Psalm 23:1-5 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
I want to ask you a series of questions, and as I do, if you can answer yes to the question, I just want you to say, “amen.” How many of you had a roof over your heads last night? A place to sleep? Food to eat? A place to shower? Clothes to wear? Heat to keep you warm? Transportation to get you where you needed to go? How many of you have had a vacation this past year? How many of you have gotten to eat out or shop recently? How many of you have had a prayer answered in the past three months?
We are all very blessed, aren’t we? We have so much to be thankful for. Sometimes it is good to count our blessings.
I am blessed to know Jesus. I am blessed to have grown up in the church. I am blessed to have accepted Him into my life at an early age. I am blessed to have been given the opportunity to take music lessons and do community theater which was all preparation for being in ministry and being in front of people. I am blessed to have had a great education, to go to college, to get a masters degree, to get my doctorate. I am blessed to have married such an amazing, Christian man. I am blessed to have two wonderful children. I am blessed to have been called into ministry. I am blessed to have this wonderful place in which to minister. I am blessed to work with wonderful people. I am blessed to have so many wonderful friends. I am blessed with strength and health to enjoy life. My cup runs over!
I saw a cartoon one time where Billy, the little boy in the cartoon sneezes and says, “Ah-Choo!” and his mom said, “God bless you!” He sneezed again by saying, “Ah-choo” and his mom again said, “God bless you.” He did it again and again and again, each time getting louder, and each time his mom would say, “God bless you.” After the eighth time she was pretty annoyed and said, “Billy, you are pushing it.” And Billy replied, “I was just trying to be really blessed.”
Every one of us is already really blessed. Add Jesus to the equation, add God in the mix, and we are blessed to overflowing. How often do we think about that? Are we aware each day of the difference having the Lord in our lives makes? How often do we stop to thank Him and thank others in our lives because we realize their help actually comes to us from God?
David could hardly express in words how blessed he felt. I am glad he gave us the word picture about the overflowing cup. We can see that. We know there have been moments when we perhaps felt that way ourselves. In Psalm 23, David was trying to describe that he was blessed beyond anything he deserved. Do you know how David got to be the King of Israel? It was by the grace of God. He was just a little shepherd boy, minding his own business, when God told the prophet to go anoint him King over Israel. God blessed him to be the King.
Oh, David had to wait 15 years before taking the throne of Judah and then another 7 before he was King over all of Israel and during those years, there was some preparing, some refining, some defining before he could step into the kingship, but David looked back over his life and said, it was blessed. His cup was overflowing. It wasn’t all easy. It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. It wasn’t all roses. There were a lot of thorns in there. But David knew his life was blessed, number one, because the Lord was his Shepherd. God was at work in his life. He said, “My cup overflows.”
Think with me about the purpose of a cup. What is meant to do? It’s meant to be able to hold something, right? In David’s case, he was talking about how God so filled his life, how God’s presence was so everywhere with him, that his life or his cup overflowed because of the goodness of God in it. David’s cup overflowed because it was filled with the presence of God.
David made sure he was drinking the things, spiritually speaking, that would fill his cup. He dumped the sin out of his cup by confessing his need for forgiveness. He was spending time with God. He was exalting God. He was praising Him. When we fill our cups with the Lord, when we fill our lives we God, we can expect some fizz. We can expect some bubbling up. We can expect God, because He is expansive, because He is full of life and energy, because His power and love know no limit, we can expect Him to fill every space where He is invited, so much so, that He spills out of our lives in ways that cause us to be aware of Him and thankful for His presence in our lives.
I heard something this week that took my breath away. It was about the man we know as Samson. I was listening to Judges 16 which is the passage where Delilah tried repeatedly to get Samson to tell her what the secret of his strength was. He lied to her about the secret of his strength and she nagged him until he caved. Verse 16 says “With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death.” None of you ladies have ever done that, have you?
That’s a lot of nagging, but I digress. He told her: 17 “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”
Well, that was it. When he was asleep, she had his hair cut off. I guess he was a pretty sound sleeper. The Philistines attacked him. And here is verse 20: He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But HE DID NOT KNOW that the LORD had left him. 21 Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison.
That breaks my heart. Samson didn’t know the Lord had left him. In what kind of spiritual condition would a person have to be to not know the Lord had left him? Samson had the blessing and the favor of God early on his life. He had been chosen to lead Israel as one of their Judges and to take down the Philistines on their behalf, and although with his last breath, God granted him strength to do that, he found himself near the end of his life in a situation where he was in spiritual poverty, he was physically blind, and he became a shackled prisoner. He went from a cup overflowing to an empty cup. He had sinned repeatedly, violating the Nazarite oath he had taken, had disrespected his parents, had a major lust and anger problem, and all of those sinful actions began to crowd the Lord out of his life one by one until he got to a place where he didn’t even realize God had left him.
Samson had fooled himself. His strength was never in his hair. His long hair was a symbol of his commitment to God. It was God’s Spirit that would come upon Samson and give him superhuman strength. It was sin and self that ruined his blessing, sin and self that filled his cup, sin and self that stained his life, sin and self that led to his destruction.
Perhaps we need to examine our lives, to look at what we may be filling them with lest the Spirit of God depart from us and we aren’t even aware of it. What are some things that block the flow of blessing into our lives? Maybe this Thanksgiving season you aren’t thankful or don’t feel blessed. What may be in the cup of your life that is keep God from being able to pour His blessings into your life in a way they overflow? Is there sin that needs to be dealt with?
Maybe you aren’t saying like David, “My cup overflows.” Maybe you are aware that things aren’t right in your life because you lack contentment. Maybe you can’t think of blessings to count or maybe you can’t see them because there are things crowding your life or obscuring your vision. What is it that blocks blessings in our lives? What is restricting your capacity to receive from God?
I want to suggest four blessing blockers, four things that can keep you from having a life that is overflowing with the goodness of God.
Jealousy-Proverbs 14:30-A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.
I am an avid Facebook user. I try to post positive content, to connect people to the Lord and the church, to share thoughts that might challenge us all once in a while, and use it as a way to encourage others on their personal pages, so I see the upside or positive side to social media. Do we all know there is a down side to it as well? Maybe there are several down sides. One we may not consider is how it could be the breeding ground for jealousy. When you scroll and you see that everyone seems to be dropping 40 pounds but you…when you scroll and you think that everyone’s biceps seem to be bigger than yours…when you scroll and perceive that everyone’s kids are perfect but yours…when you scroll and are bombarded with everyone’s exotic and fun vacation pics and you are stuck in the office…when post after post is about new clothes, new cars, promotions, parties, and winning prizes, it is easy to think, “Why can’t my life be like that?”
Jealousy is a progressive issue, and it can become a stronghold in our lives.
It keeps us from being happy for other people. First, let’s remind ourselves that when we see others posting something wonderful that has happened to them, it is one snippet of their lives. Most likely they have come through a struggle or are dealing with a struggle at the same time while they are experiencing their blessing. Those tough moments aren’t the pictures we are all rushing to post. I’m not excited to take a picture of myself in my winter clothes that don’t fit like they did last year and post it with the captain that says, “Look, I’ve gained six pounds.” Right? People aren’t posting that kind of stuff. They are posting the high moments, the snapshots. But life is real for all of us. It is hard for all of us. So don’t assume because you see several posts each year from the same person that make it appear that their lives are full of happy moment after happy moment after happy moment, that that is the case. Remember, people are posting what they want you to see and maybe what they want to remember because life is SO hard!
You don’t know what a person had to sacrifice in order to go on that cruise that they were so happy to experience. It may have been years of saving. It may have been overtime at work to pull it off. It may have been cutting back and doing without to prepare for that week of bliss. Just be happy for them, and pray for and work toward your turn.
Could I suggest that Jealousy is disrespectful to God. The Bible tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice in Romans 12:15. That is God’s desire for us as believers. Jealousy keeps us from rejoicing with others which is a smack in the face to God who is Sovereign. He decides who gets what and when. When we are jealous of others it is like we are saying, “God, my blessings aren’t good enough. I want someone else’s blessings.”
Jealousy can lead to negative emotions about others. It can turn to dislike and even hate.
If you have said, “I can’t stand her” or “I can’t stand him” recently, you need to stop and make sure you find out why. You may want to make sure there is no jealousy involved in the situation. We have no right to be jealous of the person who has fabulous abs. They obviously did what we aren’t willing to do in order to obtain them. That isn’t on them. That is on us. If someone else has disciplined themselves to eat well and exercise diligently, how can we be jealous of them when we just aren’t willing to do what they did in order to gain the results they have gained? We ought to let it motivate us to get after it, but often jealousy causes us to put up a wall when that person is around, and it impacts the way we treat them.
Jealousy not only blocks God’s blessings, but it is a love blocker. We can’t love others well if we are jealous of them. Jealousy causes us to judge people’s hearts and motives. It can lead to us talking negatively about people which is gossip which is still a sin, amen? I could go on, but you get the point. Jealousy will fill us and consume us so that the blessing of God is stifled in our lives. It will take over the cup that God wants to bless and overflow.
The second thing I would suggest to you that blocks God’s blessing in your life is unforgiveness. Mark 11:25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
I am not going to say that it is always easy to forgive, especially if you are a new Christian. But I will say to those of us who have walked with Christ for years, if we aren’t willing to forgive, if we aren’t working diligently to forgive, if we are making it difficult for people to receive grace from us, we are just playing church.
Forgiveness is the ministry of Jesus. If we have received it, we are called to share it.
It isn’t optional, and it is in our best interest. Unforgiveness just causes problems in our spirits and in our minds. Grudges become heavy. When we are weighed down with offenses and anger and being mad at people, our spirits won’t be light. Nothing will bubble up out of our life that looks like God or feels like His blessing.
Someone compared unforgiveness to like having a scab on your body. Once the scab starts to heal, if you pick at it or peel it off, you hinder your healing. That is what unforgiveness does. It hinders healing in your life. If you get mad at someone and stay mad at someone, you start to relate with and respond to other people through that negative place. Forgiveness will help you heal, not only from the offense you experienced, but it will help you become a person of wholeness and wellness in your relationships with others. Unforgiveness will impede your wellness and slow or halt God’s healing work in your life.
When you get hurt by someone, God wants to heal that hurt in your life, but He can only heal you as much as you are willing to give Him the space to. If you hold on to grudges, you are blocking the blessing of emotional healing in your life.
Like jealousy, unforgiveness is also progressive. Hebrews 12:5 talks about how it can become a root of bitterness in your life, causing you much trouble and even take you to the place where you are disconnected from God.
When you forgive people, peace is produced. What did Jesus say? “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) Doesn’t our world need more peace? Aren’t we called to be peacemakers? Isn’t the ministry of Jesus a peace-making ministry? If you want to do the ministry of Jesus, forgive. And here is what I know: If you will create peace between you and others, you will have peace with yourself.
A third blessing blocker is Pride.
Look at these two verses from Luke 5:12-13-12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.
Leprosy wasn’t really something a person could hide. If they needed healing, there was no way to conceal it. A leper’s need was always exposed; always on display. Since he couldn’t hide it, there was no need to try to. He could freely admit his need to Jesus.
Many of us have needs, however, that we can and do conceal. We spend a lot of effort trying to make sure we manage our own messes, our own weaknesses, because pride makes sure we protect ourselves, protect our image, protect our reputations. Perhaps Jesus calls to you during church services like this one, but to come would be to admit a need, and pride tells you to stay put and stay quiet, and maybe more often than not, you listen.
Often, folks will come to Thom or me or another member of the staff and ask us for help, but it is only after stuff has piled up and gotten so complicated that to untangle it all takes such great effort and time that many, if not most people, aren’t willing to commit to. If pride wasn’t a factor, if people reached for Jesus or reached for help at the first sign of trouble, how much more simple could restoration and healing be?
Pride hides. Humility seeks. We receive blessing from God when we seek Him. Hebrews 11:6 says that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. If you aren’t experiencing a life of blessing, take a moment and evaluate how pride might be keeping you from experiencing all God has for you. God can’t fill what we won’t empty.
Maybe pride doesn’t impact us by putting us into an image management and concealing mode, but maybe where pride trips us up is when we become proud of our gifts and abilities, proud of our accomplishments, and become self-reliant. Proud people become good at trusting in their own performance which keeps them from being able to rely on God. When you rely on yourself, you will always have what you can do at your disposal. You will have your strength to work with, your ingenuity to work with. But when you empty yourself of yourself and allow God to pour Himself to the full into your cup, you have all that He is and all that He can do at you disposal.
The last thing I would suggest to you that could block your blessings and keep your cup from overflowing is Worldliness.
There is a way that God wants us to live because He wants us to have abundant life. The way the world lives won’t lead to abundant life. It will keep us chasing the next new thing, the next fad, the next pleasure, and more of what we already have.
1 John 2:15-16 15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world.
You know what I am talking about when I say “the things of the world.” They are the things that advertisers tell us we must have and experience. They are the things we are told we have to do in order to look cool or to have it together. Those things become attention stealers, time suckers and eventually we make an idol out of them. The spaces of our hearts that were made for God are given to trinkets and treasures and experiences that can’t satisfy. When we stuff our lives with worldliness we can expect God to take His hand of blessing off of ours lives.
Let’s pray that God will help us create space for Him this Thanksgiving so that He can fill our lives to overflowing. We are already blessed, but there is always more to receive through Christ! Don’t be like Samson, unaware that God has removed his hand of blessing on your life. Take care of what is blocking your blessings today. Let’s be like David, aware of God’s blessings and counting our blessings as they overflow.