All true children of God are blessed in Christ Jesus. If you are a child of God through faith in Christ then it is not possible to be any more spiritually blessed than you are right now:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3)
This lavish blessing in Christ Jesus is reality, but the Christian life has much to do with seeing this reality worked out and daily realized here in a sin cursed world. It is legitimate and needed that we pray for the experience of God’s blessing in our lives. If we are in Christ we are blessed, but growing followers of Christ are constantly praying to be blessed.
Imagine (in reality none of us really need to imagine this) that you are going about your life as a follower of Christ and then there is an unmistakable defeat. Just recently you had remarkable victories brought about by God’s enabling grace. But now, there is a real sense that though God is always with you, your enjoyment of His enabling presence simply was not in a recent defeat and is not present. You know His presence of blessing is simply not there and you do not know why. The next step is very important. It is God’s undeserved favor that you even have a taste for His presence of blessing and are aware that something is not right. But what do you do at that moment? You ought to go to God Himself in prayer asking Him to restore His presence of blessing in your life.
How do you go about that? What do you say? Surely you must not come to God in prayer asking for His blessing with a self-centered man centered view of His blessing. So how should you pray according to His will knowing He will answer?
The imaginary but not so imaginary scenario above is actually a reflection of Joshua 7’s account of such a circumstance in the history of Israel. Israel saw Jericho fall according to God’s promise. Punny Ai was next. All agreed that few men were needed to see Ai conquered according to God’s righteous command. Astoundingly Israel suffered a defeat against this less formitable opponent. This was Joshua’s response:
Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. 7 Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord GOD, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 “O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies? 9 “For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?” (Joshua 7:6-9)
Joshua is very clear that Israel desperately needs God’s presence of blessing for victory. He is painfully aware that something has gone very wrong. They did not experience the LORD’s promised presence of blessing. Among other things, notice what he says in verse 9: “And what will You do for Your great name?” What is Joshua concern in all of this? No doubt he was concerned for the families who were grieving the loss of their husbands and fathers (all 36 of them). No doubt he was concerned about the morale of the nation. But first and foremost Joshua has the concern of God’s glory: “What will You do for Your great name?” Other nations were watching. Israel was the LORD’S nation. What would He do for His great name?
Recognizing the primacy of God’s glory is the right premise upon which to pray for the restoration of God’s presence of blessing. We could pray, “Lord how we desire your presence of blessing,” and that would be good and right. But in order for those words to be pleasing unto God in prayer they must be breathing in the atmosphere of these words: “What will You do for Your great name?” We must desire the revealed presence of God’s blessing in our lives, but we can only keep that desire non-idolatrous if we are centered upon a jealousy for God’s’s glory in our lives.
What was the Lord’s response to Joshua?
So the LORD said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? 11 “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. 12 “Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst. 13 “Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the LORD, the God of Israel, has said, “There are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst.” 14 ‘In the morning then you shall come near by your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the LORD takes by lot shall come near by families, and the family which the LORD takes shall come near by households, and the household which the LORD takes shall come near man by man. 15 ‘It shall be that the one who is taken with the things under the ban shall be burned with fire, he and all that belongs to him, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has committed a disgraceful thing in Israel.'” (Joshua 7:10-15)
This is very instructive. Why has God’s revealed presence of blessing seem to no longer be present? Here the Lord reveals to Joshua that there was sin in the camp. If we are people who long for God’ s revealed presence of blessing in our lives so that God might be magnified in and through us then we are sensitive to when that presence seems to be hidden. And when we petition the Lord for that blessing once again motivated for His glory He graciously reveals to us where we have sinned against Him and calls us to repentance.
So what does all this mean for us today?
1. Be jealous for God’s glory therefore covet His revealed presence of blessing in your life.
2. Go to Him in prayer immediately when you are aware that you are not experiencing His revealed presence of blessing.
3. Pray for the restoration of His presence of blessing in your life with the motive of His glory being displayed in and through you.
4. Be ready to humbly acknowledge all sin before Him that His glory might once again be manifested through you.
Praying for God’s blessing motivated by His glory is a risky thing. It is risky because any current truce with sin will be confronted. It is risky because a self oriented life will be exposed as illegitimate. It is risky but it is the right risk. It is a grace inspired risk and a grace rewarded risk. So start or continue praying for God’s blessing out of a heart coveting His glory and be prepared to give Him the glory for what He does in and through you. In the case of Israel it was the defeat of Ai. What will it be in our lives? Whatever it will be it will be in harmony with this:
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21).