"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved." Ephesians 1:3-6
According to legend, the “Confederate Soldier’s Prayer” was found on the body of an unknown soldier after he died in battle. Whether the legend is true or fictional, the poem’s message is one which resonates with mature Christians who identify with the author’s desire for happiness, his misguided petitions, and the grace of a loving God who gave him what he needed, rather than what he asked for.
The first line of each two line stanza reveals the soldier’s request and his reason for asking: he wants strength to achieve, health to do great things, riches to make him happy, power so men will praise him, and “all things” so he might enjoy life.
The second line in each stanza, however, indicates how God gave him the opposite of what he asked for: he was made weak so he would learn humility and obedience; he was made sick so he could do “better things”; he was made poor so he could gain wisdom; and he was made powerless so he would feel his need for God. Finally, while the soldier wanted “all things” so he could enjoy life, he realizes that God has given him life so he might “enjoy all things.” At the close of his spiritual journey, the soldier records what he has learned: even though he had received “nothing that [he] asked for," he had gained "everything [he] had hoped for.” Because his "unspoken prayers" were answered, he could describe himself as one “most richly blessed.”
The wisdom which this unnamed soldier gained is wisdom all Christians need. Too often, we're fooled by the world's propaganda which promotes the idea that we need strength, health, riches, and power to make us happy. It's a lie that is easily exposed: simply consider the Hollywood stars checking themselves into drug rehabilitation centers each week. They may "have it all" according to the world's standards, but happy people don't need to numb themselves with drugs and alcohol.
Christians, by contrast, need to grasp the Bible's recipe for the blessed, joy-filled life. Here are just a few principles that can lead us to the abundant life which Christ promised is our inheritance (John 10:10):
- We're richly blessed when we learn to treasure the Word of God above money and possessions (Psalm 119:72).
- We're richly blessed when we come to an end of our own strength and must draw upon Christ's (Philippians 4:11-13).
- We're richly blessed when we learn obedience through the things we suffer, as our Lord did (Hebrews 5:8).
- We're richly blessed when we experience the rest and contentment that comes from abiding in Him (John 15:10) and from knowing that our loving Father has a perfect plan for our lives (Psalm 16:11; Matthew 11:28).
- We're richly blessed because we know we can take every problem -- no matter how large or how small -- to our heavenly Father and receive the answer we need (Psalm 46:1; Matthew 7:11; 1 Peter 5:7).
- We're richly blessed simply because we are loved and accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:3-6).
At one time or another, we have all been guilty of asking God for things we think we need, yet our petitions are shallow and reflect the world's thinking, not His. Thankfully, the Lord has made provision for our inability to pray as we ought.
If in our hearts we are truly seeking His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), the Holy Spirit takes our foolish petitions and transforms them, bringing them into alignment with the Father's will (Romans 8:26-27). Then, like the Confederate soldier, regardless of the answers God sends, we soon discover that we have everything we hoped for and that we too are most richly blessed.
To discover the sufficiency of Christ for all our needs, order John MacArthur’s book, Our Sufficiency in Christ, from our online store. You might also like to read, “Consider Christ in Affliction,” by Joel Beeke.