Commonly, when we meet someone we have not seen for awhile, we are asked the question, "How have you been?" At times we respond to this question by saying, "God has certainly blessed us." We then proceed to enumerate our "blessings."
We have been enjoying relatively good health. Truly, this is something for which to be thankful. When we consider the complexity of our bodies and all the pathogens that our bodies must continually fend off, it is a wonder that any of us are healthy. While there is much that we can and should do to protect our bodies, there is much that is beyond our control. In this respect, good health is a blessing from God. But then, if we are not enjoying good health, would we say that we have not been blessed?
Our physical needs have been provided for. We have sufficient shelter to protect us from the weather. We have plenty of clothing in our closets and drawers. Our refrigerators, freezers, and pantries are stocked with a wide variety of food so that our question is never, "Shall we eat?", but rather it is, "What shall we choose to eat this time?" The majority of people in the world do not enjoy such abundance, but then again, some very ungodly people live with greater abundance than we do. Do we look at those who have more than we and decide that all they have is an indication that God has blessed them above us?
The economy is prospering sufficiently to allow us to work and earn money in order to supply for our own needs as well as to have extra to give to help others. This also is a privilege for which we should be grateful. It is proper to be indignant toward individuals who have the opportunity to work but are too lazy to do so. Many, however, long to be able to hold down a regular job and support themselves but do not have the opportunity to do so. Is having a regular job an indication of Divine favor on our lives?
I find it interesting that when Christ identified the individuals in life who are blessed, He did not refer to any of these things. Let's take a look at who Christ described as being truly blessed in Matthew 5.
We are truly blessed if we are poor in spirit. This character trait is of utmost importance in the eyes of God and yet is so foreign to man's natural way of thinking. To be poor in spirit is to be humble and to recognize our personal insufficiency. The poor in spirit will benefit from the advice of others and will receive the good-will of God Almighty. They will see the good in life and enjoy what they have rather than always thinking they deserve something better. Truly, to be poor in spirit is to be blessed by God. It is equally true that those who are not poor in spirit are not blessed of God.
We are truly blessed if we experience sorrow. Only those who know what it means to experience love, accomplishment, and belonging can also experience sorrow. When we experience sorrow, we are brought face to face with the realities of life and death and time. Thus sorrow has a purifying effect on our life that joy and pleasantness can never have. To experience sorrow is to acknowledge that we have experienced good from the hand of God in the past. In this way, to sorrow is because we have been blessed by God.
We have been blessed if the quality of meekness is evident in our lives. Meekness can be defined as "above taking offense." A person who is meek has a resilience of character that enables him to cheerfully endure the insults and injustices of life. A meek individual is pleasant to be around because they are genuinely interested in others. They work well with others because they are willing to do whatever needs to be done. They do not care about who will get the credit. Such selflessness is not natural! Truly, God has blessed anyone who has meekness as a quality of their life.
God has blessed us if we have a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Naturally, we live for the things of this world. We lust for power, wealth, and fame; and we experience the emptiness of a life filled only with husks. But we are truly blessed if we have learned to deny these appetites and have developed an appetite for the things of God. We are truly blessed because then we have the promise of being filled and of being satisfied. Blessed because we can realize our desires; we can be at rest in our relationship with God because we have been justified in His sight. Yea, doubly blessed because even in that achievement of justification we never reach the pinnacle of righteousness and sense a need to go searching for something new to add meaning to life. Solomon so eloquently expressed the frustration of one who is missing this blessing in the book of Ecclesiastes when he says over and over again, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."
We have been blessed if we have the strength of character to show mercy to individuals who have done us wrong and to individuals who are worthy of punishment, especially when it is in our power to give it. If at such times we can manifest the mercy and love of God, it is only because we have been blessed to experience God's work of love and forgiveness within us. It is the blessing of God that places us in such a situation that call for mercy on our part because such situations humble us as we contemplate how great the injustice in our life was toward God, and yet He gladly forgave us. To carry bitterness and the burden of vengeance toward those who do us wrong is bondage. To be able to respond with mercy and forgiveness is a blessing from God Himself.
We are blessed if our heart is pure. Oh the burden of sin and corruption! Anyone who can truly say, "I have been freed from impurity of the heart and mind," is blessed. Do we love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength? If yes, we are blessed! Can we turn away our eyes from beholding evil and immodesty? If yes, we are blessed! Are the thoughts and imaginations of our heart up building and God-honoring? If yes, we are blessed! Do we know the power of God that bridles our tongue so that our speech is as a pure fountain of life because it issues from a heart that is free from malice, lust, and pride? If yes, we are blessed!
We are blessed if we have been used of God to bring peace where sin and Satan had generated ill will. To walk away from a battle we probably could win, like Isaac walked away from the wells that he had dug, requires a view of life that is beyond mortal comprehension. To have it is to be blessed. Natural man enjoys a good fight and the thrill of violence. This is what drives people to spend hundreds of dollars for ring-side seats at a boxing match and to cheer for spectacular chases at a car race. Most people can identify with such feelings because these feelings mirror the turmoil and hatred within them. If we have peace within that is founded on a supreme trust in the overruling hand of God, we are blessed. If our involvement in the interpersonal relationships with others brings greater rest, God will claim us as His children! We are truly blessed! Has our identification with Christ earned us mockery and scorn? Have we been mistreated because people know that we are Christians and we will not retaliate? Have malicious reports been spread about us in an attempt to sully our reputation as a child of God? If so, rejoice with the disciples that we are counted worthy to suffer for His name. We are truly blessed! To walk with Christ in the fiery furnace of persecution is indeed to obtain special favor with God!
Those who see the blessings of God as being wealth and health and pleasure set themselves up for a life filled with doubts about their relationship with God because financial reverses, illness, and discomforts will always be a part existence on this sin-cursed earth. These people may find a measure of wealth, health, and pleasure and still be as empty as Solomon was. Life becomes frustrating whenever we view things as being tokens of the blessing of God. When someone cheats us out of financial gain, we feel we lost some of God's blessing.
When we become sick, we believe God has taken away His blessing. When the weather is uncomfortably hot or cold, God must be displeased with us or else we would not have to put up with such discomfort. This kind of thinking is a wonderful recipe for depression!
On the other hand, those who understand the blessings of God to be as Christ enumerated them in Matthew 5 cannot lose. Imagine sharing thus with another, "I was blessed today; today another vehicle pulled out right in front of me; and I resisted the temptation to blow the horn and tailgate." Or, "God was so good to me; yesterday my supervisor blamed me for a problem he had caused, but I did not become bitter or speak ill of him to my coworkers." Consider the perspective this statement would add to the sorrow of death, "Mr. Thompson, who had been my friend since childhood, died last week. I am blessed to have such good friends that their passing makes me sad." Ponder the strength in the statement, "Today I was tempted with lust, but I was blessed because I looked the other way."
Have we been blessed? Really, truly blessed?