I often hear statements such as, “I am so blessed to have three healthy children!” or “I received the promotion that I’ve been waiting for…I feel so blessed!” or “We just bought the home of our dreams. We are incredibly blessed!” or “We are blessed to live in a country of such comfort, freedom, and opportunity, aren’t we?”
But what happens when you don’t feel so “blessed” in your current circumstances? Did we just happen to draw the short stick and miss out on the blessings that so many others seem to have been given?
If you’re a Christian, the answer to that will always be no. Instead, we need to ask ourselves, Why do we most often associate being blessed with positive circumstances, wealth, comfort, and the absence of problems?
I believe it’s because many of us have a very short term and shallow view of what it means to be blessed.
This begs the question – what does it mean to be blessed?
The Meaning of Blessing
There are several definitions of blessed in the English language, according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary:
- “Made holy; consecrated”
- “Endowed, with divine favor and protection”
- “Bringing pleasure or relief as a welcome contrast to what one has previously experienced”
The Greek definition of the word “blessed” comes from makários. This describes a believer as being in an enviable position for receiving God’s provisions (favor) – as being an extension of his grace. This happens with receiving the Lord’s inbirthings of faith (HELPS Word Studies).
I admit, these definitions somewhat surprised me. Growing up in western culture, I have most commonly heard the phrase “I am blessed” in reference to good fortune, a desired outcome, or comfort. In fact, I myself have often used it in this way.
It’s certainly true that the earthly gifts we receive on earth, such as comforts, desired outcomes, success, and the friendships we enjoy, are all unmerited blessings from the Lord. These undeserved blessings, which God pours out on all people through his grace, ought to be received with thanksgiving and praise, leading us to find joy as we glorify God through them. In our flesh, however, we are often prone to attitudes of entitlement, pride, and seeking happiness in worldly circumstances.
I find it eye opening that even in the English dictionary, the primary definition of the term blessing is not wealth or comfort, but rather “being made holy.” Since we are made holy through salvation in Jesus Christ, in essence, the truest form of being blessed is to be made aware of our wretched state, led to repentance, sanctified for holiness, and to one day receive the crown of righteousness. All other earthly blessings should greatly pale in comparison to this!
Yes, non-believers receive blessings as well, but not in the same way. They are blessed through the common grace of God that extends to all people. However, because this grace has an expiration date on Judgment Day, the blessed circumstances of their lives are short-term gifts of God’s grace, rather than the life-giving, eternal blessings that are poured out on believers. Sadly, the comfort of these temporary blessings often end up blinding many from their true state of poverty and their need for a Savior.
We see this clearly in Christ’s strong words of warning to the church of Laodicea in Revelation.
I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:15-19)
Much like Laodicea, many cultures today, including our own, have adopted a watered down and skewed perception of being blessed. Unfortunately, even many believers (myself included at times) who have been raised in these wealthy cultures, have fallen victim to this wrong perception as well. Many have seen blessing as being fortunate, comfortable, and happy.
This, of course, presents a problem for a believer when they suddenly find themselves in circumstances that fall short of the blessed life they expected. They struggle to understand why, when they have chosen to obey and follow Christ, they see non-believers all around them earning job promotions, succeeding in their efforts (even at the expense of others), buying the big houses, and seeming to flourish in all they do.
The Biblical Reality of Blessing
Because of this, we have to anchor ourselves in what is true, rather than what we see and can make sense of. While it can be tempting to look at the surface level of peoples’ lives and struggle to understand why they seem to be flourishing, we have to remember that those very blessings may be blinding them from their need for a Savior and leaving them unfulfilled and empty.
So what does this mean for us as believers? Here are a few questions to ask ourselves.
- What am I seeking more than anything else?
- Am I following Christ, expecting earthly gifts of comfort and prosperity to follow? Or am I seeking Christ because he is the ultimate blessing and worth every sacrifice?
- Are my comforts causing me to be lukewarm, rather than living with ongoing repentance and zealousness for the gospel of Jesus?
These are pivotal questions because, if we think that following Christ will guarantee us earthly blessing (the prosperity gospel), then we need to open the Bible and read it. It won’t take long to realize that Christ promised completely the opposite.
We are actually promised that this life will be filled with suffering, hardships, and dying to ourselves and our earthly desires. If we do not reframe our thinking to view our circumstances through the eyes of the incredible blessings and assurances we have in Christ, we will quickly question God’s goodness and love when earthly “blessings” seem to fall on everyone but us.
Unlike much of the world, Christians in the West are often so accustomed to comfort and wealth that we have an incredibly low tolerance for pain and inconvenience. That means we must work extra hard at keeping the truth of who we are, what we deserve, and the true blessings that we have in Christ before us at all times.
Christ can reshape our entitled perspectives through the power of his Word and the Holy Spirit. This will also prepare and equip us for the trials, disappointments, and overwhelming circumstances that we are guaranteed to face as we travel the road set apart for the gospel.
So this Thanksgiving, as we discuss all we are thankful for, let’s freshly remind ourselves of how blessed we are from the truth of God’s Word.
1. We are blessed because of spiritual blessings that far outweigh any earthly blessings.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… (Ephesians 1:3)
No matter what we receive or don’t receive in the temporal form, we have been given every blessing through the complete work of Christ – his righteousness, resources, privilege, position, and power. But he often works these spiritual blessings into our lives through circumstances that most people would not consider to be blessings. Some of the greatest spiritual blessings of my life have come through undesired earthly circumstances.
2. We are blessed because we will receive the riches, blessings, and very nature of Christ.
…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:4-6)
Could there be a greater blessing than this?! If you are in Christ, you have been chosen before the foundation of the world to be adopted as a beloved son or daughter of the King through Jesus Christ. Chosen and loved, we are blessed beyond measure as we are being made holy through his undeserved grace. There is no greater blessing than this!
3. We are blessed because we are redeemed and forgiven, receiving the riches of his grace.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:7-10)
The greatest blessing God can bestow on us is helping us to see our need for Christ, then growing in us an increasing spiritual understanding of the gospel. Out of love, he sometimes does this through circumstances that take away the desired earthly blessings we are prone to seek, replacing them with the greater blessing of knowing him more.
4. We are blessed because we have a guaranteed inheritance.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:11-12)
Buying your dream house, restoring your health, and experiencing loss and trials in this life all begin to pale in comparison as we grasp the eternal inheritance that we are guaranteed as a child of God. Our citizenship will be in the new Jerusalem, an unshakable, secure, and eternal kingdom (Revelation 3:12, 21).
Let’s fix our eyes on the incredible inheritance that we are guaranteed whenever we start grieving over what we’ve lost, when we long for things to be made right, and when we groan in these earthly bodies. If that remains our focus, we will never have a reason to despair. The grieving we experience on earth will make our eternal inheritance all the more beautiful!
On the other hand, because we have far more more blessings than we realize, we can become complacent. If you see this in yourself, go to the Lord in repentance and ask him to stir up your heart with a greater zeal for him than for comfort. Time is short and we do not want to be found asleep! So boldly pray for Christ to do what he must to set your heart ablaze for him. For those who feel weary from a season of loss and pain, remember that because of the gospel, our greater blessing is the holiness and character that Christ is working in us. So press on!
The Testimony of Blessing
I have grown to see that my precious child with special needs, my chronic illness, my children’s health issues, the slow loss of my ability to walk, our financial struggles, and the loss of many of my earthly comforts (though I am still far more comfortable than the majority of the world) have been some of God’s greatest blessings in my life. He has used them to pour out spiritual blessings that have been far more precious than I ever would have known to seek or desire on my own.
Yes, brother or sister, we are blessed. In Christ, we are loved, chosen, redeemed, forgiven, freed, sanctified, and promised an eternal inheritance with all the riches, glories, and character of our Savior. For the glory of God, we are blessed. May we all proclaim how truly blessed we are as we see Christ working himself more deeply in us, even through circumstances that may seem far from being blessings.
For it is better to be desperately poor and weak in the eyes of the world and eternally blessed in the glory of Christ, than to be abundantly blessed in earthly measures and found naked and poor before the judgement seat of Christ.
How have you been blessed in Christ? Comment with some ways that you’ve seen God working his spiritual blessings despite hardship and trials.
In Christ, Sarah Walton