When Being Blessed is a Punishment

Some say God never gives up. They're wrong. One day, God showed me how he sometimes gives up on people and gives them up over to depravity. "God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done," [Romans 1.28]. And that's a dangerous situation to be, when God gives up on you.

What's even more dangerous is when he gives up on you and you're still blessed! When I discuss this with people, they look at me like I was an idiot. They tell me that when you're blessed, it means God is pleased with you. If he's angry, he stops the blessings. As simple as that. Well, I wished it really were that simple but it isn't. Getting blessed sometimes has a way of making us blind to truth and insensitive to what God is really up to.

Watch what God told Isaiah: "Their land has also been filled with silver and gold and there is no end to their treasures," [2.7]. Wow, what blessings! Imagine being filled with silver and gold! No doubt people would see you as so blessed, so favored by God. But wait--look at what God said about these people:

"You have abandoned Your people, the house of Jacob, because they are filled with influences from the east. And they are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they strike bargains with the children of foreigners," [2.6]. They were outside the will of God and yet they were so blessed. In short, "God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done." 

In fact, the most dangerous punishment is when God gives you up to a depraved mind and blesses you with it so that you never realize your sin and never be able to repent. All the while you think blessings equal favor with God. Lots of people think thus--as long as they're blessed, they're okay with God. They won't stop their life of sin as long as they see how God continues to bless them. 

Beware when you are led by your flesh, not by the Word and the Spirit of God. As long as their flesh isn't hurt, some people think everything is okay. They only realize wrongdoing the moment they get sick or lose a lot of money or material possessions. That's when they start thinking, "Wait a minute, I think I'm doing something wrong."

Look at the rich man and Lazarus. Remember the story? The rich man did everything wrong but never realized it because God gave him over to a depraved mind--plus lots of blessings. All his life he lived in abundance. "Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things," said Abraham [Luke 16]. How did I know he did everything wrong? Well, he ended up in hell.

But look at Lazarus: "Lazarus received bad things," said Abraham about him. Yet, in God's eyes, who was really blessed and who got his favor? It was Lazarus, the guy who got nothing but poverty, misery, and illness. It becomes complicated when being blessed is a punishment from God.

So how do you know if you're really blessed or under punishment? Simple. Don't look at your material possessions or money in the bank. Don't look at your achievements. All these are nothing in the Spirit. Look at your character. Character tells you if you have God's favor or God's wrath. 

God told Ezekiel about the calamity he brought on Jerusalem: "You will be consoled when you see their conduct and their actions, for you will know that I have done nothing in it without cause, declares the Sovereign LORD," [14.23]. Before the calamity, it was hard to see why God would send it. The Israelites didn't know. God gave them over to their depraved minds. 

And once, Jeremiah wondered: "Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?" [12]. To find out what God answered, check out the passage.

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