Life Lessons that Contradict Everything You Know About the World

Sometimes God’s logic just doesn’t make sense to me. Well, most of the time, if I’m being honest. I read the Bible, and I try to understand why He does what He does, why He allows what He allows, and sometimes I think I can grasp the fringes of His thoughts. But I can’t grasp them completely. And that’s a good thing.

If I always knew what God was up to, I wouldn’t need to trust Him. And believe me, I need to trust Him. He’s brought me down such crazy roads and insane adventures to get me where I am in my life right now that I don’t really want to know what’s out ahead of me yet. He’ll tell me when I need to know.

But that doesn’t bring a lot of comfort for people who do want to know, who do want to understand why God makes the choices He makes. It can be scary sometimes, especially if you don’t know God well. But one of the ways we can get to know God is through Jesus and what Jesus said while He walked on Earth. But don’t start thinking that Jesus made more sense than God did.

img_3651-edit-2wmToday’s verses are Matthew 5:1-12.

One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them.

“God blesses those who are poor [in spirit] and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will be satisfied.
God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”

Most people have heard of the Beatitudes, even if they don’t know that they’re actually called the Beatitudes. Frankly, this particular passage of Scripture, I think, should be called Life Lessons that Contradict Everything You Know About the World. Isn’t that true?

If Jesus is saying that God will bless the humble and the mourning and the persecuted, that doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Those people are miserable, aren’t they? And why does it say you should be happy when you face all sorts of evil? What sense does that make? It’s just because people were nicer back in the day when Jesus said that, right? This bit of Scripture was only relevant during Bible times.

Well, if that was the case, it wouldn’t be in the Bible at all, because everything in the Bible is current and relevant and useful for 21st Century living and beyond.

Generally what I’ve experienced is that people don’t think applying these principles to life will actually work. They’re antiquated platitudes from a bygone age, and you can’t live your life so naively. These statements Jesus made so long ago are so against common sense that there’s no way they could ever be effective. But nothing could be farther from the truth. 

The Beatitudes portray the attitudes of a Christ-follower the way they’re supposed to be. And our reaction to the Beatitudes shouldn’t be that Jesus’ statements are so out of date, it should be shock and outrage that our world is turned so far upside down. God’s wisdom goes against what the world says is right, and that’s because the world is broken. God and the World are never going to agree. They can’t, because they stand on opposite sides of the line.

If we try to make the world’s reason and logic fit with God’s reason and logic, we’ll just end up confused. They can’t both be right.  And since we are just as broken as the world, who says God’s logic has to make sense to us to begin with?

Jesus showed us how to live a life diametrically opposed to the world’s wisdom. He didn’t go along with the popular crowd. He didn’t agree with the politicans or the religious elite. He agreed with God. And you were free to love Him or Hate him, and He wouldn’t change. He still hasn’t, and He isn’t going to.

Just because you can’t understand why doesn’t mean God is wrong. It just means God is bigger than you are.

Scarlet macaw at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Live like a messenger who’s about to get shot

What do you do when people lie about you? How do you react when people talk behind your back? How do you respond when people make fun of you?

I’m a people pleaser, and even thinking about the fact that some people don’t like me makes me feel sick inside. I want everyone to like me. I want every person I meet to feel better because they’ve met me. But while that’s a great goal to strive for, not everyone is going to feel that way. I’m going to rub some people the wrong way. Some people will misunderstand me. And it won’t be because of anything I’ve done, necessarily, but their reaction to me will stem more from their personal experiences than my personality. We all make snap decisions about people.

But as a people pleaser, I like to make people happy. So when they’re not, I am crushed. I can’t focus on anything else other than what I could have done differently to make them happy. But is that important? Is making people happy something we need to spend a lot of time on? When it comes to pleasing people, what does God think?

Scarlet macaw at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Scarlet macaw at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Matthew 5:10-12.

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.

We’re still in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, studying the things that matter to God. The first time I read through this verse this morning, I actually thought I wouldn’t use it. The rest of the verses at the beginning of Matthew 5 were pretty straightforward when you’re trying to discern the things that matter to God, but this one? Not so much. Because peace matters to God. Humility matters to God. Doing the right thing matters to God. But what about persecution? Persecution matters to God? He wants us to be persecuted?

Does He really?

True, the verse says that we’ll be blessed or happy when we are persecuted for doing the right thing, and that goes back to what’s been said many other times–that God cares about us doing the right thing. But I think this verse is about more than that. Like I said above, I’m a people pleaser, so I’m often tempted to make people happy at the expense of what’s right. I don’t want to be persecuted. I don’t want to be mocked. I don’t want to be lied about or have “evil things” said about me.

But guess what? If you’re living for God, the world is going to say mean things about you. If you’re following Christ, you’re going to be made fun of. People are going to make up stuff about you. It’s what they did to Jesus. Why do we expect things to be different for us? The world hasn’t changed.

So what’s the bottom line here? What does this have to do with God’s expectations for us?

Well, the way I see it, we’re supposed to be living a life that’s so obviously sold out to Christ that we welcome mocking and scorn. Not accept it. Not necessarily expect it. But that we don’t let it shake us when it does come.

Why do people make fun of us? Why do Christians become the brunt of so many cruel jokes or the object of so much hate? Well (just being 100% honest here) in America many Christians I’ve met are so full of themselves that they need some persecution to help them get their heads back on straight. But around the world in general, bring a Christian is very different than being a Christian in America. There is true hate for Christ in the world. There are more Christians martyred for their faith today than there were in Rome.

It comes down to the fact that Christians who are truly following Christ shine light in the darkness, and people like darkness. They like to live the way they want to live. They like to do what they want to do regardless of whether it’s right or wrong, and when a Christian comes by living according to God’s love, that light reveals to them that they are accountable for how they’re living. The light makes them uncomfortable. And at the crossroads, they are faced with the choice to either turn to Christ or to shoot the proverbial messenger.

What they think doesn’t matter. What they say doesn’t matter. What matters is the fact that they react at all because that shows you that you’re touching a nerve, you’re striking a chord, you’re making a difference–at least enough so that it catches their attention. If your life isn’t different enough to cause a stir, you might want to double check your priorities.

I’m not saying that God wants us to seek persecution. That’s not it at all. But what I get from this verse today is that what matters to God is how we live. It matters that we do the right thing, yes. It matters that we love others, yes. It matters that we do justly, love mercy, walk humbly, etc. But it also matters that we live the kind of life that shines a light into the darkest corners of an unbeliever’s heart so that they are faced with the choice to either turn to Christ or turn away from Him.

Facing north at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Peace doesn’t just happen

What does peace mean to you? To me, it’s a quiet evening at home, sitting on my back porch step with a cup of coffee and watching the sun set over acres and acres of wheat, listening to the wind in the tree limbs and marveling at the depth of the sky. Peace is having things right. Peace is not worrying. Peace is being where I need to be, doing what I’m supposed to do, and being able to face God with a clear conscience.

But peace is one of those achievements that doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it. Everyone wants it, but it doesn’t come naturally to us. And I think it’s something that matters to God, otherwise He wouldn’t talk about it through Scripture so much.

Facing north at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Facing north at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Matthew 5:9.

God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.

In this study of what matters to God, we’re still in the Beatitudes, which are found in Matthew 5, the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. I always want to make sure I’m understanding the word meaning as close as I can without knowing Greek, so I also checked the Amplified Version for this verse too:

Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they shall be called the sons of God!

What does it mean to work for peace? To make peace? To maintain peace? This verse is saying those people who strive for peace will be happy because they’ll discover their place in God’s family (according to the Message, which is how it puts it). But what does it mean?

I guess, before we can understand what it means to strive for peace, we really need to understand what peace is to begin with. If you go by the dictionary definition, it’s going to say peace is either a nonwarring state between nations or a general state of mutual harmony between people or groups of people. And that’s great. Both of those are great. But I want to go even further than those generic definitions.

Some people would say that peace is a lack of conflict. And on one hand, I would agree with that. Conflict is the opposite of peace. Conflict, whether it be war or disagreement or dislike or any sort of negative emotion, will keep you up at night worrying or fretting or fighting. But I think peace is more than just a lack of conflict, because conflict is never going to go away–not as long as we live on earth.

The only relationship in our lives that lacks conflict is our relationship with God through Jesus Christ–on God’s part. God has no conflict with us if we have accepted Christ, although there are times when we will have conflict with God because we refuse to do what He tells us, because we think we know better than He does, because we want what we want in spite of what He says is best.

But as long as we live on earth, we will experience conflict. So how can we have peace while we’re here?

To me, peace is reconciliation. And maybe that’s trading a ten-cent word for a fifty-cent word, but think about it. The word reconcile actually originates from a word that means “to make friendly again.” Reconciliation is the act of returning harmony between two people. Reconciliation is making peace where there wasn’t peace before.

Like I said at the start, peace doesn’t just happen. Human nature precludes peace from being a natural state for us. We’re always going to be fighting each other. We’re always going to be in conflict with each other unless someone is actively making and maintaining peace in your relationships. So how do we do that? If the key to being blessed and grasping what God says is important is to make and maintain peace, how do we do it?

Many people have said it but most people attribute the statement to Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Peace is not the absence of war but the presence of justice.”

There’s a lot going on in that statement. So many times people get the idea that peace will come about just because we are not actively at war with someone, that is will just happen if we’re not fighting with anybody. But here’s the deal, folks. We will always be fighting with someone. We will always have conflict with others. Why? Because someone is always selfish. Because someone is always looking out for number one. Because someone is always going to do what they want to do no matter how much it might hurt someone else.

Welcome to life on planet Earth. Nothing has changed since we were created.

And the way to make and maintain peace in any relationship is to ensure that justice has a place in it. We have to do what’s right. Someone has to take that stand, someone has to point out truth. If we don’t, the relationship will fall apart. Relationships based on lies never work. A relationship is only going to work if both sides are truthful, if both sides do the right thing, if both sides understand what justice is–and that is true for people, for governments, for nations.

We will always face conflict. It’s not going away until Christ comes back for us, but peace matters to God. He wants us to return to that place of real relationship that we shared before Adam and Eve fell. When it comes to our relationship with Him, the only way to make peace there is through Christ. But when it comes to our relationships with each other, making and maintaining peace comes down to doing what’s right. And unfortunately, sometimes doing the right thing will cause more trouble between people than it solves, but true peace isn’t the absence of conflict. True peace is knowing what’s right and doing it.

Sunrise east of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Check your insides

Do you ever wish that you could see God? I do. It’s not that I have a hard time believing in Him. It’s just that I would appreciate being able to actually look Him in the eye when I talk to Him. Eye contact means a lot to me, and not being able to see His face is frustrating sometimes. Not being able to see Him smile can be frustrating. Not being able to see Him frown is frustrating. Some days I would give ten years of my life to spend ten minutes in His presence when I can actually hear His voice and see His face.

But that’s not how our relationship works. As a human being, I can’t be in God’s presence–not physically. But is there any way to see God? My life is so wild and crazy all the time that I would dearly love to be able to see God so I know I’m going the right way, but is there actually a way to see Him? Well, according to today’s verse, there is.

Sunrise east of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunrise east of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Matthew 5:8.

God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
    for they will see God.

The pure of heart will get to see God. That’s what this verse says. But what does that mean? What does it mean to be pure-hearted? Does it go back to attitude? Does it come from your motivation for living? Does that mean you never do wrong?

When I think of being pure of heart, I think of some fictional knight in shining armor, one of those valiant chivalrous types who rescues damsels in distress and never does anything wrong. Maybe some people think of innocence in children. Or maybe others think of people who are just generall good. But is that what being pure-hearted means in this context?

Most of the time when I’m doing a word study, since I don’t know Greek, I use the Amplified Version, but for this verse it uses the same phrase: “the pure in heart.” And that doesn’t help much. Pure-heartedness is one of those identifiers that can mean so many different things.

So my other go-to translation is the Message, a paraphrase. It’s not as “accurate” as the Amplified Version or the NLT, but the Message is really good at capturing the essence of what whole passages in the Bible mean. And this is how the Message puts our verse today:

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

Whoa. Did that rock your world or was it just me? According to this paraphrase, being pure of heart means getting your heart and mind in order. It means focusing your heart and mind on the things that matter. It means having the correct perspective about God, about yourself, about your life. And when you have the right perspective about what’s going on inside you, then you’ll be able to see God outside.

But does that really work?

I’ll be the first to tell you it does.

On those days when I’m so distracted that I can’t tell which way is up and which way is down, I know my inner perspective isn’t right. I know I’m not putting God first. I know I’m not living the way the Bible says. And on those days God seems far far away.

But on the days when I’ve got my head on straight, when I’m paying attention, when I have a healthy perspective on who I am and who God is, then I can see Him. No, not physically. I don’t see Him standing in plain sight, but I see the results of Him. I see Him working in my life, in others’ lives, in situations.

When I’m not focused on the things that matter (like loving God and loving people), I’m focused solely on myself. But when I start taking God at His word, He changes me from the inside out. And it’s not that He suddenly starts working in the situations around me then; it’s that I finally begin to see Him working.

God is always working. God is always there. He’s always in plain sight. But we’re the ones who have our eyes closed.

So if you’re tired today, if you’re struggling and feeling lost and abandoned, take a moment and check your insides. Make sure your heart is where it needs to be. Make sure you’re focusing on the things that really matter in life–like loving God and loving people, like doing the right thing, like loving mercy, like living humbly. And once you get those things under control, try looking for God again. I bet He’s closer than you think He is.

Mountain lions chilling under a ledge at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Mercy enough to share

Do you ever wonder why writers repeat words or phrases? Or why public speakers introduce, summarize, and wrap up their talks by repeating their points? On one hand, repetition is a literary device. Sometimes it makes paragraphs easier to read or it can help the flow of the text. But the main reason si because it helps people remember. If a point is important, both a writer or a public speaker is going to emphasize it. This is true in Scripture too. If you see a word repeated in close proximity, slow down and pay attention because it’s important. And it works the same way with concepts. If you run across a concept that is repeated, you might want to take it seriously because repetition means it’s important.

So, have you picked up on any recurring themes in this study of what matters to God? What about doing what’s right? What about living humbly? What about loving mercy? Today’s verse echoes one I already touched on.

Mountain lions chilling under a ledge at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Mountain lions chilling under a ledge at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Matthew 5:7.

God blesses those who are merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.

Love mercy. We’re supposed to love mercy so much that we look for opportunities to share it. But unlike our last passage about loving mercy, Micah 6:8, Jesus gives us more of a reason why we need to, other than it’s what God requires. We’re supposed to be merciful because we will be shown mercy. And what’s more, you’ll be happy if you show mercy.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Oh, but don’t forget human nature. Human nature is not so easily thwarted. We’re not geared to show mercy. We love to receive it, but showing it is a different story. It feels so good to pounce, to overreact, to jump to conclusions about someone who has hurt your feelings. At least, it feels good at first. But if you’re a Christ-follower, that good feeling won’t last because pretty soon the Holy Spirit is going to start talking to you, and He’s going to start pointing out why you shouldn’t have done it.

Why? Well, friends, because if you follow Christ, you will be shown mercy at the end of your life, but you also receive mercy every day you wake up. Every time you jump to the wrong conclusion or attack an innocent, whether in your mind or out loud, or think something you shouldn’t, Christ’s mercy paid for all of that on the cross. We are still benefiting from Christ’s mercy today.

And if God can show us that kind of mercy, why can’t we extend mercy to someone else? It doesn’t matter what they’ve done. It doesn’t matter what they’ve said. Give them a break. If you were in their position, wouldn’t you want someone to stop being so hard on you? I’m not saying to lower your expectations because that doesn’t help anybody. But there’s no need to jump down someone’s throat because of a mistake.

Maybe it’s the time of year, but I swear everyone is walking around half-angry all the time. I’ve noticed people get like that around here as winter is on the way out and spring is on the way in. Here in Kansas, the weather can never make up its mind. It will be 70 one day and 30 with ice the next, and when you’re really looking forward to life coming back to the world, waking up to see everything coated in half an inch of ice can be dispiriting. So maybe that’s why people have such short fuses.

But it’s no excuse, especially for a Christ-follower.

We have been shown mercy through Christ’s sacrifice. For us to withhold mercy from someone else is prideful and selfish and arrogant. Yes, mercy has many forms, but chief among them is love. However you react, make sure you’re reacting in love. Speak truth, but speak it in love. Do right, but do it in love. Don’t compromise, but reach out with love. I fully believe that half of mercy is how you show it. Again, it all goes back to attitude, because if you’re demonstrating mercy to someone without loving them, it won’t make a difference to either of you.

Attitude isn’t easy to hide. It shows in everything you do, everything you say, and people can tell more about you by how you react than you think they can. And those who don’t believe are always watching.

So no matter how someone has hurt you, don’t strike back. Show mercy. Love them anyway and forgive them. It will be good for you, and it will be good for them, even if it feels like a sacrifice. And if it feels like your sacrifice is going unrewarded, remember what Christ has done for you and remember the future you’ve been promised. You have mercy aplenty coming your way. You have enough to share.

 

Moon in the pines at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God expects us to mourn

What have you lost recently? A job? An opportunity? A friend? Everyone loses. Loss is just part of life, and learning how to deal with loss is part of growing up.

For the first time since 1965, Wichita State University made it to the NCAA Final Four Championship. I’m not a sports fan (at all) but I am a Shocker. I bought a t-shirt, and I even watched the game. And while it was a great game (so proud of the Shockers for hanging in there), it didn’t turn out the way I hoped. They lost, yes. But they gained something else in return. And I think that it works the same way in most situations. Once we realize that we have lost something or once we accept that we have lost something, we can be open to accepting what we’ll receive in return.

Moon in the pines at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Moon in the pines at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Matthew 5:4.

God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

I’m still reading the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount this week, studying the things that God says matters. Most of the Beatitudes state pretty ironic things. Like yesterday: You’re happy when you realize you need help.

So what about today? You’re happy when you’re sad? For real? Is that what it actually means?

This is the same verse in the Amplified Version:

Blessed and enviably happy [with a happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace] are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted!

Let’s begin at the beginning here. What exactly does it mean to mourn? According to Dictionary.com, it means “to feel or express sorrow or grief.” I always thought mourning was something usually relegated to funerals, honestly, but with that vague of a definition, mourning can be expressing sadness about anything.

So when’s the last time you mourned? I know a lot of WSU fans who mourned last Saturday when those last 30 seconds of the game ticked by and Louisville kept scoring despite the Shockers’ valiant efforts. I know a lot of people who mourn significant losses and a lot of people who mourn insignificant losses. I know a lot of mournful people. If we think about it, we all do. So if this verse were true, wouldn’t that mean that all those mournful people would be happy?

Here’s something I’ve learned about mourning: If you desire sadness, you’ll never accept comfort.

Isn’t it true that there are some people who refuse to be comforted no matter what you say? They just want to make a big deal out of everything so they can get the attention? And that’s usually what happens. When they go on and on about how difficult their life is or how bad they have it, the compassionate, considerate people around them go out of their way to comfort them. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. But if that person is only seeking the attention, they’ll never be truly comforted, and that sadness will never change them.

As a result, I’ve kind of cut mourning out of my life. I don’t do it. At least, I haven’t done it because somehow I started to see it as a waste of time and energy. I don’t like attention. I don’t like causing disturbances or rocking the boat. So making a big deal out of feeling sad about anything is out of the question.

But the Bible doesn’t say not to mourn. This verse says you’ll be happy if you do. God expects us to mourn. Why? Well, that depends on your definition of happy. Here the happiness Jesus is talking about comes from experiencing God’s favor, conditioned by understanding His grace.

Whoa. Let’s go over that for a second.

When you are mourning a loss–and I’m talking about a significant loss, not a basketball game–when you’re truly feeling hollow and empty inside, when the grief is just too much for you to bear, when you couldn’t care less about how people react to your grief, that is real mourning. That is the true expression of sadness, and that isn’t wrong. On the contrary, Scripture says over and over again that mourning is a natural thing. There’s a time for it. We need to allow the energy for it, because there are so many significant things to mourn over.

But as a Christ follower, we need to have a different perspective on mourning and grief and sadness. Loss doesn’t mean the same thing to us. Death doesn’t mean the same thing to us as it does to people who don’t follow Christ. When we experience loss, it’s a terrible thing, but while it’s okay to mourn that loss, we need to remember that this life isn’t all there is. That sense of mourning is temporary–or at least it should be, because whatever we “lose” on in this life will be returned to us in eternity much better than it ever was here.

Even when we’re mourning, we can still experience God’s favor. Even when we’re overwhelmed with grief, we can still grasp the concept that God is pleased with us. Why? Because as Christ followers, we need to understand that God isn’t punishing us. Yes, it’s a good idea always to check your heart to make sure there’s no sin there. But if your heart is pure before God, He’s not punishing you. He’s just doing the best He can with a world that we broke, and sometimes bad things happen to good people. And sometimes the trouble that comes our way is a sign that God is pleased with us–why else would our enemy take a sledgehammer to us?

So what have you lost today? Or this week? Or this year? Whatever or whoever you lost, you’ll get something in return, the least of which is comfort from God, knowing that He loves you and that He believes in you and that He’s got it under control. Don’t be afraid to mourn, as long as you’re willing to accept His comfort.

Small sunflower on the ledge below the brown bear exhibit at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

We’re already dependent on God

If you’ve been following Christ for any amount of time, you’ll recognize pretty quickly that the way we are supposed to think, to live, and to see ourselves is completely opposite from what the world says. The way the world thinks, acts, lives, focuses–does anything–is usually backward in comparison to what the Bible says, but somehow we all have gotten it in our heads that what the world says matters more than what the Bible says. So even believers who’ve been following Christ for years will still look at what Jesus said and think it sounds weird or difficult or impossible, but it’s not.

One of the most ironic, life changing passages in the Bible is in Matthew 5, a little chapter that’s actually part of a larger sermon that Jesus preached, usually referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. I believe it’s three chapters, Matthew 5-7, and nestled in the beginning of chapter 5 is a small section called the Beatitudes. And in it, Jesus says some revolutionary things, things that shocked people. In fact, the Bible even says in Matthew 7:28-29 that the crowds were awed by his words because “he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.”

Small sunflower on the ledge below the brown bear exhibit at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Small sunflower on the ledge below the brown bear exhibit at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Matthew 5:3.

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

I always think it’s a good idea to read multiple versions of the Bible if you don’t speak the original language Scripture was written in, and one of my favorite versions to compare is the Amplified Version because it goes very deep into word meaning. This is Matthew 5:3 in the Amplified Version:

Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!

As an independent person, I struggle with this, because “knowing how much I need someone” and “being happy” don’t usually go in the same sentence. But if I follow Christ and if I believe the Bible, I have to believe that this is true. And if you think about it and apply what you know about God to it, it makes sense.

I wouldn’t say that our culture directly pushes us to be independent. Actually, our culture is becoming more and more dependent but not on God. We become dependent on comfort, on technology, on government, on pleasure and convenience. Our culture encourages us to think the same and fit into the same mold. But who do you know who follows that sort of thinking who is happy? Not rich. Not successful. But happy.

Conversely, how many people do you know who are entirely dependent on God who are happy? Granted, I know a lot of people who say they follow Christ who aren’t happy, but in those instances, I wonder if they are truly as dependent as they say.

Think about a life entirely dependent on God. Think about what that kind of life would look like. If we were entirely dependent on God, if we got it through our thick skulls that God provides everything we need when we need it, we wouldn’t need to worry about anything. We wouldn’t be discontent with anything because we’d understand that God has given us everything already and just because someone else has more doesn’t make us less of a person. We wouldn’t need to find our identity anywhere else. We wouldn’t need to find happiness anywhere else. And we wouldn’t be constantly seeking satisfaction from sources that will never satisfy.

Who couldn’t be happy with a life like that?

The only thing preventing me from living that life is letting go of my independence. Because God already holds that place in my life. I am already entirely dependent on Him. He gave me breath when I woke up this morning. His grace sustains me through my days. His strength helps me focus on things I need to do. He’s already providing everything I need. The one place where the whole thing breaks down is me–my attitude about Him.

Attitude is everything.

I am already 100% dependent on Him, but if I refuse to acknowledge that fact, I will never be happy. Even though He’s already giving me everything I need, until I acknowledge how much I need Him, I’m going to keep on worrying, keep on fighting, keep on struggling, keep on envying, etc. etc. etc. And that’s not the way we’re supposed to live.

Acknowledge your insignificance. Understand His grace and love. Depend on Him. You already do, whether you accept it or not, but once you get past the roadblock of pride and realize how much you need Him, something changes in your thinking.

Is it weak to depend on Him like this? Absolutely.

Guess what? We’re all weak. Nobody is strong enough to make it through life without Him. Anybody who says different is lying to themselves. And the more we try to be independent in life, the more unhappy we will be. We weren’t designed to live on our own. We were designed for life with Christ. And until we accept that, we’ll never stop searching.