There is a great difference in deed between those who understand and those who do not. In Zion there are two kinds of people: the wise who fully understand the words of God and store up blessings one by one, and the foolish who do not understand and lose lots of blessings even under the most favorable circumstances.
We must become the wise who faithfully store up the heavenly blessings God has provided for us. Just as Jacob did not hesitate to suffer any distress and sacrifice in order to gain spiritual blessings, all the brothers and sisters in Zion should earnestly desire spiritual blessings and accumulate them rather than pursue physical desires.
Jacob had an intense desire for God’s blessing. He purchased the birthright from his twin brother Esau for a bowl of lentil stew; with his mother’s help, he obtained the birthright blessing reserved for his elder brother. This caused Esau to hate him. Jacob fled from his brother Esau and took refuge with Laban his mother’s brother. He worked as a shepherd for 20 years at Laban’s house.
After 20 years, Jacob decided to return to his homeland. On his way back home, he met God at the ford of the Jabbok. Then God said, “Let me go,” but Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” God struck the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched. But still Jacob held on. All night Jacob wrestled with God, making supplication for a blessing. He clung so tenaciously to God, that God could not overcome him and finally blessed him and gave him a new name ‘Israel,’ which means ‘one who struggles with God.’ ‘Struggle’ is not a negative word in this case. This shows that he desperately clung to God with a death grip in order to receive blessing from Him, even in excruciating pain as his hip was wrenched. God saw how ardently Jacob desired His blessing and blessed him greatly.
Our goal is to enter into heaven, our eternal home. As that day draws near, we should have a deeper desire for God’s blessing. Jacob, even suffering the pain of his hip being wrenched out of its socket, clung to God and begged for His blessing. Like Jacob, we should ardently desire to attain the kingdom of heaven and store up spiritual blessings.
In the Talmud, there is a story which has an important spiritual lesson for us. It is a story about a servant who worked in a rich man’s house. He had diligently worked for a long time, and his master rewarded the labors of his faithful servant. He burned his slave documents and sent him away with a shipload of precious merchandise.
The freed slave leaped for joy, but upon his voyage a storm overtook him and all on board were lost. He narrowly escaped death and reached an island.
The people in the island welcomed him unconditionally and made him king over them. He felt like he was in a dream. Until that time he had lived as a slave, but he was made king and began to live a life of joy and happiness, enjoying a variety of different foods every day.
One day, a faithful and wise servant confided to him a great secret: “According to this island’s rule, if a man is drifted to the island, he is to become king. But after one year, he is to be sent to the ‘Island of Death’ and live there until his death.” He was shocked to hear this and came to his senses, awakening from his dream-like state. He urgently asked the servant what he should do, and he advised him to prepare for the days which would come upon him in the future and told him to order his servants whatever was needed, while he was king.
The next day, he went to explore the Island of Death. There was not a single tree or plant in the island. There was no house and no drinking water around. He hastily ordered his servants to build beautiful houses and dig wells in the Island of Death and told them to move precious goods to the island. He also sent there some of his servants to serve him. His servants did whatever he ordered them to do, because it was the order of their king.
Finally, the time came for him to go to the Island of Death. But unlike many who had lived miserably and died on the Island of Death, he could spend the rest of his life in happiness and peace, just as he lived a pleasant life during the year of his reign.
This Talmud story helps us to think of the place where we are going. Life is limited. Everyone who is born on earth is destined to die when his days are over-whether the days of his life are one year, ten years or one hundred years. He must move to another world, as did the king. What should he do right now then? He should hastily prepare himself for a place to go, building houses, digging wells and planting trees and flowers. Whatever he invests will be returned to him.
So God said, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above” (Col 3:1). This word means that we should seek and labor for the eternal blessing of heaven where we are going, without neglecting our earthly life while living on the earth. For him who has not prepared himself for a place to go, it will be like an island of death. But for him who has prepared, even the island of death will be turned into an island full of life.
Like the wise man in the above story, from the moment we understand, we should prepare ourselves for life in a place where we are going. Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is given to those who forcefully advance it (Mt 11:12), and He also said, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10). God grants such precious blessings not to those who do nothing, but to those who make every effort to enter heaven-those who are completely faithful to God. Keeping this fact in mind, we should make preparations for the kingdom of God, entertaining the desires of the Spirit.
The Bible tells us that those who do not pursue the desires of the Spirit but the desires of the flesh cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven.
… live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. … The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, … those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. … Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. … Gal 5:16-26
Those who have the desire for spiritual blessings pursue the desires of the Spirit. The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit. So if we follow the desires of the flesh, we will fall away from spiritual blessings.
God said, “My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.” If one does not build his own house and not plant any shade tree for the kingdom of heaven, what shall he receive when he goes there? There are lots of things that please people’s eyes and ears and captivate their minds in the world. However, our life on earth is limited. If anyone has spent his time indulging in good living, eating and drinking, he should awaken and strive and sweat for the eternal kingdom where he will go, from the moment he realizes that the time for an end to his reign is at hand, just as the wise king did.
… The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. … For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, … Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Ro 8:5-17
God has made us heirs of His eternal kingdom. His heirs do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. They are more concerned with spiritual blessings.
Like Jacob, they always think about how to accumulate more blessings and store them up for themselves, following the teachings of God. What about those who do not know the value of the blessings upon them like Esau? Their places will be taken by those who forcefully advance the kingdom of heaven. The Bible repeatedly says that those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
Being faithful even in little things entrusted by God is the best way to store up spiritual blessings. In Matthew 25 we can find a good example of how to store up spiritual blessings.
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants … To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. … But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘ …See, I have gained five more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ …” Mt 25:14-23
Working diligently with God-given talents and gaining more talents is the way to store up blessings in heaven. God has promised heavenly and eternal blessings to His children who have faithfully fulfilled the great mission of saving souls, saying, “Those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars for ever and ever” (Da 12:1-3).
God says that when the gospel is preached to all nations, He will gather them all before Him and judge them according to His righteousness. He has previously showed us the scene of judging them and has taught us what we must do in order to follow the desires of the Spirit.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, … All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. … whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. … whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Mt 25:31-46
Jesus teaches us we must get ready for the kingdom of God and tells us what we have to do now.
God inspects everything, even the least things. He has provided bountiful blessings for us in heaven. The Bible has already showed us what diminishes our blessings and what increases them.
Being faithful in the least is an important factor in storing up blessings in heaven. Jesus says that whatever we do for one of the least of our brothers adds up to spiritual blessings. Being careful to keep this word, we shall make every effort to lead many to righteousness by using our talents for the gospel, so that our blessings will be stored up in heaven.
About 2,000 years ago, when God came to this earth in the flesh, many failed to recognize Him and rejected Him, but some recognized Him as the Christ and received Him. They stored up spiritual blessings, being faithful even in little things. Their faith-filled words teach us a lesson today, beyond the period of 2,000 years.
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”… Mt 8:5-10
The centurion said, “How could a lower ranking person order a higher ranking one to come or go? I do not deserve to have You, who are so holy and high, come under my roof.” Saying that, he told Jesus, “Just say the word.” Seeing the centurion’s faith, we come to understand that he who desires spiritual blessings honors God who has come to this earth in the flesh.
Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed from that moment. Mt 9:20-22
All such wonderful things are a result of accumulated spiritual blessings. In those days, a great number of people touched the cloak of Jesus, pushing and pulling against one another. However, none of them experienced the work of the Holy Spirit, but only a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. Here, we can also find that one’s attitude and faith toward Jesus is the basic condition for storing up spiritual blessings.
As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” … he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you”; and their sight was restored…. Mt 9:27-30
All their accumulated spiritual blessings resulted in a miracle-the eyes of the blind were opened. Many people treated Jesus as they pleased, but those blind people treated Him with great honor. So did the centurion and the bleeding woman. They all honored Jesus, and as a result they were blessed by Him, as God says, “Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained” (1 Sa 2:30).
Besides, in the Bible there are many records showing us how to get blessings. Through the Biblical records, we must be spiritually awakened. Without awakening, we cannot desire spiritual things. Apostle Paul understood the value of heavenly blessings, and he did not even fear death when he preached the gospel. The Bible says that Paul saw the third heaven in a revelation. As he saw the eternal heavenly glory that cannot compare with the earthly one, he put forth his utmost effort to run the race set before him.
Like the servant in the story, I have earnestly told you your future. Men are destined to die. This world is not eternal. So, like the forefathers of faith, we must prepare ourselves for heaven, understanding and entertaining the Spirit’s desires.
We are required to have a much stronger desire for spiritual blessings than Jacob. He understood how valuable God’s blessing was and clung to God until he was blessed. It was his tenacity and faith.
Now we are standing at the ford of the Jabbok River. Like Jacob, let us persistently ask God for His blessing and forcefully advance the kingdom of heaven, so that we may return to our eternal home with the blessings which are a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand times greater than the blessings Jacob received. May the blessings of heaven rest abundantly upon my brothers and sisters in Zion!