As with the natural progression of physical, mental, and emotional maturity, God has also created a process through which we mature spiritually, growing in love for God and those around us. The only place to start in our progression toward growing in love for God is at the beginning – understanding the incredible love that the Father has for us.
While it would certainly be ideal in many ways if God would wiggle His nose and make us fully devoted disciples who are empowered to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, it doesn’t work that way. Growing in love for God and people is a lifelong process. God is relational and wants us to continually choose to walk with Him through His process, trusting Him for the outcome. He is the “author and finisher of our faith,” (Hebrews 12:2) and He will finish the good work He has started in each of us (Philippians 1:6).
In serving others, we choose to invest our time and energy, assets that could be used to further our own interests, in God’s purposes and Kingdom. Time that we might otherwise use for earning income, networking, socializing or being entertained is poured out on others as an expression of love for both Jesus and the ones we serve. And as with most things in God’s economy, the rewards far outweigh the sacrifice.
In short, to be “poor in spirit” means to see ourselves as we really are before God. It is a recognition that we inherently have nothing that would commend us to Him, that we are spiritually bankrupt and destitute. We have no claim on His mercy. He owes us nothing. We deserve nothing but hell, and we can’t do anything about that reality on our own. And Jesus says we are “blessed” when we realize that fact.
For years, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) was one of the most difficult passages of Scripture for me to read. The reason had nothing to do with an inability to understand the message that Jesus is sharing. His words are quite clear. No, my issue had everything to do with being completely overwhelmed by His teachings and feeling condemned to failure before I even started.
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus defines what it means to live a “radical” Christian life and to truly be great in His Kingdom. What He tells us in these chapters is not just the best way to be great and live radically — it is the only way.
Without faith, we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6) and we cannot experience grace. However, it is grace that ultimately saves us, not faith. Faith just leads us to grace. Or better yet, it leads us to the Source of all grace. In short, faith leads us to encounter.
If you embrace the idea that your faith can positively impact the world and then consistently see things change for the better when you pray, then that would be a pretty awesome experience, right? Well, what if you pray with every bit of faith you can muster and nothing happens?
Since all of the professionals have told me that you should always begin a blog post with a brief summary statement of your topic, here ya go: Without faith it is impossible to please God, but without consistent, meaningful encounters with God, it is impossible to keep the faith.
In the midst of my weakness and struggle, I’m leaning on the gentle Savior and trusting Him for the strength necessary to keep His commandment. But in reality, that’s pretty much always the case, to one degree or another. And I’m becoming more and more convinced that this is a good place to be.