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At 50 years of age, I now have the perspective of decades of years on which to evaluate ideas and how they play out, or don’t play out, in life as it actually is lived.

This is the idea I woke up with this morning, associated with some very unpleasant emotions and states of mind.

Do people who “obey God” get “blessed” more than people who don’t obey God?

This is the line thrown at us by preachers day and night.

But is it true?

At first glance, most unthinking believers would say, “Yes, of course, it’s true. It’s in the Bible!”

But I think that the answer to this question is a lot deeper than a simple “yes.”

A few examples I have seen over the years:

Some people take excellent care of their health and still get awful health problems.

Some people are born physically attractive or unattractive, and reap all the benefits or struggles, with no obedience or disobedience involved.

Some people are born very intelligent or very rich, with no effort on their part.

Some people are born to abusive parents.

Some babies are born with cancer, to parents who didn’t smoke.

Did the babies smoke too much in the womb?

Accidents. Circumstances. Physical qualities.

No control.

I think many people would consider blessings as: good health, good relationships, adequate money, and peace of mind.

But, in modern America, and in many developed countries around the world, people think that their choices control everything.

If this is the case, why would anyone choose pain, failure, sickness, or unhappiness?

What I have found in life is that we all, as believers, are both obedient and disobedient to God.

I think it is childish simplicity to think that you will be blessed if you are obedient and cursed if you are not obedient–in the way that most of us think of these things.

So what do we mean by blessed and cursed, and what does God mean?

We call people with painful, undesirable life conditions, “the less fortunate.”

But are they?

What if their struggles are instrumental their sanctification, drawing them closer to God?

And, if a person is rich, healthy, has good relationships, and enjoys his life fully, and is nearly always happy, is he blessed?

Maybe, maybe not.

What if he ends up in a Hell of eternal torment, forever separated from the goodness and love of God, because of his sins and his rejection of God?

Was he ultimately blessed?

And what do we mean by “blessings,” anyway?

Material blessings for obedience in the Old Testament were for obedience under the Law of Moses.

Blessings in the New Testament are almost never physical blessings, they are spiritual blessings.

So, maybe almost all of our ideas on blessings are whacked.

And the people who have seemingly every blessing and comfort often feel guilty.

They try to concoct self-centered logical reasons why they have become wealthy or successful or happy or healthy.

And now, here comes the monkey wrench of grace.

God doesn’t have to forgive anyone of their sins-–but He does, through the excruciatingly painful death of His Son on the cross.

God gives this forgiveness and grace and Heaven to everyone who believes in Christ, with no obedience or good works required to receive it.

Of course, there is cause and effect in the world, and you reap what you sow.

Unfortunately, you also reap what other people perpetrate upon you.

And, there are more factors in life than these. Time and chance happen to everyone, as the Bible says.

If you rob a bank or murder someone, of course bad things are going to happen to you. No one doubts this.

If you don’t go to work tomorrow, you may not be able to pay your bills.

Unless you were born rich.

And what about all the bad and good things that happen to us without our will or belief or goals or positive attitude, or hard work?

What about these things?

These things make up a large part of life!

As believers, we realize that everything we have: our life, our physical blessings, and our salvation, comes to us from God, the Father of Lights.

So, our lives aren’t totally or ultimately under our control, and God blesses and curses whom He will with His own inscrutable purposes of justice and sanctification in mind.

And blessings are often spiritual, and not necessarily what we thought they would be.

I am at the beginning of a personal study on this subject, and some of these ideas might be proved wrong by Scripture, reason, or life experience.

What do you think of all this?

–Curtis Smale