Unwittingly, many of us carry about a misconception (or at least an incomplete understanding) of what it means to be the recipients of the blessing of God. We rightly acknowledge and thank the Lord when we experience health or healing after illness, when we land a good job or receive a promotion, when we get to take a vacation or enjoy a relaxing day off from work, or when our family is near us and we enjoy their company. It is good and proper that we should thank the Lord for blessings that grace bestows because He alone is the giver of good gifts. In such circumstances, we are right to acknowledge that those things are the blessing of the Lord; in so doing, we affirm the truth of James 1:17: “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” But when we have recognized and thanked the Lord for those wonderful benefits, we have appreciated, probably, the lesser part of God’s work of blessing in our lives.
Many of the things that we are rightly inclined to recognize as blessings from God are merely temporal. They make our lives easier or more pleasant here, but nothing more. The nice home, the new car, and the luxurious vacation, which the Lord is pleased to allow us, are all passing. In virtually every case, the only aspect of those blessings which will have any eternal value will involve our response to them. If we recognize that what we have received is not something we have earned or otherwise merited but that God has bestowed wholly by grace, and if we express genuine thankfulness for it, then God will be honored and we will reap eternal reward. If not, then the blessing is entirely ephemeral.
Doubtless, the greater part of God’s blessing on our lives involves trials. Though our flesh wishes to shun them, dreads them, and sometimes fears them, and though their unpleasantness may tempt us to question God’s goodness, doubt His faithfulness, or wonder about His love, trials are of infinite value. James trumpets this truth right at the opening of his epistle: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” (1:2). Note that James anticipates that a believer’s life will be fraught with trials, yet rather than feeling burdened, we should be joyful that God’s gracious hand is active in our lives. The “light afflictions” believers may be called on to suffer should be counted joyful blessings because believers know “that the testing of . . . [our] faith produces endurance,” and when the trial has “its perfect result,” we will “be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1: 3, 4). How could we desire more—and that, for eternity?
Everyone has difficulties and problems, but only believers have the assurance that these circumstances are neither situations to be avoided, nor endured only if absolutely necessary and escaped as quickly as possible. Unbelievers experience the same difficulties as do believers, but their purpose and results differ. The waters of the Red Sea that brought escape for Israel only drowned the Egyptians. Again and again the Word promises that the hard things believers may face are truly part of God’s blessed purpose in our lives. “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (II Cor. 4:17). “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10). “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” (Matt. 5:11).
I suspect our perspective is often skewed. Although some unpleasant circumstances are our fault entirely as God chastens us for sin (yet even chastening results from God’s love for His children), we should recognize that many times the most blessed among believers are those who endure the hardest life here. Were envy not a sin, perhaps we should envy the poor, the chronically ill, the otherwise burdened of God’s children as especially blessed of the Lord rather than the prominent, the successful, and the seemingly carefree. A rich reward awaits the faithful who joyfully endure those blessings of God.
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