Prayer and Fasting ~ July 2021
Scripture Focus: Matthew 5:3-12
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. 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. Matthew 5:3-12 (NLT)
Some of my favorite teachings of Jesus are in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). I especially like how the New Living Translation puts it in English because it captures the present tense nature of Jesus’ words. God blesses. Right now, God blesses. I hope translations to other languages capture this “is-ness” as well. It’s important, because Jesus isn’t talking about what might be, or could be. He is talking about what IS. Right now, we can share with God in joy, sharing the very blessedness that fills God’s heart. This isn’t something that will happen in the future. It is the present reality of God’s blessing – right now.
These blessings are quite a surprise when we consider what the world tells us. The world would have us believe that righteous, merciful ways of living are weak or that mourning leads to unhappiness. In contrast, Jesus proclaims that meekness, humility, and persecution are sources of spiritual giftedness rather than unhappiness or misery. That is the surprise of the Beatitudes – what appears to be a source of unhappiness, turns out to be a source of joy and blessedness.
It’s easy to miss the depth of what Jesus is saying because we frequently tie our happiness or unhappiness to things that happen to us. But the blessing and joy he promises, have no rival. They are completely untouchable by the world. Jesus is saying that blessing and joy look different from God’s perspective.
Grasping this idea is important because God’s Kingdom is all about blessing and joy, and
the Beatitudes are concrete expressions of the nature of Kingdom life. Since as Christ followers we are Kingdom people, we need to understand what it means to live that way.
The Latin American Jesuit theologian Jon Sobrino described spirituality as a profound motivation. He said it’s about instincts, intuitions, longings, and desires that move, inspire, and shape us. They inform and fill our decisions and actions. Our spirituality, then, is whatever we desire most. Whatever we strive for, whatever motivates us, drives us, moves us to select one thing over another; whatever primary shaping forces are in our life, that’s our spirituality.
Kingdom people have a particular type of spirituality shaped by seeking and finding God’s presence in our lives. This spirituality compels us to do whatever is necessary to put God at the very center of our lives, and to put ourselves at the very center of God’s will. When we do that, we experience deep, abiding, life-changing, life-marking joy – not because we’ve earned it or achieved it, but because it already exists. God’s blessedness is already there, and we experience it when we seek God’s kingdom and live as Kingdom people.
Kingdom people come in all shapes and sizes, but the Beatitudes give us a good idea about some of the things they have in common. Kingdom people seek to live their lives in sync with God. They’re poor in spirit, recognizing their intense need for God. They understand that they are not self-sufficient so they put their whole trust in God.
Kingdom people experience mourning, yet they are also blessed with Christ’s healing comfort and peace. They understand that the deeper the love, the deeper the loss. And yet, they also recognize that Jesus showed the deepest love of all in offering himself up for them.
Kingdom people hunger and thirst for justice and righteousness, working for the full realization of God’s kingdom in the world. They are merciful, extending forgiveness to others because they know forgiveness is crucial to God’s justice, and because they’re always aware of how much they’ve been forgiven.
Kingdom people know that true children of God are peacemakers. They act as radical agents of love, which requires courage in a world whose foundation is force. When they are persecuted, Kingdom people continue to have hope, receiving God’s blessing, which provides them comfort in the midst of suffering. They understand that their lives are lived in God’s hand. They understand that God ultimately has won the victory, and they will share in God’s reward. Not all Kingdom people experience persecution, but they all align themselves with those who do. They align themselves with those who suffer as well, and they work to alleviate that suffering and end that persecution.
Kingdom people are humble. They are mindful that when God’s kingdom comes in its fullness, those who have humbled themselves will be honored and those who have honored themselves in the kingdom of this world will be humbled.
As you pray and fast this month, I challenge you to look at your present life from the perspective of the future of God’s kingdom. In doing so, I pray that you will experience God’s blessing right now; that joy will be yours – even when you suffer; especially when you struggle for justice; particularly when you are merciful, gentle, lowly, and humble.
Joy can indeed be ours when we place Christ at the center of our hearts and live as Kingdom people. It is then that we experience the deep and everlasting blessing that the world can never give nor take away.
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