I have seen it happen over and over again. I am even guilty of doing it myself. Now when I recognize the symptoms, I get itchy. I know the outcome of blocking the blessings, and I assure you, it is not funny!
Jesus tells us in the parable of the bags of gold (Matthew 25: 14-28) the way God hands out blessings:
A man went on a journey and entrusted three servants with his wealth. To one servant he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to a third a single bag. Each got according to their ability. The first two doubled their bags during his absence. However, the third servant hid the bag in the ground. He did not loose or gain anything.
When the master returned, he told the two servants that doubled the gold: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
But he said about the servant who hid the gold in the ground: ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Of course, Jesus did not talk only about money in the parable, although money may be part of God’s gifts. The lesson from the parable is:
- We get as many blessings as we can handle.
- Our task is to put the presents to good use.
- There is no limit in the blessings we can get.
- If we do not use them, we not only lose them but also get banished from the kingdom.
Why is it so dangerous to block the blessings? The answer is simple. Because we fall much lower than when we started and it often takes years to recover from the consequences.
Let’s look at blocking the blessings in detail. I use the Prayer Pyramid, which is based on the Lord’s Prayer, as the foundation. It consists of this six parts: Accept, Trust, Ask, Needs, Sins, and Lures.
We need to accept Jesus as our savior for the Lord’s Prayer to work. Accepting Jesus involves a choice. There is no middle ground. Each person is responsible for this decision. But we also need to make a conscious decision to use the blessings to further God’s kingdom. When we work on His behalf, we get more resources, when not, it will be taken away from us.
A few examples of these choices and their consequences:
- We inherit some money and decide to spend the money on a vacation trip. If we use the trip successfully on God’s behalf, He might make it possible for us to take more trips. If not, we might not even have fun on our vacation.
- We meet a very nice person. If we use this relationship to further the relationship with God, He will help us turn this relationship into a friendship, maybe, if appropriate, even marriage. If not, we may feel deceived, and our faith in people may vanish.
- We have a particular skill, say playing the flute. If we use this ability on behalf of God, He will help us to grow it and to make a living out of it. If not, we will not progress and eventually stop playing the flute altogether.
We see that the decision not to use a blessing on behalf of God makes it disappear and may even turn it into a curse.
God will keep blessing us when we use parts of the blessings on Him and give Him the glory He deserves.
The second part of the Prayer Pyramid is about Trust. In the parable, the third servant did not believe in the goodness of his master. When he returned, he even insulted him: “‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’”
Let us not focus on the insult, but on the image that the servant had of his master. We only trust someone if we have a positive view of that person. We believe we will eventually get a bill for a blessing from a person we do not trust. Hence, we will not use it. We just hoard it and try not to lose the principal. The net effect is negative. While we cannot use the blessing, we have the worries to keep it intact.
A few examples of such images and their consequences:
- We believe that we do not deserve to own a house. Hence, we never save a penny for the down payment. The consequence is that we will never own a house even though we could easily put a certain amount of money aside each month.
- We believe we will never have the strength to hike to the top of our favorite mountain, the Kilimanjaro. With this belief, we will never make an effort and do the training required while many regular people have achieved this goal.
- We believe we are not smart enough to learn a particular profession. Hence, we do not even learn the basics that allow us to get into the program while many people with the same intellectual capacity succeed.
We see that our belief system can break our dreams. We can jinx ourselves into mediocrity. These thoughts are toxic! We need to uncover them and reverse them.
The examples I have used so far only deal with what we believe about ourselves. When we address and fix them, when we start believing and trusting ourselves, we unblock a lot of the blessings. However, it is not enough. We also need to fix our trust issues with other people and with God.
Everybody got hurt by someone at some point in their lives. But everybody has also been blessed at some time by someone. Who do we take as the image of other people? Who is our standard when we meet or interact with people? Do we project the nastiness of one perpetrator to all individuals? Is our glass half full or half empty when we think about people? Are we open or reserved towards other people? The answer to these questions will determine whether we use the blessings from other individuals or not. However, by trying to protect ourselves from people hurting us, we block the blessings of the ones that want to help us.
The choice whether to trust someone or not is entirely ours. Moreover, it is important to recognize that we do not protect but hurt ourselves by not trusting anybody. There are better ways of protection than to stay away from people.
The biggest question for our protection is whether we are confident in God. I pick up every penny from the street simply for the fact that it has “In God We Trust” written on it. If we know that our faith is steadfast, we act differently than when we doubt. But believing in our faith has a lot to do with our experience with God. When we experience God picking us up in the trenches, protecting us in the lion’s den, and providing peace in terrible situations, we know that He is alive and that He helps and protects us. May we never forget these experiences.
Moreover, when we know that God works on our behalf, we are grateful. We trust the Lord that the blessings are real gifts. We dare to use them. We do not hold back. We also know that there will always be more than enough.
We properly use the blessings when we trust God, people and ourselves.
The Lord’s prayer tells us to ask for blessings. I have learned that God wants us to be specific when we ask. He has given us free will, and He wants us to use it. He will not decide our lives for us or intervene as long as we act within His parameters.
In the parable of the bags of gold, the third servant would most certainly never have asked for the bag of gold. He did not trust his master and only got worries and finally disaster out of the blessing. So we need to be careful about our wishes. As conventional wisdom says, we might just get what we asked for. If there is the slightest chance that we will not fully use the gift, we need to abstain from asking. The consequences are just too painful.
A few examples of bad requests and possible consequences:
- Asking for less stress in the job: we may get laid off.
- Asking for lots of money: we may not be able to manage the money, the envy of the friends, the freedom of decisions, and the isolation that comes with it.
- Asking for a husband: we may get one who cheats, steals, and violates us.
When asking for blessings, we need to put thoughts and qualifiers into our requests. Instead of asking for less stress in our job, you may want to pray for God’s help to better manage the stress. Instead of asking for lots of money, it might be beneficial if we request guidance on how to pay back the credit card debt. Instead of praying for a husband, we may want to ask to meet someone suitable for marriage and God’s help to grow the relationship to be beneficial to both.
When we ask for blessings, we want to be sure we can handle them.
Many problems involve basic needs. Jesus tells us not to worry about food or clothing, that God will provide it.
I have come across two types of situations when our needs are unmet: the ones we cause ourselves and the ones we cannot control. When we create a problem, it typically falls into the category of sin.
Let’s talk about issues that are out of our control. Examples of such situations are:
- We cannot find a job even though we search for one and we live a God-pleasing life.
- We get involved in an accident that we have not caused or could not have prevented.
- We are bullied and attacked.
These are the sort of situations, where we might ask ourselves: How could God let this happen? Now, nobody knows God’s plan and why He let’s bad things happen. We do not have to know His reasons given that we could most likely not understand His train of thought anyway.
What we need to know is that God is good and works on our behalf. If we trust Him, the pain will pass eventually and will be used to generate something good. I call these events faith builders. They are learning experiences and God’s teaching moments. King David spent years being persecuted and living in caves before God trusted him with the challenges of being king.
Challenging times are also faith testers. They show exactly where we stand in our faith. Remember the parable of the bags of gold where the master gives each servant according to his ability. Being tested tells us that we belong to God. It also shows us whether we can stand the heat when in the devil’s kitchen. How much can we take until we fall apart? God will never give us more than we can bear. But He will test our limits. Whoever had the chance to be in the lion’s den, knows that the attacks stop once we are on our knees. God does not want to kill us, but He wants to know where we stand and build us up. Once the situation has passed, we will always remember the faithfulness of God.
Of course, we can react to the pressure by renouncing God. It is the worst outcome for us. When we fall away, God knows that He cannot entrust us with anything. It might also show Him that we do not love Him enough yet and that we first need to get the love of evil out of our system. However, if we have ever accepted Him, we can be sure, that He will come and bring us back into His kingdom at some time.
We need to trust God when exposed to challenges. The pressure will stop and we will get rewarded with the blessings we can handle.
Sin is extremely dangerous. It creates a separation between ourselves, all people involved, and God. In the times of the Mosaic law, sin always led to death. Jesus changed this outcome when He died on the cross for our sins. Sin is still deadly for anybody who does not accept Jesus.
Examples of sin:
- Telling a white lie to your loved ones.
- Making money your God.
- Gossiping and bad-mouthing people.
I am using examples of sin that are very common and not the ones that get you into prison. They are of course also sins, with the same spiritual consequences.
The way to deal with sin is first to repent and then to ask for forgiveness. We need to be aware of our sins and acknowledge them. Even though Jesus died on the cross for us, He does not want us to continue sinning. We get used to living in sin to the point we do not even recognize it anymore. Given that every unforgiven sin stays on our books, we need to make sure we address them all. The risk that we miss any is just too big when we keep sinning. And of course, sins are always hurtful to someone, be it God, our neighbors or ourselves.
One of the stumbling blocks is that forgiving the people who hurt us is not easy. God is clear that He will not forgive if we do not do it. We cannot expect to run free and not let other people be redeemed. Forgiving becomes easier when we realize that we are the beneficiaries of forgiveness.
We have to remember that justice is not our job. It is up to God to deal with sinners. We have to be careful that we no not respond to being hurt by sinning.
When we fail to ask for or offer forgiveness, the answer is spiritual death. It blocks all godly blessings.
A temptation is a sin that has not happened yet. So if we have addressed all previous tasks and God sends us His blessings, we want to be sure that it stays that way. Hence, we need to keep temptations at bay, not to yield to them and as much as possible prevent them from happening. Examples of such temptations are:
- Feeling like being God when we get incredibly blessed.
- Being so busy that we have no room or time left for God.
- Using the blessings just for ourselves and give nothing back to God.
Falling into any of these temptations has serious consequences. It is always good to regularly evaluate the temptations when we get blessed. If all is ok, we can enjoy all the blessing that God sends us, be it peace, friendships, power, money or anything else. But we always have to remember that we will block the blessings very quickly when we do not deserve them anymore.
When we get blessed, and all is well, we need to prevent falling into temptations.
Below is the list of takeaways from the analysis with the Prayer Pyramid. It is a summary on how to handle blessings and to prevent us from blocking them.
- God will keep blessing us when we use parts of the blessings on Him and give Him the glory He deserves.
- We properly use the blessings when we trust God, people and ourselves.
- When we ask for blessings, we want to be sure we can handle them.
- We need to trust God when exposed to challenges. The pressure will stop, and we will get rewarded with the blessings we can handle.
- When we fail to ask for or offer forgiveness, the answer is spiritual death. It blocks all godly blessings.
- When we get blessed, and all is well, we need to prevent falling into temptations.