Have you ever wondered why we say “Gesundheit!” when someone sneezes? Literally is the German word for “health” and we say it to wish someone good health when they sneeze because maybe they are getting sick. The more common phrase is, “Bless you!” But as far as I know well wishing has never cured sickness. Imagine if saying gesundheit actually did cure people. How fragrant that would be.
The origin of the saying “Bless you” goes far back into history to when Gregory I became Pope in AD 590 just as an outbreak of the bubonic plague was reaching Rome. In hopes of fighting off the disease, he ordered unending prayer throughout the streets for God’s intercession. He also commanded that if anyone sneezed they be blessed immediately by someone speaking, “God bless you!” over them. At the time, sneezing was thought to be an early symptom of the plague. The blessing “God bless you!” became a common saying up to our own times. But back then it was not a cliché but a prayer for that person’s life to be saved.
But we’ve taken God out of the blessing in our society and sometimes even the church. Without God, “Gesundheit” and “Bless you” can never be more than well wishing that someone will get better like when we buy a Get Well card. We appreciate the Get Well card because it shows that someone was thinking of us. But we really need more than that – we need God to be a part of the equation.
Last year we heard the Lord call us to “Go. Be a blessing!” through his call to Abram (Genesis 12:1-3) to follow him in faith. The first step of faith is to “Go” from the things or people that keep us from fully following God, which means leaving our comfort zones. But the second step of faith is to “Be a blessing” to others because of how richly God has blessed us.
As God challenged us, people responded. Never at anytime in the history of NCC have we heard more testimonies of members being God’s blessing to others. Way to go people! Here are just a few of the stories of ordinary men and women from NCC who found the courage to be God’s blessing:
A school bus driver helps a special needs student apologize to others on the bus for his behavior and speaks life into his identity. Our bus driver also invited all the other bus drivers to join him to pray for the students on their busses each morning and so launched a prayer group.
A college teacher helps a woman who had just become homeless and was taking her class. This woman needed someone who believed in her to help her pass the class. She found encouragement from our teacher to keep going and have faith in God. The student even felt like she had found a spiritual mother in her teacher.
A man from our church felt the Spirit’s prompting at a children’s birthday party to take aside some friends of his sister’s to pray healing over the man’s cancer. Our member hesitated because he had never done anything like this before. But fortunately he had just been discipled and learned how to intercede for others. So he pushed past the awkward and prayed for this man’s healing and that this trial would draw this couple closer to God who loved them and would provide strength.
A busy man allowed himself to be inconvenienced when he noticed a 60-year-old woman who seemed to be lost wandering down the street and crying. It turns out she had Alzheimer’s and our member was ultimately able to help her find her home. Our member even shared his testimony of how God has transformed his life with her very appreciative
husband and assured him he was there for this husband if he needed a ride.
A mother found herself in a spiritual conversation with another woman at the oil change station and discovered what fun it was to tell this woman about her church and invite this searching woman to NCC’s Women’s Retreat.
Another mother from our church offered to drive her son’s schoolmate and his mother to school and work each day for several weeks until they can get their own car. The father is in prison and the family is on their own. This blessing went to the next generation as this mother helped her own son understand why Christians do these things and helped him pray a resentment of giving up computer time and willingness to help a friend.
Corporately the Elders and church also heard God’s call to be a blessing and asked the question, “What could we do for the sake of others?” It began with offering our events, retreats, and Life Groups to the community through the local paper and Facebook posts. It led us to offer a greater measure of our financial support to local faith–based ministries, pastors, missionaries and families in need. We developed a new Outreach Ministry team to help us find new creative ways of living God’s call to be a blessing. Also NCC was approached by Shelter From The Storm Ministries to provide discipleship for their single at risk mothers who are trying to get a fresh start on life. We even changed our service time for the sake of others outside of the church. Imagine what could be done as the church listens for God’s call and prayerfully moving forward in his Spirit into the world.
I tell you this to embolden your hearts, because the elders hear the Lord saying we’ve just begun and to press in harder to this mission, “Go. Be a blessing!”
God had told Abram to be a blessing and Jesus told Peter to be a blessing but in an even more radical way. “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:28). Yet Peter was among the disciples who told Jesus to send away a minority pagan woman who was bugging Jesus to heal her daughter. Peter was among the disciples who rebuked adults for trying to bring children to Jesus. Peter is also the same guy who cursed a blue streak in denying Jesus at his trial.
Now Peter is the one saying to us from his letter, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:9, 15).
Wait, how can this be the same guy? What changed his heart posture? Basically Peter experienced the blessings of God when he met Jesus, he got saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, and inherited eternal life. Notice that all this was God’s doing and not Peter’s. The only choice Peter had to make was to obey Gods command to be a blessing. We read in the book of Acts that Peter chose to live his life for the sake of others when he allowed himself to be inconvenienced by a lame beggar wanting money. Peter had no change in his pocket but he did have change up his sleeve and healed the lame man. This sitting on the ground begging for money man became a leaper in the air proclaimer of Jesus. Then Peter got arrested for his faith yet boldly stood before his antagonist and gave a defense for the reason for the hope that he has in Jesus. Peter focused his whole life to bless others with Jesus.
But did you notice that Peter added an addendum to the command Jesus gave him to bless and pray for others? From his experience there are more blessings to be obtained right here and
now, more than just Heaven if we will respond to God’s command to bless. Just go ask those members mentioned above if they obtained a blessing or not when they became a blessing to someone else.
Looking ahead the elders feel the Lord has much more for us in this vision and wants us to press deeper into it individually and corporately. Looking ahead the elders feel a part of our strategy to “Go. Be a blessing!” is the following:
Fervent prayers from the members for God to give us his strategies, grace, and courage to do this both individually and as a church.
Providing discipleship for those both inside our church and even with those elsewhere. To both receive discipleship if we haven’t and to offer it to others. Notice one of the testimonies above flowed out of being discipled. Part of his discipleship was training to pray for others.
Raising-up next generation believers into their giftings and into leadership. The church is the hope of the world and she needs to bless and fully train the next generation believer through discipleship if the church is going to continue to be a blessing to the world.
Finding a facility with more visibility. The greatest gift of all is when a person enters into a personal relationship with Christ and experiences the spiritual life only found within his local church family. This is when real transformation begins. Through prayer and many wise voices we have heard that it is time to move as quickly as we can into a building that is not hidden in a business park.
So ask yourself, “How can I put God back into the blessing of others this coming year?” Continually make this your pray this year, “Lord help me see where I can be your blessing to the people I meet, the places I work, and help my church do the same in our community. Help us by your Spirit to never miss an opportunity to tell others about Jesus. Amen.”
Like Peter, what we choose to do could impact someone’s life for eternity. Imagine if “God bless you was more than a cliché, but sons and daughters of the Father, empowered by the Spirit, and led by Christ to bless others in words and in deeds.
What if you were God’s gesundheit to someone’s sneeze?
God bless you!