But What If God Doesn't?
I’ve heard a phrase recently that's becoming increasingly popular, and to be honest, it's a little concerning. It's the phrase “praises go up, blessings come down!” On the surface it seem harmless and most likely has really good intentions, but at the core I think it severely lacks Biblical-backing. Now there’s lots of phrases that I hear that I don’t generally agree with, but this one in particular really strikes a chord in me. Any ideology that structures around the idea that if we praise more we get more takes us all down a slippery slope. I’m not saying God doesn’t want us to be blessed, nor am I saying that believing for favor or blessings is in any way wrong. I ask God daily for things I want and I do my best to thank Him for every blessing He has given me. But I am saying that if we hear a phrase like this and believe it because it sounds nice, then our structure of faith begins to be tied to whether or not God gives us earthly blessings.
To explain why this phrase is of such concern, I want take you to story of a man in the Bible who lived a life that was full of praise to God, but I'd argue that blessings didn't really come down. 2 Corinthians 11 takes us to a writing from Paul, one of the most Christ-centered people to have ever lived. To be quite honest, his life was marked with a lot of pain and suffering, yet he remained faithful and worshipful through it all.
He writes in 2 Corinthians 11:25-30 that “Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.”
If that passage isn’t crystal clear, Paul dealt with a whole lotta bad in his life. The moment he was thrown off his horse in Damascus and began his mission for Jesus did not kick off an easygoing life. Quite the opposite actually. He consistently faced opposition, oppression and ostracization all the way until he died. Maybe you’re thinking at least his death was peaceful? It wasn’t, he was murdered, and most likely from decapitation. What a fun story.
If we look at Paul’s life through the lens of the “praises go up, blessings come down” it makes us question whether or not Paul actually praised God. And let's be honest, we all know that isn't true and that phrase is just something that makes us feel happy. If we look at our own lives we can see that plain as day. Anyone that's lived on this earth, myself included, has been through some times that are just really bad. And that's okay because that's life. Just because bad things happen that doesn't mean we're not praising God, and on the flip side, praising God doesn't mean bad things won't happen.
But unfortunately, this new mindset that says praises determine our blessings is such an easy idea to latch onto that it's become massively popular. Now our faith in God has become reliant on what He can do for us rather than how we can serve Him. When in reality our view of God and the Bible has to come from a place of surrender and not selfishness. We can’t approach every time of prayer with only what we want. We can’t spend every moment of corporate worship just singing about how we feel, and we definitely can’t give to God in order to receive stuff back.
I tell you all this to say that Paul’s life was marked by martyrdom for the Christian faith, but yet he chose every day to keep the faith and praise God. He even writes at the end of his life in 2 Timothy 4:7-8 that “7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day.”
Paul's blessings didn’t come until he reached Heaven, but that was enough for him. He was never a Christian for favor or for an easy ride. He was a Christian because he had a radical experience with God that made every other aspect of life, good and bad, fall short in comparison. There was nothing, there is nothing, that even comes close to the magnitude of Jesus, and getting as close to Him as possible is all the reason for praising God that Paul needed, and all we need too.
So I want to end with this question: what if your blessing doesn’t come? You aren’t healed, the promotion doesn’t come through, that child doesn’t come back home. If you never see another earthly blessing does that discount the gift of Jesus Christ? Because if Jesus never did another thing for us other than save us from our sin and it’s punishment, He’d be worth serving every single day. Too often we focus on what we can get from Him today, instead of being eternally grateful for what He’s already done. And yes, we are children of God, and yes, our Father does want to bless us, but that doesn’t mean our faith can be contingent upon the blessings we receive. So if you don’t get your blessing can you still praise God? Can you praise God for who He is and not what He’s done? Can you praise God with no conditions or reservations or clauses? Can you praise God simply because He deserves it?