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Getting Blessed

August 2nd, 2018

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

The word “blessed” came into the English language centuries ago through Christianity. It originally was attached to the old Saxon word “Blod” or “blood” and was attached to the idea of the Christian sacrament. To be blessed was to be “blooded,” or to be made holy to God through the sacrament of grace, based on the shed blood of Christ. It was later attached to the idea of a “benediction” or the bestowal of hope and kindness on others. Then later it was connected to the idea of joy, such as “bliss” that sounded similarly.

It is in this final sense, of Christian happiness or Christian joy, that it is used here. The word from the original Greek was makarios, meaning to be happy or fortunate. The two thoughts in any language require both a condition and an awareness of that condition. Often we curse that which is in actuality a blessing. All of God’s blessings are offered in grace and received by faith. We may have all the conditions for a blessing but out of stubbornness and an unwillingness to trust God not receive the blessing inwardly.

Certainly simple gratitude is part of this – to stop complaining and start thanking God, to stop criticizing others around us and realize how blessed we are to have others who put up with us. But it is not all of it. It is also in the area of recognition of our personal moral and spiritual failures. We are unworthy, and should cry out inwardly and outwardly as Isaiah cried, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).

John Chrysostom wrote:

What is meant by “the poor in spirit?” The humble and contrite in mind. For by “spirit” He hath here designated the soul, and the faculty of choice… He blesses them first, who by choice humble and contract themselves.

But why said he not, “the humble,” but rather “the poor?” Because this is more than that. For He means here them who are awestruck, and tremble at the commandments of God. Whom also by His prophet Isaiah God earnestly accepting said, “To whom will I look, but to him who is meek and quiet, and trembleth at My words?” [Isaiah 66:2] For indeed there are many kinds of humility: one is humble in his own measure, another with all excess of lowliness. It is this last lowliness of mind which that blessed prophet commends, picturing to us the temper that is not merely subdued, but utterly broken, when he saith, “The sacrifice for God is a contrite spirit, a contrite and an humble heart God will not despise.” [Psalm 51:17] … This Christ also now blesses.

Getting blessed means seeing ourselves for what we truly are and then seeing Christ for who He truly is. That is the gift of God for a truly happy, fortunate, and blessed life.

Beatitudes

Can Pain Be Good?

September 23rd, 2014

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:11-12

One area where our theology could use improvement is understanding what the Bible teaches about suffering and pain.

Can pain be good? I believe the answer is no. Pain is always pain. Does pain always bring gain? Some people do get better through pain, but some get bitter through pain, so it is not the pain alone that brings good things. Some of the pains in life are devastating to people and they do not recover from the emotional trauma for many years, if ever. For example, sexual molestation leaves devastating and lingering effects that even years afterwards still thwart emotional development. Sexual molestation is the evil “gift” that “keeps on giving” evil throughout one’s life. The words of hope that Christ spoke here, and other encouragements we receive in scripture, such as Romans 8:28-29 and 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, do not mean to teach us that pain is or should be considered pleasurable.

But, we can grow through our pain, if we allow God to use it, and we may even rejoice through our pain. There are two reasons this is so.

First, we may rejoice when pain comes to us due to our Christian witness, that we have joined the ranks of the faithful witnesses of Christ through the ages. This world that crucified Christ will also put to death His followers – a slave is not above his master (John 15:20), and followers of Christ should expect some rejection. If we have sought to follow Christ and have never faced rejection, we would then have to admit that we certainly did not aggravate the world to any significant degree. And frankly, holy people should be a bit irritating to others in an unholy world – not because we are rude, judgmental, arrogant, self-righteous or mean spirited, but because we are God’s holy people.

It is one thing to look for a fight, and the scripture says that the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but should be kind to everyone (2 Tim 2:24), but it is another thing to never have rubbed the world wrong, or irritated it by our goodness. So when the world reacts negatively to us, and we have done nothing wrong to provoke its anger other than teach and practice the truth of God, realize that this simply means that we have joined the good company of the faithful witnesses through the ages. Rejoice as the early church did that God has counted you worthy to suffer for the sake of the name of Christ (Acts 5:41).

Second, in all suffering we find the motivation to search for a deeper experience of God’s grace. Paul wrote, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor 12:9). The recognition of our need is the precursor to searching for and receiving a greater and more profound experience of God’s grace.

In heaven it will be different, that there we will see clearly and plainly the truth of God and all pain shall be removed. But here on this earth we are all slow to learn spiritual lessons. I have found that my heart is so quickly drawn to pride and so easily drawn away from God, that the Lord has had to often keep me before Him on the basis of my personal needs. (I will keep to myself the nature of these needs.) But if I never felt weak and inadequate I would be so easily tempted to pride and to neglect the Lord. I have found Him and a greater and more profound spiritual experience through my needs and pains.

So if you are misunderstood, rejected, or judged because you have graciously sought to be God’s light in the darkness around you, or if you are struggling with painful personal matters or inner challenges, do not be discouraged. Rather rejoice and be glad for the Lord shall show Himself to you as your Deliverer and Redeemer. Our needs draw us to Him and He is up to the task to give us consolation and joy in the midst of difficulty.

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