Seeing the Blessing
Blessings in Store for God’s People1
Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness,
you that seek the Lord.
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
and to the quarry from which you were dug.
Look to Abraham your father
and to Sarah who bore you;
for he was but one when I called him,
but I blessed him and made him many.
For the Lord will comfort Zion;
he will comfort all her waste places,
and will make her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the Lord;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song.
Woes to Unrepentant Cities2
Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum,
will you be exalted to heaven?
No, you will be brought down to Hades.
For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.” “
Those who do not face doubts of God’s existence still often face the challenge of seeing and believing in God’s blessing on their lives. Unlike some proponents of the Prosperity Gospel, which encourages us to look to the future, and occasionally the present for blesssing, the Bible encourages us to start in our past. That sometimes does not seem typical of the way our practices usually encourage us to leave our past behind and press forward into the present and future. However, God does not want us to neglect the blessings He has already given us.
This again, is connected to John Wesley’s Prevenient Grace that draws us into an ever-growing relationship with God. God’s grace reaches out to us before we take any steps toward Him. Rather than waiting for, or even actively looking for something in the present that is substantial enough to move us beyond our own doubt, it is often helpful to remember the ways God has already shaped out lives for the better, and realistically, we all have quite a bit to choose from in that regard. Our very creation was a gift from God we continue to enjoy. The salvation we receive because He sent Jesus to live, serve, suffer, and die for our sins is another. The redemption we experience in the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit is yet a third, and each one of these touch us in unique ways.
We receive blessing indirectly as well. Isaiah encouraged the Israelites to remember the touch of God in Abraham’s life that they were still enjoying in his day. That blessing challenged their unfaithfulness, and even more, their lack of thanksgiving to God. This was magnified 500 years later when Jesus was preaching in Nazareth. The townsfolk though to run him out of town, and possible kill Him then and there… all because Jesus would not perform miracles on command. Instead, He pointed to their past and exhorted them to begin to be grateful for those great blessings they already had, or else they could expect no more from a God who could not even get a thank you.
Gratitude really is the key to this. A heart that cannot be grateful now, for what it has already received, is not likely to be grateful later on down the road. One of the best historical examples of this is the Jesuit priest, St. Ignatius. He developed a series of exercises that were designed to draw us closer to God. Part of that initial work was taking time daily to recognize where we have experienced God’s love. In a reflective, yet subtly behavioral approach, Ingatius sought to re-orient ourselves around the habit of thanksgiving daily. The more often we seek out God’s blessing, especially in our past, the more we will be able to see there, as well as in our present.
Where have you experienced the blessing of God in your past?
What part of that affects your life today?