Some people seem to have a perfect life. Everything they touch turns to gold. Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots, comes to mind. He has a perfect family. Financial independence. As close to perfection as one can be on the football field. He is a winner. I wonder sometimes how it is even possible to be that successful. Tom Brady has mastered the perfect media persona and there are many people who want to emulate that packaged presentation. Even everyday people like me post the best photos and highlight the events we want everyone to see. The problem with our media selves is that it is almost all fake and illusion. We present only a cherry-picked view or highlight of life. Our poor youth think that these lives online are real and then they are devastated when they can’t live up to the unrealistic expectations. Even Tom Brady is not perfect and has issues and burdens he must carry. I have observed teens absolutely melt down because of social media posts that were not favorable. The obsession around self-worth found online is more than concerning and impacts our very mental wellbeing.
Success is sometimes ascribed to God. In fact, many people do this by saying they are #Blessed because of some earthly success in their lives. If one person has more money than someone else then some believe that God has blessed the person because they have money.
Is there any truth to this perspective? Samuel the leader of Israel is one of those blessed people. He is blessed by God from the very start of his life.
26 And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people. 1 Samuel 2:26 ESV
Further once Samuel came into power the Bible states that the “hand of the Lord” was actively engaged to support the hot political agenda of that day in Samuel’s favor. Even further God picked sides and lifted Samuel up by pushing others down.
So the Philistines were subdued and they stopped invading Israel’s territory. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines. 1 Samuel 7:13 ESV
God did bless Samuel in his professional life as a ruler and priest. We also see this phrase “hand of Lord” in other places throughout the Bible. Of note is the description of the very early church.
19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. Acts 11:19-21 ESV
Here is God’s hand clearly at work and it states that their actions came with success because of God. Now before there is any confusion or taking a truth out of context there is something fundamental we can take away from these instances of God’s blessing on these people.
There are two key observations about Samuel and the early church that we must understand before we ascribe #blessings on anyone.
First the Lord’s hand is not on just anyone but on people dedicated to Him. Samuel is a priest of Israel. The early church fathers found God’s hand working for them when they were sharing the gospel of good news about Jesus.
Second of note that none of these people had perfect or pain free lives. (If you are looking for a Christianity that makes you happy and free of pain then you are looking for something that does not exist. Jesus said pick up your cross and follow me. He died a painful death on his cross)
Samuel’s life was not perfect. Like Eli before him his sons did not follow in ways of the Lord.
3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. 1 Samuel 8:3 ESV
How painful must that have been to see his children not following God but following their own desires. Obviously, Samuel has serious problems on the home front. Or look at the early church who had the hand of God on their work. That blessing came in the midst of Stephen being killed. These men had fled their home leaving behind material things, family, and community because of Christ. The world that would sign #blessed for YouTube stars would call these followers of Christ losers in life.
This brings us to the conclusion that there are two types of blessings. First is the type that Tom Brady clearly has in his life. That is the general blessing of God that is on all people (some more than others). All people are created equal in the image of God but not all people are created equal in opportunity.
For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:45b ESV
Success in this life is nice but this kind of success has nothing to do with the blessing of God where it matters and that falls in the second category of blessing. The blessing of God’s outpouring of eternal significance. The Philistines wanted to enslave the Israelites and corrupt them with an unholy culture. Samuel was blessed by God so that the Philistines were unsuccessful for the benefit of the nation of Israel and God’s glory. The early church found success in the murder of Stephen to share the good news of Jesus to the benefit of the church and for God’s glory.
Be blessed like Samuel and the Church fathers because their rewards are eternal. Tom Brady’s reward is here and now and will be gone in a season.