“God’s Blessing in a Weird World”
Pastor Tom Millner
Isaiah 55:8-11; Matthew 5:1-12
Economic crises, political upheavals, storms and earthquakes have captured the headlines of late. Just about everyone is being touched in some way by some or all of these happenings. What was just a few short years ago a place of “sitting pretty” and looking good has turned into a precarious perch witnessing challenges never before faced. One Rabbi in NJ has declared that the cause of the recent earthquake in Virginia is because of gay marriage in New York. I guess this means that two people of the same gender making a lifetime commitment to love and honor one another can shake foundations three states away! Who knew that love could have so much power? Just imagine what would happen if that kind of love were unleashed unconditionally! I digress.
Isaiah records the words of God that assert that His ways are not our ways. For some that is comforting and for others it’s confounding. It’s comforting to know that God has it all under control and it’s confounding when we don’t know what “it” is. Some of us develop our plans, execute our strategy and attempt to control our destiny. Others wake to the sound of the wind and follow it wherever it seems to blow that day. Some MUST express themselves or explode where others stuff explosives far out of sight from others. Some would have the expressers tone down and have the stuffers tune in. Proverbs 14:12 says “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” This reminds us that neither personality is better than the other, but different approaches that come to the same end. Whether we’ve made plans, executed plans and tactics or simply watched as the planners went by, there will come a time when each says “goodbye”. This is not intended to be morbid and a downer; rather it is a reminder that “today is the day the Lord has made – let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). In a weird world, there are still wonders and blessings. You see, God’s plans will always supersede ours. His objectives survive through time, even when ours fizzle out. There were groups of self proclaimed heroes (whom we term terrorists) who thought they would bring down a free nation by their acts of heroism on September 11, 2001. Instead they brought death and destruction to themselves and thousands of innocent people who had nothing to do with their agenda and with it, strengthened the resolve of a nation to not be overcome with fear, but be resolute in preservation and restoration. People make plans, but eternity is in God’s hands! Jesus taught us that strength, virtue, victory, and rejoicing lie in places the world we live in would tell us is found weakness, flaws, defeat, and anguish. In God’s world it isn’t always as it seems!
Let’s look at what Jesus taught us in Matthew 5. These teachings are traditionally referred to as the beatitudes. An easy way to remember them is “let these be your attitude”! We could spend hours on each of these statements by Jesus, but we’ll only touch upon a couple that I think are most needed by us all here today.
Matthew 5:3 reads; “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Now this does not refer to being poor in God’s Spirit; His Holy Spirit, but to having a less determined self-will. The Kingdom of heaven, we said, is both now and not yet. Having accepted Christ as your Savior, you now have the presence of His Holy Spirit living in you. That kingdom to which He refers is a relationship that flourishes as He becomes greater and we become less in relation to Him. This flies in the face of modern day self-esteem asserters who proclaim that it is imperative of raising self to a greater level of importance. Those in so called co-dependent relationships strive to bring one’s self to a higher place of regard so as not to fall victim to the self abusive behaviors that have so entrapped them in past or even current relationships. We have a hard time with the notion of dying to self as a means of spiritual development and maturity. Some would ask: “why do I need to dye to self when I’m just beginning to feel good about myself as a Christian”? Let’s look at it this way. If there is only capacity to hold 100% in a container called self-image, and the container has been previously 100% contaminated with false beliefs, the container will only produce contaminated results. If at a particular point of letting in purity that consumed only 10% of the capacity, the mix has changed, but the product is still contaminated by 90%. The reduction of contamination can only occur by pouring out the old allowing room for the new. In order for the contamination to be replaced with the pure, the old has to be completely poured out. So it is with the Christian’s walk with Christ. The new replaces the old, but the purity of Christ can only exist where the contamination of self-determination, self-need to be esteemed a particular way, and the need for life to be lived on “my terms” is poured out. God’s view is 100% pure because of Christ. When we are filled with His presence in our lives we see less need for self to be exhibited in a particular way. We become hungry for more of His purity, His goodness, His grace, and His mercy. In the presence of Him in our self-container, we become less and less dependent upon viewing our-self and more and more comforted by the presence if His-self as the author and finisher of our faith. It is there in that place with Him that we experience the kingdom of heaven that Christ died to give us. If His presence gives us all we need, there is no other need for any other “self” to be seen. The need to be self-esteemed becomes a non-essential as we live in the light of being His-redeemed.
Likewise, this assertion is reinforced in Matthew 5:5 as He says: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” This is almost a direct quote from Psalm 37:11 which reads “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” We have been taught the opposite of this statement from Jesus. We’ve been taught that meek is weak, lacking strength and having deficient ego. Both notions are a lie. Jesus’ reference to meek here is to reassure those who have been put down, kicked aside, abused by the world around them, that they are poised to inherit more than they have lost by the grace of God through Christ. Meekness, in the context of this statement, refers to being humble. This then makes this statement a companion to the “poor in spirit” statement. You see, the meek or the humble have no need to be puffed up, highlighted, the center of attention, or otherwise recognized since they are already “blessed” or overjoyed by being counted in the ranks of the redeemed by Christ. Meekness and humility are not personality traits, they are character traits. The humble and meek may have personality expressions that are “bigger than life” yet exhibit the character of Christ in service, encouragement, self-sacrifice, compassion and mercy toward others. Likewise, the introverted personality is not in and of itself an expression of meekness or humility. I’ve known introverts who are so filled with the need to feed the ego that they’ve completely ignored the needs of others as they scratched their way to what they thought was the top. Personality is a gift from God, not a container for piety, pride, or self-deprecation. You’ve heard me talk about having met R.G. Le Tourneau who visited in our home church in rural NC to share his testimony of God’s blessing and grace in his life. He was a prolific inventor and owner of one of the nation’s largest manufacturer of massive earth moving equipment. He shared how he had started tithing 10% of his income and slowly upped that percentage to 90, living on 10%. He was unassuming, loving and approachable. I remember how everyone was so inspired by his unassuming presence around the Sunday table at Grandma’s house in Providence. He didn’t tout his exploits, his enormous capacity to construct and invent; he humbly shared how much in awe he was at a God who would bless him with the opportunity to give back to the advancement of the Gospel. He could have insisted that he be entertained at the fanciest restaurant in Danville, but instead he reveled in the fellowship with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and homemade biscuits around the table of a poor widow in Providence. I learned from that experience that fame and fortune were not the foundation of character, but that the character of humility can sustain through fame and fortune. The blessing for the meek is the absence of need to be any more than redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Therein lies the basis for hunger and thirst for righteousness; the presence of Christ in a life filled with His Spirit, His direction, and His comfort and assurance.
In summary, God has a better plan for us than we can devise and a call upon us that is far higher than we could rise.