June 8, 2016

A genuine, but not always visible, blessing

Once after a huge trauma in my life, a person got a basin and a towel, removed my shoes, and washed my feet. I was deeply affected by that spontaneous gesture of kindness.

After Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, He told them . . .

For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:15–17)

Some would limit the application of this to a church foot-washing ceremony. While that is not a bad thing and has a humbling effect, it seems to me that Jesus was looking for an attitude of the heart.

This attitude has to do with how I think toward others, first as a servant and messenger of Jesus Christ. I am not greater than He is. In this context, it seems Jesus also refers to anyone who serves and anyone who brings a message. In other words, I’m not to suppose that by doing things for others, I am somehow elevated above them — or above others who don’t do much.

Not only that, if I am aware of this required attitude of humility and respect, then when I serve someone, I will be blessed. God’s blessing does not allow any pride or sense of ‘look how good I am’ but goes to those who serve others in humility.

So what does it mean to be blessed? Here, the word used for ‘blessed’ is about experiencing and enjoying God’s favor. It can mean well-being and prosperity, but it might be what some call a future blessing. Notice that aspect in these familiar verses . . .

“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 satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive 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 others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:3–12)

Every one of these ‘blessings’ will occur in the future. Poverty of spirit does not necessarily result in well-being when it is experienced. The pure in heart are not promised a vision of God immediately. The persecuted also must wait for their reward. These Beatitudes show that blessing from God is sometimes reserved for the future.

However, there is another kind of blessing that I’d call invisible. When God gives me a job to do and I do it, like the quote from Chariots of Fire, I ‘feel His pleasure.’ This includes that precious sense of hearing Him say, “Well done.”

How important is this blessing? Once experienced, it is almost addictive, yet surprisingly, it is also enough. I don’t need to tell others all about what I did, or even what God did for me. I don’t need to pat myself on the back. God is blessing me and that is enough.

I cannot force it to happen either. That is, if I do some sort of sacrificial service apart from the direction of the Lord, my haste or self-effort void His blessing. God says, “To obey is better than sacrifice.” This sort of ‘manipulation’ in order to be blessed is selfish and indicates I am trying to impress and gain recognition.

Knowing what Jesus says about a right attitude and doing as He asks may not put a halo around my head, prosperity in my bank, or a big smile on my face, but listening to Him and doing what He says always results in being blessed.

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