Some days we feel as though challenges face us every moment. That whatever we touch, do, plan, or say presents another challenge. Sometimes it’s true both for personal and ministerial responsibilities. What do you do on such a day?
“Look for the blessings,” one of my good friends said to me recently. As he spoke those words, I listened to him respectfully, not only because he has lived more than 90 years or because we have been good friends for many years but because he has been a capable minister during his years of service.
When to look for the blessings
When we are facing challenges, we must look for blessings, for if we don’t, those challenges will overtake us. In fact, we should focus on blessings at all times. Blessings come from God who knows our needs, capabilities, and future.
Look for blessings when the situation seems hopeless, such as what the Israelites experienced when they were slaves in Egypt. However, in the midst of their hopelessness, they celebrated the Passover. The Passover was much more than a ritual; it was God’s way of blessing them in the midst of a crisis. (I invite you to read our lead article by L. S. Baker Jr., for an insightful interpretation of the Passover experience.)
We are two-thirds of the way through 2009, and perhaps you are tempted to dwell on all the reasons that exist to be discouraged. Focusing on the blessings will provide hope for our lives and call to ministry.
Where to look for the blessings
Where do we find these blessings? Although we do not always see it, one of the sources includes the churches in which we serve. Every minister faces challenges; yet we all can testify that there are members in our congregations who go out of their way to bring blessings to us. I recall, in one of my churches, an older woman who went out of her way to always speak a word of encouragement. Perhaps her many years of living close to the Lord brought assurance to her own life, and she wanted to share God’s blessings with me. I looked forward to hearing her words of encouragement.
There are also people in our communities who bring blessings to us. I recall a man in our New York City area neighborhood who never joined or even attended our church as far as I can remember. However, when he passed by the church, he would stop and speak words of encouragement to me. He thanked me for the ministry that the church was providing to the community. Now, years later, in my mind I can still see his face and cherish those words of encouragement.
Often neglected sources of blessings in our lives are our families and friends. Perhaps we just expect them to speak words of encouragement and fail to pause long enough to realize that they live as a source of blessing to us. Listen to their words as they speak to you.
God, the One whom we worship, the One who has called us to ministry, is the ultimate Source of blessing. Let’s face it. There are times when God is the only Source of blessing in our lives. The day I wrote this editorial, I read a story about a clergyman whose denomination and local congregation have been experiencing great difficulty. I empathized as I read the challenges they are facing—for all of us have faced challenges in our ministry. The challenges he faces seem insurmountable, and it will be hard for him to find blessings other than from God Himself. To him and to all, I remind us of the words of Proverbs 10:6, “Blessings crown the head of the righteous” (NIV). That kind of blessing comes from God alone.
“Look for the blessings,” says my friend. Sometimes they are hard to find. I am one of those individuals who can go to a store to find a certain food item and walk up and down the aisles looking for it, but I just can’t find it. At times I have stood at the very area that the product should be and actually is, but I still don’t see it. I’m tempted to look somewhere else even though I know I’m standing where the product should be. If I stay where I belong, I will find the product. If I look to God for the blessings in my life, I will find them.
Look for the blessings, and you will find them.