读经： 诗115:12-18 腓2:12-30 耶2:31-4:9
How to Be a Blessing Machine
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 almost £60,000 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. He said his life had been 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 St Peter’s Brighton, 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 – and you really can make a difference to the lives of those around you.
1. God is the ultimate blessing machine
Psalm 115:12-18It 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. Each of the recipients of the generosity of ‘the secret millionaire’ showed great gratitude. Our appropriate response is that ‘we bless God, oh yes – we bless him now, we bless him always!’ (v.18, MSG).
‘Praise the Lord’ (v.18c). Lord, I can never praise you enough for all your generosity to me. Thank you that you have blessed me in Christ with every spiritual blessing (see Ephesians 1:3).
2. Be a blessing machine to others
Philippians 2:12-30How, in practice, can we make a difference to the lives of those around us?
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 according to 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, like the secret millionaire – 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’:
- 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).
- 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, he 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. Cyprian, a bishop of Carthage, showed remarkable courage during the plague. Whereas the heathens 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’.
Lord, help me to be a ‘blessing machine’ today. Help me to do everything without complaining or arguing and to hold out the word of life to someone today.
3. Don’t turn away from God’s blessing
Jeremiah 2:31-4:9If 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 longs to bless his people and all the nations, but they have turned away from this blessing. Jeremiah warns 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 awayfrom 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.
Lord, today I give to you everything I have – time, money, possessions and everything else. Thank you for the immense blessing there always is in returning to you. Thank you that you long to bless me and to bless others through me. Help me today to be a ‘blessing machine’.
‘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 have a few things to work on!