Sometimes, things in church are going great. For whatever reason, the Lord has chosen to bless the work. We are seeing people coming in, convert, get baptised and even join in membership. We might have seen an uptick in some ministry that we do that few others have seen much fruit in. Maybe all our ministry programmes and services just seem to be on point, relevant and generally awesome.
When these things are the case – and sometimes one or several of them are – we can begin to make some assumptions about why these things are happening. Many of these assumptions lack biblical warrant and speak more to our mindset than anything we read in the Bible.
One assumption we make is that the Lord is blessing because of something we are doing. We are running particular things, in a particularly great way, and the Lord is blessing us because of it. Essentially, we have found the right mode and method and the Lord is blessing because we’re definitely doing the right things.
Another assumption, closely related to the previous one, is that the Lord is blessing because we are at the centre of things. We essentially think that we, in particular, are the people the Lord is blessing. Maybe we believe we are especially faithful, or holy, or gifted. Whatever it is that leads us to think such things, we are sure the blessing is a result of our being involved.
Others might assume things are going well because they have special insights that others don’t. They see things, they know things, they are particularly well placed to do them. The Lord is blessing because of our great insight.
I have heard a somewhat perverse claim that the Lord has blessed a particular work specifically because, contrary to the above assumptions, it was particularly low grade. The Lord, so the reaosning goes, loves to use the weak and feeble things to confound the wise and mighty. And so, the fact that our particular ministry was especially rubbish was the specific cause of the Lord blessing it.
In even more perverse reasoning, I have heard some insist that the Lord blessed something because they were unfaithful. It was not so much the unfaithfulness that led to the blessing itself so much as the desire to do the best for the Lord and making an unfaithful choice under the circumstances, for the purposes of making much of the gospel, led to the Lord blessing the heart behind the decision.
Assumptions like these abound. Most of them share in common a self-centred view of why the Lord blesses anything. It is usually in response to something we have done – whether good or bad – and he determines matters based on our performance one way or the other. It assumes an awful lot of importance on our behalf and a fairly reactionary view of God, as though he weren’t sovereign over all the things that happened in the first place.
In truth, the Lord blesses whom he blesses and doesn’t curses whom he curses for reasons known only to him. Sometimes he works through weaknesses, other times he works through powerful people too. Sometimes he blesses what is rubbish, other times he blesses what is actually quite good. Sometimes he blesses an unfaithful choice, despite the choice itself, and other times he punishes such choices. This minimally tells us that rarely is the Lord’s choice to bless a result of our performance in whatever direction we happen to perform.
Scripture goes one step further. It tells us the ultimate reason why the Lord blesses anything; his own glory. This is the determinate factor in what gets blessed (as far as we reckon blessing) and what doesn’t. The Lord knows what needs to happen to glorify himself and he sets the circumstances to make it happen. He knows whether he would be more glorified by packing out an evangelistic event you have put on because the gospel will be proclaimed to thousands or whether he would be glorified more by the growth that would come by your event being a total flop. The gospel doesn’t only advance quantatively but qualitatively; it advances both in new converts and in existing ones growing in maturity. The Lord knows which will glorify him more and sets the circumstances to ensure the most glory goes to him.
We shouldn’t assume what God is ever doing. I was speaking to our community group just last night about how much of what we do look pokey, low-grade and less than excellent but that the Lord is choosing to use these things in various ways. He isn’t doing so because of us, or because of how we’re doing those things, but simply because he is more glorified in using them in the ways he is than if he didn’t. At the same time, when he chooses not to use the things we do, he is more glorified through not apparently blessing them than by giving us the amazing results we might hope to see.
it is rarely safe to assume what God is doing and why. It is even less sensible to assume it is rooted in us. The only sensible assumption is this: whatever happens, it will redound to God’s glory more fully than had it not in the end.