From the laboratory…
Most people call them adult Sunday School classes. I refer to them as spiritual laboratories; places to study biblical truth; to explore the great potential of applying the principles we glean from His Word.
One such study focused on the concept of blessings.
I asked the class to share very brief testimonies. My question was, “How has God blessed you?”
My goal? To discover the perception of the class. Did they really understand? Did they know how to identify true blessings?
The answers were as expected.
“God blessed me with salvation,” one said.
“I have a great family,” offered another.
Others were thankful for their church, health, friends, finances and so on.
None mentioned persecution or rejection as a blessing. Though not surprising, it does reveal a misunderstanding of blessings.
Note the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you” and “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake.” (1)
Try to imagine a Sunday School class in which one student would say, “You know, I was blessed this week by being reviled for my faith.” Or, “God blessed me with a poor spirit.” Or, “My boss yelled at me last Thursday and gave me a migraine. What a blessing!”
So what is a blessing?
Simply stated, a blessing is favor. And while prosperity may be an indication of God’s blessing, His favor is most frequently experienced during times of adversity. It occurs when we respond in the power of God rather than react in the power of the flesh. It should come as no surprise, then, that God allows adversity for His glory! (See 1 Peter 4:12.)
“This sickness is,” Jesus said, “…for the glory of God.”(2)
And the Apostle Paul gloried “in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake.” Why? Because through adversity he experienced the blessing of spiritual strength.
Imagine! The Almighty Jehovah allowing us the privilege of experiencing adversity that His glory would be revealed as we respond in the spirit rather than react in the flesh! That is true favor of God. It is a wonderful blessing!
… to real life!
Here’s an example that may hit home. I recently read a note posted on “the boards” at Faithwriters. The writer was wounded in spirit. Apparently another member had offered some unkind words leaving her discouraged.
Such times of adversity are, in reality, wonderful opportunities to experience the favor — the blessing — of an Almighty God. Again, it is through revealing His power through us. Unfortunately, we often miss those blessings by reacting in the flesh rather than responding in the spirit.
The natural man will favor himself by reacting in the flesh. “If they’re going to write negative reviews, I’m gonna quit Faithwriters.” Or, “I’ll show that guy! I’ll write something critical about his article.”
The spiritual man will view such circumstances as opportunities; as God favoring him with the privilege of allowing His grace to be seen instead of our fleshly reactions.
For example, do you have an obnoxious neighbor? Your natural man will favor self by “nailing that rascal.” The spiritual man will seek the blessing of responding in a manner that would glorify God.
Is someone at church giving you a rough time? Your natural man will favor self by fighting or even quitting. The spiritual man will seek the blessing of responding in a manner that would glorify God.
The principle is this: We experience the blessings of God when we yield self-gratification for God-glorification.
When we do so, we are showing mercy on those who offend us. And when we do, God promises to shower us with the blessing of mercy, “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.” (3)
Every adversity is nothing more — and nothing less — than an opportunity to experience the blessing of God’s power replacing our fleshly reactions.
• How has God blessed you through adversity?
• What adversities confront you today?
• How can you yield your gratification to God's glorification?
(1)1 Matthew 5:3,10;11
(2) John 11:4
(3) Luke 6:36-38; Matthew 5:7