As you know, I like to speak from the heart and I wanted to shed some light on what God has been revealing to me about being thankful and redefining the way that I see blessings. Truthfully, I have never been one to “buy in” to the cheap “prosperity” version of the Gospel because, honestly, it is so far from the reality of what centuries of believers experienced when boldly proclaiming, “I will follow Christ.” And for any folks who have tried to swim upstream against what history has proven to be true, it doesn’t take long for “this is your year” to be shattered by a harsh reality. Why do I know this to be true? Because I know that life is full of unforeseen circumstances. Yet, Jesus never promised that by being His disciples we would be blessed in the traditional sense of the word. In fact, I believe often times we see “blessings” as being “lucky” or having life merely go our way. However, that is not at all what being “blessed by God” really means.In fact, this year after many earth shaking events, I have come out on the other side stronger than ever and I have seen God’s faithfulness in ways that I could have never imagined. Even so, the idea of being blessed is far beyond current circumstances because, truthfully, these blessing may come and they may go at any given time. The good news? God calls us “blessed” and this blessing is greater than what you see before you – the good, the bad, and the ugly. And, because of this, we can truly give thanks to a good God.
Where can we find truth about how Jesus defines a “blessed” person? We can see it traced all the way back to the beginning, in Genesis, where God’s plan was to bless man because He created them in His image (Genesis 1:28). However, it doesn’t sop there, we can continue to see how God blesses those who follow after Him through one of Jesus’ most famous speeches while on earth. The Beatitudes were poetically spoken on one of the most breathtaking views in Israel. The place where the Sermon on the Mount occurred is a place like no other and I can’t help but think that Jesus picked it out specifically for this important message. A few years back when I traveled to Israel, I actually got to step on this historic site and see the beautiful rolling hills on this mountainside enriched by the bright, blue, sea. Needless to say, it must have made for quite a special place to have crowds gathered around listening to a powerful, sustaining, sermon that would redefine what it means to be blessed by God. However, somewhere along the way, most twenty-first century Christians may have interchanged (maybe unknowingly) some of what Jesus said to make it more user-friendly for us now. Yet, don’t be fooled, the blessings we are about to read about come at a personal cost. Therefore, in order that we might better understand these Scriptures found in Matthew chapter 5, let’s actually read the conclusion first,
“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.” (Matthew 5:11-12, NLT)
Immediately we can enter into these words with caution because… what is the premise of this passage? Persecution and difficult trials will occur for those who dare to live boldly for God. Now, I recognize that the form of persecution has changed. True, most of us reading this in our western culture may find that being a Christ-follower looks nothing like having a gun pointed at your head, being burned alive, or hiding underground for illegally practicing your Christian faith. Nonetheless, it is promised that persecution is a part of following Christ. So, let’s stop here for a moment as I ask a pressing question to both myself and to you: How are we persecuted in our daily walk for following Christ? Are we really living this out if we are not? If you find that you are just rolling with the punches or are easily drawn into a message counter to this, you might need to consider this passage in a new light. When thinking about God’s economic system of blessings, I would challenge you to consider: could it be that blessings sometimes look like the opposite of what the world promises? Isn’t it just like Jesus to turn our world upside down with a powerful message that says, “you will encounter trouble because you follow Me, but don’t worry, you will be rewarded for remaining in Me?” As we continue reading these verses we can see how God’s promises and plans for us are far greater than the way we often see blessings on this side of life.
Matthew 5:3-10 speaks to us in love. In this passage, we can see how Jesus replaces all of our ashes with all of His beauty. I love how the New Living Translation captures Jesus’ words,
“God blesses those who are poor 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.” (Matthew 5:3-10, NLT)
What resonates with your soul? Do you need comfort from loss? Do you need to experience (or see) God in a new way? Do you need to become more humble, merciful, peaceful, or hungry for the things of God? Regardless of what needs fine-tuning in your life… because, let’s face it, we all need to evaluate what areas of our life need God’s fresh grace applied. I am so thankful that there is a promise of true blessing found in these words of Jesus. Personally, I want the blessing that lasts pass my 401k and designer heels. I want what God has designed as a “blessing” for my eternity because I am seeking Him in all of these areas of my life. I want to have God’s comfort, fulfillment, and Kingdom to claim. I am sure you are nodding your head too, so let’s begin to re-think how we define our “blessings.”
God is faithful and He does give good gifts to His children. In fact, I have been given more than I deserve with a dream job (Youth Pastor and Worship Leader) and a recent purchase of a beautiful new home. However, this is not what makes me truly blessed. While I am thankful for these things, I am blessed because, through it all (in every season), I am working my best to follow Christ. The Beatitudes can prepare us for the eternal instead of just the temporary good gifts that God has for us. Will you join me in seeking the “more” He has promised even if it means that your faith will be tried? I choose to take this difficult challenge, as I hope you will as well, knowing that I always have a reason to be thankful and have praise upon my lips.