Those Puzzling Blessings



February 19, 2006

Throughout our lifetime we’ve received so many blessings that it’s impossible to count all of them as the well known song suggests. We just can’t remember every one of them, can we? Perhaps when we enter into eternity we will have access our minds hard drive, so to speak and then be able to count and name all of them.

Even such an unexpected blessing as the one I received in the mail a week ago will probably fade away after a while. It was a note from the housebound disabled wife of a friend of mine. She wanted me to know that she had decided to pray one day at a time for all the folks she had received Christmas cards from.

Although she had no way of knowing, it turned out that the day I spend most of my time working on Sunday’s sermon, a day I need all the prayers I can get, was the day this woman lifted me up in prayer. On second thought, her thoughtfulness may very well stay with me until God calls me home. Time will tell.

However, I do know I will never forget the mega blessing I received from a nurse when I was hospitalized for a life threatening condition. The idea popped into her mind to ask the charge nurse if she could be assigned to care for me every day she was on duty instead of switching to other patients as was customary. Along with my wife, that woman took such good care of me I hated to see her go home or even have a day off.

As well as being proficient in her nursing skills, she was kind, thoughtful, compassionate and very encouraging. As I said a moment ago, I know that God blessed me big time through that particular woman. However, I was soon to discover that I had been receiving what I refer to as being one of “those puzzling blessings.”

Allow me to explain. At first glance, I though that nurse must be a Christian. Surely someone with such an obvious love and concern for her patients couldn’t be otherwise. I was soon disappointed, when, in the course of conversation, she told me she was a Catholic.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that a Catholic can’t be a Christian any more I am saying that because a person is a Baptist he or she must be a Christian. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some folks are and some aren’t. However, aside from being a nice person with a lot of great qualities, I wasn’t convinced my nurse was a Catholic Christian.

For instance, although she knew a lot about Jesus, I couldn’t see enough evidence to convince me she really knew Him. And there is a world of difference between knowing about someone and knowing and having a personal relationship with a person. The contrast is a stark as it is between life and death. In this case you could even describe the difference with the nurse as being one of either eternal life or eternal death.

Consider our good Catholic friend Sergio. It’s quite obvious that he tries to put God first in his life. He struggles to walk the talk. He would be the first to admit that he often fails miserably. However, you can’t help but notice that Sergio’s faith is alive and vibrant. He never tires talking about his love for Jesus or about how grateful he is that Jesus loves him. He delights in sharing his feelings about Him with anyone willing to listen.

Sergio enjoys and wants to be in the company of his brothers and sisters in Christ. He seems to be developing an insatiable appetite to learn everything he can about his Lord and Savior as revealed in the Sacred Scriptures and then seize every opportunity he comes across to share his faith. In my opinion, that kind of zeal is not outstanding. It’s simply evidence of someone leading what I would describe as being “a normal Christian life.”

In other words, unless someone is living in the midst of persecution, I don’t believe it’s possible for anyone to be a laid back follower of Jesus. Some may not be as vocally expressive about their faith, but their humble submission to God’s will and patient endurance during seemingly never ending troubles speaks louder than words. Others quietly go about their way living their life in such a way that it’s impossible not to notice their resemblance to Jesus who is their Role Model

I was concerned about the eternal destiny of that wonderful nurse through whom God bestowed such a great blessing on me twenty years ago. My worse fear was realized when I bumped into her about a year after my hospitalization. She was different this time. Her faith was now vibrant, even electrifying. And it had been ever since she started attending the Kingdom Hall.

That nurse exhibited such beautiful Christ like characteristics in her care for me that it was hard to believe she wasn’t a follower of Christ. I’m sure she put many Christians to shame if you were to compare her walk with that of many of them. And yet, she has openly rejected Jesus as being the Son of God. She wants nothing to do with the One who has declared that it is impossible for anyone to enter into God’s heaven except through belief in Him John 14:6).

There have been many good people through whom God has blessed me big time and there still are. Just like that nurse, every one of them wants nothing to do with God’s Son. Unless I’m greatly mistaken each of you folks can echo that fact.

In describing blessings God bestowed on me through such folks I referred to them earlier as being “those puzzling blessings.” Allow me to explain. A  Christian not too well versed in the Scriptures is apt to become bewildered by such people. So much so that often his or her faith is shaken. Unless the Christian accepts the authority of the Bible as being the very Word of God Himself and therefore infallible in everything that it proclaims; such a person is apt to conclude that Jesus is not the only way through Whom it is possible to enter into God’s heaven.

Should we really be puzzled by these blessings? Is there any way we can make sense out of them? Why do some people treat us so nice, even nicer than some Christians do? Let’s look at the experience of a young man named Joseph. He was sold into slavery by his brothers and then thrown into prison by a furious husband on trumped up charges. He entered that prison when he was seventeen years old and wasn’t released until he was thirty.

19 As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. 20 And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23 The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed. Genesis 39:19-23 (ESV)

What an ongoing blessing this must have been for Joseph. The keeper sure treated him real well in comparison to the other prisoners. It might look like another one of those puzzling blessings I have been speaking about? The keeper at the time wasn’t one of God’s chosen people any more than my nurse of twenty years ago was a Christian.

The Lord certainly blessed Joseph through that man and the Lord blessed me through that nurse many years ago. Neither one of those people were believers. Nevertheless, God used both of them to bless a couple of His children. How did God accomplish that?

1 The king’s heart is [like] a stream of water [coming out of a garden hose] in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. Proverbs 21:1 (ESV)

The keeper of the prison was a Spiritually enlightened man. He knew without a doubt that the God Joseph served loved him very much and was responsible for the young mans success. Joseph’s experience wasn’t an isolated incident. There are many other accounts of blessings upon God’s people coming from unexpected sources (Ezra 1:1-7).

1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken 70 years previously]by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: 2 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Anyone of his people among you–may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.'”

5 Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites–everyone whose heart God had moved–prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem. 6 All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings. 7 Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god. Ezra 1:1-7 (NIV)

The Lord had somehow inclined King Cyrus to give the order to do something that no one would have imagined he would do. God also inclined some, not all, but some of the Jews to leave everything behind, and return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Many years later we find those Jews celebrating the Passover:

19 On the fourteenth day of the first month, the returned exiles kept the Passover. 20 For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together; all of them were clean. So they slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the returned exiles, for their fellow priests, and for themselves. 21 It was eaten by the people of Israel who had returned from exile, and also by everyone who had joined them and separated himself from the uncleanness of the peoples of the land to worship the LORD, the God of Israel (Ezra 6:19-22).

22 And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the LORD had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel. Ezra 6:19-22 (ESV)

Many people today including Christians refuse to believe what the Bible is telling us in these passages about God’s control over all events in human history. They will not accept the fact that God is sovereign. In other words they refuse to believe that God is God. Can you just imagine how certain politicians who are convinced that the Bush administration is composed of a bunch of control freaks would react to what I am teaching this morning?

1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. Proverbs 21:1 (ESV)

We just saw how this unseen spiritual activity played out in the lives of Joseph and the warden as well as that of a couple of kings and certain Jews. Just as much as I experienced His activity in the heart of that non-Christian nurse I spoke about earlier. Not to mention all those others the Lord has put it in their heart to be a blessing to you and me.

For instance, think of all those nice non-Christian doctors, lawyers, auto mechanics, school teachers, bosses, accountants, landlords and neighbors, bank tellers, store clerks and a multitude of other folks we interact with, that the Lord has somehow moved their heart so that, in one way or another, those folks are a blessing to us. Please don’t think that God browbeats them into showing us kindness. Don’t think that He makes then do something that that’s against their will (2 Corinthians 8:16-17).

16 I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. 17 For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. 2 Corinthians 8:16-17 (NIV)

These kinds of blessings God has bestowed on His people thousands of years ago are no less common today. However, there is a big difference in how His people viewed those blessings back then and how many of His people do today. I don’t believe those Jews were puzzled over them like many of today’s Christians might be. Since childhood those ancient Jews were immersed in the Sacred Scriptures and had committed them to memory. They were not spiritually anemic like all too many of God’s children are today. They knew the Kings heart and the heart of everyone was in the Lords hands. And they took great comfort in that fact.

Before closing I would like to take a closer look at the unseen workings of the Spirit of God in another enlightened unbeliever, a man named Saul. God had chosen this shy young man to become Israel’s first King. Later, speaking of certain prophets who were coming their way, the Prophet Samuel told Saul about the Lord’s intentions concerning him (1 Samuel 10:6). Samuel said:

6 Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man 1 Samuel 10:6 (ESV).

9 When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart. And all these signs came to pass that day. 10 When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them. 1 Samuel 10:9-10 (ESV)

Some time later during Saul’s reign we find the Jews in a desperate situation. They were willing to become the slaves of Nahash the Ammonite in exchange for peace. The man agreed on the condition that he would be allowed to gouge out the right eye of every Jew. When Saul received this horrible news we read: 6 And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled (1 Samuel 11:6 ESV).

However, Saul went on and repeatedly lived his life contrary to the commands of the Lord. Eventually he paid the price: 14 Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. 1 Samuel 16:14 (ESV)

We can profit greatly from knowledge of the Spirit’s working in the hearts of human beings. Sure the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul and gave him another heart and turned Saul into another man. This once shy man was given the ability to prophesy and also all the necessary wisdom and stamina to fearlessly lead the Israelites against their enemy’s.

Although Saul had been Spiritually enlightened and given another heart he was never given a new heart as his continual disobedience showed. The Holy Spirit finally left Saul alone in his sins. We shouldn’t be puzzled by those blessings God often bestows upon us by non-Christians even when they come our way through people who despise Jesus Christ. On the contrary, those seemingly puzzling blessings are a manifestation of God’s everlasting love for His people.

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