the case, does God not care about my personal will at all then? I know that everything we do should be for the glory of God but does that mean that I am not allowed to have earthly desires? If not, then why bother pray

So as it stands, I still have unanswered questions here. If person A keeps praying for earthly desire X with a right motive and doesn’t get it. Yet unbelieving person B (and C and D) doesn’t do any praying but gets X,what is the benefit in person A praying for X. Shouldn’t he just have a ‘whatsover happens happens’ attitude? Especially when he gets so close only for a brick wall to be placed in front. It almost comes to the point that you prefer to aim low and more likely hit the target than continuing to aim high in prayer, only to be constantly disappointed with the outcome which is emotionally draining

Why not just forget the ‘prayer part’? I mean, persons B, C and D don’t have to go through it and in general, they seem to be more successful in getting results.

Prayer is not like the War Room movie which although it was inspirational but totally unrealistic compared to real life. I can’t go into it but basically, I agree a lot with this article where Jesus is basically reduced to a genie. Unfortunately, you will find that life is not like that, even when you pray.

My conclusion is that God is more interested in HOW we respond when we get (or don’t get) our answers prayers and is not as interested in the prayers getting answered in and of themselves because he is more interested in our character more than anything else

Is that a satisfying answer? Probably not. Am I wrong? To be honest, I’m not 100% sure. What do you think?

UPDATE: I think God must have heard me and my friend’s sincere prayers and questions, because both of us have had answers to our prayers ‘out of the blue’ which we both did not expect and these were BIG prayers. Not that the object of the prayers were big but big in the sense that if you can’t have confidence to trust God with the ‘small’ then it rocks your prayer foundation. This has definitely made me get my confidence back with God especially where prayers are still ‘outstanding’, where I am not so worried about them now and feel comfortable leaving it in God’s hands. However, my view of the nature of prayer has definitely changed and at the moment, I am still sticking with my conclusion above. Even when I look at scripture, overall, I don’t see that believers ‘get more stuff’ than unbelievers. I recently heard on TV from a ministry that believes that this is ‘The Year of Divine Favor‘ and that many will get money via Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) mis-sellings and they need to ‘speak things into the atmosphere’.  I thought “Really? Do you really think that Christians will have an advantage in claims over non believers”.

Like I wrote before,the reality of being a Christian is that life is life.

So as I asked above, am I wrong in my conclusion? What do you think?