Day 275

How to Be a Blessing Machine

Wisdom Psalm 115:12-18
New Testament Philippians 2:12-30
Old Testament Jeremiah 2:31-4:9

Introduction

Do you ever wonder whether you can make a difference to the lives of those around you?

I once watched an episode of the reality TV Show, The Secret Millionaire. Kevin Green – a covert multi-millionaire – searched for people and causes that would benefit from his financial support. He gave about $100,000 to a range of people working with the homeless, teenage addicts and disabled children. The response of all these people was deeply moving. They were so grateful, and the causes that they work for benefited greatly. They were blessed and enabled to bring greater blessing to others.

However, the most interesting aspect of the programme was the change in Kevin Green. He had experienced in a new way the joy of blessing others. His life was changed as a result. The words of Jesus are true: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35).

Archie Coates, vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, speaks of the church as a ‘blessing machine’. That is exactly what we as Christians are called to be, as the church and as individuals. You really can be a blessing machine.

Wisdom

Psalm 115:12-18

12 The Lord remembers us and will bless us:
   He will bless his people Israel,
   he will bless the house of Aaron,
13 he will bless those who fear the Lord—
   small and great alike.

14 May the Lord cause you to flourish,
   both you and your children.
15 May you be blessed by the Lord,
   the Maker of heaven and earth.

16 The highest heavens belong to the Lord,
   but the earth he has given to the human race.
17 It is not the dead who praise the Lord,
   those who go down to the place of silence;
18 it is we who extol the Lord,
   both now and forevermore.

Praise the Lord.

Commentary

God is the ultimate blessing machine

It is God’s blessing on your life that enables you to make a difference to the lives of others. God is the source of all blessing. He loves to bless you. The psalmist repeats this over and over again. Five times in quick succession he talks about how the Lord will bless us (vv.13–15).

God is not just some multi-millionaire. He is ‘the Maker of heaven and earth… The highest heavens belong to the Lord’ (vv.15b–16a). In his extraordinary generosity, ‘the earth he has given to \[us\]’ (v.16b).

God loves to bless. The appropriate response to blessing is gratitude: ‘we bless God, oh yes – we bless him now, we bless him always!’ (v.18, MSG).

Prayer

‘Praise the Lord’ (v.18c). Lord, I can never praise you enough – you have blessed me in Christ with every spiritual blessing (see Ephesians 1:3).

New Testament

Philippians 2:12-30

Do Everything Without Grumbling

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Timothy and Epaphroditus

19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honour people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.

Commentary

Be a blessing machine to others

How, in practice, can you make a difference to the lives of those around you?

We are ‘children of God’ (v.15). You are called to be like your Father in heaven, who loves to bless. You have a responsibility to work out your own salvation (to see God’s grace impact every area of your life), but it is he who ‘works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose’ (v.13).

Many people are reluctant to trust God with their future because they fear that God will make them do something that they have no desire to do or will make a mess of their life. Of course, both of these fears are without foundation.

If your will is surrendered to him, God will give you the desire to do whatever he is calling you to do. If he is calling you to a ministry with the poor, that is where your heart will be. If he is calling you to teach, he will give you a desire to teach. If you surrender to his will, he will bring about ‘his good purpose’ (v.13).

What he wants for your life is good. It will not necessarily be easy, but you will not be able to improve on his plan. He will also give you the energy you need: ‘That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure’ (v.13, MSG).

Paul knows the joy of being a ‘blessing machine’. He writes, ‘Do everything readily and cheerfully – no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night’ (vv.14–16a, MSG).

You have the immense privilege of being able to give people not just money, but ‘the word of life’ (v.16a). There is no greater joy than seeing people who are spiritually dead come to life through Jesus.

Paul is willing to give his life with joy for this privilege: ‘But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me’ (vv.17–18).

Paul then gives two examples of friends of his who both demonstrated how to be a ‘blessing machine’:

  1. Take a genuine interest in others

    Timothy was one of Paul’s closest friends and is often mentioned in his letters. His loyalty and help were so great that Paul describes it as being ‘like a son with his father’ (v.22).

    Paul pays tribute to his friend, ‘He is loyal, and genuinely concerned for you’ (v.20, MSG). Paul compares this to the blight of self-interest, saying, ‘Most people around here are looking out for themselves’ (v.21, MSG).

    Timothy was a ‘blessing machine’ because he took a ‘genuine interest’ in the welfare of God’s children (v.20). Timothy’s interest was totally authentic: ‘the real thing’ (v.22, MSG). Paul says that he ‘served with me in the work of the gospel’ (v.22).

  2. Show courage on behalf of others

    Epaphroditus was also a loyal friend to both Paul and the Philippians. His true character comes across in both the big and little things, and often it is the little things that are most telling. Having become seriously ill, almost to the point of death, Epaphroditus is troubled, not because he is ill and close to death, but because they might have been upset by it. He was like those who, when ill, are not so much worried by the illness as by the fact that they might be a burden to their family or friends.

    Paul describes Epaphroditus as a ‘brother, fellow-worker and fellow-soldier’ (v.25). Epaphroditus had been prepared to ‘risk his life’ for the sake of his friend Paul (v.30). This expression is actually more literally translated as ‘gambling his life’.

    In the early church, there were societies of men and women who called themselves ‘the gamblers’, who ministered to the sick and those in prison. For example, Cyprian, a bishop of Carthage, showed remarkable courage during the plague, which began in AD 250. Where everyone else fled from the sick and the dead, Cyprian and other Christians buried the dead, nursed the sick and saved the city at the risk of their own lives.

    Epaphroditus gambled his life by associating himself with Paul, who was in prison on a capital charge, thereby risking the same charge as Paul. Epaphroditus showed reckless courage on behalf of Paul. He too was a ‘blessing machine’.

Prayer

Lord, help me to do everything without complaining or arguing and to hold out the word of life to someone today.

Old Testament

Jeremiah 2:31-4:9

2
31 “You of this generation, consider the word of the Lord:

“Have I been a desert to Israel
   or a land of great darkness?
Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam;
   we will come to you no more’?
32 Does a young woman forget her jewelry,
   a bride her wedding ornaments?
Yet my people have forgotten me,
   days without number.
33 How skilled you are at pursuing love!
   Even the worst of women can learn from your ways.
34 On your clothes is found
   the lifeblood of the innocent poor,
   though you did not catch them breaking in.
Yet in spite of all this
   35 you say, ‘I am innocent;
   he is not angry with me.’
But I will pass judgment on you
   because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’
36 Why do you go about so much,
   changing your ways?
You will be disappointed by Egypt
   as you were by Assyria.
37 You will also leave that place
   with your hands on your head,
for the Lord has rejected those you trust;
   you will not be helped by them.

3 “If a man divorces his wife
   and she leaves him and marries another man,
should he return to her again?
   Would not the land be completely defiled?
But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers —
   would you now return to me?”
   declares the Lord.
2 “Look up to the barren heights and see.
   Is there any place where you have not been ravished?
By the roadside you sat waiting for lovers,
   sat like a nomad in the desert.
You have defiled the land
   with your prostitution and wickedness.
3 Therefore the showers have been withheld,
   and no spring rains have fallen.
Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute;
   you refuse to blush with shame.
4 Have you not just called to me:
   ‘My Father, my friend from my youth,
5 will you always be angry?
   Will your wrath continue forever?’
This is how you talk,
   but you do all the evil you can.”

Unfaithful Israel

6 During the reign of King Josiah, the Lord said to me, “Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. 7 I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. 8 I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery. 9 Because Israel’s immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. 10 In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense, ” declares the Lord.

11 The Lord said to me, “Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah. 12 Go, proclaim this message toward the north:

“‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord,
   ‘I will frown on you no longer,
for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord,
   ‘I will not be angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your guilt—
   you have rebelled against the Lord your God,
you have scattered your favours to foreign gods
   under every spreading tree,
   and have not obeyed me,’”
   declares the Lord.

14 “Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion. 15 Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. 16 In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,” declares the Lord, “people will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. 17 At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the Lord, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honour the name of the Lord. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. 18 In those days the people of Judah will join the people of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your ancestors as an inheritance.

19 “I myself said,

“‘How gladly would I treat you like my children
   and give you a pleasant land,
   the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.’
I thought you would call me ‘Father’
   and not turn away from following me.
20 But like a woman unfaithful to her husband,
   so you, Israel, have been unfaithful to me,”
   declares the Lord.

21 A cry is heard on the barren heights,
   the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel,
because they have perverted their ways
   and have forgotten the Lord their God.

22 “Return, faithless people;
   I will cure you of backsliding.”

“Yes, we will come to you,
   for you are the Lord our God.
23 Surely the idolatrous commotion on the hills
   and mountains is a deception;
surely in the Lord our God
   is the salvation of Israel.
24 From our youth shameful gods have consumed
   the fruits of our ancestors’ labour—
their flocks and herds,
   their sons and daughters.
25 Let us lie down in our shame,
   and let our disgrace cover us.
We have sinned against the Lord our God,
   both we and our ancestors;
from our youth till this day
   we have not obeyed the Lord our God.”

4 “If you, Israel, will return,
   then return to me,”
   declares the Lord.
“If you put your detestable idols out of my sight
   and no longer go astray,
2 and if in a truthful, just and righteous way
   you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’
then the nations will invoke blessings by him
   and in him they will boast. ”

3 This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem:

“Break up your unplowed ground
   and do not sow among thorns.
4 Circumcise yourselves to the Lord,
   circumcise your hearts,
   you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
or my wrath will flare up and burn like fire
   because of the evil you have done—
   burn with no one to quench it.

Disaster From the North

5 “Announce in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem and say:
   ‘Sound the trumpet throughout the land!’
Cry aloud and say:
   ‘Gather together!
   Let us flee to the fortified cities!’
6 Raise the signal to go to Zion!
   Flee for safety without delay!
For I am bringing disaster from the north,
   even terrible destruction.”

7 A lion has come out of his lair;
   a destroyer of nations has set out.
He has left his place
   to lay waste your land.
Your towns will lie in ruins
   without inhabitant.
8 So put on sackcloth,
   lament and wail,
for the fierce anger of the Lord
   has not turned away from us.

9 “In that day,” declares the Lord,
   “the king and the officials will lose heart,
the priests will be horrified,
   and the prophets will be appalled.”

Commentary

Don’t turn away from God’s blessing

If you are experiencing the blessing of walking in a close relationship with God, those around you ‘will get caught up in the blessing’ (4:2, MSG).

The prophet Jeremiah urges the people to return to the Lord (v.1). God longs to bless you. ‘You must get rid of your stinking sin paraphernalia and not wander away from me anymore. Then you can say words like, “As God lives ...” and have them mean something true and just and right. And the godless nations will get caught up in the blessing’ (vv.1b–2a, MSG).

God longed to bless his people and all the nations, but they turned away from this blessing. Jeremiah warned the people of the dangers of turning from God to false idols: ‘You cut and hurt a lot of people to get where you are’ (v.34, MSG). They have been unfaithful (3:1b).

Again and again the Lord urges them to return: ‘Return, faithless Israel… for I am merciful… Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and with understanding… How gladly would I treat you like my children and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation. I thought you would call me “Father” and not turn away from following me’ (vv.12,15,19).

The Lord is interested in your heart more than your outward appearance. You cannot pretend with God: ‘Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretence’ (v.10). The Lord urges, ‘Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts’ (4:4). Even in the Old Testament God said it was a circumcised heart (a heart wholly committed to him) that he desired.

If in any way you have turned away from the Lord, return to him today with all your heart.

Prayer

Lord, today I give to you everything I have – time, money, possessions and everything else. Thank you that you long to bless me and to bless others through me. Help me today to be a ‘blessing machine’.

Pippa adds

Philippians 2:14

‘Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you might become blameless and pure, children of God without fault.’

Not even a little grumble seems to be allowed. And as for being ‘without fault’... I’ve got a few things to work on!

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References

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel

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