Mark Batterson believes it's possible to experience more of God's blessing - but that might look different than you would initially expect. The first wave of blessing is that which God gives you: time, treasure, talent. The double blessing, the second movement in this relationship, is our giving back to God by giving to others. In a day where divine flourishing and godly stewardship has been reduced to a hashtag; #blessed, Batterson challenges readers to pursue true, God-glorifying blessing and experience an exponential impact by participating in the double blessing.
|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
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Preface: Ariadne’s Thread
In Greek mythology, there is a legend about a labyrinth that was unnavigable and inescapable. Those who entered never exited. For within the maze meandered the Minotaur, a fearsome creature that was half man, half bull. Every nine years, the evil king of Crete demanded that the Athenians send seven boys and seven girls to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. As you might imagine, the Athenians did not take well to this tradition.
On the occasion of the third Minotaur Games, the prince of Athens volunteered himself as tribute in the place of other young citizens. When Theseus landed on Crete, the daughter of the Cretan king, Princess Ariadne, fell head over ancient heels in love with him. She knew that no one who had ventured into the labyrinth had ever found a way out, so she devised a rather ingenious plan. Ariadne gave Theseus a sword to slay the Minotaur and, more importantly, a ball of thread. After tying one end to the entrance, Theseus unwound the ball of thread as he wove his way through the spiderweb of corridors. After successfully slaying the Minotaur, Theseus was able to moonwalk his way out of the labyrinth with the help of Ariadne’s thread.
Life is a labyrinth, is it not? It’s full of relational twists and occupational turns we couldn’t see coming. We zig through big decisions and zag through bad ones. There are situations we get ourselves into that we don’t know how to get ourselves out of. And we all encounter some Minotaurs along the way!
Weaving your way through difficult seasons of life can feel as hopeless as trying to escape an ancient labyrinth, but there is a way out. There is a ball of thread waiting for you, but we must backtrack all the way to the beginning of human history to find its figure-eight knot.
The Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler was famous for beginning counseling sessions with new clients by asking, “What is your earliest memory?” No matter how his patient replied, Adler responded, “And so life is.”
Adler believed that our earliest memories leave a profound imprint on our souls. For better or for worse, it can be very difficult to escape their gravitational pull. Our earliest memories have unusual staying power.
Imagine Alfred Adler sitting down with Adam, the first Adam, and asking his trademark question. Adam’s early memories range from rib surgery to roaming the garden. Naming all the animals had to be an unforgettable experience, especially the pink fairy armadillo. Yes, it actually exists, and it lives up to its name! Then, of course, there was the awkwardness of nakedness after succumbing to the serpent’s temptation. And, I’m sure, subsequent nightmares of being naked in public! But none of those moments represents Adam’s earliest memory.
God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
Before original sin, there was original blessing. And so life is! That first blessing sets the tone, sets the table. It establishes the emotional baseline and spiritual trend line of Adam’s life. But it’s not just Adam’s earliest memory. It also reveals God’s most ancient instinct.
Blessing is God’s default setting—His first and foremost reflex. If you don’t believe that, you’ll doubt the goodness of God. And if you second-guess the goodness of God, you’ll forfeit His blessing.
God wants to bless you beyond your ability to ask or imagine.
There. I said it. And I believe it. The question is, do you?
The blessing of God is Ariadne’s thread, and we’ll thread that needle from Genesis to Revelation. What happened at the very beginning has more to do with your future than you might imagine. And my prayer is that this book will begin a new season of blessing in your life. Of course, you’ve got to position yourself for that blessing. And I’ll show you how to do just that. But the blessing of God is more than a mystery to solve. It’s a decision to make, a habit to form, and a mindset to establish.
I’m not sure what your earliest memory is, good or bad. But for many, memories of their earthly father do not mirror Adam’s experience. In fact, you may feel cursed rather than blessed by your family of origin. If that’s true, if that’s you, it can be difficult to conceive of a heavenly Father whose deepest desire is to bless you. There might even be a generational curse that needs to be broken. But believe it or not, God has blessings for you in categories you cannot even conceive of. If you’re going to live the happy, healthy, and holy life God has called you to, you’ve got to get that in your gut. God is in the blessing business! And as His children, blessing is our birthright.
Now, I know what you may be thinking. Am I promising health, wealth, and prosperity? The answer to that is an unequivocal no! God promises us something so much better than physical health or material wealth. Plus, some of God’s greatest blessings are blessings in disguise.
The blessing of God is not an immunity card against pain and suffering. Jesus said point blank, “In this world you will have trouble.” He Himself endured far more than His fair share of earthly troubles, including the Cross! What makes us think we can become like Jesus without going through some of the same struggles He did? But take note—this promise doesn’t end with “trouble.” Don’t make the mistake of putting a period where God puts a comma! In the same breath, Jesus declared, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” There are sacrifices to be made—no doubt. There is suffering to endure—no question. But there is a blessing on the other side, a double blessing!
I had better add this at the outset: God doesn’t bless disobedience! God doesn’t bless pride or greed or laziness either! We’ve got to position ourselves for God’s blessing, and that’s what this book is all about. But make no mistake about it—God has postured Himself to bless you from the very beginning. And this blessing is not just the opening act of Genesis.
A tag cloud is a visual representation of textual data, showing the importance of words by color and size of font. If you tag cloud the Old Testament, I’m not sure there is a word that is bigger or brighter than blessing. In fact, blessing is a flashing neon sign! If we’re being honest, many of us have a hard time believing this because of the high volume of brutality and bloodshed before Christ. But the Hebrew word for “blessing,” barak, is put on repeat 330 times! It means “to bless the one who blesses you.” And in the New Testament, we get two flavors—makarios and eulogētos. The concept of blessing may be Greek to you, but by the end of this book, you’ll know how to get it and how to give it. We’ll explore the dimensions of blessing in much greater detail, but I want you to understand up front that blessing is the central storyline of Scripture from start to finish.
Blessed to Bless
The blessing of God isn’t easy to quantify or qualify. It is tangible and intangible, timely and timeless. It is universally offered to everyone, but the blessing of God is as unique as your fingerprint. Some blessings are as simple and straightforward as the sunrise. Others are more difficult to discern, like the blessing of brokenness. But of this I’m certain: the blessing of God is the solution to your biggest problem, the answer to your boldest prayer, and the fulfillment of your bravest dream.
As the subtitle of this book suggests, we’ll explore how to get the blessing and how to give the blessing. There is an art and a science to both. But make no mistake—the endgame is not getting but giving! God doesn’t bless us to raise our standard of living. God blesses us to raise our standard of giving. In the words of Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” That idea is as old as the Abrahamic covenant:
I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.
The covenant of blessing established with Abraham is as valid today as it ever was. Why? Because God keeps His covenants! Even better, the old covenant has been updated and upgraded by what Christ accomplished on the cross. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Simply put, we are blessed to bless. The way we turn a blessing into a double blessing is by flipping the blessing. The secret of the double blessing is simply this: the way you get it is by giving it. That is counterintuitive and countercultural, but that is the miracle at the other end of Ariadne’s thread. And you will be a bigger blessing to more people because of it.
Before we embark on this pilgrimage of blessing, let me take you on a whirlwind tour from Genesis to Revelation. Remember, one end of Ariadne’s thread must be tied to the original blessing: “Be fruitful and multiply.” The blessing of God then weaves its way from the Garden of Eden to Ur of Chaldeans where God establishes the covenant of blessing with Abraham. It is followed by a cryptic yet prophetic encounter with Melchizedek. The blood and wine offered to Abraham by the priest-king of Salem foreshadows the new covenant, and Abraham atones with a tithe of all his goods. The blessing of God survives a soap opera known as Isaac and Jacob, proving itself bigger and better than any mistake we can make. The blessing turns Jacob into Israel, who then pronounces longer and stronger blessings on his twelve sons, the twelve tribes of Israel.
During four hundred years of enslavement in Egypt, the blessing survives unspeakable suffering and indescribable setbacks. The blessing finds its voice at a burning bush on the backside of the desert, giving a man named Moses the holy confidence to confront Pharaoh. On the eve of the exodus, the blessing of God is the blood of the Passover lamb that provides a hedge of protection for God’s people and delivers them out of bondage. During Israel’s wanderings, the blessing becomes a cloud by day that gives shade and a fire by night that gives light.
While in the wilderness, a priestly blessing is pronounced on the people of God. That blessing sets them up and sets them apart. God doubles down with an elevated blessing on top of Mount Gerizim. The blessing then parts the Jordan River, fells the walls of Jericho, and delivers the hill country called Hebron.
Ariadne’s thread then weaves its way through a shepherd’s field, a fugitive’s cave, and into the Valley of Elah where David defeats Goliath. The thousand year-old blessing that David inherited from the line and lineage of Judah, finds it’s prophetic fulfillment in the Son of David, in the City of David a thousand years later.
The Lion of the tribe of Judah is birthed in Bethlehem—God with us. The blessing seems to take a wrong turn at the Garden of Gethsemane, down the Via Dolorosa, dead-ending at Calvary’s cross. But that’s where the curse is broken and the blessing is bestowed—God for us. The covenant of blessing becomes the cup of blessing, the bottomless cup of God’s grace from which we drink every time we come to the Lord’s Table and celebrate our communion with Christ. The blessing is signed, sealed, and delivered on the third day with an empty tomb. With it, a fine-print footnote the Father had not forgotten: “I will give you the sacred blessings I promised to David.”
The last thing Jesus does, before His ascension, is raise His hands and bless His disciples just as the ancient priests of Israel did. Adam’s first memory becomes their last and lasting memory. Ten days later, a second blessing was bestowed on the disciples in an upper room. The Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost—God in us.
What is the blessing of God? It’s God—God with us, God for us, God in us. To reduce it to anything less dishonors God and devalues the blessing. God with us is joy unspeakable and the peace that surpasses understanding. God for us is His favor, the X factor between the best we can do and the best God can do. And God in us is power, resurrection power.
Every spiritual blessing belongs to us by virtue of what Christ accomplished through His death and resurrection. And when we finally arrive at the end of God’s revelation, God’s most ancient instinct finds its eternal expression. It’s there that we tie the other end of Ariadne’s thread to the last blessing in the Bible. The original blessing becomes the eternal blessing:
Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.
In the pages that follow, we’ll pull the thread of God’s blessing all the way from Genesis to Revelation. My prayer is that this book would be the genesis of God’s blessing in your life and a revelation of the bigger blessing He wants you to become to others.
Can I make a suggestion as we begin this journey together?
Don’t read this book by yourself. Reading it with a friend or family member has the potential to turn this book into a double blessing. Some books are best read by yourself, but Double Blessing is best experienced in community. Reading it with someone else will multiply the blessing.