Growing up I had three big aspirations in life.
I wanted to be a NASCAR driver.
I wanted to be a Walt Disney Studios animation artist.
I wanted to have a pretty wife. (adolescence friends, adolescence.)
Ambitious? For sure! Especially the third, but whose childhood dreams aren’t ambitious?
Along the way I allowed God to become a central part of my journey and those dreams began to change. Truth be told, I still wanted the wife, but as I began to feel pulled towards ministry my aspirations also shifted.
Besides, my last name wasn’t Earnhardt, Waltrip or Petty and I didn’t go to art school; so NASCAR and Disney were out!
Looking back on those childhood ambitions and seeing where I am at today continues to leave me awestruck.
For the past 13 years I’ve been able to minister to people involved in motorsports; from the hobbyists and amateur levels of racing to the professional levels of motor sports. Currently I work with an amazing team of men and women through Motor Racing Outreach; serving as Chaplain for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Alongside my work with Motor Racing Outreach I work for my dear friend and his travel agency, Off to Neverland Travel®; one of the premier travel agencies in the nation specializing in Disney Destinations. I get to help care for an amazing team of 130+ Magic Makers® and make more trips to Disney Destinations than I would have ever imagined.
Oh, and the pretty wife? That is where I really won; finding myself married to a beautiful, amazing woman full of wisdom, joy, love, compassion, kindness and more. Together we have two amazing sons.
God has certainly blessed us.
Did that line (the one you just read in bold right above this) bother you?
It certainly pained me to type it.
In triumph and prosperity we desire to recognize God as the author, and “I’m blessed” or “this is such a blessing” rolls off our tongues almost instinctually. I truly believe this comes from a noble heart longing to give credit where credit is due.
New car; blessed. New house; blessed. New job, promotion or raise; blessed. Perfect family and health; blessed.
But consider this scenario with me:
You are vying for a promotion at your job and you are up against three co-workers who are also Christians. As the jockeying comes to a climax you are the winner. Because of your faith, you are quick to recognize God and thank Him for giving you the promotion. You are #blessed to get the promotion.
What does that speak to the other Christians who were also trying for the position? Were they not performing good enough for God? Were they not within the full favor and blessing of God?
What does that speak to other believers in your circle who struggle day in and day out just to survive on a minimum wage? That God doesn’t love them as much as you?
How about the picture that paints for unbelievers? That following Christ gives us just what we desire in life?
How about this one:
There is a car accident and four people are in the car; yet only one survives. We say how blessed the survivor is; what a blessing it was from God. What does that speak to the families of the three who didn’t survive? Their loved one wasn’t as valuable to God as the survivor?
How about that front row parking spot you were blessed with?
Did God not love the single mother of three who had to park at the back, guiding her kids through a busy lot, enough to give her the front row spot?
Every time we say “blessed” we risk flippantly attaching God’s name to things He may not want it attached to.
I am not saying that God never chooses to act and interact in these ways. To make that type of a claim would be just as dishonoring.
What I am saying is that we are not God. We must be very careful to give God credit for things He may not want credit for.
The implications of attributing God to each and every thing that happens are deep, and I’m afraid of what we are teaching those around us about the character of God through these attributions.
We are daily painting inaccurate pictures of God to those around us. We are taking His name in vain by attaching it to things He may not have attached it to. It is a scary brand of Christianity that makes God’s Kingdom about us; and not what He said it was about.
Being blessed speaks not of what we have, rather the happiness and joy we find in God’s Kingdom regardless of what we have.
My family is indeed blessed.
We are not blessed because we have; we are blessed because God is good and God is with us even when we have not.
God’s blessing is not temporary; so it cannot be weighed by temporal things. As Jesus sat on the mount side and began to teach the crowd around Him, His great opening was the beatitudes; a picture of the blessed life.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Before anything else that would follow on that mountainside, Jesus revealed that being blessed is not attached to property or position. Being blessed isn’t rooted in physical situations and realities; rather in spiritual truths that are unchanging regardless of them. A joy that transcends anything around us, that sets us apart from our circumstances.
I am blessed if I have, or if I have not; because God is in and with me regardless of either.
I am blessed if I work within NASCAR, or if I am unemployed; because God is in and with me regardless of either.
I am blessed if I a family, or if I was resigned to life alone; because God is in and with me regardless of either.
So how, then, are we to respond to our lot in life?
“always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20
We can give thanks because we know that regardless of what does happen God’s promises are with us. His promises are true. His Kingdom is real.
I can give thanks amidst tragedy, sin and brokenness just as I can amidst joy, promotion and celebration because of God’s promises and the hope of Heaven.
But thankfulness does not necessarily equal attribution.
Sometimes things happen in our life because God divinely sets it into motion and sometimes things happen because, well, they just happen.
We are not God, so we cannot readily differentiate between the two.
Yet we can remain thankful in all things at attest to His true character amidst all circumstances.