American Christianity has a skewed view of blessing, which leads to errant views regarding struggle and suffering. “Blessing” in the American context is living a healthy, trouble-free life in a large home, with expensive cars, and plenty of money in the bank account.
Yet when you study “blessing” in its biblical context these comforts are noticeably absent. Instead, what you find is that the state of “blessedness” stems from an individual’s relationship with God. Then as that relationship is cultivated, we experience the blessing of God’s presence in our lives. Let’s take a moment to consider the biblical theology of true blessing, beginning in Romans 4:
“Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Rom. 4:7-8).
First off, blessing in a person’s life is tied directly into experiencing God’s forgiveness. I have often said that if the only thing God ever gave me was salvation (the forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life), then I would have more than enough reason to praise Him for all eternity. So, from a biblical standpoint, if you are a child of God—one whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered—then you are supremely blessed.
Yet, for those who know Christ as Savior, we recognize that God’s blessing does not end the moment we place our trust in Him. In fact, we could say that salvation is just the starting point of a “blessing explosion” in our lives. Blessing is poured out upon us because we are tied into the “Blessed One.”
Interestingly, the term “blessed” is applied to God Himself. Take note of some of the verses which express this reality:
“According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (1 Tim 1:11)
“…until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen” (1 Tim 6:14b-16)
God is supremely “blessed” because He exists in a state of complete joy and rest. (Just as a note, this study focuses upon the Greek word “makarios” which denotes the concept of a blessed “happiness” or “contentment.” There is another Greek word [“eulogetos”] that is often translated “blessed” that communicates the idea of “praise” [as seen in Eph 1:3; 2 Cor 1:3 etc.]).
The question we now need to wrestle with is: “What does God’s blessing look like in my life?” Let me prepare you ahead of time—the answer will contradict much of contemporary preaching on “blessing.” In fact, a predominant theme is actually suffering and persecution. Of course, a great place to begin our inquiry is in the Beatitudes:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:3-5).
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt 5:10-12).
James, who relies heavily upon Jesus’ teachings, offers a similar evaluation:
“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12).
Another emphasis of “blessing” is placed upon those who hear God’s Word and keep it:
“And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it” (Luke 11:27-28).
“But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:25).
Blessing is reserved for those who express faith in Jesus Christ and gain entrance into God’s kingdom:
“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Rev 22:14).
“Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God” (Luke 14:15).
“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Rev 20:6).
And finally, in contrast to much of the preaching in modern-day America, blessing comes when we give rather than when we take:
“I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
I hope this “theology” of blessing will open your eyes to what is of genuine spiritual value. To know Christ is to know the fullness of God’s blessing. In Part Two of this article I will make specific applications of this truth to our lives. Our focus will be how to understand God’s blessings in light of the suffering we face. But, let me say, if you have never come to faith in Christ, you cannot possibly know God’s blessing. Even if you have health, and experience material prosperity, you hold nothing of lasting value. True blessing comes when we acknowledge our Creator-God as our Savior and experience His forgiveness. Turn to Christ and experience eternal rest, happiness and blessing.
2 Replies to “A Theology of Blessing and Suffering”
Thank you Pastor Tim. I don’t know where I would be or what I would do if it were not for the love of GOD!
Yes, we would have no hope or strength to stand. I know you have experienced God’s grace over these past few months. We pray God will continue to uphold you and your family!