Being blessed is something that many aspire to and something that many also glory in and even take credit for! When we say that someone is “blessed” we usually mean that they have succeeded in some way, whether that be financially, academically, or physically. Used in this way, the word “blessed” may be one of the most incorrectly used, and therefore abused, words in English.
Think about it, you pass an exam; you consider yourself “blessed”. But what about your brother who sat the same exam, studied harder than you, and did not pass? Is he not blessed?
You are given a raise or a bonus at work; you believe you are “blessed”. But what about your sister who cannot even get a job through no fault of her own? Is she not blessed?
You’re a star player in a game of sport, you win, you tell reporters you are “blessed”. But what about the new player on the opposing team who just dislocated their shoulder in the game? Is he cursed simply because he was on the opposing team?
You have just extended your mortgage to buy a bigger, more expensive house; you tell friends that you have been “blessed” by God. But what about your neighbour who cannot afford even their weekly rent? Are they not being blessed by God because they struggle financially?
You have beautiful, successful children; others say you are “blessed”. But what about your friends who love children but are not able to conceive? Are they not considered blessed simply because they can’t reproduce?
You have married the one person you love, you are “blessed”. But what about the foreigner in your country who has lost the love of his life in a war in his homeland? Are you going to tell him that he is not “blessed”? Or worse, that he is cursed?
You are “blessed” with no major health problems. But what about the person who is bedridden and yet their relationship with God is far stronger and closer than yours? Are they not blessed???
Surely this mentality of what blessing means is a very superficial, selfish, and shallow perspective; not to mention earthly instead of heavenly!
Consider Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was said to be “blessed more than all other women” – she had to endure the stigma of a pregnancy outside of marriage, be falsely accused, lose her reputation (and probably all her friends), be a stranger in a foreign land with a young baby, and then had to watch her dear son be cruelly tortured and put to death as a criminal for crimes He didn’t commit. That would have been excruciatingly painful for any mother. To us that doesn’t sound like someone who was blessed more than any other woman! As prophesied, a sword pierced her soul – she was cut to the heart (Luke 2:35).
Perhaps we need to adjust our definition of what blessing is to be more in line with what the Bible describes as a blessing. Here is a list of some of the things that the Scriptures tell us are very real blessings:
Knowing you can’t do anything spiritually, having no position or influence, and having no spiritual wealth of intellect or education, is a blessing. “Blessed are those who recognize they are spiritually helpless and poor. The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” (Matt. 5:3).
Crying and grieving is a blessing. “Blessed are those who mourn. They will be comforted.” (Matt. 5:4).
Being deferential, submissive and humble is a blessing. “Blessed are those who are gentle. They will inherit the earth. (Matt. 5:5).
Longing for and desiring our Father’s approval instead of all that this world can offer, is a blessing. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for God’s approval. They will be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6).
Being gracious and merciful instead of vindictive, being compassionate and kind instead of intolerant, and being sympathetic instead of indifferent is a blessing. “Blessed are those who show mercy. They will be treated mercifully.” (Matt. 5:7).
To know the heart of God, and to have your thoughts occupied with Him is a blessing. “Blessed are those whose thoughts are pure. They will see God.” (Matt. 5:8).
To be at rest and at peace, to intervene on behalf of those who are bullied, to try and pacify those who are angry or distressed, is to be blessed. “Blessed are those who make peace. They will be called God’s children. (Matt. 5:9).
When others misunderstand and reject you for doing what your Father wants, you are blessed! “Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing what God approves of. The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” (Matt. 5:10).
Being falsely accused, ridiculed, insulted, and criticised is a blessing. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. So leap for joy—since your heavenly reward is great. For you are being rejected the same way the prophets were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).
When you are asked by God to leave your comfort zone, to do or say things that are difficult, to endure things that do not seem fair, and when you cannot understand God’s ways – when it doesn’t feel at all like you’re being blessed but messed with and yet you still trust and love Him – then you are really blessed. “Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me” (Matt. 11:6).
When God enables you to see spiritual things with great clarity, when you not only hear but know His voice, then you are truly blessed. “Blessed are your eyes because they see and your ears because they hear. I can guarantee this truth: Many prophets and many of God’s people longed to see what you see but didn’t see it, to hear what you hear but didn’t hear it.” (Matt. 13:16,17).
You’re blessed when you not only hear or read God’s words, but when they have Life and when you in turn live by them, “Blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice” (Luke 11:28).
When you’re not relying on what you see and hear physically and when the unseen spiritual is more important and real to you than what is physically around you, then you’re blessed: “Blessed are those who haven’t seen Me but believe” (John 20:29).
You are blessed when you are suffering and feel utterly broken, for then you can in turn help others with the comfort and help that you yourself have received. “He comforts us whenever we suffer. That is why whenever other people suffer, we are able to comfort them by using the same comfort we have received from God” (2 Cor. 1:4).
When you are unappreciated, insulted, rejected, and even excommunicated, you are really blessed, so be a blessing in return and speak kind words; not only about the person or people involved, but also to them. “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and He will bless you for it” (1 Pet. 3:9 NLT).
Having to patiently face challenges, difficulties, adversity and trials is a real blessing: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12).
Being able to react lovingly and graciously from God’s heart instead of your own heart when somebody hurts you, is a blessing: “Now, this is the goal: to live in harmony with one another and demonstrate affectionate love, sympathy, and kindness toward other believers. Let humility describe who you are as you dearly love one another. Never retaliate when someone treats you wrongly, nor insult those who insult you, but instead, respond by speaking a blessing over them—because a blessing is what God promised to give you” (1 Peter 3:8-9).
In Christ we truly are blessed, and THAT on its own ought to be blessing enough for any human being! Our Father has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
Clearly God’s view of blessing and ours are quite different – God’s ways are just so often the opposite of our ways, His is the Back to Front Kingdom! We need to learn to view things from His expansive, all-inclusive perspective instead of our own minuscule exclusive perspective. He sees the big picture, we see only a tiny portion.
Of course it is good to give credit to God for all that He gives – for both the good and the bad! We tend to remember the good, but forget that the so-called bad can equally be a true blessing from God – sometimes we need those difficult things to correct us and to adjust us. It is all about our perspective and attitude because we can easily develop an attitude of entitlement and arrogance in thinking that we are especially important, worthy, and “blessed”, and that we actually deserve to be happy and rich in all things; but God’s blessings are never intended to develop such an attitude of pride in a person, that’s for sure. Instead we humbly recognise that whatever comes our way is for a reason. “What are you so puffed up about? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if all you have is from God, why act as though you are so great, and as though you have accomplished something on your own?” (1 Cor. 4:7).
Jesus promised His students: “You will be hated by all people because of My name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. The student shares his teacher’s fate. The servant shares his master’s! And since I, the master of the household, have been called ‘Satan,’ how much more will you! But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when the truth will be revealed: their secret plots will become public information. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow Me, you are not worthy of being Mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give it up for Me, you will save it.” (Matt. 10:22,24-26,38,39). That does not really sound like the “blessed” life some seem to expect!
The way in which many people use the word “blessed” suggests that they think all it means is to be rich and successful here on earth. Perhaps this verse is applicable in that case: “You claim to be rich and successful and to have everything you need. But you don’t know how bad off you are. You are pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. Buy your gold from Me. It has been refined in a fire, and it will make you rich. Buy white clothes from Me. Wear them and you can cover up your shameful nakedness. Buy medicine for your eyes, so that you will be able to see.” (Rev. 3:17-18) All TRUE, real blessings come from above, but we are told to purchase these heavenly things, meaning that there is a cost involved. So what is used to buy them? The very next verse reveals the answer: “I correct and discipline everyone I love. Take this seriously, and change the way you think and act.” To be rebuked, chastised, humbled and corrected (often through our circumstances) is the price we pay; yet it is a very small price for what is most precious: heavenly gold, clothing, healing, and eyesight!
In our English dictionaries the first definition of “blessed” is: consecrated; sacred; holy; sanctified. The second meaning is: worthy of adoration, reverence, or worship, and the third definition is: divinely or supremely favored; fortunate. So when you tell people that you are blessed, do you mean that you are sanctified or worthy of adoration and worship? Or do you mean that you are supremely favoured by God? “Blessing” is a religious word in English that many use without even thinking about it, when all that they really mean is “happy”. Whereas a religious person would say “I am so blessed to live in this country”, any other person would say, “I’m so happy we live in this country”.
The word for “bless” in the Greek is “makarios” meaning happy, and the root word “mak” means, interestingly, to extend, to make larger. Certainly that is God’s intention when He blesses us: to extend His Kingdom and His Life both in us and through us, but sometimes that extending can be uncomfortable and unpleasant!
In the Old Testament one of the words for “blessing” also means “happy”, such as in this verse: “The one whom God corrects [reproves] is ·happy [blessed], so do not hate being corrected by [reject/despise the instruction of] the Almighty” (Job 5:14). “Barak” is the other word for blessing in Hebrew and is more common. It means to kneel reverently, to salute, praise. The blessing of God was normally associated with fruitfulness. His words of blessing were, “Be fruitful and multiply” – it is ultimately about Life – and Life in fullness and abundance, fruitfulness and multiplication.
One of the great men of the Bible that is associated with blessing is Abraham. God promised Abraham that He would: “make of you a great nation. I will make your name great and you will be a blessing.” (Gen. 12:2). We know the story of Abraham, he was a rich man, but he was missing one thing: an heir – he was not able to “be fruitful and multiply”. Without this promised son, how could he become a great nation? It seemed like it was never going to happen, so he eventually “helped” God himself, with disastrous results that continue to this very day.
But thinking of all that God told Abraham, did Abraham have the blessing or the joy of actually experiencing and seeing the fulfillment of God’s words in his lifetime? Did he physically see what God had promised come to pass? NO! He did not see it, and yet he was called “blessed”! This is because he “saw” by faith: “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.” (Heb. 11:13).
They didn’t physically receive what they were promised and yet they are spoken of as being blessed and happy! We are foreigners too, this world is not our home, we are born from above. And this is why what this world thinks of as a blessing here on earth is not always considered a blessing from God’s perspective.
Remember that the Israelites who God had freed from slavery in such a miraculous way, then complained about missing the food of Egypt. God eventually gave them what they craved (Numbers 11), they were “blessed” in receiving what they wanted and had asked for, but that blessing was actually the judgement of God! “They only cared about pleasing themselves in that desert, provoked God with their insistent demands. He gave them exactly what they asked for – but along with it they got an empty heart.” (Ps. 106:13-15). We should be careful what we ask for because sometimes getting what we ask God for is a curse and NOT a blessing at all.
It boils down to trust – do we trust our Father to give us exactly what we need? Or do we complain and demand “more”? Are we content with what our Father gives, both the good and the bad? Do we ask Him for the things WE want, or do we spend time asking Him what HE wants?
God is a very generous God who delights to give, like any good Father He loves to see His children happy, but as a good Father He also knows what will be good for us and what will not be. He has eternity in mind, and not just this short life! And that explains many of the things about this life that are hard for us to understand and accept.
Being a Blessing
Children learn from their parents, and we, as God’s children are always learning our Father’s ways. Our Father is a Giver, a very generous giver. He is excessively generous… generous with Himself, with His love, life, mercy, kindness, grace, forgiveness, and so much more. Most of all, He is generous in giving Himself away freely… Just as God is generous, so His children are just like Him. I am not thinking so much about generosity in terms of financial or material goods, but in terms of our nature and God’s nature – a generosity of heart and spirit – who We are, because of Him.
Children tend to be very generous: generous with their affections, generous with their time, and generous in telling you exactly what they are thinking too! 🙂 However, as we grow up and mature we tend to become less and less generous in those areas and instead we learn to hide our thoughts and feelings, often due to wounds we have received from others. We learn not to be generous with who we are, and especially, not to be generous with our thoughts – often due to having them ignored, mocked, or criticised. The result is many adults who, while they may be generous in other ways, are not generous and open with who they are.
Hear what Jesus says: “If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst” (Luke 6:29-31,35,36 MSG).
That is not our natural way of living. We need to recognise that we are now living a new life, having been born from above, and this means a new way of thinking and being. “So many of the Lord’s people are only living for what they can get from Him, and they do not trouble about what they can be to Him. He seeks a people who will bring to Him an inheritance. He seeks those who are living unto the Lord’s satisfaction.” – T. Austin-Sparks.
It can take a lot of work for our Father to coax us out of the comfort zone of “me” and into the sometimes uncomfortable zone of “We” – He in me and I in Him. For many of us, being generous with who we are does not come naturally or easily – we would rather be closed and distant, than open and close. We’re told that we are to be open and generous, “I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up to God, this generous Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
So why can it be hard to open up to others? Because it means we will be vulnerable – we will suffer misunderstandings, suspicions, accusations, rejection and more. And yet in so doing we will find ourselves blessed… truly blessed, just as Jesus Himself was blessed by doing what His Father wanted Him to do, even at the cost of His life, which in turn was a blessing to others! We too are required lay down our lives, “This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed His life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves” (1 John 3:16).
Recently I was looking at a camellia bush and marvelling at how many flowers were on it. This bush wasn’t in a beautiful garden where it would be appreciated, instead it was at the side of a busy city street, jammed between the pavement and a concrete wall. The only reason I had a good view of it was because we were stopped at traffic lights. The profusion of flowers were covering not only the bush, but also the pavement where expired blossoms lay.
I saw not only the beauty of the bush, but of its Creator. I saw that it was a beautiful illustration of the character and nature of the Giver: generous, exceedingly generous! And yet often His generosity and His blessings go unnoticed in our lives… just like this bush full of flowers beside the road. All the cars were rushing past and were not stopping specially to view this bush. They were not stopping because of the creativity and beauty that was on display, instead they were stopping because they legally had to; most were not looking to the side of the road to see the bush, but were looking straight ahead, waiting for the second when they could hit the gas and carry on! And we are often like that with God, we don’t always stop and recognise Him and His work – so much of what we do is because of duty and obligation instead of a response of love, joyfulness and delight in Him.
The camellia bush would undoubtedly have been more suited to a lovely garden, where it could be admired and fully appreciated. If we were in the position of the camellia, we would no doubt complain about our situation and strive to move away from the place we were planted in. And yet there the camellia was, full of flowers, in quite a harsh environment, seemingly with few to admire it, yet bearing beautiful flowers as if it were a most cherished bush in a botanic garden!
I believe this is how our Father wants us to be; to be givers by nature, to bear fruit, to flower, to touch others with His Life and Love regardless of the environment and situations we find ourselves planted in, and regardless of whether we are ever seen or appreciated. He intends everything in our lives to be a blessing of His LIFE and LOVE and LIGHT, not only to us, but through us to others.
He gives, and gives, and gives, and gives… it is simply His nature. We see His generosity in nature all around us. Flowers and fruit bear far more seeds than will ever germinate. Consider this: the average strawberry has around 200 seeds, in just one year an oak tree will produce 70,000-150,000 acorns while a birch tree produces 15-17 million seeds – in just one year! Plants are absolutely extravagant in their production of seeds. Of course this is with the aim of reproduction: of producing more and more life. And it is exactly the same with God and us!
“How blessed is the person who does not follow the advice of wicked people, take the path of sinners, or join the company of mockers. Rather, he delights in the teachings of the Lord and reflects on His teachings day and night. He is like a tree planted beside streams – a tree that produces fruit in season and whose leaves do not wither. He succeeds in everything he does” (Psalm 1:1-3). This Fruit, this Seed, is God’s own Son, His very Life is planted into our hearts reproducing Himself… but not all hearts/soil will allow that Seed to grow and produce a harvest of even more Life. Some soil/hearts are already full: “this is the one who hears the word, but the worries and distractions of the world and the deceitfulness [the superficial pleasures and delight] of riches choke the word, and it yields no fruit” (Matt. 13:22). Yet He gives… even in spite of often not receiving what is due to Him in return – often He is ignored and receives nothing in return or worse, receives abuse and rejection.
Too many people are takers in relationships. They will be “friends” so long as you serve a purpose in their lives and as long as you do what they want you to do. Unfortunately people often treat God in the exact same way – they want Him for what He can give them and they want Him to do exactly what they want – they want “blessing” for their own benefit rather than for His.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was blessed because of Who was formed in her, and Who came out of her, and we are exactly the same! It is the Life and Person of Jesus Christ in us and through us that is blessed and is a blessing. True, real blessing is not related to the temporal now, but to the eternal forever!!!
I want to be one of those in whom Father sees a large return of the precious Seed that He has invested in me. Thinking back to what the root word of the Greek word for blessing means – to extend and make larger – surely THE biggest blessing ever in this world, THE way to be extended (in more ways than one!) is to have an intimate, personal friendship with the Creator of this amazing universe! And that requires us to lay down our lives, to forget about being “blessed” ourselves, and to instead BE a blessing to Him – to look not for prosperity, success or reward physically here on this earth, but to look onward and forward to the heavenly eternal outcome of Christ in us, the Hope of Glory!
How blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they have the right to eat from the Tree of Life and go through the gates into the City! Rev. 22:14