I’ve been reading through Genesis (smiling nod to you fellow ‘read through the Bible in a year plan’ followers) and it’s remarkable just how much blessing is going on. Take it right back to the beginning and we’ve got God blessing; we’ve got patriarchs blessing their offspring; we’ve got younger brothers stealing the blessing of older ones; we’ve got the blessing of God’s family being passed down to totally flawed and seemingly a-bit-clueless individuals; we’ve even got the grandson of Abraham blessing an Egyptian Pharoah. So much blessing – some of it making us feel warm and fuzzy and some making us think twice about how sin and blessing and God’s plan all come together.
And then, fast forward to the book of the Bible we’ve been studying as a church family – Ephesians. Right out of the blocks in verse 3 Paul says, “Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.” Wow! Blessed by God! Blessed with every spiritual blessing! Blessed in the heavens in Christ! This isn’t an unreliable blessing from an earthly father like Isaac who might get tricked with some fur and a bowl of soup just before he dies. There are no questions to weigh up about the motivation of the giver of this blessing or suspicion about what is to be gained by the blessing. No cliff hangers, no hidden clauses, no strings attached, no confusion of verb tenses. Simply, “You have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.” The faithful creator God has graciously blessed us, not because of what we have done, but because of His great love for us shown through Jesus Christ!
It’s interesting to think back on that Genesis moment. God formed mankind and it’s as though the whole creation would have been waiting to hear the first thing God would do to those made in His image… “God blessed them”. And Paul seems to pick up that original statement of our right relationship with God and tells us that now, in Christ, we have come to right relationship once more. Once again, we are blessed by God. It’s impossible to imagine the scope of that: every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
As I have considered this reality, and perhaps you and I are alike in this, I begin to consider how to respond to the things in my life that don’t seem to echo this spiritual blessing I have in Christ. What do I do with the visible experiences in this realm that haven’t yet aligned to the spiritual reality we have read in the beginning of Ephesians? What are we to do with situations like a sick family member, a lonely friend, a hope that seems endlessly deferred?
Let me remind you of a story in Daniel 3 that speaks of three men who were in a physical, natural, visible circumstance that was totally at odds with the heavenly reality they knew. Perhaps it will help us to know how we can live with what at times might seem to be a dichotomy between our blessed reality in Christ and being in this soon to be made new world.
This story is often a childhood favourite perhaps due to its courageous protagonists, obvious supervillain, mind-blowing construction, fiery climax, and amazingly miraculous resolution. It all begins with King Nebuchadnezzar building a golden statue and setting a decree that every person worship the idol. The consequence of disobedience was a one-way visit to a furnace of blazing fire. The plot develops as some minor characters tattle on a trio of believing Jews. The king calls for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to question their disobedience and test their will to obey their one true God. In the face of an angry king threatening their very lives, these heroes of the faith reply, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)
With a response like that and the action to back it up, we can see that these men were not blasé or naïve. They weren’t living by blind optimism or flimsy fatalism; they knew there is more going on than meets the eye. They knew their God was not bound by the possibilities of the material and natural world. They knew they were blessed to be God’s children and that He was not a Father who would abandon them or forsake them. They also knew that their God was able to raise the dead, quench a fire and give eternal life. They were blessed! That didn’t mean the fire wasn’t real, it just meant their faith was more real.
And that gives us an answer to our question. Sure, you may not be in a fiery furnace, but your situation might be threatening to overwhelm you. At times life can feel like a really bad country song – your truck broke down, your dog gone died, you lost your keys and you lost your pride *Or insert any other series of blows that can make life difficult here*. Occasionally, it can even feel more dire than that. Yet we too, in our very real circumstances, live with a very real faith. We stand firm in our God, trusting His ways and His plans. We can stand and proclaim with a faith that says, “my God can change this situation, but ‘even if He doesn’t’ I am blessed in Christ and my future is secure.”
Being blessed in the heavenly realms is an invitation to a life of faith. Ephesians 1:3 invites us to trust God afresh, to trust the reality that we are blessed in Christ and to rest in the confidence that truth brings. Not to live a naïve or blasé life, but to engage in the life of faith which chooses to live in the unseen blessings as well as the seen ones, to worship God even when an enemy threatens and to let God save us instead of trying to save ourselves. Finally, to believe that I am more blessed than I dare to imagine, because I am in Christ, and one day, we will know fully what that reality looks like, even if right now we contend to see it realised. So, I remind you, if you are in Christ, you are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. That is the reality, and you are invited to partake in the great adventure of living by faith in that reality, today.