Have you ever noticed that the blessings the Bible speaks of are often in a series of If/Then statements or inferred If/Then statements? I admit that I'm guilty of getting impatient and just wanting to jump to the blessing. I want the beautiful blessing before I put in the elbow grease of obedience.
It's easy to want to pluck the blessing out of context from the scripture that preceeds or follows it.
Personally, I have been praying, earnestly, for a blessing in my own life. I've been praying for reconcilliation with my two adult children. I know that what I'm praying for is in accordance with God's will, but I got a little too focused on the result or outcome. I zoomed in on the blessing, and lost sight of the "If" part of God's promise.
I memorized this verse as a child in the KJV, and God has brought it back to mind.
But, seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)
You see, I was focused on the blessing: "All these things shall be added unto you." I'd forgotten the inferred "If."
"If" you seek first the kingdom of God - I needed to focus less on the outcome I desired, and instead, focus solely on seeking God. I needed to get my sights so fixed on God that I couldn't see anything else. I needed to be seeking His presence and obeying His word and not concerning myself with the "Then" part of the promise.
If I seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; then all these things shall be added unto me.
The "Then" is up to God and His sovereign timing. My "If" job is to seek Him first and foremost.
Another favorite "blessing verse" is sometimes taken out of context. This popular verse is often quoted on graduation cards and, again, we are apt to focus on the blessing without including the obedience piece.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)
What an awesome promise of blessing. I'll take one order of that blessing, please! But let's back up to scripture that leads up to this promise, and scripture that follows it. There are some "If's" involved:
Jeremiah 11: 4b: "(If) you obey me , and do everything I command you, (then) you will be my people and I will be your God...I will give you a land flowing with milk and honey..."
Jeremiah 18:8: "If the nation about which I have made the announcement turns from its evil, (then) I will relent concerning the disaster I had planned to do to it."
These are the If/Then statements leading up to the big blessing in Jeremiah 29:11. God is telling His beloved people that "If" they obey Him "then" He will be their God and give them a future in the land of milk and honey.
Furthermore, "If" they turn from their evil ways and obey Him, He will relent on taking out His wrath on them for their disobedience.
Now, let's look at the giant "If" that follows the "then" blessing of Jeremiah 29:11. When we read further after the oft quoted verse we learn that God says:
If you call to me and come and pray to me...when you seek me and search for me with all your heart...then I will prosper you - giving you a hope and a future. I will restore your fortunes and I will restore you to the place (Jerusalem) from which I deported you. (Paraphrase of Jeremiah 29: 12-14)
There are literally hundreds of "If/Then" promises in the Bible. God is pretty reasonable and just, when you get right down to it. Obedience leads to blessing. It's a straightforward formula.
Thankfully and mercifully for us, there is one blessing that doesn't require obedience so much as it requires acceptance. The "Then" comes before the "If."
Here's what I am talking about...
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Here, God gives us the unfathomable gift and blessing of salvation. There is no "If" that preceeds it. The blessing comes first and then God asks us the crucial question after the blessing has been given...will you accept my gift and blessing?
God is still in the business of bestowing blessings, but He does require obedience and He does ask us to repent and turn from our evil ways. In many ways, our world demands and expects blessings, but has forgotten how to obey our Creator. I believe revival is necessary and it won't begin until Christ-followers take a stand.
What will you answer the next time someone asks out loud, "How did our world get to be this way? What can we do?" Will you answer...
Now, more than ever, the world needs to hear voices of faith, in a palette of beautiful colors, rising in unity. With our eyes on the eternal prize, let us tell the world why we have the abiding joy that the world can't extinguish, even with every flaming arrow of evil it shoots at us.
This is a battle being fought on the spiritual battlefield. We know Who conquers evil in the end. Let that give us confidence and courage to proclaim Christ's gospel of love and peace to a world desperate for hope.
We can harness the blessing, if we simply obey God.
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