~ Unclaimed Blessings ~
Grace is "unmerited favor." Some blessings are simply grace: "He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people." (Matthew 5:45b) Other blessings are part of the redemptive gift, such as the forgiveness of sins, citizenship in God's kingdom, provision of the Holy Spirit, regeneration of the soul and much more. Still others are reserved for when we leave this world: "I am sure that what we are suffering now cannot compare with the glory that will be shown to us... The Spirit makes us sure about what we will be in the future. But now we groan silently, while we wait for God to show that we are his children. This means our bodies will also be set free." (Romans 8:18, 23)
However, what is not generally appreciated is a type of blessing (or reward) that is divinely promised, but not gracefully bestowed. These many blessings must be claimed with humility, boldness and courage. Christianity is not for the wimpy and lazy. We can see this clearly in the life of Joshua. That name means "Jehovah Savior" and Joshua, the successor of Moses, is an archetype of Christ. The Bible commentator, Dr. C.I. Scofield, writes that the book of Joshua "illustrates the principle that the child of God will be involved in conflict with evil powers and with Satan himself if he earnestly undertakes to possess all that God has promised to him on this earth." (p. 259, Scofield Reference Bible)
Scofield suggests an "undertaking" to claim what God has promised, which many might find a strange or novel notion, believing that blessings are always given when the time is right or in response to prayer. However, consider that Canaan, the land promised to Israel by God, still needed to be claimed under the warrior leadership of Joshua in the presence of and obedience to God. It was a promised blessing that required work. Caleb also knew about claiming and working for God's promises. He explains, "Joshua, it was forty-five years ago that the Lord told Moses to make that promise, and now I am eighty-five... The Lord has kept me alive all this time as he said he would. I'm just as strong today as I was then, and I can still fight as well in battle. So I'm asking you for the hill country that the Lord promised me that day... Maybe the Lord will help me take their land, just as he promised." (Joshua 14:10-12, 12b) Caleb received what was promised and the chapter ends with "there was peace in the land."
When the five daughters of Zelophehad approached Moses, Eleazar and other leaders with their request for land in the name of the dead father, Moses asked God about it and "the Lord answered, 'Zelophehad's daughters are right. They should each be given part of the land their father would have received.' " (Numbers 27:6b-7) Today, thanks to Christ's redemptive gift and He being our High Priest, we no longer need an intermediary such as Moses, but rather must "approach His throne with boldness ourselves and humbly claim promised blessings as He desires us to do.
What are some of the promised territories and what must we do to make claim? We have the territory of the kingdom of heaven and we must exercise poverty of spirit and depend only on God (Matthew 5:3); the territory of mercy, for which we must practice mercy (Matthew 5:7); the territory of the vision of God, for which we must purify our hearts (Matthew 5:3); the territory of adoption as children of God, for which we must practice peace (Matthew 5:9); the territory of enemies, for which we must love and pray for them (Matthew 5:44).
Do you want the blessing of a prophet? Extend your welcome to one. The blessing of a good person? Welcome one to yourself. The blessing of Christ and the Father? Welcome the Christ or just one of His most humble followers. (Matthew 10:40-42) The very mind of the Christ? Practice thinking like Him and "let this mind be in you..." (Philippians 2:5) His Holy Spirit living in you? Ask Him and be vigilant in recognizing and relinquishing any hindrances to His work through you. (Luke 11:13)
Like the spiritual warriors of scripture, be bold and persistent. Don't think that because you ask many times or are persistent in your claim it reveals a lack of faith to God, who knows your heart. Elijah prayed seven times for rain; Paul prayed three times for relief from his "thorn in the flesh;" Jesus prayed the same words three times in His agony in the garden. He also told a story about a widow whose persistence won a response even from a corrupt judge. "Jesus told his disciples a story about how they should keep on praying and never give up." (Luke 8:1) Thus this persistence is a sign of great faith, not a lack of it.
There is, however, a vital connection between many blessings and work to claim them or, like faith, to manifest them. "My friends, what good is it to say you have faith, when you don't do anything to show that you really do?" (James 2:14) Paul said, "Stop sinning and turn to God! (repent) Then prove what you have done by the way you live (do works fit for repentance)." (Acts 26:20)
Next time someone says, "God bless you!" say "Thank you" and then pray "Lord, thank you for your blessings. Help me to claim them boldly but humbly, working diligently for them and for your glory, honor and purpose. Amen."
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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Weekly Reflections © February 17, 2001
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