Blessed. One word, used by believers and unbelievers, it describes one’s current status in life. Such indiscriminate usage suggests that either we are people who are truly grateful for the Lord’s work or we have no understanding of the word at all. A simple observation of its usage by people should reveal that a legitimate comprehension of the word is not grasped by most people.
Even as I write this article, I cannot claim a deep knowledge of not just the word, but of what it means to be blessed. The New Testament uses the word in a variety of ways to give us context for such a word. It is in the Old Testament’s usage of it that we find a deep theology of blessing exists. While I would love to spend time developing this more there is a specific aspect I find myself dwelling upon for consideration today. The over-usage of the word ‘blessing’ suggests the need for a reformation in our awareness and appreciation of the word.
A reformation in our awareness and appreciation of the word must begin with a right grasp of the word’s meaning in today’s culture. The phrase “I am blessed” is usually understood to mean God has shown favor on me by giving me material things. This is not to say that it is not used in other ways, nor does this imply that believers who use the phrase don’t have the right heart attitude towards God. However, it demonstrates our fixation on the physical, the temporal, and the material with less regard for the more important eternal.
I once had a professor say that a simplistic description of blessing is ‘to add value to” (1). While there is much more to blessing that can be added, I like this simplistic explanation because it provides a good foundation for the significance of the word. Our life is blessed when value is added to it.
With such a description, certainly material wealth and things are not excluded as blessings. However, we often neglect something important. If it comes from God, it is always a blessing. In fact, for a blessing to be legitimately defined as such, it must come from God.
That means the greatest triumphs and the greatest trials are significant blessings for Christians (see James 1:2-12). It means having life is a blessing. The list could continue forevermore. This type of focus though misses and added dimension.
Reading in The Valley of Vision, one Puritan prayer titled “The All-Good” says this:
“. . . blessedness does not lie so much in receiving good from and in thee, but in holding forth thy glory and virtue.”
Blessing comes not from what we are given, but in the fact that we are able to be part of and reflect God’s glory and virtue.
This is why it is said that blessing comes in giving more than receiving (see Acts 20:35) because it is an opportunity to reflect God. It is with this mindset that Paul can also write in Ephesians 1:3, that God has blessed us (believers) with every spiritual blessing through Jesus Christ.
Such an understanding transforms our comprehension of blessing. No longer is it focused merely on us, but it becomes focused on God. To look at blessing any other way undermines the true value of God and His provision of life.
Certainly we should continue to give thanks to God for what He provides for us. However, we should look at those material blessings as opportunities that can be used to reflect God’s glory. Then they are indeed true blessings. Blessings are not defined as such because of what it is, but because of who they are from and how they reflect Him.
(1) This definition came from Dr. Steven Boyd at The Master’s College in 2014.