More Viewpoint articles from past issues of the Presbyterian Standard are available online here.
THE age in which we live has often been described as a 'materialistic' one. Compared with previous generations we are very wealthy. What the Bible calls "this world's good" (1John 3:17) has been bestowed upon us abundantly. We have so many possessions ranging from the essential through the useful to the utterly trivial that we scarce know what to do with them all. It would appear that we are greatly blessed!
It is indeed widely believed that worldly prosperity and success are indications of God's blessing. The truth however is somewhat different. We may in fact enjoy much of God's goodness in providence and yet know nothing of His goodness in grace. And in the end it is the latter that matters, for God's saving grace in Jesus Christ is the "true riches" (Luke 16:11). If a man has this "pearl of great price" then, even though he may have nothing else in this world, he will be truly blessed.
How may we know if we are truly blessed? What sort of things should we expect to find in our cup? As ever the Scriptures must be our guide. The verses we know as the 'Beatitudes' indicate the experience of those who are truly blessed, as do many other verses scattered throughout the Word of God. There are pleasant things in the Christian's lot, as we would imagine, but there are also some surprising things. What are they? Here are three of them.
If we are truly blessed then we will weep at times. Jesus said: "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" (Matt.5:4). Some tears fall only from a believer's eyes: they flow from a heart which has been wounded by the arrows of conviction fired from the bow of Scripture by the Holy Spirit. Such penitential tears are however the precursor of lasting happiness, for as the Psalmist tells us, "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psa.30:5).
If we are truly blessed then we will be tried and tempted often. James wrote: "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation" (Jam.1:12). A faith that is never tested is an easy faith and a false faith. In His wisdom the Lord sends troubles and afflictions to His people to draw them closer to their Saviour and to purify the desires and motives of their hearts. Faith is the muscle of our soul; it grows stronger the more it is put to work. Is it in daily exercise in your life?
If we are truly blessed then we will be persecuted by some. Jesus said: "Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake" (Luke 6:22). Belonging to Christ we no longer belong to the world and so are no longer loved by the world, for the world loves "his own" (John 15:19). To be holy is to be hated by the world in one way or another, whether subtle or plain.
We must beware then of measuring the prosperity of our soul by what is in our store or by how smooth our path is here. We should acknowledge the hand which God opens to us daily and whereby we receive every good gift, but we must look beyond God's hand to His heart. From the heart of God has come the perfect gift – everlasting life.
God's heart is opened to us only through our personal union with Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. When we believe in Him as He is freely offered to us in the gospel then "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Rom.5:5). Do we have a living faith in Christ? Blessed, truly blessed, is the man that trusts in Him.