Monday, January 22, 2018

God’s Mandate To Prosperous Christians

            It is absolutely incorrect to think that God only blesses those who love HIM. The Bible confirms God’s gracious blessing to everyone – believers and unbelievers. Matthew 5:45 proclaims God’s graciousness upon one and all, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Then there is the familiar theme that always confounds us – the prosperity of the wicked (cf. Psalm 73)! So it’s rather obvious that God blesses both the believers and the unbelievers.

            To be blessed is to be more than happy. Happiness, unfortunately, is rooted, in a worldly sense, in our physical/material and emotional wellness. But the blessing, in the biblical sense, is to be spiritually joyous and peaceful.

            Consider blessings from a worldly sense. Unbelievers disregard God’s causal role in their blessings. Hence they, of their own volition, dispense their blessings. But what Christians do with their blessings matters much, since the Bible teaches that all blessings are from God (James 1:17).

            We experience God’s blessings in various ways. Needless to say, an abundance of wealth and health are good indicators of blessing/prosperity in a Christian life. Living without any specific need in life is indeed a blessed life – a life in which all needs (physical, emotional, spiritual) are met, and we have more than what we need. Spiritually and physically healthy family, morally upright and peaceful life, successful career, conquerable adversities etc. are certain specific instances of God’s blessings upon our lives.

            A blessed Christian is a prosperous Christian.

            How does God bless us?

            Genesis 12: 1-3 offers an answer to this question. God blessed Abram with prosperity, for HE said, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great…” (v2). This is God’s material blessing (cf. Genesis 1:28). When God blesses us with prosperity, we become prominent and powerful in our society.

            But that’s not it. On the other hand, if we dig deeper into the theme of God’s blessing, we discover the Lord Jesus’ intriguing teaching on the blessing. This teaching is predicated on our relationship with God. We are blessed when we are: poor in spirit, in mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, insulted and persecuted (Matthew 5: 3-12). This is the stamp of God’s blessing in a disciple’s life. This is God’s spiritual blessing.

            Why does God bless us?

            Notwithstanding our blessings, we exist to glorify God (Ephesians 1:12). However, God blesses us for a specific reason, which is God’s mandate to us. When we understand that very reason, we would intuitively obey God, glorify and honor HIM with our blessings.

            God blesses us so that we bless God’s people, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”  (Genesis 12: 1-3, NIV, Emphasis Mine).

            Therefore, we cannot ever say that “I am blessed by God.” That is an incomplete statement. That statement betrays God’s blessing in our life.

            This is the correct statement, “I am blessed by God so that I bless everyone else.” God does not bless us so that we gain power and popularity. The purpose of God’s blessing does not end there. The entire purpose of God’s blessing is realized when we, who are blessed, are a blessing to all people.

            God’s corporate blessing is upon HIS churches and mission organizations. A church (or its pastors and leaders) is blessed so that she remains a blessing to all the needy members of her congregation.

            To proclaim the gospel and to bless the financially needy members so to alleviate their financial need is not the only reason for God to bless the churches. Members have several other needs. Some need a listening ear, an encouraging presence or a shoulder to cry on. Others may require advice to resolve their existential dilemmas. Few more may yearn to have their questions answered. This list could go on.

            Hence, pastors and leaders of the churches would fulfill God’s mandate when they discern and satisfy the need of every member of their church. This is precisely why God blesses HIS churches.

            Today, more than a few Christian missions are neglecting the welfare of their employees. When God blesses a Christian mission, the organization should primarily be a blessing to its own employees and then to its vendors and clients.

            When individuals and families are blessed by God, they should bless those around them. Our experience with God cannot end with us. We cannot be ponds of blessings, where blessings culminate in us. Instead, we should be rivers of blessings to all people. This is God’s purpose and mandate to us.

            It’s not that we should be a blessing to others only when we are prosperous. We can be a blessing to others in and through our adversity as well. This lesson is taught to us by the eight beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3-10; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10). When we bless people in and through our adversity, we exhibit the power of Christ in and through us.

            The Message translation of the Bible renders the beatitudes in a familiar language, ““You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for. “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.” (Emphasis Mine).

            Our situation cannot determine the extent to which we can be a blessing to others. Suffering Christians can also be a blessing to all people. John Wesley, in his work, “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (Foundations of Faith),” said, “Even in the greatest afflictions, we ought to testify to God, that, in receiving them from his hand, we feel pleasure in the midst of the pain, from being afflicted by Him who loves us, and whom we love.”

            May God bless us so that we remain to be rivers of God’s blessings to all people and at all times. Amen.