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What is God's Blessing : A Study of Wealth

These notes are an expanded version of a sermon preached in Albany Harvest Church in 2002

Main point: God’s blessing is in the nature of growth.

Sermon : started with story about fantasizing winning a lottery. Discussion that competitions, prizes, lotteries have become a major feature of NZ culture, including shopping. The world’s idea of blessing (though they don’t use that word) is instantly getting a prize, especially a prize that one hasn’t had to work for.

First major text: Jeremiah 17:5-11

First Point: God’s blessing and cursing are described in terms of two contrasting trees.
1. Verse 5-8. There we see a cursed man contrasted with a blessed man.
* The cursed man is like a bush in a salty, stony desert. The blessed man is like a tree planted by water, that is always green and producing fruit.
* This suggests the nature of blessing is in terms of ability to grow and be productive.
2. Verse 9-11. God rewards according to the heart
* v9 suggests we need to guard against temptation to think about things the way the world does
* v11 suggests God is concerned about the source of our wealth and we may lose it if it is built on injustice.
Second point: To explore whether blessing is indeed related to growth

* Genesis 1:9-12 God creates plant kingdom with a built-in ability to multiply.
* Genesis 1:20-31 God creates animals and mankind with a built-in ability to multiply
* Gen 8:15-22, 9:1 God’s command to increase
* Gen 18:17-19 - God’s blessing to Abraham was in terms of growth of his family.
* Deut 28:1-12 esp v4, v11-12. - God’s blessings on Israel were firstly on life and fertility Deut 28:1-12 esp v4, v11-12.
* Zechariah 4:10 “Do not despise the day of small things”
* Malachi 2:15 the Lord “was seeking godly offspring”
NT examples
* Jesus appeared on earth, not immediately full-grown, but by being conceived, growing as a fetus, and as a child. God’s greatest blessing took a long time to grow.
*Matt 13:1-23 Jesus deliberately described the kingdom of heaven by the growth of seeds: Parable of the sower
* Feeding of the 5000 was in the nature of multiplying the type of food that was available – the five loaves and two fish.
* 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 sow bountifully- God “supplies seed for the sower …”
* The church – God created it by using witnesses, making it to multiply.

Tentative Conclusion: The more I think about it the more it seems that God does his work by increasing what he already has. For example creating Eve out of Adam.
It seems to me pretty clear that much of what God does is by causing growth and development from what he has done before.

Third point: God’s blessing involves human work.
* Gen 2:15, 18, 20-23 God created it in the nature of man to work
* By contrast, God’s curse on man’s sin related to reducing men’s and women’s fertility and productivity. (Gen 3:16-19).
When Cain committed murder, God placed an extra curse on his productivity Gen. 4:12.
* Ecclesiastes 5:6 indicates the punishment for not keeping vows is to have a curse put on your work.
Haggai 1:5-11 is a case study.
* Many Proverbs talk about work.
* God is concerned that our income comes from honourable sources (recall Jeremiah 17:9-11.) See Gen 14:18- 15:6, where Abraham refused to accept wealth from the king of Sodom, and God confirmed his right decision by promising further blessing.
* I believe God expects us to work as part of our blessing. Sermon illustration about stock market, where people speculate to try to make a quick buck, whereas the best investors look for proven worth by companies that actually produce something. (Story of how, during the dot-com boom, Warren Buffet bought a shoe company rather than internet stocks: he is still making a profit.)
* On the other hand, God may still give us blessings that we don’t “deserve” in the sense of not having worked for them at all. The balance between work-blessing and non-work blessing is nicely illustrated by Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without Him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.” Or, to misquote President Thomas Jefferson “ I believe in luck. The harder I work, the luckier I get” (Sam Shoen).

Fourth Point: Don’t despise our birthright.
If it is in the nature of God’s blessing to bless us through growth, then we must be careful not to despise this birthright, like Esau did, who sold the future blessing he would have received for a single meal of stew. (Gen 25:29-34).
We need to embrace God’s way of blessing us. If the way to blessing is through sowing, growing and reaping, then we should sow, sow, sow, and trust God to bring the growth and harvest. If we know that we are working in with God’s way of acting, then we can act in greater faith and be doubly blessed.

We now consider a few Kingdom principles of investment and growth.

Second major text. Ecclesiastes 11:1-6

Some thoughts on God’s investment strategy.

v1. “Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.
v2. Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth.”
The Internet says that if you cast your bread upon the waters then after many days you will have soggy bread! Perhaps, but then perhaps you will catch a fine meal of fish! Or another suggestion someone made was that nomadic people might allow their seed to float downstream and then there would be crops there when they arrived.
Actually I think verse 1 and 2 are two sides of a coin. I think verse 1 is talking about how things will often be out of our control, just like a crust of bread in a stream will float away from us and where it ends up is not controllable – but God can make it to our benefit.
Verse 2 says our reaction to unpredictability should not be to bunker down, but to diversify, (a key investment word). Don’t have all your eggs in one basket. Do plant seeds in different places. Do invest in different people. Do share your financial risk - this means that it is biblically legitimate to have insurance.

v3. “If the clouds are full, they pour out rain upon the earth;
and whether a tree falls toward the south or toward the north, wherever the tree falls, there it lies.”

This reinforces the fact that some things are predictable: if there are rain clouds, expect rain.
God doesn’t expect us to be stupid. In fact planning is part of the work that God expects us to undertake. – Adam was not just a bloke on the end of a shovel – he was put in charge of the Garden. We are to plan as long as we live ( Ecclesiastes 9:10. “Whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.”)
On the other hand some things are unpredictable (like which way the tree falls, in v3) and whatever happens we can’t change it.
( Ecclesiastes 9:11 “I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise, nor wealth to the discerning, nor favour to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.”) Again this means we must plan – but this time include contingency plans, not just have a fixed idea how things are going to happen.

v4. “He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap.
v5. Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones {are formed} in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.
v6. Sow your seed in the morning, and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good.”

Since we cannot predict the future we sometimes have to just take our chances and opportunities and try. We can only trust God and leave the results with him. We are not to bury our talent (Matt 25:14-30). Taking chances means that we may fail! Many Christian businesses succeed, but other businesses run by equally godly Christians fail. The point is that not everyone fails all the time – especially if God is on your side. The sower of the seed, in the parable, wasted three quarters of his seed, to the birds, to the rocks, to the weeds. But the remaining quarter produced a crop, thirty, sixty and a hundredfold. The practical implication I see is that we should sow, sow, sow our seed, not worrying about whether a reward is certain, but leaving it to God and pressing on to the next sowing. Press on and not worry. Ecclesiastes 9:7-9. Of course, this includes asking God each day to help you see and take opportunities to sow.

Conclusion: Sow seeds for the harvest, sow in various ways. Work and faith are both involved. Trust God to give the increase.

Final Encouragement: Isaac – was blessed Gen 26:12-14
12Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year one hundred times what he planted. The LORD blessed him. 13The man grew great, and grew more and more until he became very great. 14He had possessions of flocks, possessions of herds, and a great household. The Philistines envied him.

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