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Sermon illustrations

Blessing

Blessing: A Life with God

Blessing in the ancient world was the highest form of well-being possible for human beings. The Greeks referred to the blissful existence of the gods as “blessed.” For Israel, blessing included not just gifts from God but especially life with God. Blessing would include all areas of Abram’s life: his family, his finances, his work, and his heart. That meant he wasn’t just to receive a blessing; he was to be a blessing. In fact, it is impossible to be blessed in the highest sense apart from becoming a blessing.

Taken from John Ortberg, All the Places to Go . . . How Will You Know?: God Has Placed before You an Open Door.  What Will You Do?, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 

Defining What it Means to Be Blessed

To bless generally means to speak good or to do good things for another. There are many types of blessing in Scripture. The first is the blessing God communicates to people. When God blessed Abraham by saying, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2), he was pronouncing a benediction promising His favor.

The second type of blessing is spoken by people to God. In Psalm 103:1-2, King David blesses God by saying, “Bless the Lord, 0 my soul; and all that is within me, bless His Holy name.

Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and forget none of His benefits” (NASB). Speaking well of or expressing praise to God is blessing Him. When we bless Him, we acknowledge Him as the source for all we have. Yet another type is a blessing spoken by God or people over things. One example of this is Deuteronomy 28:4-5: “The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.” Even in our secular age it’s common in many coastal communities in to have annual blessing of the fleet ceremony at the beginning of each fishing season.

The fourth type of blessing is one spoken by one person to another, often invoking the name of God. When we bless someone superior to us, as when Jacob blessed Pharaoh in Genesis 47:7, the phrase suggests honoring or showing respect.

H. Norman Wright, Chosen For Blessing, Harvest House Publishing, 1992.

A Double Blessing

During his celebrated career as a composer, George Frideric Handel wrote forty-two operas, twenty-nine oratorios, and 120 cantatas. Of Handel, Ludwig van Beethoven said, “To him I bow the knee.” Handel certainly ranks as one of history’s greatest composers, but he hit a point of diminishing return later in life. At age fifty-six, Handel was past his composing prime. He was depressed. He was in debt. And a stroke hindered the use of his right hand. Handel was struggling to stay musically relevant, which is rather ironic given the fact that he was about to score one of history’s most iconic pieces of music.

On August 22, 1741, George Frideric Handel started composing. He would not leave his home for three weeks. In fact, he rarely left his composing chair. Twenty-one days later, Handel emerged from his writing room with a 259-page masterpiece called Messiah. The opening act prophetically points to the coming Messiah.

The middle act is Handel’s commentary on the passion of Christ. The final act celebrates the risen Savior, who “shall reign forever and ever.” Finally Handel inked three letters on the last page, SDG—soli Deo gloria—“To God alone be the glory!” That’s the backstory, but here’s the rest of the story. Messiah debuted as an Easter offering at the Great Music Hall in Dublin, Ireland, on April 13, 1742. The music mesmerized its listeners, but it accomplished so much more than that. It wasn’t just a concert; it was a benefit concert.

That inaugural performance raised £400—$86,000 in today’s dollars! And that £400 was used to free 142 men from debtors’ prison. That is what qualifies Messiah as a double blessing. The first blessing is beautiful music that inspires the soul. The second blessing? Setting 142 captives free!

Taken from Mark Batterson, Double Blessing: Don’t Settle for Less Than You’re Called to Bless, Multnomah, 2019.

Imagine God’s Voice

What do you hear when you imagine the voice of God singing? I hear the booming of Niagara Falls mingled with a trickle of a mossy mountain stream. I hear the blast of Mt. St. Helens mingled with a kitten’s purr. I hear the power of an East Coast hurricane and the barely audible puff of a night snow in the woods. And I hear unimaginable roar of the sun, 865,000 miles thick, 1,300,000 times bigger than the earth and-nothing but fire, 1,000,000 degrees centigrade on the cooler surface of the corona. But I hear this mingled with the tender, warm crackling of logs in the living room on a cozy winter’s night.

I stand dumfounded, staggered, speechless that he is singing over me—one who has dishonored him so many times and in so many ways. It is almost too good to be true. He is rejoicing over my good with all his heart and all his soul. He virtually breaks forth into song when he hits upon a new way to do me good.

John Piper, The Pleasures of God (Portland, OR Multnomah Press, I991, p.188.

The Mandelbrot Set

In fractal geometry, there is a complex set of numbers that produces an infinitely intricate shape when plotted on a plane. It’s called a Mandelbrot set, after the founder of fractal geometry, Benoit Mandelbrot. Clouds and coastlines are classic examples of this endless complexity. Any detail can be magnified to reveal even more detail, ad infinitum.

The blessings of God are a Mandelbrot set. They aren’t one size fits all. Each blessing is custom fitted to your complexity and, I might add, your personality. Take the mercy of God, for example. The mercy God has shown you is as unique as your fingerprint. The writer of Lamentations said that God’s mercies are new every morning.14 The Hebrew word for “new” doesn’t just mean “again and again.” It means “different.” In other words, today’s mercy is different from yesterday’s mercy, which is different from the mercy of the day before that.

Taken from Mark Batterson, Double Blessing: Don’t Settle for Less Than You’re Called to Bless, Multnomah, 2019.

An Opportunity to Bless Someone Else

Open doors in the Bible never exist just for the sake of the people offered them. They involve opportunity, but it’s the opportunity to bless someone else. An open door may be thrilling to me, but it doesn’t exist solely for my benefit. // An open door is not just a picture of something good. It involves a good that we do not yet fully know. An open door does not offer a complete view of the future. An open door means opportunity, mystery, possibility—but not a guarantee.

Taken from John Ortberg, All the Places to Go . . . How Will You Know?: God Has Placed before You an Open Door.  What Will You Do?, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 

Turning from Judgment to Compassion

Even for those of us who follow Jesus on a daily basis, the reality is, our sinful nature has infiltrated our minds, and we often find ourselves, either consciously or unconsciously, judging those around us. While we are often blinded by our own weaknesses and limitations, we judge others instantly. We deem this person overweight, that person selfish, another lazy. This is, I would argue, the status quo, and in order to break through our default to judgment, we must make an intentional decision to do so.

Gregory Boyd, in his book, Repenting of Religion: Turning from Judgment to the Love of God attempts to do just that. While sitting in a mall he found himself judging others, instantly seeing their faults. Thankfully, as he says, he noticed how he was noticing others, and his judgments about those around him were not flattering. After remembering Jesus’ pronouncement to first bless people (Luke 10:5), Boyd began a thought experiment: what if, instead of judging people he began to bless them instead:

As I replaced judgmental thoughts with loving thoughts and prayers of blessing, something extraordinary began to happen. I began to see the worth I was ascribing to people, and I began to feel the love I was giving to them. As I ascribed worth to people, not allowing any other thought, opinion, or feeling to enter my mind, my heart began to expand. In fact, at certain moments I felt as though I would explode with love.

I was waking up to the immeasurable value and beauty of each person in the mall that afternoon. Sitting in the sipping a Coke, enjoying God’s creations, I was experiencing the heart of God. It felt like finding home after having been lost for a long while. It was like waking up from a coma. It was like finding undiluted truth when all you’d known up to that point was the watered-down kind. I felt as though I was remembering something I had long since forgotten or unveiling something I had been covering my whole life.

The love, joy, and peace I was experiencing as I dwelt in this place-and it did seem like a mental and spiritual “place”-was beyond description. Yet I also was filled with a profound sense of compassion for people. In waking up I saw not only the God-given illimitable worth of people but also the many ways this worth is suppressed in our lives.

Gregory A. Boyd. Repenting of Religion: Turning from Judgment to the Love of God, Baker Publishing.

We All Need Blessing

We all need [blessing] desperately. It is the one great need we all share in common. We were born for it and there is no lasting joy without it. What oxygen is for the lungs and protein for the body, that is what it is for our souls…. With it we become winsome and free; without it we are willful and fearful. It is the one thing people most need from us, but the one thing we can not give until we have received it. It is life’s most precious possession

Lloyd John Ogilvie, When You Need a Miracle: Experiencing the Power of the God of The Impossible, Abingdon Press, 1984, pp. 28-29.

What Does it Mean to Be Blessed?

Ask a dozen people what the word blessing means and you’ll probably get a dozen different answers. For many people, it means financial security. For some, it means good health- For yet others, it means meaningful relationships with significant people in their lives. Even in the Bible the word is used to express a number of different thoughts.

Are any of these phrases familiar? Have you heard them or said them yourself?

“Dear God, bless this food.”

“Dear God, bless this project.”

“Dear God, bless my family this coming week.”

What does it mean to be “blessed”? When God blessed Abraham did something change in his life (Genesis 12:1-4)? When Jesus blessed the children were their lives richer for it (Mark 10:13-16)? We wish each other a blessed Christmas or Easter. Does something happen because we say this, or is it a meaningless tradition from earlier centuries?

Blessings have been used for thousands of years in all sorts of settings. Scripture contains numerous blessings that were spoken or written to people.

H. Norman Wright, Chosen For Blessing, Harvest House Publishing, 1992.

Still Looking for inspiration?

Consider checking out our quotes page on blessing. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!

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