Have you ever noticed that sometimes God will use several different sources over the span of a few days or a week to drive something home for you? First, you hear something in a class or Bible study that catches your attention and you say to yourself, “Hmm, I should think more about that.” And then you promptly forget to think about it? Then a friend says something along the same lines and you say to them, “You know, I was just thinking about that the other day because of something that came up in <insert name of class/study here>.” And then your pastor speaks about the same topic on Sunday during his sermon. By then, of course, you realize that maybe God is trying to tell you something, so you sit up straight and start taking notes.
We call that “spiritual synchronicity” in the blogging devotional business.
Actually, I don’t know what they call it in the blogging devotional business, since I’m clearly not in that line of work, nor would anyone invite me to be, considering the way I ramble on like this. But if they do have a name for it, that’s what it should be called.
As I’ve told you for two weeks now, we are studying Abraham and Sarah in CBS. Sarah died last week and Abraham died this week — in our study anyway. So this week and last, I have had to say goodbye to Abraham and Sarah, and I don’t mind telling you the wound is a bit fresh and they are on my mind. They were a man and woman who made mistakes and had trouble trusting God at times. But they are both remembered in the New Testament as people of incredible faith. This gives me hope.
What I’ve learned from Abraham and Sarah is that even when they wandered off the path a bit, God remained faithful to them. He still found favor with them. So maybe God still finds favor with me, too, even when I slide off the path.
When Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife and she ended up in a king’s harem (twice), God protected both Abraham and Sarah from the worst consequences of these mistakes.
When Sarah, who was barren, gave her slave to Abraham as a wife so that there could be an heir, God still remained faithful to Abraham, though I imagine there was a bit of head-shaking going on in heaven.
God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, that kings would come from him, and that all the people of the earth would be blessed through him. God did not intend to break his promise to Abraham just because Abraham made mistakes. God still found favor with Abraham.
So that was my lesson from CBS this week.
This morning in church our pastor preached on . . . you guessed it . . . Abraham. It was the first time I’ve ever heard a sermon on the distinction between God’s favor and God’s blessings. The message in a nutshell: anyone who believes in God through Christ has God’s favor, which is the mercy He has shown us in salvation; but God’s blessings come about because of certain things that we do and in that sense, are our responsibility. Favor is what God did, but blessings can be dependent on things that we do (prayer, fasting, giving, growing spiritually). Yes, it sounds a little like the “health and wealth” messages you hear sometimes, but it helped me when I thought of the concept in reverse, like this:
How often do we fail to receive a blessing God wants to give us because we have filled up our life with trying to manipulate our outcomes? You know what I’m talking about, right? When you were single, did you ever date the wrong guy for a year because you so desperately wanted the right guy to come along — and maybe you could make this wrong guy the right one? Did you ever jump the gun on an important decision about where to live or what to do with your money because you just wanted the decision to be made?
Oh, the stories I could tell you.
Our pastor used Abraham and Sarah’s extremely long wait for a son (Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 when their son Isaac was born) to make the point that sometimes we actually delay God’s promised blessing because we take matters into our own hands.
He asked us: how many years will it take for us to put all of our trust in God?
If I knew I had God’s favor, would I put all my trust in Him?
Our pastor closed with this verse this morning:
Psalm 65:11 – You crown the year with your goodness (favor) and your paths drip with abundance.
My paths barely have enough for me.
God’s paths drip with abundance.
My paths drip with fear and uncertainty and tend to double-back on themselves.
God’s paths drip with so much goodness that it spills over onto other people.
God’s paths sound so much better. I don’t intend to waste any more years.