Having suffered a knee injury while dancing a few years ago, Connie Munro of Juneau, Alaska underwent surgery. But the problem persisted. In her words, “it just wouldn’t loosen up….I thought I was permanently disabled.”
And then she arrived for work at the state Education Department in downtown one morning, got out of her car and was greeted by a charging black bear only 15 feet away! “I kind of blinked a couple of times,” she reported, and then ran around the car and sprinted for the building. Safely inside, she screamed, and then noticed, “I hadn’t run since last spring….The knee works. The bear has given me a present.”
If you ask the average American what “gifts” they have received for which they were thankful, the list undoubtedly would have read something like: family, home (house), job, security (financial), friends, health, etc… Yet somehow that list has always left me feeling a hollow, as though it was missing something. It was.
The real blessings in life are not found in material things (as most of that list suggests) but in the spiritual provisions of God. Our tendency (even as believers in Christ) is to believe that the content of God’s blessing is material goods and possessions (how often haven’t we said, “God blessed me with ________” and then named a material product of some kind?). While God does provide us with all that we have, to say that is the totality of God’s blessing is to say that the reason I purchased a Cadillac was for the CD player in the dashboard.
The great focus of God’s blessing on those who are His is spiritual.
Romans 4 is a great declaration of the truth of justification by faith, as evidenced in the Old Testament, beginning with Abraham (v. 3). The foundation of salvation is not works, but faith. Want more evidence than the great patriarch Abraham? Consider David. He too was saved by faith. In fact, verses 7-8 are a quotation from Psalm 32, his soulful song of worship in response to the pardon of his sin with Bathsheba.
In his sin, David had directly broken outright three of the Ten Commandments (covetousness, adultery, and murder). The indication was that there was no sacrifice that would atone for his sin (Ps. 51:16 — this psalm recounts the same events as Ps. 32). David’s case was hopeless. The only remaining option was an appeal to the grace of God (Ps. 51:17). And it was in that grace that he found hope and forgiveness.
In response to that forgiveness, David says that not only he is blessed, but that every forgiven person is blessed. Everyone who has been forgiven by God was like David — hopeless and helpless. In fact, David characterizes his sin in three ways: it was rebellion, it was the missing of God’s perfect standard, and it was complete guilt before God. And to that sin, God offers official pardon, the blotting out of David’s sin from the record, and the assurance that the sin would never again be held against him. No wonder he says, “Oh how happy is the forgiven man!”
What God has done for the problem of our sin is real cause for celebration. What God has done for the problem of our sin is the starting point of our real blessings!