How do you measure God's blessings? Some say we are blessed to have good health; others say, financial security; still others, a loving family. People who cannot have children would feel very blessed if that infertility was suddenly reversed. People who are homeless would consider themselves blessed to have a roof over their head and food on their table. Those who work hard and see success in their chosen field, might consider that success a blessing from God. The Old Testament gives examples of people who were blessed by God in a material way. Abraham was promised land and many offspring. Solomon was given majesty and royal splendor and more riches than we can imagine. Job was the wealthiest man around, with ten children and good health.

But there are other examples of people like Jeremiah who was persecuted for preaching truth, David who spent many years living in caves, running for his life, and Joseph who went from favored prince to foreign slave. Which of these men were blessed of God?

In the New Testament the focus of blessing is more often spiritual. Believers are given gifts, particularly the gift of the Holy Spirit and the fruit that the Spirit produces in us - love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faith, self control. And the promise of spiritual blessings in heavenly places that are beyond anything we could ask or imagine.

Does that mean God never blesses in a material way today? Is one kind of blessing better than the other? We would be remiss to say God no longer gives good things to those who love Him. He gives good things (material) to all creation by sending the rain to water the earth, to sustain life, even to those who hate Him. And He gives good things (spiritual) - things we can only measure in our hearts - to those who seek Him.

But what about those times when God says no? When He does not give or bless as we request? What of the people who are not healthy, who fight disease or handicaps all of their life? What of those living in abject poverty from which they can never escape? Or those who have poured their life into chasing a dream they believe God put in their heart but they never see it succeed? Are they less blessed? Does God love them less?

Taking from one of the Old Testament examples: Job was given abundant material blessings and his actions pleased the Lord. He spoke well of God and honored Him for all He had done for him. And then one day the material blessings ceased. God allowed Satan to wipe them away - his possessions, his success, his safety, his children, his health. He could not understand what was happening to him, why he should somehow have fallen out of God's favor. Through human eyes, he appeared to be cursed rather than blessed.

Yet God spoke to him through his misery and shared with Job some of the most beautiful, profound truths ever spoken of in Scripture. No other book in the Bible reveals such a long dialogue between God and any other human being. The conversation was kind of like an intimate lecture, as a father might speak to a son who had questioned his decisions, who didn't understand the bigger picture.

I think, in a way, we underestimate what it means to be blessed of God. We are blessed most of all, to know Him. He is our blessing, our very great reward. To know Him, the Creator of the universe, is a privilege beyond comparison. It is not wrong to thank Him or honor Him for the material goodness we enjoy. Scripture gives plenty of evidence to show that these things do come from His hand. But if those things are absent, it is not evidence of God's displeasure. It is only evidence that we cannot understand the bigger picture.

The Apostle Paul stated that he wanted to know Him (Christ) and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings becoming like Him in His death. The blessing of knowing Christ comes at a great cost - the cost of our very lives.

We may wish for more material blessings as we walk this earth, but I think we also need to keep in mind that our lives do not consist of the things we possess. Our worth does not depend on what we own or what we lack. Our worth does not depend on our success. God loves us and values us in spite of these things. The greatest blessing of God to us is Himself.


PersonalJill Eileen Smith