Saturday, August 14, 2010

Blessed Are Those Who Press On; They Will Be Rewarded

Let's be perfectly honest here for just a moment; it is sometimes frustrating following Jesus, isn't it? Sometimes I feel it would be great to be able to set it all aside and just believe in fairy tales, where everything ends with proper answers and conclusions. It would be nice to think that everything we face in our life would have an answer and that it would all tuck away neatly at the end of the day. However, I think we are all grown ups here and we all know that life gets really messy, that following Jesus gets really messy and sometimes the only happy ending we are guaranteed of is found in God's glory.

I do not mean to be down on life here but the reality is we sometimes expect too much from it and we do not follow Jesus in the reality of it. To answer your question, I am feeling perfectly fine today, rather joyful in fact and have great expectations for today. However, I am concerned that we are not dealing with the reality of our God, his perspective and his promises. I had a friend ask me yesterday, "Where is all this prosperity?" Good question. Some followers of Jesus seem to be very prosperous and others do not. Does that mean those who are wealthy and in a good place in life are more blessed and better loved, perhaps more obedient, than those who are struggling through life? I do not believe so. What I do believe is that we are failing to look at it with the right set of eyes. In Matthew 5 we find this:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn,
      for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
      for they will inherit the earth.
 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
      for they will be filled.
 Blessed are the merciful,
      for they will be shown mercy.
 Blessed are the pure in heart,
      for they will see God.
 Blessed are the peacemakers,
      for they will be called sons of God.
 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:3-9)

We see much of this in Jesus' teaching, like an action and reaction, cause and effect, seed and harvest. We have little sayings that try to explain it, such as "Don't judge a book by its cover". With God things are never as they appear because he is always working it out. It's just that sometimes that working out is not concluded until glory. The happy ending was never intended to take place here, at least not the happy ending that matters.

What is Jesus saying here, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"? Are the people blessed because they are poor in spirit? Of course not but they are blessed because God has a plan to overcome it and the blessing is found in what will result. It is similar to the thought that we cannot have victory without a battle. Are we blessed because we are in trouble, struggling, facing great difficulties and heartache? No, but we are blessed because of what God is going to do for us and in us because of this stuff. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." They are not blessed because of the loss they are experiencing but they are blessed because of what God will do with this condition.

We are always encouraged by preachers and teachers to look beyond our circumstances, to fix our eyes on the eternal and trust God. We are only defeated when we think that this moment in our lives is all there is, when we make God as small as our circumstances, when we start measuring the value of our lives according to the standards of our culture and society. God finds great value in our lives whether we are rich or poor, strong or weak, successful or failing and each of these circumstances open a specific blessing God is able to lay on us to "more than make up" for what we have suffered. Jesus said:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)

Now there is the attitude that sometimes gets on our nerves; Rejoice and be glad. Paul told us to rejoice in all things. In fact, he was so insistent that he said, "I tell you a second time, Rejoice!" But this kind of attitude requires a certain level of understanding. Jesus told us to rejoice and be glad because whatever we must suffer and face in this place will be more than made up for by our rewards in heaven. Jesus is saying here that even if we are suffering and paying a price because of all these things we can know we are blessed because of the happy ending that is waiting for us.

So those parents who remain strong, faithful and loving with their rebellious teenage daughter will be rewarded. The wife who remains steadfast, loving and faithful in a poor marriage will be greatly rewarded.Those who pay a great personal price to remain friends with the unlovable will be greatly rewarded. Those who continue seeking the face of God in those dark periods of their lives will be greatly awarded. The pregnant single teen who suffers through all the struggles, problems and cost of having that child and being his mom will be rewarded. All those who pay the price of doing the right thing in difficult times and situations will be rewarded. All those who do not give up and give in will be rewarded.

The honest truth is that God loves you but because he does he desires the greater things for you. He could give you what you desire here and now but you may end up losing the things of greater value that God wants you to possess. If going through those "valleys of the shadow of death" will bring about the great blessings of God then he will lead you through them, never leaving you alone and always encouraging you to press on. Man's idea of prosperity is a fleeting thing and with it we must always remember that our Father's priority is our blessings in his eternity over our comfort in this place of shadows. So, let's fix our eyes on what cannot be seen, speak encouragement to our soul, and press on "to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Excellent article and I think you are right. I think we need to understand that God has his own will and timing in what happens in our life. It is hard to follow where he is taking us sometimes, but the end is always the reward. Thank-you for your insightful article, and I am adding you to my blogroll. God Bless!