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A Challenge from Jelly Roll to “Be a Blessing”

By Dennis Rainey

I was watching the Times Square New Year’s celebration and a rapper/country artist named Jelly Roll blew me away … I admit his edgy lyrics, mentioning hell, got my attention:


“Somebody save me, me from myself.”


And I was impressed with what Jason DeFord, aka Jelly Roll, said when Ryan Seacrest asked the 300-pound, Grammy-nominated musician, “Why do you do this?”


“I want to be a blessing ... a blessing to others … because I’ve been blessed!”


Jelly Roll didn’t stop being a “blessing” on stage; a few days later he testified before Congress about his nearly deadly addiction to fentanyl and its dangers, warning “I’ve been to too many funerals.” He is using his fame to warn people that fentanyl kills nearly 200 every day, the equivalent of a 737 airplane crashing!


A couple mornings after Jelly Roll’s New Year’s Eve performance, I was reading through my book of Psalms (called a Psalter) and came to Psalm 128. I’ve titled this Psalm, “The Route to Blessing.” And in case you don’t think of it this way, the Scriptures are the very clearest of all ways that God blesses us by speaking directly to us. The Bible is simply “God’s words to us.” And there, in Psalm 128, were God’s words to me and Jelly Roll’s reminder again:


“Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.


And it ends,


The Lord bless you from Zion! ... May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!


The message was clear for me: Just as Jelly Roll had said, I needed to bless others because I have been blessed myself.


I should mention that the word “blessing” has almost become Christian slang in the community of faith. Almost without thinking, we may say things like, “God bless him” or “Have a blessed day.” But the concept of blessing others is powerful. 1 Peter 3:9 tells us, “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.”


And what does it mean to “bless others”? I like what writer Michael Frost said: “... to bless others is to build them up, to fill them with encouragement for them to increase in strength and prosperity.”


After reading Psalm 128 that morning I prayed, “Lord would you give me the privilege of somehow blessing someone today?” With that prayer, God raised my “spiritual antenna” and I expected Him (which is the essence of faith) to serve up someone who needed to be blessed!


My first opportunity came with a man I met for breakfast. He told me about a disagreeable family member, and I took that opportunity to remind him how God has used him in the past to bless a lot of people. I included myself in that number, so I told him how he had been a huge encouragement to me in a recent season of testing.


At the conclusion of our breakfast, as our server came near one last time I asked if there was anything taking place in her life that needed prayer.  She pondered for a moment and said, “Yes, I need a different job. I’m a single parent of three kids under 10 and I need to bring home more money and be home more.”


We prayed for her and asked God to bless her with a better job.


Later I ran into her as we were leaving the restaurant and she shared that her oldest daughter had been diagnosed with a rare disorder. And to make matters worse, the girl’s daddy had died in the past year.


I prayed again for her and talked with her about what church she was a part of and offered to be of help, if she wanted.


Later at lunch, I ran into the leader of a major ministry to young men in the inner city. I knew that the strain and drain that a ministry like his can be brutal on a marriage and family, so I asked if he and his wife had ever attended one of FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. He said they had never been, but would like to go.


I told him that I wanted to bless him and his wife a complementary registration to attend. I think they’ll go.


Then I had a meeting that afternoon with a man, a good man, who has been struggling with health issues. First there were kidney stone complications, then there was a triple bypass for his heart, and now he was facing the removal of a dead kidney.


I prayed and tried to be an encouragement and blessing to him.


At home that evening as I was looking through a pile of correspondence and noticed another friend who was about to undergo surgery. So I called him and prayed for him.


As I reflect back on that day, and several other days since then, I’m reminded of three things:


First, if God has saved you—redeemed you through His Son, Jesus, paying the price for your guilt before Almighty God by dying on a cross in your place—then you, like me, are going to heaven and have been BLESSED.


Second, since you have received God’s greatest blessing, forgiveness, you should ask God for ways you can be a blessing to others. Far too much of Christianity today is based upon a spiritual consumerism, with a spirit of, “What’s in it for me?”


Third, we haven’t been saved from hell just so we can go through life on a lark. Instead, ask God, “Who can I bless today?” Ask God to give you a spiritual receptivity to the needs of others and bring people across your path. Start expressing profound appreciation for others and for what they do to help you. Like ... 


… thanking the UPS delivery man, or the person who comes to mow your lawn or repair your furnace.


… asking how you can pray for someone who serves you or God brings your way.


… calling someone or writing a note just to tell them you appreciate them.


Finally, in this digital age of high-tech and low-touch, all people need to know that somebody cares for them, thinks about them, and prays for them. Call them. Don’t wait for them to call you. (As I was writing this, I just made such a call to someone who I felt really needed to hear from me and know I loved them.)


I’m on a “roll” to be a blessing like Jelly Roll ... and keep on being a blessing to someone every day. That’s a much-needed mission in this toxic culture of biting and bickering.


And ask God to make you a blessing to a person today … perhaps your next-door neighbor, or how about your spouse?


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