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What Are Blessings?
“He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalm 24:5)
The Bible talks about blessings in a lot of different ways. Jesus teaches us in John 10:9-10: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
It is a blessing to "find pasture." It is a blessing to have the type of "abundance" spoken of in this Scripture. The word "abundance" is referring to more than just worldly materialism, and more than having all the money needed to live on, or with which to buy more and greater material things. It is referring to all kinds of prosperity, all kinds of goodness from God. Don't misunderstand me. It can be good to be wealthy or rich, if you use your riches to glorify God. But it is also good when you’re not rich, and yet you still choose to live your life for the Lord.
God blesses us so that we can glorify Him, and so that we can be a blessing to others. The reason He wants us to be a blessing to others is so that we can help bring more people to serve Him. Blessings are not just for the sake of giving us a gift, because, as sinners, we don’t deserve gifts from God. God gives us gifts because He is merciful, not because we deserve them. In 2 Chronicles 4:10, we are taught about the prayer of Jabez. The Scripture says:
“And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.”
Jabez asked God to bless him “indeed,” but he did not expect to receive his blessings and then go off to live a life without God. He also asked that God’s hand be with him, and that God would keep evil from him so that his blessing would not grieve him. In other words, it’s one thing to get what you want from God, but it’s quite another thing to keep it, and to use it properly for the glorification of God. This Scripture reveals to us that wealth can be a blessing or a curse. Without God in our lives, we can live far from God, and become irresponsible to a point where having too much is actually dangerous for us. Jabez realized this, and he did not want that to happen to him. Therefore, he was wise to ask God to be with him forever, after blessing him.
The More We Get, the More We Forget
It should be easy for anyone to feel blessed after inheriting millions from a rich relative, or after winning a million dollar sweepstakes. It should be easy to feel blessed after getting a big promotion at work, a great new job, or after giving birth to a healthy child. These are the things in life that should inspire anyone to feel blessed and truly grateful to God. But, sadly, even such things as these do not ignite, for many, a feeling of being blessed. And these are some of the things we see as being on the "up side" of life. If we’re not grateful to God for blessings that come on the up side of life, how much more ungrateful will we be when our blessings come in the form of tests and trials?
How can we ever see the blessings that can come in tough times, times of trouble, in seasons of sadness, and of grief and pain? Sometimes, when we are not wise enough to see blessings on the up side of life, God will allow us to go through a down side to demonstrate how wonderful the up side really is. Unfortunately, it often takes this kind of trial, suffering, and testing to bring many of us to the realization of what a real blessing really is. It takes the taking away or the withholding of things, sometimes, for us to see that God wants us to be grateful for everything in life—big, small, and in-between-sized blessings.
The problem is, many times, when blessings are bestowed upon us, we take them for granted. We find earthly reasons for having them, and we forget to connect God to the gifts He gives us. In other words, we give ourselves or some other mortal being all the credit and all the glory, instead of giving it to God. For example, I have known people who have prayed and prayed for a particular thing to happen, and as soon as they got what they prayed for, they started talking only about how they made it all happen. They made it happen, not God.
Oh, how easy it is to forget. Think of all the things we take for granted, such as health, personal joy, financial means, the ability to take care of our body and our mind, having a happy family life, feeling secure and protected, and the very desire to live; the hope for longevity--when these things are bestowed upon us, they are blessings.
Just What is a Blessing?
Do you ever really think about what God wants us to see as a blessing? Or is the idea of a "blessing" something you and I say without really considering the word and its meaning for more than a few seconds or a few minutes? Many times, when I think about blessings, I’m in the process of asking for one. Many times, after I either get or do not get what I’ve asked for, then I stop thinking about what it was I asked God to provide for me as a blessing.
As I look back, I can clearly see and count my many blessings. I now realize that I was like a lot of other people, who simply do not realize the nature or the expansiveness of God’s blessings. I looked at the shiny "adds-ons" that other people had as the only things that could be seen as a blessing, and I was taking for granted the wealth of personal gifts God had given me. Material things can be blessings, but I believe there are other things that are more real and precious as blessings.
Here are eight blessings I believe it is wise to consider, and to reconsider, every day.
- It is a blessing to simply awaken every day, from a night's sleep. If you really think about it, a lot of people who went to bed last night did not wake up today. And, many of those who will go to bed tonight will not awaken tomorrow. Every day that God allows you to continue to live and breathe is a blessing. Every day, those of us who are living get yet another day to serve God and to help someone else, as well as a chance to work toward achieving some of our own dreams. Once we pass away, it’s too late to live life on planet earth, and our time for being and doing while living in this physical world will have passed. That is why we should be thankful knowing we are truly and greatly blessed when we are given a new chance, a new day, to live our lives. Life is truly the greatest earthly blessing that we get.
- Health is a blessing. If you have any level of good health, any area of your physical existence where you are strong, you should be thankful to God for it. Too often, I believe we live up to the saying “you don’t miss your water, until your well runs dry.” We have to lose the ability to use a limb or some other part of our body before we realize what a blessing it was to have it. We should be thankful, every day, for any degree of health we have. It is a blessing to be able to walk with ease, to be able to breathe with ease, to have a strong mind to use to think clearly. Having a sound, creative mind is something you can use to tap into and to develop different talents and interests.There are people whose minds will not allow them to think clearly and to tap into creative power. Therefore, if you can do these things, you should be thankful to God. Make no mistake--these abilities are blessings. Be thankful, and never take health for granted. Always see health and physical abilities as gifts, as special blessings from God, before they’re gone.
- The ability to learn, the desire to seek knowledge is a blessing. The Internet has made it so easy to discover information, many times we forget how truly blessed we are to live in times where knowledge is, literally, at our fingertips. The click of a mouse can take us to worlds of knowledge, much of it valuable and useful, especially that which has been left by knowledgeable, trained, experienced experts and professionals. Most of this information (and information found in books and libraries) is accessible at no cost, or for a very low cost, but without the ability or the desire to seek knowledge, it is of no use to you. I am thankful, therefore, that I have the desire to seek knowledge and the ability to learn. I see these things as blessings, and I am thankful for them.
- Understanding the need and the desire to seek God’s word is truly a blessing. It is a blessing to realize and to understand the importance of having and nurturing our spirit. It is a blessing to have the gumption and the wisdom to know and to believe in God as our Higher Power. Accepting, understanding, and knowing we need to seek God is a gift, a most precious blessing. Some people don’t understand that they need to seek God, and I believe those of who have this understanding should be thankful for it. Even if people you love don't understand the need to seek God's word, you can still live your life in a way that demonstrates your commitment to "seek his presence continually," so that the cares and desires of the world do not overtake you. "Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord, your God." (1 Chronicles 22:19). Understanding the need/desire to seek the Lord, therefore, is a blessing.
- A supportive, loving family is a blessing. During times when I have been down in life: Unemployed, financially broke, and without means, I still have been able to live from day to day, and to carry on with my personal needs, because of the goodness of some of the members of my family. By the same token, when things have been reversed--with me having strong financial means and some other family member facing financial strife, I have been able to be a blessing to them by helping them carry on with their personal needs. Always thank God when He allows you to be a blessing to someone else. Any person who is blessed with a loving, caring family should be thankful to God. Not everyone enjoys close relationships with people who love and care enough to feel pain when they are hurting. If you have such relationships in your life, you are blessed indeed.
- God-fearing, loving and supportive friends are a blessing. If you have them, you should thank God for them, every day. I went through a time in my life when I really had no close earthly friends other than my siblings and my dear mother. But God used that time to bring me closer to Him. My mother passed away in 2000 leaving me the legacy of her deep and abiding love for Jesus Christ. That love brought me in contact with other people who truly love the Lord, and from that, I have found new friendships that are true blessings from God. Thank God for the love of friends who demonstrate their concern for your well being. They are blessings from God.
- A spirit of thankfulness and gratitude is a blessing. Millions of people go about their day, every day, neglecting to think of how God's grace and blessings are at work in their lives. It is a blessing, in and of itself, to have a heart and a mind to be thankful to God for allowing you to feel and to express gratitude to Him and to others. We should thank God for nudging us to remember not to take any of His gifts for granted.
- Being so loved by God that He does not take his hand away from your life is a blessing. Living in humble gratitude and in obedience to God, who has deemed you worthy of His grace, is a blessing not to be taken for granted.
Finding "Pasture" is a Blessing
God cares for our well being. He wants us to find pasture in our daily comings and goings. Finding pasture means He wants us to find physical, mental, and spiritual nourishment. Unlike a thief or an enemy that might want to take your life away from you, who wants to steal from you for his or her own benefit, God wants only the best for you. God is not simply concerned with you existing or being alive, He desires that you have life more abundantly. That means after you seek first the kingdom of Heaven, God wants to help you also find joy in your presence on earth, He wants you to live your life on purpose.
The Bible tells us that God is concerned about us at all times, including our going out and our coming in. I believe that means we can expect God to care for us at home—in our home life and all that entails, as well as in our lives outside the home. That includes work, worship, and other activities and events that we choose to become involved in daily.
God desires that we all find happiness and personal fulfillment too, as part of the abundance of blessings He has for us. As you live your life on purpose, to glorify Him, He wants you to find joy and satisfaction in your personal and professional interests, in your home and family life, and in your other earthly concerns, pursuits, and accomplishments.
I'd like to share with you a prayer my sister once sent to me via E-mail. It had been sent to her by a friend, and none of us know who wrote it. It came to me with a note requesting that it be circulated around the country, so I'm honoring that request in this Hub.
It is a prayer illustrating how sometimes when we ask for a particular blessing, God shows us—by denying what we're asking for—that He wants us to do something to find our real blessings. The prayer goes like this:
“I asked God to take away my habit. God said, No. It is not for me to take away, but for you to give it up.
I asked God to make a handicapped child whole. God said, No. His spirit is whole, his body is only temporary.
I asked God to grant me patience. God said, No. Patience is a by-product of tribulations; it isn't granted, it is learned.
I asked God to give me happiness. God said, No. I give you blessings; Happiness is up to you.
I asked God to spare me pain. God said, No. Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to me.
I asked God to make my spirit grow. God said, No. You must grow on your own, but I will prune you to make you fruitful.
I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life. God said, No. I will give you life, so that you may enjoy all things.
I asked God to help me LOVE others, as much as He loves me. God said . . . 'Ahhhh, finally you have the idea.'”
A Personal Story About Blessings
When I was in my teens, I started to think of blessings as those “extra” things people around me always seemed to have or to be getting, that I didn't have and knew I would probably never get. I was not as blessed, I felt, as some of those I came in contact with on a daily basis. For example, some of my high school friends got to drive either their own or their parents' cars to school. My mother, a widow with six children, had one car that she needed to use every day to go to work as a housekeeper.
Now, when I was a very young child (that is, before becoming a teenager!), not having things never bothered me. I was completely happy with what I had, and felt, wholeheartedly, that I had a lot. But once I became a teenager, I started to look at things differently. I must admit, even though I had lots of friends, I started to feel "left out" for not having things I needed (let alone things I wanted). And while I never complained (understand that my mother never even knew I looked at things this way, and I never asked to use her car), in my heart, I wondered why other people always seemed to have more “things” than I had.
I remember that when I was in the eighth grade, I eagerly took a home economics class so that I could learn how to sew. I was a little overweight and had very few clothing to wear to school. I wasn't obese, but it was not easy to find low-priced clothing that fit me, and I could no longer catch “hand-me-downs” from my older sister, because she was slender. So, I wanted to learn how to make my own clothes, and I worked hard to learn what I needed to know. I eventually got good at sewing, so much that, by the time I was in the tenth grade, my mother found a way to buy me a sewing machine.
I began making clothing for myself whenever my mother was able to buy material, and buying material was a lot cheaper than buying ready-made clothing. Realizing I was pretty good at making clothes, eventually my mother started buying material for me to use to make clothing for her to wear to church. When her church friends started asking where she got some new outfit, she’d proudly tell them “My daughter, Sallie, made it for me. She sews.”
Soon, people began asking my mother if they could hire me to sew something for them, and soon, I was in business. I started earning a little money for myself by making clothing for my mother’s church friends as well as for some of our neighbors. A few times, I even made clothing for two of the church’s choirs. Then, other people somehow learned that I could sew, and I started getting requests to make uniforms for nurses, and was even contacted about making outfits for a school band. I didn’t accept that job, however, because it would have taken too much time away from my schoolwork.
The point I'm attempting to make with this story is that during my teens, I didn’t realize how richly blessed I actually was. I was too busy looking at the "extra" things my friends and classmates had, feeling they were blessed, but was unable (or unwilling) to see the blessings that I had. I might not have had a car to use to drive to school, but I had a fiercely devoted and loving mother who always made sure I got to, on time, any place I needed to go. She saw my talent and my determination to sew, and then she did all she could to encourage and to enable me to use my gift to help myself and others. I was a member of a loving family, and we had loving friends, neighbors, and relatives who knew I needed to earn money, so they brought some of their sewing needs to me and paid me for my work.
Be Thankful, Always, for All Your Blessings
I now realize that when I was going through my teenage years, I was like a lot of other people who simply don't realize the simplicity or the expansiveness of God’s blessings. In the story I told you, I was looking at material things as being the real blessings, and I was taking for granted the wealth of personal gifts God had given me.
I even used to take my very life for granted. I was not able to fully realize, not mature enough as a Christian to understand, that I needed to be thankful for every breath I take. Not anymore. Today, I no longer see life as something to take for granted. Instead, I wake up every morning thanking God for allowing me to rise to see another day. I ask Him to allow me to use my day, every day, to glorify Him through Jesus Christ. I know I am blessed to be of sound mind, to have health and love in my life.
I hope you will allow this Hub to be a blessing that reminds you to thank God for all your blessings, large and small. They have been bestowed upon you only because He loves you. And, in the final analysis, who are we to judge the size of a blessing? Something that looks like a small blessing can turn out to be the very thing that brings more blessings into your life and into the lives of those who are touched by your gifts, your blessings.
© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD