Question: Does sin disqualify a believer from God's blessings?
Answer: That’s a great question. I wish we were sitting across from one another so I could ask you what you mean by blessing, but since we’re not, I’ll go ahead and cover all the contingencies.
God’s blessings can come in differing forms, at various times, under different circumstances, and from a multitude of sources, so the first thing we must do is to establish just which “flavor” of blessing we’re talking about, because the answer to your question will vary with the type of blessing, the category of the receiver, and the circumstances surrounding the distribution of (or the withholding of) the blessing in question. A blessing may be material or spiritual, conditional or unconditional, and common or special.
To further complicate the issue, people do not always recognize the many legitimate blessings that are not associated with happiness. For example, the Bible speaks of rain as an unequivocal blessing. But I live in a northern city, and I do not farm. To me rain is gray and inconvenient. It simply does not feel like a blessing. Yet God says that it is. All of humanity benefits from a stable hydraulic cycle. All of humanity needs the crops, even those of us who are disconnected from their production. In his wisdom and mercy God provides the blessing of rain.
On an even more serious tone, we rarely perceive the death of a loved one to be a blessing, but how many people suffer from chronic pain while living with a terminal illness? Even though we hate the thought of a loved one leaving this earth, God’s merciful provision of death is a blessing to both the sufferer and his family. Blessings are not always like Christmas presents—happy little additions to our lives. Sometimes the process of receiving blessings can feel grievous, yet they are still legitimate blessings. Once we understand that, then we can better understand how God applies his blessings at different times and to different people.
By way of warning, there’s a popular false teaching concerning blessings, often called “The Prosperity Gospel.” Its proponents take the anti-scriptural position that, “God wants you healthy rich! All you need is the right application of faith, so if you are not prosperous, you do not have enough faith.” Steer clear of anything that even sounds like that! The Bible tells us plenty about legitimate blessings, so let’s take a few minutes to get acquainted with the different types.
To begin, some blessings are both common and unconditional. These are blessings given to everyone regardless of their category or behavior. For example, God created the universe and plunked us in it. Furthermore, he will maintain the universe for as long as we need it. None of us chose this for God or for ourselves, and none of our behaviors will ever thwart the blessings of a physical universe. From the most winsome saint to the most evil murderer, we all respond to gravity, we all breathe the air—and although mankind seems bent on destroying itself along with its physical environs, none will prevail against God and his will for the physical universe. But what about the blessings of Jesus?
Any blessings the we receive “automatically” in creation are also the blessings of Jesus. Jesus is no less the Creator of the universe than is God the Father. In this we see that this blessing of Jesus Christ is unaffected by anyone's behavior.
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16–17, ESV)
Next, some blessings are special, but unconditional. These are blessings given only to certain persons or category of persons but do not rely on any behaviors for their application. The clearest examples show up in Old Testament where God is dealing with his chosen people, the nation Israel. At times he promised to bless the nation with no strings attached. For example, he promised to multiply Abraham’s decedents. This blessing was special, only for decendants of Abraham. It was also unconditional, because no matter how badly those decendants behaved, God would still fulfill his promises.
“Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”
(Genesis 17:4–7, ESV)
Next, some blessings are special and conditional. These are blessings given only to certain persons or category of persons, but they also rely on compliant behaviors from the would-be recipients. The nation Israel gives us the best examples of these special and conditional blessings. If you read the Old Testament with an eye for God’s conditional blessings, you’ll be amazed at how many blessings the Jews missed that were under their control to obtain.
“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.” (Deuteronomy 11:26–28, ESV)
If you are a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, you have been blessed with many unconditional and non-revocable blessings. So, such blessings are special (being only for Christians) and unconditional in that you cannot affect them in any way. For example, if you are a true born-again believer in Jesus Christ, you are, and will forever be, a child of God regardless of your behavior. You have a position in God’s family, and you will remain a child of God forever—even if you choose to be a rotten child.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12–13, ESV)
As another blessing, you shall spend eternity with God—also no matter what!
“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:11–13, ESV)
You shall have all the benefits of a Father-child relationship.
“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”” (Galatians 4:6, ESV)
As you can see, God set it up so that Christians—even if they tried to—could not stop his application of our eternal benefits. There are some blessings, however, which are under our control. God has set up three primary areas where the Christian can advance in faith and receive blessings commensurate with this obedience. God wants us to pray, read the Bible, and fellowship with other believers. The more you obey God in these three, the more you’ll be blessed.
If you increase in prayer, you increase in fellowship with God. The opposite is true, also. Close fellowship will result in intimate blessings, such as when a sheep moves in close to the shepherd. Only when in that close proximity will the shepherd give something intimate—perhaps a touch, perhaps some extra morsel. Those sheep who stay on the outer edges are still sheep, but they miss the reward of intimacy.
In like manner, the more you (prayerfully) read the Bible, the more you shall grow in knowledge of God. I can testify to this very directly. The deeper I study, the more I am blessed in it. God is exactly and always faithful to give blessings that are as deep as your study.
Finally, your local Bible-believing church does the work of Jesus Christ on this earth. Those who serve with prayerful vigor shall be rewarded with appropriate blessing—and not just in heaven—but also on earth. These come over time and often indirectly, so they’re often a little hard to spot, but only those who cultivate a servant’s heart and a servant’s hands will be able to recognize a servant’s blessing when it comes.
We must also consider the common sense side of this. Do you enjoy the blessing of good health? It’s in your power to throw that away. Drugs, alcohol, risky lifestyle—these and more are under your control. A believer’s sin will never take away his non-revocable blessings, but they will wreck his fellowship with God and with other believers. They may also result in the destruction of his health, wealth and family.
As you can see, sin will disqualify us for certain types of Jesus’ blessings, but other blessings remain protected by God Himself.