Summary: On a level other than the one we can see, at a supernatural level, in the realm where good and evil do battle and evil always loses, God has blessed us. He wants us to live according to that blessing.
You Are Blessed
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." – Ephesians 1:3
Poor Little Orphan Annie! It’s "a hard-knock life" for her and her friends. All the hard chores, the abuse, and the neglect only add insult to injury to these poor little girls already carrying the weight of abandonment.
But if you’ve seen the musical "Annie," either on stage or screen, you know there is a happy ending for the cute, little, misunderstood, red-haired orphan girl. After being invited to spend the Christmas holiday with Billionaire Oliver Warbucks, and after a few shenanigans from her caregiver at the orphanage, Annie learns that her parents are dead and that Mr. Warbucks would like to adopt her. The brightness in Annie’s eyes and the bounce in her step change dramatically when she learns she will be adopted. Why? Because she not only will leave behind the hard-knock life of the orphanage, she will also live in incredible wealth, and, most importantly, live with someone who has chosen her to be his. She celebrates the promise of Mr. Warbucks singing "I Don’t Need Anything But You."
Annie: "Yesterday was plain awful"
Warbucks: "You can say that again"
Annie: "Yesterday was plain awful"
Both: "But that’s not now, that’s then"
Annie realizes that she’s living on another level.
God wants you to live on another level. He’s well aware that some of our yesterdays are just plain awful. We may not face the tyranny of a Miss Hannigan, but we have our moments where life is a bit hard-knock…
Sickness brings pain and death brings grief.
The ruthless acts of a few terrorists bring us fear.
One thug’s crime is our insecurity.
Bad habits lead to self-doubt.
Bad decisions lead to self-destruction.
The abandonment of a loved one—an irresponsible parent, an unfaithful spouse, a rebellious teenage son or daughter—these things render us alone, empty, and in pain.
But God never intends for us to be dominated by the hard knocks life deals us. He sent his Son to bring us to another level of life. He calls it abundant life. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)
What is life to the full? Let me begin by telling you what it is not. A lot of people come to Jesus and expect to be immediately swept up into a life of privilege as though God owes us something. They came because they heard about adoption and they heard about how great God is, and they expect him to be the big Daddy Warbucks in the sky. "Our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills," they reason. So God exists now to give them what they want. As one local pastor puts it, "I believe God wants us to have the things that make us happy, so if I ask him for a Harley, he will give it to me because he wants to dote on me."
If that’s what you believe, I’ve got news for you. God did not save you to spoil you. And some of you may need to quit acting like spoiled God-brats. You may not ask God for material things like Harleys or horsepower, but there are a lot of ways that you place some expectation on God to give you whatever you want.
Consider this: God owes us nothing. He doesn’t owe us a spouse, let alone a marriage without troubles. He doesn’t owe us children, let alone kids who don’t give us grief. He doesn’t owe us a job, let alone a job that we like and that pays us well. He doesn’t owe us productive ministry. He doesn’t owe us a perfect church. He doesn’t owe us protection when we travel. He doesn’t owe us a life without pain.
That’s what troubled me when I read about the prayer of Jabez this week. (1 Chronicles 4:9-10)
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, "I gave birth to him in pain." Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." And God granted his request. (NIV)
Jabez asked to be free from pain, and God granted his request. I look at that, and you might too, and assume that if we ask God to be free from pain he will give it to us, as if he owes it to us. If we feel the need to qualify it, we’ll simply see that Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. So we pray, "Lord, I’ve tried my best to follow you. I haven’t hurt anyone. I don’t swear. I’m a good person. Now, keep me free from pain!"