Episode 1. God's Plan from the Beginning
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If God is a God of blessing – then what about all the suffering we go through? And anyway, if God does bless, does that just mean a new car and a bigger house? Join Berni Dymet, on …
If God is a God of blessing – then what about all the suffering we go through? And anyway, if God does bless, does that just mean a new car and a bigger house?
Does God want to Bless Me?
It is just great to be with you again this week and we are starting a new series that I’ve called “Blessed to be a Blessing”. There’s some really important teaching going to happen over these next four weeks on the subject of God’s blessing. Why is that important? Because I see so much misunderstanding about God and His heart and where He stands on blessing us.
There seems to be a couple of extreme positions on this whole subject of God’s blessing – two opposite ends of the spectrum, if you like. On the one end, it goes something like this. God wants to bless me, therefore, I should believe Him for the new Mercedes convertible, more money and a bigger house and a big diamond ring. In effect it kind of reduces God down to some sort of sugar daddy: it’s all about me, I am at centre stage – I name it and I claim it. And you know something, lots of Christians believe that.
Now the problem that I have with that end of the spectrum is that when I take that and I hold it in one hand and I hold the cross of Christ in the other – when I look at Jesus, this Jesus that gave up everything for me; this Jesus who was nailed to a cross, beaten and bruised and brutalised, not even with the clothes on His back – and I compare those two things, you know something, this end of the spectrum over here, jars with that, don’t you think? And it leads to some of the worst excesses – the tele-evangelists pressuring people for money and flying around in their private jets. Is that where that should end up? I mean is that what God’s blessing is all about?
The other end of the spectrum is you have to be poor to serve God. Money is evil. In fact, we just had a phone call, just the other evening, in the middle of the night, someone responding to a program, saying, “money is evil”. Well, no that’s not what the Bible says. The Bible says, “The love of money is the root of all evil”, but money itself isn’t evil. “People who are rich are evil.”
I was talking to a man in India recently. India by and large, is a country of extremes – there is the very rich and there’s a large, large number of very, very poor people. And this man was being very critical of a Christian leader who just happened to have a nice house in a nice area. He believed that it was wrong for him to have money.
Then I looked at this end of the spectrum – you have to be a pauper to serve God. And then I go to the Bible and I read about Abraham, who was God’s chosen man; he was very wealthy. I read about King Solomon, he was very wealthy. Yet King Solomon was still God’s anointed leader over Israel. He was full of God’s wisdom.
Do you see the problem? You go to either end of the spectrum and you take teaching about God’s blessing to the extreme and you know, I think you end up with the wrong answer. God is a God of balance and when we look at our lives, what we see is that we go through times of blessing, where there’s joy and everything seems to be going well and we all go through difficult times.
You see the problem. At one end you can have people getting the extreme prosperity thing in their heads and we can end up thinking it’s all about us. It plays right into the hands of the world; it’s the me, me, me – the next plasma TV, the next car, the next big thing. If you don’t have that, obviously you don’t have enough faith.
On the other hand, if you have this perception that you have to be poor to be a Christian, well if that were the case, who would ever fund the work of the Lord on this planet? God has always chosen to fund His work through His people. And then on top of the pure monitory thing, there’s the reality of tragedy and pain and suffering. I mean some of these things are indiscriminate – earthquakes, tsunamis, a young person who loves God dies of cancer, in a car crash or there’s divorce or there’s retrenchment or there’s all that stuff of life that we all experience some times. Are you with me?
So what’s God’s plan? Does God want to bless me or not? Is it okay for me to ask for His blessing? Is it okay for me to expect His blessing, or is that presumptuous? This is an important question. It is in a sense where the ‘rubber’ of faith hits the ‘road’ of life. It’s when it comes to faith in God being active, right in the midst of life’s realities today, the things we all have to face. We get up in the morning, we pray, we look forward to the day … How do I pray, what do I give thanks for? That difficult situation that’s going be confronting me at work today, can I ask God to help me with that? Is God in all of that?
That’s why we are doing this series “Blessed to be a Blessing”. I’m a simple man. I open the Bible, I see what God’s Word says on a subject and you know God is largely a God of balance. I love to be empowered with God’s Word and hopefully as we share these next twenty, twenty five minutes together we will both be empowered by God’s Word.
The problem with teaching on blessing is that you just can’t take one verse and say, “That’s it! See, God is a God who blesses; therefore I can ask Him for the next big car”. You end up with an extreme position. Just as if you say, “You can’t have any money to serve Jesus. You have to sell everything you have, give it all away”, because Jesus did say that to one young ruler. I’d like to look at God’s perspective; the whole thing. Is God a God who blesses?
Well, let’s just start with what we mean by the word “bless”? It has a number of different meanings but the main connotation is God’s divine favour – God intervening to make something better or to give us something that will bring us joy or happiness, financial blessing, spiritual blessing, physical blessing, healing, anything and everything. God’s divine favour – His blessing becoming active in our lives. The question is, is God in the blessing business?
The word “bless” or “blesses” or “blessed” or “blessing”, appears three hundred and fifty eight times in the Bible. The first time you see it is in the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis chapter 1, verse 22. Let’s go there and have a bit of a look at what God’s up to. Genesis chapter 1 is the account of God’s creation. He creates the light out of darkness and the heavens and the earth and the oceans and the dry land and the plants. And the first time He creates a living creature, this is what He says:
So God created the creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems. According to all their kinds and every winged bird according to its kind and God saw that is was good and God …
Listen to this:
… and God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas and let the birds increase on the earth’.
The second time that the concept of ‘blessing’ happens in the Bible is in that same chapter, a few verses on, verse 26:
Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image and in our likeness and let them rule over the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air, over the livestock over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him, male and female, He created them. God blessed them and said to them” – see, there it is again – “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth and subdue it and rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over every living creature that moves on the ground.’
And then God said, ‘I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it, they will be yours for food and all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground; everything that has breath of life in it, I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so.
That’s creation! Let me ask you something – do you think God’s in the business of blessing us?
If God Blesses why do we Suffer?
So we’ve looked at God’s own account of His creation, Genesis chapter 1. The very first living creatures He creates, He blesses them. He says, “Go and multiply, increase in number and fill the earth.” And He creates humanity, man and woman, and He hands the whole of that creation over to them. What an enormous blessing! You and I are joint owners in creation! Why? Because God created us in His own image and then He handed the whole thing over to us. Just stop and think about that for a minute.
What a huge blessing! Right at the point of creation, God was in the blessing business. That’s profound! And His plan for us was to live in relationship with Him – Adam and Eve. Genesis, chapter 2, verse 15:
The Lord God took the man and put him is the Garden of Eden to till it and to keep it.
A perfect plan of blessing and as you probably know, Adam and Eve rebelled. They did the one thing that God said, ‘don’t do’ and there were consequences. Rebellion against God always has consequences.
To the woman He said, “I will greatly increase your pains in child bearing, with pain you will give birth. Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.” To Adam He said, “Because you listened to your wife and you ate from the tree about which I commanded you ‘you must not eat’, cursed is the ground because of you. Through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you and you’ll eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow, you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken – for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Enter pain and suffering because humanity rebelled against God. And for the rest of the history of humanity, there are consequences. Now you might say to me, “Berni that is so insensitive. If there’s a still born baby, if tens of thousands are killed in a tsunami, if some young teenager is raped and murdered, how can you say that?”
Here it is, God made us in His image but when who He is doesn’t suit us, we try and remake Him into our image. God is a God of blessing – that was His plan, that’s why He put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. But they rebelled and when that happens there is an interruption of blessing, there’s an interruption in the relationship with Him.
Have a look at it. In Leviticus chapter 26 is a perfect summary of where God stands on this. It’s a summary of the old covenant; the relationship between God and Israel. And He lays out the relationship in this chapter. Let’s go there and begin at verse 1. He says:
Don’t make idols or set up a sacred stone for yourselves, don’t place a carved stone in your land to bow down to it because I am the Lord your God. If you observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary, I am the Lord. If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commandments, I will send rain in its season and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field will be full of fruit and your threshing will continue until grape harvest and grape harvest will continue until planting and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land.
I will grant you peace in the land and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid of them. I will remove savage beasts from the land and the sword will not pass through the country. You will pursue your enemies and they will fall by the sword before you. Five of you will chase a hundred and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand and your enemies will fall by the sword before you. I will look on you with favour and make you fruitful and increase your numbers and I will keep my covenant with you. You will still be eating last years harvest when you have to make room for the new one.
I’ll put my dwelling place among you and I won’t abhor you and I walk among you and be your God and you will be my people. I’m the Lord God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians. I broke the bars of your yolk and enabled you to walk with your heads high.
But, but if your won’t listen to me and carry out all these commandments and if you reject me and my decrees and you abhor my laws and fail to carry out those commandments and so violate this covenant, then I will do this – I will bring upon you sudden terror, wasting disease and fever will destroy your sight and drain away your life. You will plant seed in vain because your enemies will eat it. I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies, those who hate you will rule over you and you will flee, even when there is no one pursuing you.
See, God first and foremost is a God of blessing. He wants to be in relationship with His people and He is God – He gets to say this is how it is. And when Israel turned against Him, there were consequences. And you and I both have rebelled against God; we both have turned our backs on God at some point in our lives. I was talking to a man just the other day. He’s my own age, he’s a good friend of mine and he was talking about his three adult sons. This man had a dream to bless his sons.
He’s an entrepreneur. He’s good at making money. He worked as a team with his sons; he wanted to build a business empire and to see them blessed and their children blessed. But one by one, they rejected him and his plans – they didn’t honour their father. They went their own way; they turned their backs on him. It sounds like a parable, doesn’t it? This is a true story – a friend of mine.
And this is what my friend said to me, he said, “Berni, I really wanted to bless them, I wanted to give to them but now that they have rejected that, in their self-centered, selfish ways, I can’t bless them.” and it’s the greatest sadness of his life. That man is made in the image of God. What he said about his heart to bless his sons is exactly, exactly where God is coming from.
God is a God of blessing, but when we reject Him, when humanity rejected Him, when you and I as individuals rejected Him, it interrupts the relationship. And it’s in that relationship that we are blessed – that’s God’s plan. So we’ve all done that. Can we still go to God and ask Him to bless us?
Can I ask for God’s Blessing?
I hope that as we have looked into God’s Word so far on the program, it’s had a profound impact on you. God’s heart is to bless us – it’s in His very nature. That’s what creation was all about. A huge abundant, indescribable blessing from Him to us. But when we reject Him, when we try to reconstruct God in our own image rather than accepting Him for who He is, we interrupt that blessing. It’s as simple as that. Now we have all done that, so can we still ask God for His blessing, for His favour, for His grace? Absolutely, because God is a God of forgiveness.
I’d like to take you to a place, a prayer by a man called Jabez. Someone wrote a book about this a few years ago and it became very prominent, but this prayer is in the Old Testament. If you have a Bible, grab it. We are going to First Chronicles, chapter 4, verses 9 and 10. It‘s in the middle of nine chapters of genealogy, you know, so and so begat so and so who begat so and so who begat so and so – nine chapters – riveting! Smack bang in the middle of that God stops and tells us the story of this Jabez. Obviously He thought it was important enough to break this riveting flow of the genealogies. Good stuff, thank you Jesus. Here’s the prayer of Jabez:
Jabez was honoured more than his brothers and his mother named his Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, saying, “O God, that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory and that your hand might be with me and that you might keep me from hurt and from harm.” And God granted his request.
Jabez gets called “You’re a pain” by his mother. Imagine if your mother or my mother named us that. Not a great start in life is it? Mustn’t have been for Jabez because Jabez cried out to God. He cried out to Him in desperation, out of his pain, out of his imperfect life. We don’t know much more about him but what we do know is that everybody has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and he rejected God in his life at some point, just the way that you and I have. And in his desperation he calls out to God.
You might say, “Berni, how do you know that Jabez rebelled?” Let me ask you, if you’re a parent, what’s the first or the second or the third word that every child learns? “No!” Isn’t it? And God’s Word clearly teaches that we all have turned our backs on Him. So Jabez is a fallen man just like you and I are fallen human beings. What does Jabez ask God? “God, that you would bless me indeed.” Not just any sort of blessing an ‘indeed’ blessing; not just an ordinary blessing of God, “I really, really, God, want you to bless me.”
Secondly he asks God to enlarge his territory. In the Old Testament, land was very important, in terms of blessing. I mean, land is somewhere we live. If you have a house in the suburbs, you might take that for granted. If you happen to live in a Liberian refugee camp in Sierra Leon, where you are listening to this program, you won’t be taking land for granted. Jabez asks God to enlarge his territory.
Thirdly that God’s hand might be with him. What a great blessing that is! And fourthly, that God would keep him from hurt and harm. And listen to what it says, (Jabez is a person just like you and me) listen to what it says next. It says, “And God granted his request.” This man put his faith in God and he asked God for a blessing.
Once I discovered this prayer, I started praying it regularly, with my own twist. I said, “God, that you would bless me indeed today. I want to see your presence; I want you to be with me. God, that you would increase my borders and my territory. That more and more people would listen to these programs.”
You know, I started praying that two years ago when these programs were being listened to by a few people on a few stations and now they are listened to by hundreds of thousands, even millions of people in over eighty countries around the world. God answers those prayers. “God that you would send your hand with me that doors would open for the work that we do and that you would keep me from evil that I wouldn’t cause any pain.” It is just the Lord laid on my heart.
The point is we can ask God for blessing. God is a God of great blessing and blessing happens in relationship with Him. When we reject God – listen to me – when we reject God it breaks the blessing. Just like that friend of mine that I was talking about with his sons. God wants to bless you … God wants to bless me and there’s a purpose; there’s a reason for His blessing. It’s not just for us but as we will see over the next few weeks on the program, God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others.
But right from the beginning, right from the first creature that He created on this earth, He wanted to bless them. And when he created humanity, He wanted to bless them. And when He had a relationship with His people, Israel, He wanted to bless them. And we all turned our backs on Him and so God then gave us the greatest blessing that there could possibly be – He opened the door to a relationship with Him through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross. God is a God of blessing.
Yes, we go through ups and downs in our lives, and we’re going to have a look at some of those things over the next few weeks, but when I open the Bible I see a God who wants to engage, not just with humanity as a whole, but with little people like you and me and His heart is to bless us.