Posts Tagged ‘God’s blessing’

In the “Parable of the Prodigal Son” found in Luke 15:11-32, Jesus tells the story of a man who has two sons. The younger son tells his father to give him his portion of the family estate as an early inheritance.

Typically, a son would receive his inheritance at the time of his father’s death. The fact that the younger brother demanded his early division of the family estate showed a rebellious and proud disregard for his father’s authority, not to mention a selfish and immature attitude.

Once the son receives his inheritance, he promptly sets off on a long journey to a distant land and begins to waste his inheritance on wild living. But after the money runs out, a severe famine hits the country and the son suddenly finds himself in dire circumstances. Times get so hard that he even takes a job feeding pigs. He is so destitute that he even longs to eat the food assigned to the pigs. Pigs are unclean animals; so when this son took a job feeding pigs, (Even wanting to eat the garbage he was feeding them) it reveals that he had fallen as low as he could possibly go.

The young man finally comes to his senses, remembering his father and all that he had there. In humility, he recognizes his foolishness and decides to return to his father and ask for forgiveness and mercy, hoping to only become his father’s servant.

Unknown to this son, his father had been patiently praying, watching and waiting for his son’s return home. The father is so overjoyed by the return of his lost son that he receives him back with open arms of compassion. Immediately the father turns to his servants and asks them to prepare a grand celebration feast in honor of this son.

Meanwhile, the older son is not one bit happy when he comes in from a hard day of working in the fields to discover a party going on to celebrate his younger brother’s return. The father tries to dissuade the older brother from his jealous anger explaining, “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

To most of us, it’s easy to view ourselves as the prodigal son. We all know enough about loss, about decisions made that led to a trail of ruin and heartache. We know what it’s like to wake up one day and realize that we have wandered far from God, how we’ve wasted our lives and what it’s like to feel lost and unable to be found. Yearning for God’s love, we replayed our life over and over in our heads thinking: “Where did I go wrong?” And like the younger son, we hope beyond hope for another chance to get it right—Another chance to start again.

This is one of Jesus’ longest parables. And because Jesus doesn’t explain the parables’ meaning, the parable lends itself to many interpretations. Many sermons have been preached on how the older brother represents legalistic Christians who have lost the love of God and the joy of serving Him.

But I must confess that I sometimes relate more to the older brother in the story. I have watched other Christians squander what God has blessed them with as they flippantly live and speak as if they belong to the world.

Most of my Christian life I have only wanted to use my talents to serve God. Not to gain favor with God or become popular within Christian circles, but because I truly love Him so much that I want to do all I can to serve only Him. But more times than not, I have not been allowed the opportunity to do that. So when I see half-hearted Christians being blessed so much, like the older brother, I sometimes feel cheated too. But I’m still learning and growing, so try not to be too hard on me.

Most Christians would not admit to relating to the older brother. But I think if the truth were told, our churches are full of older brothers. That’s why we need to get to a new level of repentance, a new level of renewal. We need to repent of trying to get control of God. We need to re-examine the reasons for our wanting to do good. Otherwise there will be no renewal.

The older brother reacted the way many of us react when we feel cheated by God. (Myself included) When the reality is that if we have truly repented and been saved by God through Jesus, how can we even think we have been cheated? We have everything we could ever hope for–eternal life with our heavenly Father.

The father in the parable represents our Heavenly Father. God waits patiently, with loving compassion to restore us when we return to him with humble hearts. He offers us everything in his kingdom, restoring a full relationship with joyful celebration. He doesn’t even dwell on our past waywardness.

The older brother in the parable should have welcomed his younger brother back with open arms just like his father did—even though it cost him half of his inheritance. That’s the kind of love God desires us to have for others.

It is not up to us to decide who receives God’s blessings because he blesses those he chooses to. (Romans 9:18) So I will put away my jealousy and take my seat at my father’s table—Next to my younger brother!

Time and again I’ve heard people cry, “God hasn’t blessed me. I ask Him for good things, but it doesn’t help.” Or they complain, “I try so hard to do the right things and to be a good Christian, but it just doesn’t work for me.” We long for God’s favor; we pray and beg God for it. And yet the blessings of God often seem elusive. Our prayers don’t seem to get any further than the ceiling. So what’s the secret? How can we experience God’s blessing in our lives?

The Beatitudes-Matthew 5:1-11
Jesus answered our question in the “Beatitudes.” Each Beatitude begins with “Blessed are those who…” Jesus makes it clear that God wants to bless us! But he also makes it clear that how God views a life of blessing is NOT the same as what we think it is. For instance, Jesus says that God’s blessing comes to those who are poor, grieving, unfulfilled, and enduring mistreatment. Huh? What’s good about these struggles? Nothing. And that’s the point! We want wealth, happiness, popularity, success, and rewards for doing good. It’s natural to want things to go well in our lives, but these are not the deep eternal blessings that God wants to give us. God wants to give us Himself – His kind blessings in our lives are His abundant and eternal life in our souls, His holy and loving presence within us – so that we can be happy in Him no matter what our circumstances are.

We got it backwards. We approach God with our problems and say, “Please make my life better.” It’s much the way a young child looks to mom and dad to take care of him or her. We all begin our relationship with God like this. It’s where we start. But it’s not the way to live the life of blessing that Jesus offers. He has so much more to give us and we need to grow into it as we mature in Him. (Imagine a grown adult who continues to rely on his or her parents to make them happy) In the Beatitudes, Jesus is offering us the supreme blessing of God’s presence right here; right now, whatever we’re going through, whatever problems or pains that are afflicting us, whatever failures or frustrations we’re up against. So let’s look up to heaven and open up our hearts to God.

Write Your Own Beatitudes
Dallas Willard, in his “The Kingdom of God” teaching series, challenges his listeners to write our own beatitudes. That’s what Jesus is after here! He doesn’t suggest that God will take away your problems, (As some Christians suggest) but he’s trying to show us that the greatest blessing of all is to be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven and it is available to us in the MIDST of our difficulties.

So let’s make a list. What problems do you wish you didn’t have? Do you have cancer or another health problem? Are you bankrupt, divorced, or unemployed? Jesus would say, “Blessed are you with ____________ (Fill in the blank) for yours is the kingdom of heaven.” Of course, it’s not a blessing to have a health problem or to be short of money or struggle with any other problem. The blessing is having God. That’s Jesus’ message here.

Grieve Your Losses.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matt. 5:4)
We all want to be happy. Yet striving to be happy eventually leaves us continually unhappy! That’s because if we try to be happy all the time then we cover up our pain. And hiding our hurts will leave us unknown and unloved. It’s no wonder that the most common cause of depression and anger is denial of grief. Many have gone through one or more of the following difficulties in life:
• Death of a loved one
• Health problems
• Failures
• Disappointments
• Injuries
• Unmet childhood needs
• Abuse

Each of these difficulties includes loss. To deny this sadness and isolate it from caring people causes it to back up and form a cesspool in your soul that manifests itself as depression and sometimes leads to anger–Especially if one experiences one loss after another and does not allow themselves to grieve and be comforted. Of course, none of us want to feel pain and sadness. And yet when we’re honest about our sadness and reach out for the comfort from others, then we can experience the comfort and renewing that our souls need.

Be Yourself.
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.” (Matt. 5:11)
The most destructive of all emotions is shame, feeling that you’re bad – all bad. Perhaps nothing keeps us from God more than shame. You feel shame when you continually do things that are wrong or harmful; when you’ve been repeatedly violated, rejected, or judged; when you turn your anger inward against yourself; when you see only the bad in you. (This is especially true of victims of child abuse) The instinctive and destructive response to shame is to hide your true self. There are several ways that people try to hide the parts of themselves they’re ashamed of:
• Pushing them down into their unconscious
• Projecting them onto others via faultfinding.
• Covering them up with alcohol, drugs, sex or other compulsions.

Hiding in shame is hiding from love and forgiveness. It means missing out on God’s blessings! We all long to have our bad parts forgiven, our past hurts healed, and our good celebrated. And this is what God offers us! Our role is simply to be ourselves – expressing our true, inner selves – to God and to others. And then to take in the gracious acceptance that we need and that is available to us. THIS is the secret to true self-esteem.Remember: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Some people believe that God brings trials upon His children in order to teach us to trust Him more. But that would be like a parent withholding their child’s physical needs, (food, clothing, etc.) just so the child will trust them more! I could not serve a God who treats His children this way.

Trouble comes to us because we live in a sin sick world under the influence of the devil and his angels. But we need to remember that God does not look upon trouble as we do. Where we see stress, He sees opportunities. And when we learn from our trials and ride out these storms of life, we will see God’s great promise fulfilled in us and His glorious recompense will come to us throughout eternity. We need to see the joy and opportunities through our times of trials.

Unexpected crises are a part of life. They are like unexpected storms. At this moment you are in one of three storm categories; either you just came out of a one, or you are in a one right now, or you are headed into one. So we need to learn how to prepare and ride them out. We must learn to prepare and ride them out by learning and maturing from them.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Mat 7:24-27)