Episode 1. Why Don’t I Receive Blessing?
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Have you ever heard someone talking about God’s blessing and thought “Well, I’m not sure He’s blessed me much yet, or … I don’t think so! I don’t think it’s right to ask God to bless …
Have you ever heard someone talking about God’s blessing and thought “Well, I’m not sure He’s blessed me much yet, or … I don’t think so! I don’t think it’s right to ask God to bless me, isn’t that selfish?” If you have, then you need to discover that God wants to bless you!
Well, if you were able to join me last week on the programme, you’ll know that we chatted about the prayer of Jabez. What an amazing little prayer that some unknown guy, tucked away in the middle of nine chapters of something as boring as genealogy, prayed. Here it is again:
Jabez was honoured more than his brothers. And his mother named him Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, ‘O, that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from hurt and harm.’ And God granted him what he asked. (1 Chronicles 4:9-10)
It’s quite an astounding little prayer for a couple of reasons: The first is because on the surface of things it appears to be entirely selfish; and second, because despite that, God granted him what he asked for. So, either God is in the business of answering selfish self-serving prayers or there’s something else going on here.
And as I said at the beginning of the program, there are plenty of people who believe in Jesus who haven’t really experienced a whole bunch of blessing in their lives. Well, perhaps that’s not quite true. Let me rephrase that … there are plenty of people who believe in Jesus who don’t feel particularly blessed; that’s probably more to the point.
It seems we’re pretty good at ignoring the blessings that God gives us. You know, the basics; our health, the air that we breathe, the food that’s provided for us, the roof over our heads, our family, our friends, our job. Of course, not everybody listening today has all of those things. In fact (as I often say), there are more people listening in to this program today who live in poverty. Many of them are in war zones than there are wealthy people living in the western developed nations.
But whoever we are, wherever we are, we all have some blessings to be thankful for. It’s just that we ignore those and we want this and we want that in our lives. And when we don’t get those, we figure that God mustn’t be in the business of blessing me.
And when I suggest to people that they should ask for God’s blessing, I get this response like, ‘No, no, no, that wouldn’t be right. I can’t impose on God like that’. Part of that is because we’ve all probably heard that ‘God wants to make you rich’ distortion of the Gospel and we’ve rejected that. Rightly so, I couldn’t agree more.
But let me take you back to Jabez. He (as we’ve read) didn’t have the best sort of start in life. With a name like Jabez which literally meant ‘pain’ but at some point he decided enough was enough. It was time to ask God for His blessing and he did and God answered him with a great big fat yes.
Here’s how Jesus put it to His disciples. You can read it in John 16:23-24. He said:
Truly, I tell you if you ask anything of the Father in my name he will give it to you. Until now you haven’t asked for anything in my name, ask and you will receive so that your joy may be complete.
This isn’t the only time He says that, by the way. Quite a number times Jesus said, “ask and you will receive”. Why is that? Is Jesus promoting selfishness? Let’s stop and think about that.
If a child goes to its mother or father and asks for help (asks them to do something for them), will the parent grant their request or not? I’m a dad. Let me tell you how it works. I want to bless each of my children. Sometimes though, they ask selfishly, or they’re behaving badly (well, not often these days because they’re all grown-up, but back when they were kids), and on those occasions, I would withhold my blessing. But if they came to me and asked me for something good for the right reason, I couldn’t wait to bless them! It’s just what I wanted to do, because I love them.
Now, the Bible talks about asking for God’s blessing for the wrong reason. Have a listen. James 4:2-3:
You did not have because you did not ask. You asked and you didn’t receive because you asked wrongly in order to spend what you gained on your pleasures.
So God’s just like any father. He’ll bless whenever He can but not when we ask selfishly with the wrong motives. The point is … it’s a point that Jesus made over and over again … that He does want us to ask and to ask and to ask, believing that He rewards those who do because He’s the best Dad in the universe and He wants to bless you. He really does.
Now you may look at your life (at the moment) at the one difficult situation that’s confronting you right now. And doubt deep in your heart that God actually wants to bless you. Let’s say, you have a totally, completely and utterly intractable issue going on in your marriage. You and your wife (or your husband as the case may be), are drifting apart. And you simply can’t see how it’s going to work out for the good. You just can’t seem to get on the same page as each other even though you’ve tried everything in the book. Okay, you’re not perfect and you’ve tried everything, EVERYTHING. You’ve prayed over it and God hasn’t shown up. Well, here’s the answer – believe that God wants you to ask. Believe that God wants to bless you. Take Jesus absolutely at His word, claim the Word of God for yourself because God means it for you.
Literally, ask and receive that your joy may be complete. That’s what Jesus is saying to you right now. They are not my words. They are not the empty hollow promises of a prosperity doctrine preacher. These are the very Words of Jesus:
Ask and receive that your joy may be complete.
Into that difficult, intractable situation, ask over and over again. Pray, knowing that God hears you … that God wants to bless you, and that God (in His absolutely perfect time) will answer you … and don’t stop until He does. I wonder, given that difficult situation you’re going through, whether you’ve prayed that way – faithfully and consistently – day after day for God to do what you cannot do.
I wonder whether you’ve dived into your relationship with God in this real, practical way, and spent times asking Him over and over again because if you haven’t, that’s what He’s waiting for! If you haven’t, that’s exactly what the Bible tells you to do, because God wants to bless you.
We kind of think that praying is a bit like going to McDonalds and ordering a hamburger … you front up at the counter and then ninety seconds later the hamburger pops down the stainless steel chute. But listen, listen to what Jesus says about persisting in prayer, Luke 18:1 to 8.
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘in a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city, there was a widow who kept coming to him saying, ‘grant me justice against my opponent.
For a while he refused but later he said to himself, ‘though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone yet because this widow keeps bothering me I will grant her justice so that she may not wear me out by continually coming and asking’ and the Lord said, ‘listen to what the unjust judge says and will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them and yet when the Son of man comes will he find faith on the earth?
Odd, isn’t it? That He compares God to an unjust judge but He’s making a very strong point here … God wants us to persist in prayer, to badger Him not because He’s mean but because He wants to grow our faith in the process. Because when He grows your faith, through this difficult process of asking over and over again for His blessing (in impossible circumstances), believing that God is going to deliver you in these impossible circumstances, He’s growing you. He’s equipping you with a healthy right sense of dependence on Him.
God’s Word is clear, abundantly clear. God wants to bless you. The question is simply this … will you take Him at His Word or not?