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God's Blessings

I've been thinking a lot lately about God's blessings.  I think God delights to bless us.  But I think He also allows hard times into our lives to grow us.  He also prunes us so that we'll bear fruit, and pruning can be a painful process.  And many times, like Job, we don't even know why God allowed hard times to come our way.

Is wealth the key to happiness or contentment?
The Health-Wealth message is quite common here in Africa.  It has a lot of appeal to people who live in poverty.  If one has enough faith, God will bless them with riches and with health. 

But then, what happens when a person has faith and prays for God to bless them with stuff and instead they're constantly sick, a loved one dies, or they struggle from month to month to pay the bills?  A Nigerian brother told me that he went to a wedding at a health/wealth church and the wedding vows were, "Do you take this woman to be your wife for better and best?".  He said the danger in that is that if your spouse is chronically ill or things get tough at home, you can leave the marriage because you never promised to be faithful in sickness or in bad times.  And it's probably the spouse's fault that the marriage isn't being blessed.

The Bible says that we will all have hard times.  It's a direct result of sin and of the curse put on the earth as a result of Adam and Eve's disobedience.  James says in 1:2 & 3, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance."

The problem with the health-wealth message is that when things go wrong, it's my fault.  I didn't have enough faith, I've got hidden sin somewhere.  It puts the burden for being blessed on myself rather than trusting God to bless me or to strengthen me in bad times.

There are also verses that indicate that God desires to bless us, such as Psalm 37:4..."Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."  A verse I came across recently helped me with the balance between blessing and suffering.  It was Psalm 67:1, 2...."May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, THAT your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations."

I think God wants to bless us, but He doesn't just want to give us stuff.  He wants to bless us for two reasons.... 1.  We are delighting ourselves in Him and 2. because blessing us will bring glory to His name and let His salvation spread through the earth.  The focus is on Him, not on me.

A pastor at a church we recently visited gave a great illustration of this.  He had a table and two chairs up front and asked somebody to come sit in one of the chairs.  He said to imagine that that person is Jesus and to imagine that the table was heaped up with all sorts of good things. Then we come to the table and the conversation goes something like this:
Jesus:  Come sit with me and eat.
Me:  No, that's ok, just give me one of those apples.
Jesus:  I have some things I'd like to talk to you about.
Me:  Well, really, I can't sit down right now.  Just fill up my basket here.
Jesus:  Please take some time and eat with me.
Me:  Oh, sorry, I really can't.  I already ate at home.  Just give me some of the stuff and I'll get out of your way.
Jesus:  I love you and I want us to spend some time together.
Me:  I just have too much to do, so can you please just give me some of the stuff on the table?

The pastor said that Jesus wants to give us some of the stuff on the table, but our priorities are wrong.  We tend to focus on what Jesus can give us instead of on the relationship.  We are to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to us.  And they aren't added just so we'll get rich.  They're added so His name will be glorified and His salvation be made known and because we're in a relationship with Him.

To me, spending time with Jesus and being blessed by Him is like a child who spends time with his parents.  They benefit from the time together, but the parents also delight in doing things with that child and for that child.  But demanding health and wealth from God is like a child who demands things, throws themselves on the ground when they don't get what they want, and acts like they are more important than anybody else.  They're really not pleasant to be around and a good parent will not give in to demands like that. 
So, I think the question is, WHY  do I want God to bless me?  Because I want stuff or because I want to be with Him?  It's all about the relationship, not the riches. 
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