Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

Blessing: The Mystery of its Meaning . . .

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 12 January 2010


"God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways."
~ 2 Corinthians 9:9 (The Message)

So what precisely is a blessing? Is it a reward? Is it a miracle? According to Scripture, what exactly does it mean to be blessed by God? And should it be a mystery to us?

There are numerous Hebrew and Greek words throughout Scripture which when translated mean bless, blessed or blessing. Viewed collectively they mean "to declare happy, to speak well of, very happy.

Lamentably, popular Christianity has twisted the concept of being blessed by God to mean something entirely different than what God intended. Way too many Christians have readily bought into the lie that to be blessed is to enjoy material favor with God as a result of faith. And the avenue by which these blessings reach us can be surprising, unsuspecting, even magical.

If we follow this logic, then the wealth gained by way of Wall-Street is a blessing. Right?
Why are the results of a person's free will classified as sinful greed in one case,
and as a blessing in another?
The logic is flawed.
The mystery remains. . .

Much of the heart of New Testament Christianity has been completely corrupted in the pursuit of being blessed. Too many teachers and preachers have taken the focus off of sound doctrine and true worship and placed it instead to the idea of being blessed with things, stuff, money, bigger buildings, larger ministries -- which even non-believers know cannot bring real happiness.

The [wrong] thinking is that if God loves you and you are in His will, you exercise faith, and His favor rests upon you, then He will bless you with a lot of extra things above and beyond what you'd have if you were just an ordinary believer. And we've fooled ourselves into thinking that if we do have some material wealth, it was God who blessed us with it.

This is not what the Bible teaches. What is a blessing? And is it a result of faith?
Herein lies the mystery.

Hebrews Chapter 11 is often called the "Hall of Faith" It is the Scriptural record of those individuals throughout biblical history who had great faith. The examples we find here are a roadmap -- a guide -- to understanding true faith and the result of that faith. Look at verses 36-40:

Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated -- the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Wow! Where are the "astonishing" blessings here??!
. . . Certainly doesn't match the depiction of being
blessed as taught by Benny Hinn,
Paula White, Joel Osteen or a host of others.

Even well-intended Christians have tainted the notion of being blessed by God to mean something other than simply enjoying what God has intended.

What did God intend? What is God's idea of a blessing?

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.
~Psalm 127:3

[Esau] lifted his eyes and saw the women and children, and said, "Who are these with you?" So he said, "The children whom God has graciously given your servant."
~Genesis 33:5

Joseph said to his father, "They are my sons, whom God has given me here." So he said, "Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them."
~Genesis 48:9

God blessed them; and God said to them,
"Be fruitful and multiply..."
~Genesis 1:28

For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.
~Leviticus 26:9


The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning and. . . he had seven sons and three daughters." Job 42:12-13


Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed his great mercy toward her
and they were rejoicing with her.
Luke 1:58

And as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message, God can and does pour out His blessings in "astonishing" ways. Revisit Genesis Chapter 12 where the Lord told Abram:

"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;
an
d all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
Genesis 12:3-2

. . . and how did God do this?
Yes. . . By way of the blessing him with children. Many of them!
Culminating in the lineage of JESUS CHRIST! (Matthew 1:1-16)

The idea of being blessed with children as emphasized over and over in Scripture is one of the most overlooked lessons in God's Word. The family is no longer considered a blessing by today's standards. Christians no longer guard their families at all costs. We see children as a nuisance instead of gifts from God. Children are often a burden, not a joy. We complain about the cost of raising them. Mothers complain that children are a hindrance to their career. Dad's lament that children are a drain on the finances. Children often become trophies for soccer moms and dads who have to keep up appearances. And the number of women choosing to kill God's blessing of a child is approaching 50 million since 1973.

Yet, when the parent or family burdened by
[the blessing of] children receives an unexpected
check or materialistic serendipity, they call it a blessing.
That's backwards thinking!
This must be a mystery to God.

And lest you believe I've concluded the only blessing of the Bible is children, lets look at some more:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms
with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation
of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
~Ephesians 1:3-4

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.
~Psalm 68:19

Are we to assume that God is going to bless us in any materialistic way (either personally or as a society) when we've chosen to ignore the biblical definition of blessing??

God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways.
~ 2 Corinthians 9:9 (The Message)

I like Eugene Peterson's Message; and in context is a wonderful story of redemption
beginning in Genesis all the way through to Revelation. But as with any translation
of the Bible, a single verse set aside as a lesson can be seriously misinterpreted.
Take time to read the full text of 2 Corinthians 9:6-9 in the NIV or KJV
and see if you have the same impression of the term "blessing. "

Let's just not be so nearsighted
that we misunderstand what a blessing really is. Joel Osteen is absolutely right in saying that the Gospel promises our "best life now." He’s just utterly and thoroughly mistaken on what the form of that life is.

Throughout the Bible we come to understand the theme of redemption and that Jesus was God’s blessing to us -- sent as a child to live among us and He alone is the example, shape, description and picture of our "best life. . . ."

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto,
but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

~Mark 10:45

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
~I Timothy 6:6-8

Mystery solved!

~~*~*~*~~

I asked God for strength that I might achieve.

I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all men, most richly BLESSED.

~The Prayer of an Unknown Confederate Soldier

~ Esthermay V. Bentley-Goossen
© 2010 The Heart of a Pastor's Wife
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This installment of InOtherWords is hosted by Deborah
on her blog, Chocolate and Coffee

14 comments:

MiPa said...

Well said Esthermay. Thanks for sharing.

Joan said...

Yes. Very well said.
Good lesson here and I agree about the taking out of context. This same verse from Peterson's "Message" was the theme of a fund raiser in our church over the last few months. In context, the passage talks more about POVERTY than material blessings. You make a good teacher. Thank you.

Betsy Markman said...

Woo hoo, I love that boldness! Preach it, girl!
And by the way, in response to your comment on my post, I'd have to say that the integrity of the Word is not mere packaging. If you play fast and loose with it, then you play fast and loose with every doctrine which it teaches, including the doctrines of the Gospel itself. So you're right to guard the Word as you do. Sometimes the MSG is good, and sometimes it does real violence to the meaning of the text. It must be read with discernment.

kalopoieo said...

It is mockery of God’s Word to make faith synonymous with blessing in the manner many teachers have done today. Your example of Hebrews Chapter 11 is followed of course by Hebrews Chapter 12 where we are instructed to “run the race,” “endure shame,” “shedding blood,” “losing heart,” “being rebuked,” “endure hardship as a discipline,” etc. the list goes on.

I HIGHLY doubt there are many new evangelicals who make it a point of studying this Chapter when discussing their doctrine of BLESSINGS being the result of FAITH.

As always, you expose the Truth of the Bible in clear teaching.

Good post!

Michelle said...

The "name it and claim it" movement has always been a major pet peeve of ours.

Although God DID promise material blessings to the Israelites and Proverbs also seems to promote formulas for gaining these material blessings, I truly believe that those material promises were specifically for the Israelites under the Old Covenant.

Thank you for thoroughly covering this topic. If more Christians would accept that struggle can and will be a part of our lives, we might not have so many walk away from the faith when things get rough!

Love in Christ,

Michelle

Kate said...

AMEN. AMEN. AMEN. AMEN! I so love your boldness to tell truth on your blog. If I mentioned Joel Osteen on my blog, I’d have to start moderating the comments. But you are so right. “Lord, give me the boldness to proclaim truth and expose the lies.”

Thank you for this today <:-)>

Rachel M. said...

Very good, Esthermay. To limit God's blessings to merely material things is to make God into a vending machine. I much prefer a God who gives good gifts to a god who exists to meet my demands.

Warren Baldwin said...

Some great thoughts here about blessings. Your comments about children are especially appropriate for today. Not only are we aborting our children, we simply are not conceiving them. All of Western Civilization, in the past regard as "Christian" (America and Europe) is choosing to not have children for the reasons you stated. Maternity wards are shutting down. One town in Italy is paying families with children to move there so they have children for their school! This is a serious spiritual problem, when we don't even think that children are worth having. Good post!

And thanks for following Family Fontain.

Andrea said...

Blessings,
andrea

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

I love and appreciate your approach to the whole concept of blessings. Another astonishing thing about God's blessings is that it is often the poorest among us who recognize how truly blessed they are.

writingcanvas said...

Your thoughts reminded me of something Doug Phillips wrote:

“The Bible calls debt a curse and children a blessing. But our culture applies for curses and rejects blessings.”

Thank you so much for sharing & your sweet note on my blog. I know many have thought us crazy to have as many children has we have had - even after having one with serious heart defects - but what blessings have been given to us - for eternity!

THANK YOU for sharing!

Patrina said...

Well said!

Jane or Ozjane said...

His blessing will always be what He sees is best for us...
That is why it is so elusive and special but wonderfully real.

Tami Boesiger said...

The poem says it best.

I got nothing I asked for, but everything I hoped for.

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