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Mount of Blessing


Michel Isola/iStock/Thinkstock

Embrace these two simple truths of leadership: There is a difference between success and blessing. You need blessing.

By S. Robert Maddox

God revealed the promise He made to His creation in stages through events involving Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, the Messiah, and the returning King — one covenant progressively revealed.

The name Shaddai was a favorite name of God in the Old Testament. El Shaddai translates into “God of my mountain,” possibly “God of might.” Similar to the heights of a mountain, the Lord mightily reigns above everything. God often connected mountaintop experiences to the revelation of His covenant. At every point of discovery God required an action on a mountain.

Moses prepared the people entering the Promised Land with instructions from Deuteronomy, God's law to the conquering generation. They were to participate in a special mountaintop experience, half standing before Mount Ebal and half before Mount Gerizim. The event emphasized the covenant as a blessing and a curse; a blessing if followed and a curse if rejected (Joshua 8:30–34).

Jesus reiterated the bless/curse concept in the Beatitudes: “ ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude youand insult youand reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

‘Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

‘But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets' ” (Luke 6:20–26).

Everyone and everything needs God's blessing. His blessing must saturate the church, congregations, ministries, communities, schools, businesses, families, individuals, and especially leadership. The world is starving for honorable and trustworthy leaders.

The book Leadership Prayers by Richard Kriegbaum, a leader in higher education, is a selection of heartfelt prayers for people serving in positions of responsibility. Prayers deal with reality, wisdom, hope, courage, values, and integrity. One prayer gives special attention to blessing. Two sentences are worth additional contemplation.

Success and Blessing

The author wrote, “Help me to know the difference between success and blessing.” Believers often equate the blessing of God as similar to a successful venture. The measurement of God being involved in an activity, event, or organization is: How successful is it?

The church usually measures success the same as the secular market, via statistics. At Trinity Bible College, the Board of Regents regularly came on campus to review progress. The members wanted specific data — enrollment figures, new application numbers, financial reports. If enrollment, applications, and finances were increasing, then God was blessing. If enrollment, applications, or finances were declining, then a problem needed addressing so God could bless again.

Can people control, regulate, and manipulate God's blessing simply by human ingenuity? Is blessing associated with skill or obedience? Scripture reveals blessing is connected to obedience.

We accomplish success by preparation andopportunity. Some are prepared but never get an opportunity. Some get opportunity but are unprepared. When both are effectively combined the result is success.

The church world continues to be deeply engrained in a church-growth mentality. Church leaders review attendance, finances, and ministry participation and God is blessing when the figures are up. Is this true?

My wife and I were invited to New York City to spend time with Jim and Carol Cymbala as well as Dave and Gwen Wilkerson. One afternoon, in casual conversation, Dave said, “I don't pray for church growth.” His prayers centered on holiness, purity, righteousness, and churches faithfully proclaiming Christ in anticipation of His coming. He was praying for the church's obedience in order to secure God's blessing.

Blessing centers on fruitfulness. Is the church bearing fruit; namely, holy fruit, transforming fruit, life-changing fruit? What good is a well-attended church if people are not living in a right manner, if people are not fully engaged with Jesus?

In the Parable of the Vine (John 15), Jesus instructed believers to bear much fruit. Does it matter how much foliage there is on the vine, or how beautiful a bush has become, if it is not producing fruit? Does it matter if a church appears corporately successful, having little or no spiritual formation?

Can a congregation be few in number and be blessed? Yes. Can a church with limited finances be blessed? Absolutely. Do not misunderstand: more people need to attend church. God has a huge assignment for His followers. People need the message of His community and a genuinely transforming environment. Size, however, is not the measurement of blessing.

Look at blessing from another perspective: In most cultures leaders in their 50s recognize their abilities and skills start to lose value and decrease in marketability. Society often perceives elderly people as too old to be viable candidates for employment, at least in higher-paying jobs. Many leaders end careers in insignificance, as measured by success. Does this mean they are not blessed because of not being pursued for prominent positions? Of course not.

Jonathan Edwards ushered America into a wonderful spiritual awakening. After leaving a renowned pastorate, he gave oversight for 8 years to a small and remote congregation while serving as a missionary to the Housatonic Indians. During this time, however, he completed his celebrated work, The Freedom of the Will.

Leaders, even with Ph.D.s, having served with a high measure of success, sometimes walk away from prestigious titles and return to the ranks of insignificance by divine providence. Blessing is bearing fruit wherever planted.

Pleasant and Unpleasant Blessings

Kriegbaum also wrote, “Let me know Your special favor, whether in Your pleasant blessings or in the unpleasant ones. No matter what I may think of myself or what others may say.”

Some of God's blessings are unpleasant. The wilderness wandering people of Israel stood on the banks of the Jordan River being told the Promised Land would be a blessing, yet God's blessing would mean going to war with the Canaanites. Some Israelites were going to die in battle. Homes were going to become fatherless and widows would weep over the consequences of the blessing.

Are opinions about blessings too narrow? Blessing can include conflict, hardships, and suffering.

When I was giving oversight to the Stone Church in Chicago, a member had a nosebleed that would not stop. He went to an emergency room and they performed various tests. A test revealed a spot on one of his kidneys. The kidney was removed and the lab result showed a large and cancerous tumor. The surgery successfully removed all the cancerous cells. The nosebleed, not initially considered a blessing, proved to be a great blessing.

Corrie ten Boom helped protect Jewish people during WWII and was blessed with imprisonment. Out of the furnace of Auschwitz came a jewel of a woman.

Before producers released the movie The Hiding Place in theaters, they produced a small promotional film called Corrie for churches. A teenage girl saw the film and told her mother she hoped to be a “neat old lady” like Corrie when she was old. Corrie experienced humanity's worst to be deemed a neat old lady. She received a blessing few can comprehend, one purified through the refiner's fire. Out of horrible circumstances have come some of the greatest artworks, songs, poems, and books.

We often hear reports about the persecuted church around the world. People feel terrible remorse, and should, yet Jesus said, “ ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven' ” (Matthew 5:10).

To equate blessing with pleasure is a tragic mistake. Blessing should be equated with presence, the presence of the Lord. A blessed life is not without conflict, struggle, or even worldly failure. God uses a variety of means to humble believers, and humility is the doorway to blessing.

Not all blessings are unpleasant; most are sweet and satisfying. Psalm 147:1 declares, “How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise Him!” One of the more pleasurable experiences in life is gathering with others and praising His name. You sense, in greater measure, the blessing of His presence and the sweetness of His fellowship when singing to the Lord.

Blessing is walking with Jesus, regardless the road.

The signs of blessing

Joshua 22:5 reveals blessing as, “ ‘To love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.' ”

Two phrases deserve special attention: “walk in obedience” and “keep his commands.” The statements are not the same. Obedience is responding to the personal directions of the Spirit. Keeping His commands is practicing the declared directives of Scripture. Adhering to His personal directionsand declared directives are signs of blessing.

Judges 2:19 reveals the opposite, “They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.” Improper activities, actions, and attitudes (evil practices), as revealed in Scripture, remove God's presence and blessing: sexual impurity, greed, idolatry, lying, coveting, gossip, creating discord.

Being unbending and having an unwillingness to move in His personal plan (stubborn ways) removes God's presence and blessing. D.V. Hurst told a group of ministers, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall never break.” Recognize the futility of rigidity. Stubbornness may be the No. 1 cause for people not experiencing God's blessing.

Conclusion

Embrace these two simple truths of leadership: There is a difference between success and blessing. You need blessing.

God's blessing occasionally involves unpleasantness. The end product is sweetness in your soul.

S. ROBERT MADDOX, former lead pastor at Stone Church, Chicago, Ill., and executive vice president of Trinity Bible College, Ellendale, North Dakota. He resides in Ozark, Missouri, and blogs weekly at bob-maddox.blogspot.com.

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