In my last post, I wrote about the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk is faced with very surprising, and unpleasant, news from the Lord. In this article, I would like to turn the table slightly. I would like to begin to address the question of how to respond to God’s pleasant surprises.
In order to accomplish that goal, we need a little theology.
Point #1: God blesses because He is good.
God is good and faithful, all the time – whether we get what we want or not. But sometimes His goodness flows out in amazing blessings. This year, the Biblical Counseling Training Conference had 1,930 attendees. We were amazed. It was a blessing beyond what we could have imagined. It was simply God choosing to bless because He can. Many of my friends have spoken of a time when God gave them a child after many years of waiting and praying. Other blessings have included a teacher who was just perfect for the child at that particular point in history. The list could go on and on. The point is that sometimes, completely out of the blue, the Lord gives us a pleasant surprise. It is just like the Lord to do to that.
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus teaches in Matt. 7:7-11 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Solomon, when given the opportunity to ask the Lord for whatever he wanted, chose wisdom and was given so much more. The story of redemption is God blessing, simply because He is good. There are no merits of our own that incline us to the Lord. It is the Lord’s kindness, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and loving-kindness that reaches to us.
Thus, it is not surprising when the Lord chooses to give us a good gift, simply because He can.
Point #2: God rewards faithfulness.
The nation of Israel (Deut 28-30) had to learn this lesson. Nehemiah, Ezra, and many others learned that God often expected his people to be faithful to the call, and then God would provide all the necessary resources for the task. Stewardship is all over the Bible, and so is the concept of reward for those who are faithful with their stewardship. Those who are faithful with what they have been given (Matt 25:21f) will be in the proper position to steward additional opportunities.
Sometimes those rewards do not come until glory, but on other occasions the Lord chooses to reward in the here and now.
I think these points, in turn, help us to understand how to respond to the Lord’s pleasant surprises.
First, respond with thankfulness. We live in a society that speaks so much about rights that we often forget to be thankful. Yet, when we remember that the Lord is better to us than we deserve, the proper response is to thank the gracious God who chose to bless us. Can you imagine the opportunities to give a witness just by being thankful. Your boss would hardly know how to respond. Your co-workers would probably view you as a smooze, until you started thanking them. Your spouse, parents, and children would make comments about it. Let’s start by being thankful.
Second, respond with dependence for the task. Jesus said, “to whom much is given, much will be required.” These pleasant surprises from the Lord are not to be squandered, but they are to be used for greater service to the Lord. In other words, the blessing adds responsibility, for which you will need God’s help to steward.
Third, ask the Lord for more opportunities so that you use your life for His honor and glory. Let’s face it, we like comfort and ease. We like to get to the place where we have it “down.” This allows us to relax. Maybe that “relax” is an excuse for laziness and a desire to no longer be dependent. I am not suggesting that we fill every moment of every day with activity. I am suggesting that we use our life for the cause of Christ. Sometimes, we need gentle pushing from the Lord to be as effective as He wants us to be.
Much more could be said about God’s surprises, but I think these two posts are a start. When an unpleasant surprise comes, I live by faith and I worship. When I receive a pleasant surprise, I am thankful, dependent, and asking the Lord for other opportunities to serve him.