What Does Blessed Mean?

What Does Blessed Mean?We all want to be blessed, right? What normal person says to God, “That’s enough blessing for now, thank you.” Of course we want to be blessed, but the popular understanding of being blessed and the Scriptural understanding have drifted apart.

Conventional wisdom assumes God specially favors people who have good health, extravagant wealth, and a position of power. I do not deny that God places His children into positions of wealth or authority, but the presence or absence of wealth and authority do not necessarily correlate with a state of blessedness. Scripture often cautions us against pursuing them.

And, yet, not a day goes by where I do not see some pithy statement or empty prayer on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter that promises wealth and blessings “in Jesus’ name.” I do not deny that Scripture promises abundant life, nor do I deny that we have a fabulous inheritance in Christ. I believe that God will do miraculous things in the lives of the faithful… but for His name’s sake and glory alone.

Blessedness and Kingdom Priorities

From a human point of view, it seems that comfort and provision would indicate God’s favor. However, pious saints live in abject poverty and vile sinners control the welfare of nations. Suffering does not necessarily indicate God’s displeasure anymore than comfort indicate of His favor.

Moreover, we must remember an important detail about the kingdom of God: God’s ways are not like our ways. He doesn’t look on the outside, but searches the heart. To put it another way, kingdom priorities are often paradoxical and what we expect least.* For example:

  1. The first shall be last.
  2. The greatest in the kingdom will be the least.
  3. Christ came to serve, not be served.
  4. He who would lose his life for Christ’s sake will gain it.
  5. Take up your cross daily.
  6. Though we are crucified with Christ, yet we live (not us, but Christ who lives in us).
  7. The kingdom was revealed to “babes” instead of the wise.

These are paradoxical because they turn our conventional, human wisdom on its head. Blessing and blessedness, too, aren’t what we expect.

So, What Does Blessed Mean Anyways?

In the Scriptures listed below, blessed means the happiness that comes from being in an enviable position. This is a good starting point. We all want that enviable state of happiness. Where we become confused is understanding what is truly enviable. As you read through these, take note of what God says about riches, poverty, and happiness.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
-Matthew 5:3-12

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
-Matthew 11:4-6

Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.
-Luke 1:45

So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
-Acts 20:32-35

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.
-Romans 4:7-8

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
-James 1:12

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
-1 Peter 4:12-16

Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”
– Revelation 14:13

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”
-Revelation 19:9

Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
-Revelation 20:6

Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.
-Revelation 22:7

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.
-Revelation 22:14

What Blessed Doesn’t Mean

In all of the passages above, blessed come from the same word in Greek (makarios). This form of blessed occurs 50 times in the New Testament (I have included a link below if you want to see the rest of them). All of these passages speak of those in enviable positions. Interestingly, none of those passages implicitly or explicitly state that earthly wealth or good health is the measure of our “blessedness.” In fact, several passages throughout the Bible speak to the deceitfulness of riches and a comfortable life (to name a few: Ecclesiastes 4:4-85:8-20Luke 12:13-211 Timothy 6James 25:1-6Revelation 3:14-22). So, while God sees fit to enlarge our provisions or to allow us to enlarge our provisions, they are not the measure of kingdom success. How we use them to serve God and love our neighbor as ourselves — that is the measure of kingdom success.

Would We Rather Have Riches or Jesus?

Look again to that passage from 1 Peter 4. Peter drops a massive spoiler on what it really means to be blessed: to have the Spirit of God rest upon you. To put it another way:

Happy is the man who is persecuted for the sake of the Gospel,
Whose provision is literally the LORD resting upon him and sustaining his life.

You can’t buy that.

So, does God want you to be rich. Yes, He does. But not for the trinkets of this world. He has something much better in mind than the heaven’s asphalt.**

***

Links:

50 Times makarios occurs in the New Testament – from BlueLetterBible.org 

* from Google:

par·a·dox
ˈperəˌdäks/
noun
  1. a statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.
    “a potentially serious conflict between quantum mechanics and the general theory of relativity known as the information paradox”
  2. a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.
    “in a paradox, he has discovered that stepping back from his job has increased the rewards he gleans from it”
  3. a situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities.
    “the mingling of deciduous trees with elements of desert flora forms a fascinating ecological paradox”

** Gold. The streets are paved with pure gold.

15 Verses About Money

15 Verses About Money

What does the Bible say about money? Quite a bit, actually. Here are 15 of my favorite verses about money:

The Lord Establishes Wealth and Poverty for His Glory

[Read more…]

Hackers, Hypocrisy, and Hidden Sins

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. - Luke 12:1b-2

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. – Luke 12:1b-2

There’s nothing like yet another news story about a hacked database to remind us that what is done in secret will come to light. It seems that hackers occupy this space in the modern narrative as the whistle-blower and exposer of corruption. And yet, it is not the mythical hacker that ultimately exposes hypocrisy or reveals hidden sins but the will of Someone much greater. So, how do we avoid the hacker’s snare? [Read more…]

The Heart Follows What It Treasures Most

Have you ever been flipping through the channels or scrolling through Netflix only to find yourself caught up in a show or movie that you’ve seen a thousand times before? What makes our old standbys compelling? There’s a plethora of new content out there. Familiarity? Maybe, but I suspect it’s something more subtle — the payoff. We know exactly what we’re going to get: tension, drama, resolution. It’s cathartic. In other words, we go back to familiar stories because they satisfy something in our hearts. So, what’s the connection between story and the heart?
[Read more…]

Reflections on Send 2015

IMG_20150804_190654Mrs. J and I attended the Send Conference presented by the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. The conference was sold out and well-attended. Overall, I was encouraged by what I saw and heard.

(Affiliate links in play.)

In no particular order, here are my Reflections on Send 2015:

Embrace training up and sending out leadership. J. D. Greear described the need to let go of our best and brightest as God calls them. He reminded us all of God’s faithfulness to empower and replace leadership that is sent out. He spoke anecdotally about how God raised up new leadership threefold for each one that left Summit Church. Greear recently published Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send. Mrs. J and I are both looking forward to reading it.

Unquenchable Life Permeates the Gospel. Life springs forth wherever the Gospel takes root. The Gospel transforms lives because that is its nature — it brings life to the lifeless. What was once dead lives.Removing the Gospel from our words and actions strips them of meaningful, eternal value. They are lifeless. That old nature nullifies our activities when they aren’t focused on Jesus and building up His Kingdom. Meditating on the Gospel quickens our hearts and hands. We remember again the unquenchable life that flows from Jesus.The preaching seemed electrified. I’m not talking about a frenzy of emotionalism; the crowd was calm and confident. The preaching was zeroed in on the Gospel, and it was compelling. As a preacher and minister, I found myself challenged to recognize how the Gospel actively saturates each corner and crevice of our lives, and then to preach about the activity of the Holy Spirit and how nothing is untouched by the effects of new life.

We Don’t Like Taking the Gospel to Samaria. I sat in on a breakout session about Christianity in the city. It was like drinking from a fire hydrant. I had so many thoughts and feelings — some good, some tense, all edifying. It was the first time in a long time that I could not identify with the speakers on stage from the same cultural vantage point, but I could identify with them in a spirit of oneness. I could dedicate an entire post on thoughts from this session alone. But for now, I want to rest in one place: Samaria.The Jews hated Samaria and Samaritans. To paraphrase the session, the call to spread the Gospel into Samaria meant going to a place that the evangelists hated and offering the gift of eternal life to a people they hated. We can identify and work in our Jerusalems and Judeas — they are like us. We have no problem with the uttermost parts of the earth, because we’re not around them. But Samaria? But the people around us who are not like us and we despise them for it?I sat. And I listened. The message was clear and compelling.We don’t like taking the Gospel to Samaria. In cities, where the majority of people are or will be living, Samaria is right next door. It’s time to figure it out.

The Glory of God Cannot Be Impeded. Our obedience to the Great Commission is our prime directive. Making disciples marries the two great commandments of Scripture to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love others as ourselves. If we fail to follow God, He is not frustrated. However, He may move on to other, more obedient servants, or drag us along kicking and screaming into the present reality. We can no more frustrate God’s glory or His plan than a vapor can stop an elephant. As Russell Moore reminded us, we are not relics from the past — we are pilgrims from the future where the Kingdom is fully realized.

Fervent Prayer Works. Vance Pitman told a story of a woman who emigrated to the US as a housekeeper for an American family. This woman grew up in the Philippines, and did not truly know Christ until she heard the Gospel preached by Johnny Hunt. When her family moved to Las Vegas, she prayed fervently for years that God would send someone from Woodstock Baptist to Las Vegas. When she first met Pitman, she came up to him to specifically ask what church sent him… I’ll give you one guess who sent him.

Thousands of people are coming to Christ in Las Vegas.
Prayer Matters. Prayer Works.

Which leads me to…

I Need To Pray More. Specifically, I need to pray more in faith. One speaker challenged us to run towards the tension in our lives and society with the Gospel. Only the Gospel can truly permeate our broken relationships and the tensions in our society and infuse them with new life.

New life should lead to a new perspective which makes all the difference in our responses. Hitherto, I fear that my prayers are mostly an advanced form of spiritual whining. However, prayer is like a long game: the effects aren’t usually immediate. And yet, eternally speaking, prayer and waiting on God are extraordinarily expedient — we shall not have to wait forever to for God to act. Praying in faith will turn our frustration into expectation, but only if we remember the truth: The Gospel is active. The Kingdom of Heaven advances. God fulfills His promises.