Most people assume happiness comes by:
♦ achieving goals of wealth and success
♦ being fun
♦ being strong, beautiful, rich, independent, secure and in control.
♦ meting out revenge on our enemies.
♦ indulging our greed
♦ winning arguments.
♦ avoiding all trouble
But Jesus’ remarks about the blessed life are exactly the opposite.
He says the poor in spirit are happy because they depend completely on God —
He says those who mourn are happy, because God shares their heartbreak and will surely comfort them.
The meek have a special happiness because they are free of pride and ambition; God will give them the world.
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are happy, because God himself will satisfy their longings.
Those who show mercy are happy, because they in turn will be treated kindly.
The pure in heart are happy, because they will meet God face to face.
Those who make peace are happy, because they take after God and do his work.
Those who are persecuted for doing good are happy, because they share the real cost of God’s kingdom.
POOR IN SPIRIT
What does it mean?
Misconceptions of Poverty of Spirit
No Value At All
Not Personal Insignificance
Not a show of Humility Uriah Heep said, “I am well aware that I am the ’umblest person going” (Chapter 16 of Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield).
Proper Understanding of what it means:
Someone who is so desperately poor in spiritual resources that he knows for certain that he must have help from outside source.
Now the Jews had a special way of using the word Poor. In Hebrew the word is ’ani or ebiōn. These words in Hebrew underwent a four-stage development of meaning. (i) They began by meaning simply poor. (ii) They went on to mean, because poor, therefore having no influence or power, or help, or prestige. (iii) They went on to mean, because having no influence, therefore down-trodden and oppressed by men. (iv) Finally, they came to describe the man who, because he has no earthly resources whatever, puts his whole trust in God.
Isaiah 66:2 (ESV)
2All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.
Recognition of our personal moral inability before a holy God and a just law.
There must be an emptying of self before there can be a filling of God’s blessings.
C. S. Lewis, “Whenever we find our religious life is making us feel that we are good—above all, that we are better than someone else—I think we may be sure that we are being acted upon, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you…forget about yourself altogether.”
Poverty of Spirit essential for Salvation
Jesus promises the kingdom to the powerless, the oppressed who embrace the poverty of their condition by trusting in God rather than favors from the powerful for their deliverance. The inequities of this world will not forever taunt the justice of God: he will ultimately vindicate the oppressed.
Poverty of Spirit essential for Spiritual Growth
The risen and exalted Church Visitor, Jesus Christ, addresses lukewarm Laodicea as follows:
“So because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am about to spew you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich and have become richer right along and have need of nothing whatever,’ but you do not know that you are the one who is wretched and pitiable and poor [or: beggarly] and blind and naked” (3:16–17).
But he gladdens the church of Smyrna by saying:
“I know your tribulation [or: affliction] and your poverty, but you are rich” (2:9).
When you recognize your own helplessness and cast yourself solely upon the grace of God and the Spirit of God, you are renouncing spiritual pride and evidencing a poverty of spirit that makes it possible for God to bestow blessing after blessing on your life.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE HUMBLE?
How can we know if we are genuinely humble, if we are poor in spirit? Thomas Watson gives seven principles we may apply in determining humility:
First, if we are humble we learn to be weaned from ourselves.
Second, humility will lead us to be lost in the wonder of Christ,
Third, we learn not complain about our situation, no matter how bad it may become.
Fourth, we will begin to see more clearly the strengths and virtues of others as well as our own weaknesses and sins.
Fifth, we will discover the joys of prayer.
Sixth, we will take Christ on His terms, not on ours or any other.
Seventh, when we are poor in spirit we will praise and thank God for His grace.