Sometimes God’s blessings don’t look like blessings. “Take up your cross daily and follow me,” Jesus said. A cross is an instrument of torture, a device of death. Be crucified with Christ, Paul warned. He must increase while I decrease.
Prosperity preachers count up blessings in worldly ways. You, however, know the truth, that God’s greatest blessings come with a minus sign. He takes away the sin of the world. He takes away the darkness of your heart. That’s the easy part.
Now the hard part.
He takes away idols that take up so much space in our hearts, minds, and souls, that they crowd Him out. Idols that the world equates with success and even love. God’s Word is upside down from the world’s gospel and some of those idols have to go.
Many people who become Christian are abandoned by their families. Losing your earthly family sounds horrible from a worldly perspective. However, “family” in the worldly sense is one of the most difficult idols to overcome.
Christians, especially, can be overwhelmed with thoughts about their own exclusive family meals, celebrations and vacations. You, new Christian, are free from that idol, free to wholly surrender yourself to God.
So, the first blessing with a minus sign can be loss of family.
You have saved all your adult life for your dream home. You’re proud of your castle, of raising your kids in the best neighborhood where each one has his own room, with a play area and acreage to boot. Your home is a reflection of who you are, how far you have come, how hard you have worked.
The Holy Spirit moves you to leave and take up residence in a small apartment, just large enough for the three of you. You each have a bedroom, except one is a den and the bed barely fits. Do you obey? Or do you ask “Did God really say…?”
Your house is the second idol to fall.
Your job is prestigious, a good use of your expensive education. If people at work knew you were a Christian you might be fired or at least left out of the water cooler conversation.
So, you laugh when people curse and make off-color jokes. You heard preaching the gospel required no words so you hope your clean living will be a godly example. Rather than exalting Him you end up exalting yourself – everyone thinks you’re such a “nice guy”.
In obedience, you quit your job without a new one in place. You spend the time with God instead and He pays the bills…somehow. You have never been closer to the Lord nor experienced His glory in such dramatic fashion.
Your job is the third idol He removes.
Looks used to be everything to you – both in yourself and others. You came to know the Lord and as soon as you read 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, you changed. Those hours you spent primping and priming are now spent in God’s word. You see beauty in your own natural state, beauty that escaped your unsaved eyes.
Rather than envy, you experience genuine pity for the perfectly made-up woman you pass on the street. You know from experience the inverse relationship between the outside of a woman and her inside. As Jesus cleaned up your heart, pride in your appearance dissolved.
Vanity being the fourth idol He takes.
Every girl dreams about her knight in shining armor, the one who will whisk her away, understand all the desires of her heart, and even die for her. You get married and find out your husband doesn’t understand you. Your feelings are often a nuisance to Him. He will not die for you.
Your husband divorces you. You meet Jesus, your true Rescuer. You realize He is the One who already died for you. He loves you and understands you because He has been where you have been. He cares about every detail of your life. He is your bridegroom, your provider and comforter. Here, the true love story begins. You stop praying for Mr. Right and realize He was there all along.
Romance is the fifth idol He destroys.
No family. No house. No job. No looks. No romance. He’s stripped them all away. Now He can really use you. And you are grateful.