Are blessings given or withheld based on my personal holiness?
I don't have the answer! It seemed appropriate to get that out of the way. Many writers and teachers appear to have the answers or appear that they believe they do. If you review my postings here or elsewhere, and or read my books, watch my videos, or just engage me in social media, I will often appear to have "the" answer. And sometimes scripture or logic is so obvious (at least to me) that I'm willing to give a clear, unambiguous answer.
A couple of months ago at a small group Bible study, we discussed this very issue. Half of those in the room said something to the effect that they never struggle with this question of a connection between their actions and God's direct and personal response. I am not questioning their honesty, but only whether they are clear in their own self analysis.
Let's jump right in with the one no one likes to discuss. Tithing. I tithe. On the net, not the gross. I am very consistent and have been for a very long time. Right now, because of unexpected expenses, overspending and a bit of a shortfall in expected income, I am a month behind in the tithe. As I look at my ledgers this morning, I don't want to fall two months behind, but I can't be sure enough that expected income will arrive in time this week to meet other obligations. If I don't pay anything again this week am I:
- lacking in faith that God will provide
- unwilling to step out in faith
- sinning by not giving God the first fruits
We do know that God disciplines those he loves.
Take this issue another step. Were the unexpected expenses ($225 flat tire, $90 dental bill, I could go on) thorns in the side, tests of my faith, related to other sin?
I can certainly offer many scriptural references to support the idea that God is actively involved in allowing or causing suffering, problems, and blessings in our lives. But I also hear pastors and verses on grace that suggest that we are not being judged on a minute by minute basis for these types of things.
I do believe that there are natural consequences for actions that God has built into our life, and that when we are disciplined and faithful, blessings are more likely. And I understand that rain falls on the believer.
How do you reconcile these differing responses to how God does or doesn't move in our lives based on our own actions?