There is a trap that it is very easy for Christians to fall into. It is really so subtle that it is almost universally pronounced and few try to claw their way out of it. It is the contention that Christianity is supposed to have benefits for this life. We call them blessings.
When you become a Christian, you life will become peaceful. Or we challenge people to obediently tithe in order to receive a material blessing. Follow Christian principles to have a blessed marriage. Raise your children in the way they should go and they will turn out the way you want. On and on an on we could go.
Problem is, that is not what Jesus promised. Nor it is the experience of almost every Christian who has lived. The stones hit Stephen. Peter and Paul were martyred. John lived a hard life imprisoned on an island. Life is hard. This world, in almost every facet, rebels against the Christ follower’s presence here. Sure, some Christians do experience rich material and emotional blessings, but those are the exceptions – God’s choice – but not intended to be held up as the rule of our lives.
If you’ve been discouraged in your life with Christ, maybe it is because you are holding onto some expectations that by following God, you are supposed to have some benefit that sets you apart.
I’ve recounted in early blog posts this line of thinking describes my expectations of God before my affair. If I was good enough, God will make everything right. And give me what I want. While the things I wanted were “spiritual”, they were as unhealthy as if I expected a million dollars to fall from the sky. That was an exhausting way to think. No blessing? Things not working out? Try harder.
Today I had the most amazing realization. The latest mile marker on my journey of trust and strength. My heart has been leaping with delight all day. I’ve been inching along toward this for awhile and I know I’ll still battle this after declaring it, but lots of pieces fell into place today.
Jesus IS the blessing. Not any potential interventions God can make in your life. Not financial security. Not a harmonious marriage. Not a fulfilling job. Not healthy kids. Not, not, not, not…. Those are not THE blessing we are promised, Jesus is.
Jesus says of himself that he is the way, the truth and the life. Get that?
Jesus is our life. Not Jesus plus something else. Just Jesus. Jesus is the blessing. He is my identity. Everything must flow from my identity in Christ. He is the living water that flows forth from within me.
Tomorrow I am going with my 10 year old daughter to St. Augustine. A city that was founding by a guy looking for the fountain of youth. A flow of water that would give eternal youth. Good ole Ponce looked everywhere outside himself for this fountain. He should have looked inward. Jesus is the fountain. Jesus is the blessing.
I told my wife today, with all seriousness, that because of her I am the luckiest man in the world. God loved me enough to give her to me. Without our relationship, I would have had a harder road having my heart transformed to know Jesus is my blessing. From that I also know that I am called to show her how loved she is in order to understand God’s love for her. I am to lovingly serve her and be a blessing as Christ is to me. Yes, that’s written in Ephesians, but it is now more than words, it has meaning beyond what is written.
Another example, you can’t start with the product, you have to start with the identity.
Jesus is the blessing. Amen.