Friday, 1 October 2010

7 Benefits of being Blessed

Last time I wrote about seven characteristics of the man who is blessed. We saw in general terms that his life situations turn out for the best. Trials he may experience are, in fact, only present for a season.

I'm going to focus now on seven benefits that flow out of being blessed. It's not meant to be an exclusive list, or the last say on the matter. They are just things that have impacted me over the years. They are also things I've had to contend for, so that they truly became my experience.

Before I go there it's important to understand that, from a biblical perspective, blessing from God primarily flows out of obedience, either ours or someone elses. Someone elses obedience secures blessing for me? I can almost hear Paul's objector in Romans, as I write the words. "That can't be true. It must come down to my personal obedience". We'll come back to that point later. It has validity. But the amazing truth is that the gospel, the 'good news', is about the obedience of Jesus that has secured what we could never work for, forgiveness of sins and righteous standing before God, Eph 2.8-9.

Acts 3.29 records Peter's preaching in Solomon's Portico. It says; "To you first God, having raised up His servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away everyone of you from your iniquities". The plan of redemption is summarised as God sending His Son Jesus to "Bless you". And the blessing that comes to us flowed out of His obedience. Our obedience is always a response to what He has already done. That's why He is called the author or forerunner of our faith, Heb 12.1. He goes ahead of us in all areas of life. He pioneers and then acts as our High Priest to help us through, so that we too overcome, Heb 4.14-16.

"Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need".

Our obedience has to be seen as a response to the empowering presence of God's grace. Anything less than this puts us into another subtle self-help program. That's where we try and better ourselves, only using Christian values and teaching to do so. It's the road to legalism. Lasting change is always an inside out approach. That's Paul's point in Rom 12.1-3.

Luke 1 records the details of the pregnancies of John and Jesus and the impact they had on their respective mothers. Both women are recorded as breaking into prophecy when they met. Listen to Elizabeth first; Luke 1.45, "Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord". Notice that. The blessing came because of faith in what God had said. It was not her faith itself that brought blessing, but the object of her faith; the promise of God. And Elizabeth called her blessed.

Mary then responds, Luke 1.46-48; "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold henceforth all generations will call me blessed". Elizabeth said she was blessed and Mary said all future generations would call her blessed - and they have! I'm not talking about venerating Mary, I'm speaking about how her willingness to say yes to God released His purpose, for her, for Israel and for the world. Blessing flows from obedience and deserves to be honoured.

Rev 1.3 says, "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep those things which are written in it...." There is reading, hearing and keeping in this verse. Reading and hearing bring a measure of blessing but keeping what we read and hear is what transforms us and releases lasting blessing. And that's what I'm after.

So let's move on to those seven benefits of being blessed:

1. The blessed man is a fruitful man - in all areas of life. But what does that fruitfullness look like in real terms? In the scriptures fruitfulness is measured in terms of the ability something has to reproduce itself. This only happens with things that are organic - that have life. A fruitful tree produces fruit. Remember the fig tree where Jesus looked for fruit, Matt 21.18-22? It wasn't there, so He cursed it. Fruit is the ultimate sign of blessing. The tree was not fulfilling its purpose. It could not reproduce itself. It had the appearance of life, roots, trunk, branches and leaves, but no fruit. Jesus was not impressed.

In Gen 1.22,28 and 9.1 we have the record of two beginnings. One with Adam and Eve and the other with Noah after the flood. The command is the same on both occasions, "Be fruitful and multiply". I love that. Note it doesn't say 'be fruitful and add' but 'be fruitful and multiply'. This is God's heart for creation. And because creation reflects His life, it has the ability to reproduce life, 'after its kind'.

Have you noticed that there is not just one seed in an apple, there are many. All fruit contains many seeds and each seed has the power to reproduce something that is a multiplication of the original. It's amazing. God build this into creation as a picture of how the Kingdom operates.

The measure of a church is its ability to create other churches. Think about how transformed a church could become if instead of planning everything they do to maintain what they have they begin to think missionally. Just to dare to ask the questions, "How can we reach out more?", "Who is ready to send?" "What if we put money aside so we can release a church planter?".

The measure of successful ministry is how many other ministers were we able to release. Jesus reproduced His ministry in the twelve. They passed it on to the 'Seven' in Acts 6. We see Stephen and Philip moving in the same kind of apostolic authority as the 'Twelve' who had been with Jesus. 2Tim 2.2 shows that Paul was very intentional about reproducing ministry and leadership in others. He commands Timothy to have the same approach.

But there is also qualitative measures of fruitfulness as well as these more obvious quantitative measures. The church has authority to pray for governments and see peace released into society so the gospel can advance, 1Tim 2.1-3. Peace is something we bring to bless society. At the birth of Jesus a heavenly host was heard to cry, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men", Luke 2.14. Jesus said "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called Sons of God", Matt 5.9.

Shalom (peace) is an amazing thing. We know when it's there and we know when it isn't. Peace is not just the absence of conflict. It is a sense of security that gives us confidence to act and dare great things for God. As the church we have authority to bring this about. In the midst of the strom Jesus spoke one word - peace. He released what was in Him into the situation and it changed.

The fruit of the Spirit, of which peace is one manifestation, are all inward qualities that shape both us and the communities that we are part of. They are more intangible at the beginning but in time become apparent. Like growing trees, we need patience to wait for the fruit. It's the last thing that appears!

When it comes to bearing fruit we need to be careful that we don't set up false dichotomies. I remember hearing preachers that focused on being faithful rather than being fruitful. They gave examples of missionaries who saw very little in the way of results, yet persevered for years with no apparent fruit - but they were faithful and that's all that counts - so they said. Others emphasised the importance of faithful service and considered any sign of ambition in ministry as a bad thing. Faithful people were humble people content to stay where they are, doing what they've always done. Right?

Let's unpack both those ideas a bit. They are in fact false dichotomies. The Biblical view is that if you are faithful you will be fruitful. You can expect it. Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and thinking you'll get a different result. Most of the time when something isn't producing fruit it needs to be abandoned or done differently. Businesses wouldn't survive if they didn't do that. And that's often why churches don't survive! If we are not being fruitful something is wrong!

Take the issue of ambition. Now the Bible roundly condemns selfish ambition for sure. But what about being ambitious for the Kingdom, for God's glory, for impacting the world for Jesus? Paul said if a man desires the office of a bishop he desires a good thing, 1Tim 3.1. It's possible to have the right motive. Sometimes your gifting will make you frustrated with the way things are done because you know you could do it better. Being faithful to your call in that situation is more important than being faithful to a job description. You get my point?

We should expect fruitfulness, results, increase, multiplication. That's what life does! For those of you clever enough to think of Isaiah, who preached for a lifetime to a rebellious people with no results, consider this. God warned Him this would happen, Is 6.9-13. He prepared him. The fruit of his words would come generations later and he knew it. He wasn't left wondering. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do to some churches is close them and start again. That's life. There is a time to be born and a time to die. God help us to discern that moment.

2. A blessed man has power to bless. Think of Abraham. God blessed him so that he could be a blessing - to the nations, Gen 12.1-3. In fact the word bless is used three times in this text. Not only that, how people positioned themselves in relationship to Abraham determined whether they were blessed or cursed. To bless him was to be blessed - by God.

God's heart is to touch the world, but He looks for a vessel; someone He can trust; someone who will be a channel for His blessing to flow to the world. Abraham was such a man. He followed God and obeyed Him to the point of offering up Isaac. Listen to God's response to this act of obedience;

Gen 22.16-19, "Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son - blessing I will bless you and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice".

It sounds like God is going OTT here, He is so excited about Abraham's obedience. Blessing within blessing and blessing upon blessing. Wow. And that is the destiny of the church. We are blessed in order to bless others, Eph 1.3. Peter tells us, "Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing", 1Pet 3.9. This is consistent with Jesus in Matt 5.44 and Paul in Rom 12.14. We don't have to curse people. Sin has already done that. It has trapped and ensnared people so that now they must face the consequences of God's broken law.

This is why Jesus, "has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, (for it is written cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith", Gal 3.13-14. Jesus took the curse so that we could receive the blessing and bless others.

Think of how many times you have heard people over-react to a situation and get angry. Think of the words of criticism, defamation, put downs and insinuation that have come out of their mouth. All of that is cursing. It's not New Covenant. It's not Spirit filled living. It's not Kingdom lifestyle. Listen to James on this:

"But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father and with it we curse men who are made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren these things ought not to be so", James 3.8-10.

When I find myself being criticised or attacked in any way, I remind myself of these scriptures. I seek for grace and then try and respond in the opposite spirit, blessing those who curse me. I go beyond myself to do this and reach out to Heaven's grace that empowers me. I have authority to bless for I am blessed by God Himself. Those who curse me will have God to deal with. Like Abraham, we don't have to lift a hand against them. God knows their situation and His judgements are always just. We can leave it to Him to deal with them.

This is such an important issue. As a pastor, husband and father I have authority to bless my church, my wife and my children. I remember speaking blessing over all our children, both when they were in the womb, on the day they were born as we presented them to the Lord and throughout their childhood. Most nights I would bless them and pray over them. Occasionally I discerned things that were attacking them and used the power of blessing to overcome them.

Think of the way Jacob blessed Joseph's sons. He laid hands on them and prophecied over them speaking to their destinies. Joseph presented the oldest in front of Jacob's right hand and the youngest in front of his left hand. The right hand of course speaks of the place of higher honour. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. But Jacob moves prophetically and crossed his hands. Unlike his father who was tricked into blessing Jacob, the aged Jacob knew exactly what he is doing and Joseph's protests wouldn't stop him. He blessed the lads.

Look at the actions of Jesus in Mark 10.13-16: "Then they brought little children to Him that He moght touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brougt them. But when Jesus saw it He greatly displeased and said to them, Let the little children come to Me and do not forbid them; for of such is the Kingdom of God. Assuredly I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it. And He took them up in His arms and laid His hands on them and blessed them".

This is an amazing text. Jesus was 'greatly displeased' when the disciples tried to stop these people bringing the children to Him to 'touch them'. Blessing comes through touch. Jesus laid His hands on them and blessing was imparted. He took time to do it. It wasn't an inconveniance to His ministry, it was part of HIs ministry. It should be part of our too.

3. Blessing releases deliverance and victory. Gen 14.18-20 records the encounter between Melchizedek and Abraham after Abraham returned from defeating King Chedorlaomer. And he blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram of God Most High possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High who has delivered your enemies into your hand". Remember God's earlier promise to Abraham to possess the gates of his enemies? Now it was begining to happen.

Abraham went to deliver his nephew Lot. It was a risk. There were no guarantees. But Abraham was living in the blessing. This fight was to deliver Lot, not to increase his own power and wealth. And God honoured him by delivering Chedorlaomer into the hand of Abraham. The King was defeated.

On his return from this battle Abraham had an encounter with Melchizedec. It is significant. For after it, Abraham goes on to meet the King of Sodom who offers him all the spoils of the war; stuff that was stolen when Lot was captured. It would have been tempting to take it. Victors take the spoils. That was accepted practice in war. But this encounter changed Abraham. He knew it wasn't his victory. God had given it to him. It was part of the blessing. And he made a vow not to touch it, Gen 14.21-23.

Think of Joseph. Every time something bad happened it worked for good. His brothers wanted to kill him but he was delivered from death because one brother spoke up for him. He was sold as a slave but became a successful manager in Potiphar's house. He was falsely accused of rape and ended up in prison but then was promoted to run the place. And eventually he was made second in power only to Pharaoh. Deliverance followed him because he wass blessed. He was a son (descendant) of Abraham.

We too are sons of Abraham, by faith, Rom 4.16. Jesus promised His disciples, "Behold I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy and nothing shall by any means hurt you", Luke 10.19. This is a promise of victory; a promise of protection; a promise of ultimate deliverance. We are sent out as 'sheep among wolves', Matt 10.16.

That sounds crazy! Wolves eat sheep. Sheep have no inherent power to overcome a wolf. They are vulnerable, easy prey. But Jesus is making a point. He is with us. Even the hairs on our head are numbered. We are of more value than many sparrows. And He protects and delivers us. Listen to Paul on this subject, 2Cor 1.8-11.

"For we do not want you to be ignorant brethren of our trouble which came to us in Asia; that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength. so that we despaired even of life", 2Cor 1.8. Paul is saying that the pressure was so great, he had resigned himself to dying. He came to the end of himself. He gave up. Now listen to him as in the next verses he gets revelation on how to understand his situation.

"Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death and does deliver us; in whom we trust He will still deliver us", 2Cor 1.9-10. Three times the word deliver is used in the past, present and future tense. He did deliver us, He does delver us and He will delver us. Amazing!

There is only one problem in believing in a God of resurrection - everything has to pass through death! Isaac, Joseph, your marriage, your ministry, your vocation, your friendships - everything. And if it survives, if it comes through, if you are delivered, you know God did it and God is in it. We are a blessed people through Jesus Christ and we can expect God to deliver us. What comes from Him survives death.

4. Blessing releases revelation - an open heaven. Peter made a famous declaration about the person if Jesus, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God", Matt 16.16. Now hear Jesus' response; "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven". The revelation Peter received was a sign of blessing.

The new birth has secured for us a new heart; a heart that has received the Spirit of God. To have the Spirit is to have the blessing of God, for He is the fulfillment of the blessing promised to Abraham, Gal 3.14. And to have the Spirit is to have the possibility of hearing from God through revelation. Read 1Cor 2.10-12.

"But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit......Now we have received not he spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God". We receive in order that we might know. We are blessed in order that we can move in revelation.

The problem with so many books is that they are filled with information instead of revelation. We clamour for the latest book on how to do church (or whatever) more successfully. I guess they have their place. What bothers me is that most of those books came about because of a uniquely personal journey. They came as a result of hearing and obeying. They were usually birthed in revelation. But when we read them we often reduce it to technique, principles, ways of winning. Why not live in the blessing of being able to hear from heaven for ourselves?

We live in the middle of a technological revolution and an information revolution. They are connected. One has made way for the other. And now we are in information overload. David Beckham has 4,273,296 friends on Face Book as I write. Right? Every time he writes something around 8-13 thousand people respond. Of course it's not a real personal exchange. It is more of a vouyeristic collaboration where we read what he wants us to read about his life. And from a PR perspective, it works.

But the reality is that he has a few close friends where real exchange takes place. Those people truly 'know' him. There is no substitute for this kind of personal knowledge. It is how we are wired to live. And it's why casual sexual relationships never fulfill us. They are like a drug that gives us a high but then leave us empty til the next fix. We were made for more than that; to know and be truly known. And when it comes to sex this is meant to be by one other person - a lifelong partner.

Revelation gives the church its edge in the world. It makes us truly prophetic so that our voice speaks to the real needs and pain of the world with a message of hope. Often I have seen churches reduce the gospel to a set of precepts to be accepted. These then define us as 'orthodox'. But the gospel is more than that. Our reducitonist approach may help us gage what people know but I doubt that it help us to impact our culture and community.

Jesus told His disciples not to worry when they were brought before kings and rulers about what to say. He declared; "For it will be given you in that our what you should speak; for it is not you who speak but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you", Matt 10.19-20. Think about that and compare it to all the messages you've heard or given over the years. Jesus is saying that in the most pressured, life threatening situations the church will find itself in, it will have a prophetic voice. That is amazing.

I was discipled by an American. He knew a secret that he passed on to me in my early years of training. It had a profound effect on me. I've never forgotten it and I try to live it - daily. Here is what he told me: "Peter, most preachers spend their time preparing a message. For this they need advanced notice of when and where they will speak. Try to spend your time having a prepared life and you'll always have a message, no matter when or where you are asked to speak".

I like that. It touches on the prophetic nature of our calling. We are to be ready in season and out of season, 2Tim 4.2. We need a prepared life not just a prepared message. Now that doesn't mean we don't prepare or do our homework. What it means is that we process what we learn and let it become part of us so that God can use it when He wants.

Joshua was told to study the law and not let it depart from his mouth. He was told to give himself to meditation. The word had to become part of him. It shaped him. It prepared him. It opened him to receive more revelation. And he led the people of God into their destiny. His worst mistake was when he made a covenant without seeking God and getting revelation from Him. He took things at face value and it was a trap.

As the people of God we are blessed with the Spirit of God. We have a heads up on things if we go to Him and ask for His perspective. There is stuff in life we can't get from flesh and blood. The deepest insights come from above. Live in revelation. Imagine a business man who brings this attitude to his business deals. He asks God which deals to say yes to and which to say no to.

Imagine a teacher who is struggling with a difficult pupil. She asks for revealtion and God speaks about this childs homelife. He gives her insider understanding. Now she has compassion. She can pray for a new approach. She is no longer frustrated becasue she has insight. She is blessed. Like Jesus with the woman at the well she is able to speak to the needs of the heart. Learn to live in the blessing by drawing on revelation knowledege. It will transform the way you deal with people.

5. Blessing always brings an inheritance. 1Pet 3.9 and Matt 25.34 speak of this. Jesus said; "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world". The blessing promised to Abraham included an inheritance, part of which was the land of Israel. We are promised the Kingdom as our inheritance and, through the Spirit, we can begin to taste it now, Rom 14.17; Heb 6.5.

The idea of inheritance is very important in scripture. Esau despised his inheritance and sold his birthright to Jacob, just because he was hungry, Gen 25.29-34. You see an inheritacnce is all about the future. It's about what we have, kept safe for us, Matt 6.20. Now because it is in the future it is sometimes hard to see why we should wait for it. Why not meet our needs now? What is its real relveance after all? That was Esau's thinking. "I might die before I ever get to expereince the inheritance, better to have a good meal now and meet my need now". It is short term thinking that overestimates the importance of our needs and underestimates the value of our inheritance.

An inheritance is not just about us, it's also about all the successive generations that follow us. The promise to Abraham passed to his son Isaac and then Jacob and then on to his twelve sons. It was a generational inheritance. Peter says that, "The promise of the Spirit is to you and your children....", Acts 2.39. When we make decisions in life we should remember that they have an impact, not just on us, but on our families too and all those who come under our influence. This is why the actions of leaders always have a bigger inpact - they are influencing more people.

The book of revelation was written so that the church would overcome and receive a full reward. Jesus speaks to the church at Philidelphia and says, "Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown", Rev 3.11. This is not about loosing salvation it's about loosing rewards. It's about the possibility of not getting the full inheritance. The overwhelming theme in these first few chapters is for the church to repent - to have a different view, heaven's view of life and living. Wihtout it they are likely to miss out.

The last one hundred years of church history has seen the church recover more of its inheritance. There has been a recovery of our understanding of the person of the Spirit. We have recovered an understanding of the message of the Kingdom. We have seen the restoration of ascention gifts and the gifts of the spirit, not as toys but as tools to do the job. And in the last twenty years we have seen a greater recovery of worship. And in this new season we are contending for a better understanding of mission - God's mission. It is part of our inheritance; something we should fight to keep and hold on to.

What part of your inheritance do you need to reclaim?

6. Blessing releases miracles and healing! Think of Jesus in Luke 4.18-19; as He reads from the prophet Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me for He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted; To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord".

This is more than metaphor. Jesus moved in the miraculous and empowered His disciples to do the same. The blessing of the gospel brings freedom in every area of life. Part of that freedom requires, at times, a miracle or a healing. When the woman of Nain was following the funeral procession of her son, Jesus intervened. She makes no request. Noone asks Him to get involved. He is simply moved with compassion and acts. He blesses her by raising her son back to life, Luke 7.11-17.

James and John both warn us about having the language of blessing without the acts of blessing, James 2.15-16; 1John 3.17-18. Part of this is deeply rooted in our fear that there won't be enough if we give what we have. But Jesus teaches us a different way. In Mark 6.30-44 is the account of the feeding of the five thousand. After a full day of ministry the disciples decide to give Jesus some advice and tell Him to send the crowds away. Not a good idea. Giving Jesus advice on how to conduct His ministry; hmmmmm. Something tells us that is not going to go well for them.

So Jesus turns the whole thing around; "You give them something to eat", Mark 6,37. (Whenever I'm tempted to give Jesus some advice I always remind myself of this story and shut up). They immediately think of the cost for meeting such a need. Jesus asks how much bread is available and works with that. Notice the simplicity of the account, "And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves and gave them to His disciples to set before them....", Mark 6.41.

We could summerise it like this; He took, He blessed, He broke, He gave. Jesus could only bless what was surrendered to Him. It had to be given, freely. Notice too that as He blessed the loaves He was looking to heaven. And a miracle took place. Needs were met, people were fed, the disciples were humbled and amazed and loads of bread was left over - a basket full for each disciple. Something to remind them that our resource never limits God's ability to bless and do miracles.

What resource do you have that currently looks insufficient to meet the needs that surround you? What miracle lies in wait until you surrender what you have to God? What do you constantly pray for but are unwilling to step into because the resource just isn't there yet? What advice have you given to God that isn't really working for you? Maybe it's time for you to act? Maybe it's time for you to realise that you carry blessing and miracles flow out of that blessing.

7. Finally blessing brings prosperity. I've left this til last to deal with because if it had been first many of you would not have persevered with this article. Properity has taken a beating from the evangelical world, and not without some justification. Many of the prosperity preachers I've heard have a strong focus on personal prosperity. It's been about getting more and getting on. The reaction of some to this appraoch has been scathing. Now we are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Joshua was told that if He lived according to God's law he would be properous and successful, Josh 1.8. This is Biblical truth. What is important to understand is that properity is not just about material wealth. It's about prospering in all areas of life; our personal life, our relationships, our health, our vocation, our academic development - everything. John the beloved disciple writes to Gaius and says, "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers", 3John 2. A prosperous soul leads to a prosperous life. John wants Gaius to prosper "in all things".

But let's focus on the issue of money for a moment. I grew up being told that money was the root of all evil. Then I read the Bible and found that it's the love of money that is the problem - not money itself, 1Tim 6.10. The problem really lies in the heart of man. But what happens when a man who loves God gets money? Now he is able to direct it towards Kingdom purposes. He can use his wealth to bless others. But men like that are rare breads. God has to deal deeply with areas of pride and self sufficiency to prepare them to handle wealth.

I've met a number of wealthy people over the years. Most have an inherent mistrust of others because they are often asked for money; so they enter relationships gaurded on the issue. It's not surprising. Often they get hurt if their generosity is taken advantage of. If it happens in a church context they usually withdraw. But instead of finding healing I have seen many find comfort in their isolation. They still give, but they do it from a place of safety. They are firmly in control.

They loose sight of the teaching of scripture. When we say, "My power and the might of my hand have gained me this shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant..", Deut 8.17-18. God blesses us with wealth. Like anything else in life, wealth and money are a stewardship; something we are accountable to God for. God saw the tendency of the human heart towards pride and so warned the Israelites that their success and wealth were a sign of His covenant blessing, not their cleverness.

I've met wealthy people who are humble, broken and yeielded to God. They have trusted friends, Godly people, who they seek counsell from when it comes to giving or investing. I've met others who leak arrogance. It's not overt but it's there. The bottom line is that when it comes to letting go of large amounts of money they really see it as their money, not a stewardship of God's resources. Here are some signs:

1. When they give there is often a string attached. The gift they have been speaking about is now an interest free loan. Dare to ask why!

2. When they give, they look for a way to have a stake in what you are doing. "I'll buy the property and you can use it for as long as you want". Really? Ask for a 100 year lease and see how they respond. The real way to have a stake in anything is to give freely into it. God sees and God rewards.

There's nothing wrong per se with any of the above. But I've often seen that these offers cause leaders to compromise what they truly sense God is leading them to do. Like Pharaoh, those in power give, but also hold back. Pharoah told Moses he could go and sacrifice in the land of Egypt, Ex 8.26. How tempting. It's better than what they had but not what God was after. So Moses said no.

Moses knew that as the people of God they were blessed and that His blessing meant they would prosper - in time. And that is what happened. When they finally left Egypt the Israelites spoiled the Egptians. They took their gold and silver, payment for all the years of slavery they endured. Hold out for God's blessing. And when He prospers you, use it to extend the Kingdom.

One final word on this issue. I struggled for years with expecting prosperity in my life. My own propensity of character, along with my family background and church tradition left me well prepared for handling lack. I had definately learned how to be abased. But Paul knew how to abound too, Phil 4.12. Later in verse 18 he says this, "Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you...." Listen to those words, all, abound, full.

There came a point in my life where I dared to ask God for more. I remember living in a three bedroom semi with our six children. Now life teaches us that as a child grows you change the clothes to fit the child. Right? Shoes were always our biggest expense. They grew out of them before they had worn them out. It always amazed me. So I began to think, "We need a bigger house to fit our family". Selling off the kids was not an option. So I dared to ask. First we converted the loft and gained two more bedrooms, well one bedroom and enough room for a matress outside it.

That was good for a few years til the kids got bigger. I kept asking. Then I got a job in Denmark. With it came a six bedroom house with three bathrooms, two huge lounges and a massive utility room. I remember how deligthed the children were to each have their own room. God prospered us so that we could grow and serve Him more effectively in that nation. We were blessed. But I had to dare to ask, to beleive God would give me more and that I was worth more.

I have a friend in ministry. He needed a car. He took it as a prayer request to the elders. One of them offered him A bike. He said no thanks. Them another offered him a beaten up old car, (all three elders drove cars less than three years old). Again he declined. They accused him of being proud. He responded, "The God I serve has a new car for me, He wouldn't give me the rubbish you want me to have". Now how would you react to that answer? The elders were convinced, he's proud and arrogant and now ungrateful to boot and needs to repent. So my friend challenged them. "If I don't get a new car then I will accept what you are offering but if I do, then you all need to repent of a poverty spirit". Confident, they accepted.

Within two weeks a man rang him. I haven't slept for weeks. God told me to give me you my new car but I didn't want to. Now He won't give me any rest. I have to obey him. My friend ended up wth a beautiful new estate car; hardly driven, less than a month old. Guess who did the repenting? Sometimes faith can look like arrogance. My friend just beleived that our Father in heaven had something better than what the elders were offering - and he was right.

Dare to ask for God's blessing to prosper you. It empowers you to bless others and shows the world that God is no mans debtor. Jesus was able to pay the temple tax money for Himself and Peter from the mouth of a fish! He has a creative solution for your needs too. Live in the blessing that is your inheritance. Let's allow Paul to have the final word. Remember this is said in the context of taking up an offering for the poor;

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you, through His poverty, might become rich", 2Cor 8.9