Earlier in the year I got stuck in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). I had reached Matthew 5 in my early morning bible readings but instead of reading the whole chapter, I felt like I needed to take time there, taking in these profound few verses of Scripture. Next day as I opened the bible for the next installment of Matthew’s gospel I sensed the Lord telling me to go back and read the Beatitudes again. So I did. And then the same thing happened the next day. And the next. And this happened every day for about the next two or three wks. The Beatitudes. The Beatitudes.
I then began to read a number of books by Heidi Baker and I was intrigued how it was the Beatitudes that have shaped her profound ministry of Word and Spirit, bringing revival to some of the poorest people of the world in Mozambique.
So it feels like God has been on my case, this year, regarding the Beatitudes! So I thought it would be good to blog about them.
Each Beatitude begins with the phrase ‘Blessed are…’ So what is it to be ‘blessed’? The Greek word for ‘blessed’ is makarios, which means ‘blessed by God’ or ‘receiving God’s favour’. Sometimes we translate the word as ‘happy’ or even ‘contented’ or ‘favoured.’ The word reminds us that whilst God loves everyone, God doesn’t bless everyone. Now don’t get me wrong – God wants to bless everyone, but receiving God’s blessings is, to some extent, down to us. It’s down to the kind of people we are, and the kind of lives we live.
Think of it this way. Imagine that God has a massive box of gifts to give away. And he is distributing to those who come near. And he is hoping you will come near to receive so, like him, you too can give them away to others. But unless you come close, you won’t receive.
You see, the kind of people we are, and the way we live our lives, either puts us within the sphere of God’s blessing, or puts us outside. I would encourage you to come within the sphere of God’s blessing: his favour, his rewards, his goodness. So what kind of people do we need to be, to come into the sphere of God’s blessing? What kind of people do we need to be, to be blessed?
Poor in Spirit
The first thing Jesus says on being blessed is that we need to be ‘poor in spirit’, for ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’
Mmm. Interesting. Is that the first thing you’d say? It wouldn’t be top of my list. But it is for Jesus, and so we need to take seriously what he is saying here. So, the first way we get blessed is by being ‘poor in spirit’. If you’re like that, then the kingdom of heaven belongs to you.
So what does it mean to be ‘poor in spirit’? The word ‘poor’ here is not so much about lacking wealth.It’s more about being desperately impoverished. So Jesus is saying ‘blessed are those who are desperately impoverished in spirit.’ Great! Well, that doesn’t sound very positive or very attractive. Come to Jesus Christ and get spiritually depressed! It sounds like: ‘You’re blessed when depressed’!
To be fair, this passage is not about depression at all. It’s really about desiring more of God’s Spirit. It’s about grasping that there is so much more to your life and so much more to God than what you are experiencing now. It’s acknowledging that it’s ok to be spiritual dis-satisfied. Like you want more. You desire more. More from God. More of God. Do you ever feel like that?
So in the kingdom of heaven, there is no place for the spiritually proud. You see, if you ever get to the place where you think God has no more for you, then something is wrong. If you ever get to the place where you think that you have ‘made it’ as a follower of Jesus, then you are in big trouble! This is about having a kind of holy discontent deep inside. And Jesus says not only is it ok to feel like that but actually God will bless you if you feel like that. It’s like God is looking for that in each of us. But not a discontent that is negative and saps the life out of everyone around us. Not that. Instead what the Lord is looking for is a positive seeking after more of him – of his ways & purposes – that shows a deep humility and a desire to know him more.
Heidi Baker summarises ‘poor in spirit’ as
‘a posturing of the heart where one is wholly given, fully yielded, completely desperate and dependent on God alone.’
We see this in many bible characters, so that King David (in Psalm 63) cries out:
‘Oh God you are my God. Earnestly I seek you. My soul thirsts for you. My body longs for you. In a dry and weary land where there is no water.’
He wants more of God. He is poor is spirit.
Is that you? Are you praying ‘God, I’m thirsty. Let me come to you and drink. God, I’m hungry. Let me come to you and eat’?
You want to be blessed? Be poor in spirit. Desire more.
Heidi Baker says that one reason why the revival is growing in Mozambique is that the people are genuinely ‘poor in spirit’ for their physical poverty means they are dependent on God for everything. That makes them desperate. Poor in spirit. And so God is blessing them.
This does not contradict the fact that God has given you ‘every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus’ (as Eph 1:3 says). We do indeed have every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. All that you could ever want or need to nourish your heart and soul is found in Jesus Christ. And in Christ you have all you need to life a good, godly, satisfying, world-changing life. But, let’s be honest – none of us are living in the fulness of that life. Not fully. Only Jesus lived in the fulness of God’s blessing. So cry out to God for more of that. Recognise what is lacking. Be willing to change anything that needs to change. So you are even more satisfied. And so you can give it away.
Nicky Gumbel puts it like this:
‘It is precisely when we feel spiritually desperate or a complete failure. That we come under the rule & reign of God; not just for this life, but for all eternity.’
If you are that kind of person, then the kingdom of heaven is yours. It belongs to you. You have a part in God’s reign. God’s rule. God’s plan.
So go for more. Seek more. Be poor in spirit. For yours is the kingdom of heaven.