Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

Inexplicable Success


by Dennis Pollock

"God bless you" is one of the most common phrases in the English language. It is heard after sneezes, written on graduation cards, and spoken enthusiastically by celebrities who know little of God and rarely think seriously about their own blessings. The concept of blessing absolutely saturates the Scriptures. Imparting a blessing was the last act of our Lord Jesus on the earth. Luke tells us: "And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven" (Luke 24:50,51).

 The distinguishing mark of blessings is inexplicable success. Much success is perfectly reasonable and can easily be explained. When a gifted, brilliant man or woman works hard and becomes successful, there is not too much mystery to that. It is pretty much what we would expect. But when less gifted people seem to achieve far more than their gifts and talents indicate they should, we scratch our heads and wonder why. The blessing of heaven may be at work here. Let's take a look at a quintessential model of this inexplicable success in the story of the patriarch Jacob.

Jacob, Daddy, and the Sheep

 After Jacob was tricked into marrying Laban's two daughters (he only wanted one), he found that his father-in-law was by no means finished tricking and deceiving him. One of the means of Laban's deceit had to do with which sheep Jacob was allowed to keep as his wages as he worked for his father-in-law. In their first arrangement, Laban told Jacob he could keep the sheep and goats that were black in color or dark with white speckles or streaks on them. This would allow Laban to claim the majority of the livestock, but would still allow Jacob to build up a flock of his own.

 At last Jacob had a means by which he might acquire wealth. Laban showed his true colors by quickly removing all the speckled and black sheep and goats from his herds, so that Jacob would have to start from scratch. Yet Jacob had a hidden asset that would prove invaluable to him and circumvent all Laban's cunning manipulations and attempts to keep him poor. When Jacob's grandfather, Abraham, had been willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, God had told him, "Because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son --- blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants…" (Genesis 22:16,17). This blessing had nothing to do with Jacob's character or personality or good deeds. He simply had been born into a blessed family and that blessing would work powerfully and irresistibly in his own life.

 Jacob came up with a plan. As he brought his sheep and goats together for breeding, he decided to provide a little extra help in getting them to reproduce spotted and streaked offspring. He cut down some young trees, turned them into rods, and peeled off the bark in strips so that they would have a striped appearance. He placed these rods in front of the sheep he wanted to breed in hope of producing speckled or streaked sheep that he could claim as his own.

 Skeptics and agnostics have had a field day with this story. They use it to show the supposed ignorance and superstition of the early patriarchs. They suggest that the writer of Genesis (Moses) must have been a fool to actually believe that placing striped rods in front of breeding sheep could cause them to somehow breed streaked and speckled offspring. Some conservatives have tried to defend Jacob as being scientifically knowledgeable, and have come up with some pretty far-fetched explanations as to why this would work.

 There is one thing we know from the Bible. This did work! The Scriptures tell us, "Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys" (Genesis 30:43). It is not necessary for us to suppose that there is some deep scientific principle at work here. In reality there is no way placing striped rods in front of breeding sheep should produce streaked and speckled offspring. It is no more reasonable to expect results from this than it would be to breed a couple of sluggish farm horses with pictures of thoroughbred race-horses pinned all over the barn, and expect to produce a Kentucky Derby champion.

 This shouldn't have worked at all and yet it did – in fact it worked beautifully and made Jacob a wealthy man. So how do we explain the results? The key was not in the rods. It would have been most foolish for Jacob to have written a book showing his precise technique or to go around lecturing on how to breed livestock. The key was something intangible and yet very, very powerful –  the favor and blessing of God. This was blessing in its purest form: "inexplicable success." Jacob got results he had no business getting, results that no man could explain then or now apart from God.

Methods & Blessings

 The link between method and blessing is an interesting one. There almost always is a method. We do not merely sit around and pray for God to bless; there are things for us to do. Jacob had to take the necessary steps to get his sheep and goats breeding and then add his own personal touch to the process. The Bible speaks of God blessing the work of our hands. This means that our hands need to be doing some work, and they need a method in doing that work. Psalm 1 speaks of the man that meditates in the law of the Lord day and night, and declares that whatever he does shall prosper. But notice what prospers: "whatever he does." He must do something. As much as he loves to meditate in God's word, he must also be out and about doing things, making plans, and working hard.

Moses stretches out staffThe great error men often make is to seek to imitate the methodology of successful people without seeking the favor of God. Imagine trying to do miracles with a rod, just because it worked for Moses. You go down to Wal Mart, check through the available rods in the rod department, and buy the longest shiniest rod they have. Now you are ready for a miracle ministry. Nothing can stop you now. If it was good enough for Moses it is good enough for you.

 You are going to be disappointed (as well as humiliated). It is true that Moses' rod played a prominent role in most of his miracles, but he had something going for him besides the rod. The Creator of heaven and earth had told him, "I will be with you." It is God's presence, power, backing, and endorsement, plus the simple little methods, means, and tools He gives us, that produce amazing results. Trying to isolate or imitate some method or means used by one of God's servants in the past or present without seeking the One who gives the blessing will always lead to failure.

Beyond Reason

 The Bible is filled with strange and unusual methods that led to victory and blessing. Jesus sometimes healed people using His own spit. Once He spat on His fingers, touched a dumb man's mouth, and gave him the gift of speech! Why spit? Does our saliva have some mysterious healing power that scientists have not yet discovered? No, this was simply the way Jesus was led by the Father to heal at that time. Again we find a process that should never have worked, and would not work for us if we tried it with 10,000 different non-speaking folks, but in this case it was exactly what was needed.

 Gideon routed a huge army of thousands with his 300 men who held up torches and shattered lamps while shouting, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon." You'll never find this strategy in any military textbooks, but at that time and in that situation it worked beautifully. King Jehoshaphat likewise conquered a massive enemy army by sending singers out to meet them. The Bible says, "Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated" (2 Chronicles 20:22). The armies allied against Israel began to attack one another, and when Israel arrived on the battlefield, everyone was dead. Elisha raised a dead boy by lying on his cold body until his life returned. Paul did the same thing with the young man that fell out of a third story window and got the same results.

 Just as a curse is inexplicable failure and disaster, so blessing is inexplicable success and victory. It is the favor of God on men and methods that often don't look particularly impressive. When artists complete paintings they like to put their signature somewhere on the canvas. They want to be recognized for the work they have done. The Holy Spirit also likes to put His signature on His work. The way He does this is to often use ordinary men and simple or even seemingly foolish methods and means to accomplish great things.

Our Part

 Although God could do great things without any people or methods involved, He almost never does. He prefers to use men and women to accomplish His glorious work on the earth. And while He strongly urges us to pray, prayer is never enough. He also expects us to act, to come out of our prayer closets in the power of the Holy Spirit and get to work. God told Jehoshaphat He would give him victory, but he must send out the singers and praisers to meet the enemy. Jacob received God's blessing to make him wealthy in sheep and goats, but he must get to work peeling the rods. David didn't just approach Goliath praying that God would strike him dead; he took a slingshot and launched a stone straight at the giant's forehead. The means God gives us to accomplish His work may look foolish to people, but they are still means, and they are still necessary. The Bible commands us to anoint the sick with oil, to share the gospel with the lost, and to work diligently as though we were working for the Lord. There will always be things for us to do as well as times for us to pray.

 This blessing we need for the works we are called to do has been placed exclusively in Jesus Christ. He alone fulfilled the whole law of God and truly earned the blessing promised through Moses: "Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you… all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you…" (Deut 28:1,2). Jesus was truly blessed in all the work of His hands. And yet one day that blessing seemed to lift. Our Savior was hung on a cross between two thieves, and though He had done so many miracles, there was no miracle of deliverance for Him. Paul wrote: "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us." Jesus died that we might live; Jesus became a curse that we might receive a blessing. His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead three days later made it possible for ordinary, flawed, thick-headed people like you and me to walk in the power and favor of God.

 The key to living in inexplicable success in your life and ministry is found in the words: "I will be with you." This is what God told Moses when he protested that he wasn't fit to be God's spokesman. And this is what we discover in Jesus Christ, our Immanuel, which means "God with us." The favor and blessings of heaven will fall upon each of us in accordance with God's specific and unique calling in our lives. Peach trees can never produce apples, no matter how hard they try or how many Bible verses they claim, but they can make some great peaches.

 The blessings of heaven are not given to us "carte blanche." We cannot be whatever we want or do whatever we like. We belong to Christ. We live to do His will. But as we abide in Jesus and follow Him as our Good Shepherd, we can enjoy heaven's favor on our lives. Our lives can be marked with the same inexplicable success that Jacob, Moses, Elisha, Paul, and all the other great men and women of the Bible enjoyed. The cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ has made heaven's favor our inheritance.

For a full listing of all devos (written and audio) go to our Devos Catalog Page.


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