“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us . . .” – Psalm 90:17a
Do you know that you’re one of God’s favorite kids? It’s true! He loves each of us as if we were the only person in the world.
I think I hear some of you asking, “If God loves me so much, why is my life so hard?” It’s a fair question.
First, know we cannot earn God’s favor, and there is no mantra or magic that will manipulate God into blessing us. But there are some specific things he requires of those who want to experience “favored child” status.
It has to do with the way we live.
“. . . the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11b). There are many statements in the Bible that tell us God blesses those who are righteous. They love him, love other people, live wisely, and try to do his will. When we live God’s way, his presence and provision will bless us – even when (maybe especially when) there are problems we face.
It has to do with the way we think.
“. . . to the humble he gives favor” -(Proverbs 3:34b). It takes humility to admit we can’t do anything on our own – that we depend on God for everything – including his favor. Those who are most humble are most blessed.
We can’t coerce God into blessing us. But right living and right thinking will position us to look for it. To ask for it. And to receive it with thanksgiving. We stand in desperate need of God’s favor. Let’s live his way in readiness to receive.
“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” – Brennan Manning
“Blessed are the people . . . who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, who exult in your name all the day. . .” – Psalm 89:15-16a
Would you like God to be gracious to you? To lead you? To teach you truth? If we love him, we want that, right? The Bible is filled with verses that tell us the path to these blessings is for us to keep God in the front of our thoughts all the time. Here are just two examples:
“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” Psalm 25:5
“You keep covenant with your servants and show them grace, provided they live in your presence with all their heart.” (1Kings 8:23b)
So how can we live our busy lives and still constantly connect with God? Sometimes our minds have to be otherwise engaged, so I try to take advantage of times when when I’m walking or doing things like cleaning, driving, or preparing meals. For those of you who garden, it’s a perfect time for conversations with your Creator.
When we keep him in our thoughts with intention at these times, we will find the Holy Spirit within us carries on the connection even when our minds are doing something else. Then when we finish our conversation with someone or put the project down, the Spirit gently draws us back into awareness of God’s presence. We can trust him to do that.
A unique blessing comes to us when we sense God’s nearness all day long.
“We have the ability and the responsibility to keep God present in our minds, and those who do so will make steady progress toward him for he will respond by making himself known to us.” – Dallas Willard
. . . they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.”– Mark 10:49
Imagine being blind in a world where there’s no economic safety net. Every day someone leads you to a spot on the road where people pass by. You call out when you hear them coming, just hoping someone will have mercy and give you a coin or two. Imagine that life day after day. No change. Nothing to look at. Unthinkable boredom. No hope. Then you hear of Jesus and his miracles. Maybe, just maybe, he would give you more than a coin and everything would change!
When blind Bartimaeus heard Jesus was on his way to Jericho, he was determined to get his attention. So, he shouted, begging Jesus to stop, to be merciful, to respond to his need. He was so obnoxious that people around him asked him to quiet down. But Jesus heard his cry and spoke to some who were nearby, “Call him.” They went over to Bartimaeus and gave him this amazing message, “Take heart. Get up. He is calling you.”
Bartimaeus got to his feet and allowed the men to lead him to Jesus where his life was changed in an instant. He could see! No more need for someone to lead him by the hand. No more need to beg in order to survive. No more mind-numbing existence sitting alongside the road. New life began the moment he met Jesus.
Where are you in life today? Jesus hears your cry and he’s calling you. He asks that you take heart, get up, and come to him. Only he can change your life!
“Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.” – Augustine of Hippo
“However many blessings we expect from God, his infinite liberality will always exceed our wishes and our thoughts.” – John Calvin
On a recent trip to a South Asian country, my hustand and I attended worship services in a language we couldn’t understand. What we did understand, though, was the loving hearts of parents who brought us their children, asking that we pray for them. They trusted our prayers would be heard and their children would be blessed.
When Jesus was here on earth, there were mothers and fathers who brought their young ones to him for the same reason. If you are a parent, you understand. Who would not want his/her child to be blessed by God?
I remember, years ago now, sitting in the rocking chair, soothing my babies to sleep and praying over their fuzzy heads that God would bless them. I’m sure many of you have done the same. You know what? We can still bring our children to Jesus for blessing even if they’re not babies anymore
One of my favorite signs of God’s blessing was on his own Son – no longer a child, but all grown up. Can you imagine the joy in Jesus’ heart when he heard from heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased”? As a young man, Jesus was experiencing his father’s blessing because he was was making him proud.
God doesn’t stop blessing us just because we’re grown up. We’re still his kids! So, let’s not stop asking for God to bless our children. And let’s ask him to bless us, too. We never outgrow our need for his goodness toward us.
“Give thanks to him and bless his name! For the Lord is good, his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” – Psalm 100:4b-5
“We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” – Psalm 33:21-22
Sometimes when we pray or read the Bible, we think we’re doing God a favor. Don’t get me wrong, he loves it when we spend time with him – he wants to be the focus of our attention. But I’ve found he always gives me so much more than I give him!
Then throughout the day, when I stop to think about God, offer a short prayer, or remember a verse or phrase from the Bible, it’s as if I’ve opened up a pipeline to heaven through which he sends blessings. The most common one, for me, is joy. But there are others:
a sense of his presence
peace, knowing he has everything under control, even when I don’t
a new idea for a problem I’ve been wrestling with
or reassurance of his desire to be working for my good
He’s waiting to do all that for you, too. I think you already know that!
Our Father in heaven wants to be in daily, hourly relationship with us. He is always there, always ready. Stopping to engage with him is our responsibility. When we do, he responds. And our needs are met, sometimes needs we didn’t even know we had. Those moments become sparks of joy that brighten our entire day.
So, no matter how busy we are, let’s pause often to remember the one who waits for us to turn to him. His smile will be worth the pause!
“When I remember to pause, blessings appear. I break for blessings.” – Macrina Wiederkehr
“Consider what great things he has done for you.” – 1 Samuel 12:24b
What do you see when you look at the image on the left? That’s easy, isn’t it? It’s a black dot. But wait, there’s more. There’s also the white background and that is a far greater proportion of the image than the black dot is, right?
What’s the black dot in your life? When you aren’t focused on something else, where does your mind go? The broken relationship? The child with a troubled spirt? The job that’s a continuing frustration? The bad choice you made? Financial pressures? The habit that controls you? We all tend to have a black dot – something that keeps life from being perfect or, sometimes, even happy.
Maybe we need to spend more time looking at the white background! What is good in our lives? What has God already done for us? Make a list. Do you have friends, family, health, resources, skills? Do you get to look at clouds, sunsets, wonders of creation? Can you see? Hear? Touch? Smell? Taste? Do you have something to hope for? Someone who loves you? Someone to love? Can you enjoy music, reading, cooking, or eating? Do you have a bed with warm blankets, a roof to keep out the rain? All of that is what we should see first – not the black dot!
God is in control. He is loving, good, wise, and kind. Maybe the distracting situation will always be there, but God’s goodness gives us much more to turn our minds toward. When we do that, just maybe we can trust him with that black dot!
“The greater your knowledge of the goodness and grace of God on your life, the more likely you are to praise Him in the storm.” – Matt Chandler
“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. – Psalm 139:5
If I were in Jesus’ sandals in the 1st Century, I might have been a bit more organized. For example, I would’ve had all the demon-possessed move to one side of the beach and all the sick and disabled on the other. Then I would’ve cast out all the demons with just one prayer, turning my attention to the sick with an instant healing for all. Jesus could have left this earth with every disease in Israel healed. But he didn’t.
He had his own way: Choosing to heal, forgive, and free from bondage – person-by-person. Even the bleeding woman who touched Jesus secretly was called out so he could look her in the eye, commend her faith, and tell her to go in peace. He actually permitted an argument from the Syro-Phoenician woman and engaged in conversations about requests for others with Jairus and the Roman Centurion.
Then there was the paralytic let down through the roof, blind Bartimaeus, the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda – these were all relational, eye-to-eye encounters. Jesus was doing more than healing: He was fixing the brokenness that didn’t show on the outside.
You and I have some of those kinds of needs, too – the ones inside that we hide, don’t really want to deal with, or maybe just don’t realize we have. Jesus knows all of it and hears our prayers. But he responds in ways that give us what we really need – sometimes what we ask for, often something even better. With Jesus it’s always personal.
“I need to show Jesus my brokenness – show Him my wounds – and let Him touch them. Let Him cradle my heart in His hands and say, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.’.”*
” . . . the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” – Psalm 84:11b
I don’t like self-denial. It may relate to how I use time, spend money, or express opinions, but most of the time I want to have what I want, when I want it.
So when I read Jesus’ words, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23), I cringed inside. I wanted to follow Him, but daily self-denial just sounded hard.
Then I read John Piper’s teaching in his book Desiring God, and my view about self-denial began to change dramatically. According to Piper, the biblical concept of self-denial is letting go of the lesser good so we can grab onto the greater good. When I started to look at it that way, I realized Jesus’ demand for self-denial was for my benefit, not His! I understood that I deny myself, not to make Him happy with me, but to allow Him to do greater things with me. Greater than I can do if I follow my natural instincts.
It makes sense in other areas of life: I choose to workout, denying myself an hour on the couch, because I value health more than rest. I deny myself a frivolous expense because I am saving for something really special later. Spiritually, it makes sense, too. We deny ourselves what we want humanly so we can receive what God wants for us supernaturally – things that are better for us than whatever we give up. Maybe it’s not self-denial at all!
“To become like Christ is the only thing in the world worth caring for, the thing before which every ambition is folly, and all lower achievements vain.” – Henry Drummond
“Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.” – Psalm 112:4
Sometimes we labor in prayer, pleading with God for answers to pressing issues, waiting anxiously to see what He will do.
At other times, we simply mention something to Him, and He seems to respond – maybe just because we brought it up. For unexplainable reasons, God has chosen to use our prayers to change things in our world. And on some amazing occasions, He uses our prayers to bring blessings to others.
When God told Abraham he and Sarah would have a son, Abraham laughed because he was 99 years old and Sarah was 90! Not seeing how God could pull this one off, Abraham suggested his son Ishmael be the chosen one instead. But God made it clear that the new baby would be born and this son would be the one to carry on the covenant between God and Abraham.
God doesn’t stop there. He says, “. . . as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him. . .” (Genesis 17:20a). We know God had a plan for Ishmael, too, but I love that He seemed to respond specifically to Abraham’s concern. It’s almost as if God said, “I will bless him because you asked.”
Doesn’t that motivate you to ask? It does me. If we’re concerned about some person or situation, God wants to hear about it. Sometimes He gives us peace while we wait and sometimes He intervenes just because we thought it was important enough to talk to Him about. He allows us and our prayers to be the conduit of His blessing to others. What a privilege. What a responsibility! Let’s pray more.
“When we experience the love of God, we feel possibilities for newness on every side.”– Lewis Smedes
Has God ever answered one of your prayers in a way that changed your circumstances or your heart?
Has the Holy Spirit ever highlighted a passage of Scripture so you saw it in an entirely new way and that insight was just what you needed that day?
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a mess and then realized God had been preparing you for this situation well in advance of its coming?
“Thank God. . . Tell the whole world who he is and what he’s done! . .” – from 1 Chronicles 16:8-9 (MSG)
If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions or others that may be similar, here’s the last question: Have you told anyone?
I am becoming convinced that our personal experience of God’s blessing is not just for us. It is meant to benefit others as well, but if we don’t tell them, they won’t know. Many times I feel cautious about sharing what God is teaching me or how He is leading or blessing me because I am afraid it will look like spiritual bragging and I don’t want to be seen as proud or overly pious.
Then I realized that keeping quiet about what He does for me is keeping Him from being glorified. And it may be keeping others from being blessed. So, let’s share with each other what God is doing in our lives. Your story may be just what someone else needs to hear today.
It is both exciting and humbling to be in relationship with the living God. It’s even better when we enjoy Him together!
“Humility means reveling in his grace, not our goodness.” – John Piper