Sunday, March 11, 2012

Blessings Are Conditional

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. "Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? "Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
Matthew 7:7-11 NKJV

I have often noticed how much our relationship with our heavenly father follows much the same principles as our earthly ones. As a father, I have often appreciated the realization that God treats us as a loving father does to his children, with many of the same principles many of us have chosen to use. The passage above tells us clearly that God not only loves us as a father, He wants very much to show us His love by giving us “good things” when we ask.

Yet quite often I hear believers refer to this verse, and then question why they asked, but did not receive? Like little children, many seem to believe all they need to do is ask God for something and because He loves us He is somehow “obligated” to give it to us? I think believers who might have considered this at one time or another have only to think back to their own earthly experiences to find an answer to that, and I believe it's a little concept called obedience.

In the Bible, the word for blessing means a gift or present, which is something entirely different from receiving what we might consider our needs, which would be the normal and necessary things needed for our everyday lives. A blessing is the gift of something more and unexpected which exceeds what we would normally receive. As I look back on my life as a father, I remember many times doing the unexpected things for my daughters which brought them happiness, yet I also recall that there were times when I was not so inclined to be generous. As I thought of those times, and studied what the Bible has to say about blessings from God, it became apparent that in most cases blessings from the Father are conditional. Which is to say, conditioned upon obedience.

So the question becomes, how do we make sure we can receive blessings from God by being obedient? What follows are three steps that I believe God tells us in His Word we all need to follow in order to be obedient children.

"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Joshua 1:8 NKJV

You must know His commandments. I think we would all agree it's pretty hard to follow the rules if you don't know what they are. Reading the Bible and understanding what our Father expects from us is a pretty good place to start. Yet this verse also says to meditate on what we read continuously, which is pretty good advice if we want to put what we read into action. I can think back to when my daughters were young, and how often I heard the words “I forgot”. Meditating on what we read in the Bible is a very good way not to forget.

Blessed [are] those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart! They also do no iniquity; They walk in His ways. You have commanded [us] To keep Your precepts diligently. Oh, that my ways were directed To keep Your statutes!
Psalms 119:2-5 NKJV

You must submit to His commandments. Knowing what God wants from us is not enough. We must also commit ourselves to following His directions for us “diligently”. I think most of us understand what God means by diligent, and it isn't just trying to be good when you want something. Did you ever try that on your parents? You know, you want something so you let them know and then try to be good until you get it? Good luck with that. It didn't work for me, and it didn't work for my daughters either. God expects us to commit to keeping His laws all the time, no matter what our situation.

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do [it], to him it is sin.
James 4:17 NKJV

You must follow His commandments. The idea here is “do good”. Obedience requires action. God is not interested in our “mental” acceptance of His commandments, rather He expects to see them in action in our lives every day. In this verse God sets the standard for us pretty high when He says that to not do what you know you should do is sin! How often are we all guilty of that? Personally this verse scares me, for as much as I may try to live in a way that is pleasing to God, I know using this standard I fall short everyday. Yet it also serves as a means of motivation, for I know just what God expects from me, and His Word tells me how to do it.

Blessings from God are conditional upon obedience. If we know what God expects from us and if we commit to obeying and follow His commandments we will then receive the blessings He is just waiting to give to us. Our Father wants to bless us, and bless us abundantly. He is just waiting for us to do our part as obedient children, and follow His instructions.

Keep watching.