SO YOU WANT TO BE BLESSED?
Raise your hand if you want the blessing of God. . . . If I’m not mistaken, I think I saw every person raise a hand. Actually, some of you raised both hands. And a few of you even waved them around. Of course, every believer wants God’s blessing; even nominal Christians would get into the line where blessings are handed out. And many who are not Christians, even in name, would sign up for God’s blessing—just on the outside chance that they might otherwise miss out on something good.
Just what is this thing we call a blessing, then? In simplest terms, a blessing is the bestowal of some benefit, material or immaterial. In the Old Testament, for example, wealth (Deut. 28:12), children (Psa. 127:5; 128:1-3), and long life (Gen. 15:15) were recognized material blessings from God; peace (Num. 6:26), joy (Neh. 8:10), and trust (Psa. 22:9) were known to be immaterial blessings He bestowed.
Of course, we can all appreciate those sorts of blessings—properly so. God gives with the intention that we enjoy His gifts in a spirit of gratitude. But there is another phenomenon regarding blessing expressed in the New Testament.
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (Jam. 1:12).
We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful (Jam. 5:11).
But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled (I Pet. 3:14).
If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you (I Pet. 4:14).
Persevering under trials? Enduring? Suffering because of righteousness? Being reviled? These are blessings? These are benefits bestowed by God? They seem quite the opposite. And who in his right mind would consider those things to be something good and rush to the head of the line to sign up for them before they run out? “Oh, yes, I’d like a double portion of suffering, and throw in plenty of reviling just for good measure!”
Nowhere, of course, does God commend a martyr complex or recommend a monastic sort of life that includes vows of suffering. God does not intend us to volunteer for misery per se. But what the New Testament does make clear is that believers who endure trials and suffering for righteousness’ sake should recognize and take comfort in the truth that their suffering is a signal blessing of God. No, not the misery itself, but the sure promise of the crown of life, the intimate experience of the immense compassion and mercy of Christ, and the strengthening assurance that the Spirit of glory and of God is resting on him in a special and palpable way. He is glorifying God by manifesting the humble, patient, forgiving character of Christ.
Material benefits are undoubtedly the blessing of God, but they are only temporal. However, we are to recognize and rejoice in the trials and suffering that God calls us to endure as well, realizing that they are “producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (II Cor. 4:17b). Or as Paul writes elsewhere: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). So, faithful believer, your life is not a bed of roses? Rejoice, the Lord is filling your eternal bank account with blessings.
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