Easy Street or Troubled Waters?

 Sometimes blessings aren't what you may think

Stephen Shives

What comes to mind when you think of blessings in your life? For most of us, our thoughts immediately turn to family, health, a good job, our church, or maybe winning the Clearing House Sweepstakes.
Jesus, on the other hand, gives us a completely different perspective on the blessing department. In Matthew 5:1-12, He opens His sermon: “…Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Wow! What an opening line! Didn’t Jesus know that people want to hear how Christianity will put them on “Easy Street?” After all, God loves us, and He would never allow anything bad to happen to His people, right? Wrong! To be blessed in God’s economy, hinges on one thing. Luke 11:28 says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it.”
Obedience positions us for a blessing. It is a principle that works with parents, with employers, and with God. In fact, the word “Blessing” in Greek comes from the same word that “Maker” is derived. It is important to recognize that every blessing has a point of origin. The old hymn that many refer to as “The Doxology” probably sums it up best: “Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow…”
So what about when your circumstances are less than ideal? Can you still feel blessed? In a previous issue of Discipleship Journal, Author Gary Thomas wrote:
When my wife and I prayed extensively about buying a house, we gave God many opportunities to close the door. God appeared to bless the move. Five years later, our house is worth considerably less than what we paid for it.
“Why didn’t God stop us?” my wife and I kept wondering. After all, we had given Him plenty of opportunities. But one day as my wife was praying, she sensed God asking her, “Have you ever considered the possibility that I wanted you in that neighborhood to minister there rather than bolster your financial equity?”
We thought of the people we have been able to reach, and then ask ourselves, are we willing to surrender to a God who would lead us to make a decision that turned out to be undesirable financially but profitable spiritually? Does obedience obligate God to bless us, or can obedience call us to sacrifice?
The apostle Paul stated, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content no matter what state I am in.” So what was his secret? He discovered the joy of obedience to God. Don’t get me wrong. I like driving a nice car just as much as you do. But don’t equate God’s blessings with material possessions, monetary gain, or winning the popularity vote. The true test comes when the chips are down. That’s when we must keep the faith, hold our head up high, and finish the race, knowing we can trust God to bring us through.
God really loves you. And when all else is uncertain, that is enough to know that you are blessed.