As Christians, we often ask for God’s blessings on our food, our day, our endeavors, and the like. It’s easy to add a request for blessings to our prayers simply because it’s what we do. We say it by rote without really thinking about what it means.
But if we stop and reflect for a moment, we really do need God’s blessings. Our own efforts are never enough to achieve the fruitful, desirable outcome we’re looking for in our lives.
But what exactly is God’s blessing? I believe it’s a manifestation of His grace and mercy in our lives. But it’s also more than that. It’s a sort of multiplying power that takes us beyond what our own efforts can achieve and gives us something greater.
If that definition is correct, then it raises an important point. Although God is able to bless us even when we’re completely unworthy of it (and of course, none of us is ultimately worthy of any of His blessings), very often He blesses those who are giving Him something to bless. Put another way, God blesses faith-filled, obedient action, multiplying the result beyond what we would have accomplished on our own.
In Joshua 17:14-18, we read an interesting exchange that took place between Joshua and the descendants of Joseph:
And the children of Joseph spake unto Joshua, saying, Why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit, seeing I am a great people, forasmuch as the LORD hath blessed me hitherto? And Joshua answered them, If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood country, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, if mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee. And the children of Joseph said, The hill is not enough for us: and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron . . . And Joshua spake . . . saying, Thou art a great people, and hast great power: thou shalt not have one lot only: But the mountain shall be thine . . . for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong.
God had promised to give the land of Canaan to the Israelites, but they were expected to do their part as well. We can see that in a number of passages, including this one in Joshua 17. The Israelites couldn’t sit back and expect God to miraculously drive out the Canaanites with no effort on their part. Could God have chosen to do it that way? Of course. But He didn’t. The Israelites had to do battle for the land. God expected them to act in obedience to what He had called them to do and to put out some effort to achieve the desired result.
Was it that effort on the part of the Israelites that obtained the promise? Not exactly. They couldn’t have accomplished what they did without the blessing of God multiplying their efforts.
Properly viewed, our efforts to pursue God’s promises are an act of faith. And I believe it’s that faith that God wants to see more than our efforts themselves. Our faith sees the promise and motivates us to obey God to do what He calls us to do. This, I think, is the difference between faithful obedience and striving. An attitude of striving says that I have to accomplish everything on my own. An attitude of faith-filled obedience recognizes that we must do our part, but that God is the one who brings the results. Striving worries that it’s never doing enough; faith-filled obedience does its part and rests in God and His faithfulness.
If there’s one area of my life where I want God’s blessing perhaps more than any other, it’s parenting. I know my wife and I don’t have the wisdom, maturity, and personal character to guarantee our children turn out to be faithful followers of Christ. We fail. We make mistakes. We do things we shouldn’t and neglect to do things we should. If our own efforts are all that our children have going for them, who could say what the results would be?
We need God’s blessing. We need God to do the work in our children’s hearts that only He can do. We need His mercy to cover over our mistakes and His grace to multiply the impact of whatever good we might be doing.
I believe it’s God’s desire to see the children of His people grow up and walk in faithfulness to Him. He’s given me and my wife (and every Christian parent) a responsibility to train our children in the way they should go. We need to accept that responsibility and walk in it in faith-filled obedience. But at the same time, we need to cry out for God’s blessing on ourselves and our children. Because without it, our efforts are vain.
“Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
God is looking for faith and obedience in His people. He’s ready to bless. Are we ready to receive it?