Ephesians 1:3 “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.” (NLT)
Have you ever read a scripture like this and thought every blessing? Really? Like, I have been praying for my son’s asthma for months and months and he still gets a tight chest, and I have been praying for someone at work to come to the Lord, but nothing has happened yet.
I believe that the Lord really has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. He is a God of abundance and a good Father, why wouldn’t He? So then there must be a catch right? I mean, it’s not like I’m swimming in all the blessings I’ve been asking for in my prayers.
No catch. Just some good ol’ sensible parenting.
Let’s take a closer look at two key words in the verse: “has blessed.” These are the kind of words that we often just read past without giving much consideration. These two words imply that He has already blessed us. We already have access to every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms.
With that in mind, let’s think of some real world applications of this to help us see why we might not just get everything we ask for right away. I am a father of two. Even with limited earthly capacity, I want to bless both of them with as much as I can. I fully intend to buy a car for each of them. My oldest is six. If he were to ask me for a car today I would without question give him the answer, no! Not because I do not want him to have a car, but rather because it would be dangerous for him to have one now. Physically he’s not strong enough to drive properly, he still needs to learn all the rules of the road, and in terms of maturity, he has a way to go still.
Learning to ride a bike is another good example. There are various stages we must go through before we are popping wheelies or flying down a single track.
As a sensible parent, you would never put your toddler on a mountain bike, let go, and expect them to be able to ride. No, they need to be able to walk first, then ride a bike with no pedals, then figure out pedalling, then figure out balance and get rid of those training wheels. After that, it’s the finer points of riding that you begin learning. You start to want to go fast, ramp up onto sidewalks, ride without hands, pop wheelies and ride offroad.
Our spiritual walk is much the same. God wants to give us everything, but there are things we must learn in various seasons of that walk that qualify us to “ride a bigger bike.”
When my son learns to ride a bike, he needs to learn by doing. If I jump in and ride the bike for him, he will learn nothing. In the same way, God won’t just give you all the things you are asking for. He is going to let you learn for yourself and He is going to love being part of the process. In the beginning, He may help you turn your feet over to pedal, or hold the handlebars, but gradually, He will let you ride on your own so you can practice what He has shown you. Yes, you will take the occasional spill, but that’s all part of learning. And it will take time.
When your talents develop, it takes time to learn what to do. It takes even more time to perfect what you have learnt, and even more time again to do those things with your own personality and flair.
In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-29), a man goes on a journey and entrusts his money to his servants while he is away, giving to each one according to their own ability. Each of the three servants gets a chance to use the money wisely, but what I want to focus on is the time aspect. The man could not have left one day and come back the next and have expected his servants to have done anything meaningful with the money. Verse 19 tells us that he was away for “a long time.” This extended period of time tests us in whatever we face so that we must learn to endure by relying on God.
We must learn to accept that our lives are made up of many learning experiences. Some of them are harder than others, but every one of them gives us a chance to grow. God doesn’t cause your stress, or hurt, or pain, or frustration, but He can use it for good. My son won’t have it all his way when he learns to ride his bike. He will crash into obstacles and ride through tough terrain. I’m not the one causing him to fall or crash, but I have to allow those sorts of things if he is to know the joy of riding a bike. God is the same. He will allow you to be tested because it will allow you to know Him more. If you let Him, He will grow you through the trial and become your God of the breakthrough.
These times of trial are opportunities for us to learn how to confidently rely on the Lord. So this begs the question: What are you going through right now?
What if what you are going through right now is a learning experience, a chance for God to teach you something? What if there is a spiritual blessing for you in the heavenly realms just waiting to be claimed?
What would you have to do to claim it?
To come back to the bike example, what would you have to do be able to get the “bigger bike?”
For my son, it would be to grow physically, learn how to balance better and get confident on dirt tracks. To grow would just take time, but the other things would take practice.
What are you facing? What if the thing you are facing is the very thing that precedes your breakthrough and unlocks spiritual blessings in the heavenly places?
The fruit of the Spirit mostly grows in bad soil – Graham Cooke
If the Lord is teaching you perseverance, it’s not going to be a quick lesson, and when you pray, you are not going to get quick answers.
If He is teaching you authority and you command something to happen in Jesus’ name and it happens, that’s amazing, but if He is teaching you endurance…you better be prepared to stick it out for a few weeks or months.
If God is teaching you faithfulness, in other words, long-continued and steadfast commitment to your duty or obligation, your situation is not going to be easy. Things will be challenging on days and you will have to learn how to lean on the Lord for your strength.
This may mean learning how to be still and rest in the Lord, or how to rejoice and worship Him even though you don’t necessarily feel like it. You will have to learn how to find the Lord in your circumstances and to be comforted by the Holy Spirit. As you do, you will learn how to stand under enemy attack.
Ephesians 6:13 “Therefore, take up the full armour of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” (ESV)
James 1:12 “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterwards, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (NLT)
I believe that this mind shift, this new way of perceiving our circumstances, is crucial to how we grow as Christians and is central to whether or not we receive our spiritual blessings. It’s the mind shift that instead of complaining or blaming in times of trial says, “There is a breakthrough here that God wants to give me. What can I learn, what can I do to unlock it?”
I was tested in this at work. A person I work with, let’s call him Rob, is extremely difficult to approach, as he has a quick temper. One time, Rob had produced work that was not up to scratch and when I took him on about it, he took it very badly. He left our work chat group on WhatsApp and basically refused to speak to me. Normally, I would have reacted in anger and made the situation worse. On this occasion, however, I went out of my way to show patience and kindness. I was pleasant to him and greeted him even as he continued to just look at me and walk away. After two or so days of silent treatment, he eventually came to me and apologised, something that would never have happened before. It was by leaning into the Lord that I was able to respond in love, rather than venting like I usually would have. I still have a lot to learn about extending patience and kindness to difficult people, but I am a little further down the road thanks to seeing my problem in a different light.
Maybe you are facing a challenge in your job, or financially you are struggling. Maybe you are battling through a health issue, or you just aren’t comfortable with the change you are experiencing at the moment. Perhaps your marriage is in trouble? Maybe someone hurt you and you’re dealing with an offence? Maybe your boss treats you badly and doesn’t value the work you do.
How could you choose to see these things differently? What might God be teaching you about His nature that will help you where you are? Is He asking you to give more? Is He asking you to trust? Is he asking you to forgive? Is He teaching you that He loves you no matter what others say or think?
My problem at work, or some of the other examples I have mentioned, may not connect with you or seem pretty insignificant, but I believe that the Lord will meet us whatever our need may be. For truly inspiring stories of people who loved and forgave in extreme situations, I suggest reading I am N by David C. Cook.
Each time we make ourselves available to learn what God is teaching us, He can work in our lives and make us more and more like Him. Each time we are confronted by an uncomfortable situation we can ask: “Lord, what are you doing here? What are you going to be for me in this situation? What about Your nature are you revealing? What can I learn?” When we approach the problem in this way, we make ourselves available for God to work with and blessing becomes a possibility. If we react the same way the world would react then we lose out, because we derail the learning process. Make yourself available and God can use that. He never requires us to be able when He calls us, just willing. When we are available then we start to learn to become more and more like the Lord, because the Holy Spirit has a chance to work in us.
2 Corinthians 3:18: “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (NLT)
Ephesians 4:14-15: “So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. But practising the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head.” (NET)
A friend of mine, Steven, gave a sermon called Practising Spiritual Discipline. In it, he spoke about growing in maturity as we discipline ourselves to cut out distractions, honour our quiet times, and read the word more. His graph shows how we mature in Christ.
Before we come to the Lord we have no maturity in Christ. When we give our lives to God, His grace jumps an infinite gap so that we are born again as a new creation. We are Spiritual infants and over time we have seasons where we grow and times where we may backslide. The more disciplined we are, however, the faster we can grow in maturity.
Let’s say that God was teaching you perseverance by allowing a challenging situation that lasted a few weeks. If you prayed into that situation and gave up after two days, where would that put you on the graph? Would you be growing in maturity in Christ?
What if you stuck it out for a few weeks? How would your position on the graph look then? What if a few months/years later, you were tested in perseverance again? You would likely be able to recognise where you are, because of the earlier lesson you learnt and the downswing would be less pronounced.
As this process unfolds time and time again, so we start to learn what God is showing us, we start to access our blessings and breakthroughs, and we begin to mature in Christ.
Practical ways to change our mindset so that we receive breakthrough and grow in maturity:
1. Acknowledge that there is a time for everything.
- There will be times of rest and green pastures, but there will also be times when you walk through deep valleys.
- Ecclesiastes 3:2-8 puts it this way:
2 A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
6 A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
- When we accept that all these things will happen, we can start to decide how we will react to them.
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. – Charles R. Swindoll
- Your starting point will determine your outcome. If you start in a bad place, then you’ll most likely end in one too. If you start in a great place, that will help you end in a better place than where you started.
- Why not choose to live from victory instead of towards it. 2 Corinthians 2:14 (NASB) says: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” Now that is a great place to start.
2. Crack the test.
There are many examples of testing throughout the Bible and they generally follow the same pattern:
First, God tests us by giving instructions. He will make things clear for us and then give us the opportunity to follow them or not. If you don’t read the instructions in your tests/exams for school or university, then it won’t matter how hard you learnt, or how hard you try, you will still get things wrong. It’s the same way with God. We have to listen to His instructions or we’ll fail the tests.
Second, God tests our obedience. He gives the instructions, but will we obey them? Do we listen, or do we have our own better way of doing things? It comes down to trust. Jeremiah 29:11 says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Do we trust the Lord and so go with His plan in favour of what we think?
Third, God tests our attitude. Even if you follow the instructions, your attitude in obeying them has the potential to affect whether or not you pass the test and get your breakthrough. It may be that your bad attitude significantly lengthens the period of your testing, because, let’s be honest, if you do things just because you’re told to and your heart is somewhere else, you haven’t really learnt a thing.
Let’s look at an example from scripture:
The Israelites have just made it past the Red Sea, Pharoah and his army have been destroyed and now Moses and his people face the open desert. The Israelites, full of complaining, moan at Moses for taking them out of Egypt. God, however, gave them food and in Exodus 17 provides water by telling Moses to strike the rock at Horeb with his staff.
Much later on, the Israelites are still wandering around the desert, but by this stage, God has given the 10 Commandments and they have built the Tabernacle. The Israelites complain to Moses again about not having water. God tells Moses the following:
““You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water. You will provide enough water from the rock to satisfy the whole community and their livestock.” So Moses did as he was told. He took the staff from the place where it was kept before the Lord. Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock.”
So far so good, but then Moses lets rip with his own plan:
“Listen, you rebels!” he shouted. “Must we bring you water from this rock?” Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill.”
God in His mercy provides water for the people, but for Moses, the moment is defining.
But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!” Numbers 20:8-12 (NLT)
Moses missed out on the promised land because he didn’t trust God and follow His plan.
Why were they even in the desert that long? Did you know that the distance from where the Israelites left Egypt to the Promised Land is about 360km? Do the math, they took 40 years to get there. That’s a whopping 9km a year. Say what? Yip 9km per year. In reality, if they had walked 5km per day, just 5km, it would have taken them 72 days.
So what took them so long? Well, their attitude was terrible. In Numbers 13 the Israelites arrive on the borders of the promised land and God tells them to send in 12 spies to check it out. When they return, only two of them want to go and take possession of it. The other ten are consumed with fear about the giants that live there. The Israelites start their complaining again and God says in Numbers 14:23: “They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it.” (NLT)
God waited for many generations before those unbelieving people had passed away and none of them got their breakthrough because of their bad attitude.
3. Do what you’ve got to do.
The Lord is constantly speaking His promises over us. He may be telling you what a gifted writer you are, or how you will use your public speaking ability to impact the lives of many people. We may hear the Lord speak these promises to us personally, but often he uses other believers to share His heart with us.
Have you received and of these words or prophecies before? What have you done with them?
It’s sometimes difficult to know what our giftings are, but imagine I told you that you have the ability run a marathon (42.2km) in 2 hours. Don’t scoff, go with it. Imagine I’m right and I tell you that, genetically, you have the ability to run a two-hour marathon. Could you just say: “Wow thanks.” and then head off to the start line of a marathon the next day and run what would be a world record?
Obviously not. You would have to begin training to bring out that ability. You would have to spend hours on the road and possibly in the gym. You may want to hire a personal trainer, you may need better running shoes, and you would probably have to join a running club.
In the same way, you can’t be given a word about your public speaking ability and just sit on it, expecting that you will become a gifted public speaker by osmosis.
When the Lord speaks his promises over us, part of receiving breakthrough in that area is asking, “What do I need to do to make this a reality?”
And if you are uncertain of what to do. Ask.
James 1:5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (NASB)
Figure out what you need to do to start making your promises a reality.
4. Find someone to walk with.
Our Christian walk takes time. It is like a journey that we take one step at a time. It is important to find a person to go on this journey with because we all battle at one point or another.
There will be times when you are down and will need someone with you to lift you and encourage you. You will have to do the same for them. Together you will go further than if you go alone.
You can hold each other accountable. It is important to have people in our lives that hold to our calling, and who can help us see what God is teaching us. They see into our lives at times when we may not be seeing so well. It is equally important to keep our hearts clean and confess our sins as soon as we slip up. Our trusted person is there to keep us accountable in this too.
Hebrews 10:24-25 “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (NLT)
James 5:16 “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (NLT)
5. Find God.
There are times when the challenges we face seem overwhelming and that we cannot cope. There will be times when you are just outright attacked by the devil. The most common way he does this is to attack your thoughts with his lies. When we feel helpless like this we need a way rely on the Lord for help and strength.
Worship: When you feel overwhelmed put on some worship music and will yourself to praise God until you feel something lift in the Spirit. In Psalm 103 David does exactly this. Not feeling up to it emotionally, he commands his soul: “Praise the Lord.” In this time, it also helps to give thanks to the Lord for all the good He has done in your life.
Find God in the secret place: When we go into the secret place the devil can’t touch us because if he follows us and knocks on that door, it’s not us who will answer. I have some scriptures that I always turn to in these situations, with Psalms 18, 23, 41, 46, 63, 91 being favourites. I love reading these verses and declaring their promises over my current situation. I love telling the devil that he can’t touch me because God is my fortress, or that God is covering me with His wings.
These aren’t always easy to do when you are feeling down, tired, sad or hopeless, but I have found that they work. When we face those times of desperation, God is waiting for us to make Him the God of our breakthrough, and when we call, He will be there.
James 1:2-4 “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (NLT)
So, your blessings are waiting for you. They are just on the other side of what you are going through. The Lord is ready to be your God of the breakthrough. Are you ready to change the way you think and acknowledge that things will be tough at times? Will you listen for the instructions to His plans and obey them, doing your part with a great attitude? Will you find a friend to walk with? Will you figure out how to find God even when it is difficult to do so?
If you answered yes, then I believe that you will start to find God in a whole new way and that your breakthroughs are just around the next corner.
God, I still have so much to learn. Thank you for being so interested in my development. Thank you for being the author and perfecter of my faith. Help me be sensitive to Your promptings throughout the day, so that I may be in the right space to learn. Give the wisdom I need to know what to do. Amen