Nothing Without God
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
~ Matthew 5:3
In many ways, I hit a wall in my faith journey during my junior year of college. I wasn’t struggling really in my faith. In fact, I was doing really well. I was reading my Bible daily, taking Sunday off from my studies most weeks as a Sabbath day of rest, going to church most Sunday’s, leading a small group Bible study, and on the leadership team of my campus’ InterVarsity Christian Fellowship group which had over 500 active members. The fact that I was at a small, public, liberal arts school with a reputation for NOT hiring Christian faculty and staff did nothing to slow down my faith. I figured I had arrived. I had figured out Christianity. Sure, there might be some random tidbits about God and the Bible I had yet to learn but I had the answers to all the big questions so I was set.
But as the year went on, I felt more and more unsettled in my faith. The easy answers weren’t working as my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer, as I watched a roommate walk away from her faith, as the guy I thought for sure was the guy God had planned for me told me of other girls he was interested in, and as I realized I wasn’t excited about continuing my studies in psychology in graduate school. Outwardly, everything was still super great. Inwardly, I was struggling.
One of the greatest blessings to going to college in Morris, MN in the 1990’s was that the local Catholic Church was open 24/7 for those who wished to stop by for prayer and worship. At some point in the early spring months, as I was walking home, I stopped in around midnight. Other than a single candle at the front, the church was completely dark. Having been there many times before, the darkness didn’t much bother me as I found my way to front of the church, set down my back pack, and sat under the cross. Something broke apart in me that night and I just started pouring out my heart in a new way to God, confessing sins I had carried with me for longer than I could remember. That night I came face to face with the reality of who I really was and how much I needed God’s grace, love, and forgiveness.
The first beatitude Jesus gives us is “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” The word used here for “poor” describes extreme poverty, a poverty beyond any hope of being able to change without significant help from another. It is the strongest word in the Greek to describe social poverty. It is the person who is homeless. It is the child growing up not just in the slums, but in the garbage dumps of the world. It is the 3rd world country’s poorest neighborhood being hit with a devastating hurricane, tsunami wave, and earthquake all in the same day. The poor in spirit are those who realize they are absolutely nothing without the grace of God in their lives each and every day.
To be poor in spirit is to humbly acknowledge our need for a savior, our need for Jesus. It is to be sorry not only for the consequences and repercussions of our sin, but for our sin in and of itself. It is the deepest form of repentance and acknowledging our desperate need for God. It is acknowledging that, no matter how good of a life we may live, we can never earn our salvation. Max Lucado, in “The Applause of Heaven,” describes this by saying: “You don’t impress the officials of NASA with a paper airplane. You don’t boast about your crayon sketches in the presence of Picasso. You don’t claim equality with Einstein because you can write ‘H20.’ And you don’t boast about your goodness in the presence of the Perfect.”
Looking back to my college years, I can see where I was letting my faith be defined by the many accomplishments I could take pride in. And how little I actually had to do with the successes in faith and ministry I enjoyed. I read my Bible daily because I had friends holding me accountable, asking me what I had read, refusing to let me waste time surfing the internet when I hadn’t first made time to read my Bible. I went to church most Sunday’s because that’s what my closest friends did on Sunday’s. I had nothing to do with helping my campus ministry grow, the prayers, faithfulness, and work of those who came before me deserve 110% of the credit. And that night in the Catholic Church, I came face to face with that reality. It was then I learned what it was to be humble. It was then I learned what it was to be poor in spirit.
And it was then I began to glimpse for the first time what the kingdom of heaven was really all about. I begin to understand the incredible power of God’s grace. The indescribable gift of His forgiveness. The never ending, everlasting peace of His presence. The overwhelming nature of God’s love for each of his children. Why? Because for the first time I simply got my pride out of the way of what God was trying to show me. I wish I could say I’ve been perfectly humble since then, but I know I haven’t been. But I do have the memory to remind me and for that I am forever grateful as I seek to, each day, be humble and teachable before God.
- Check out this great video from Bible Study Tools talking about this Beatitude!
- Where in your life is it the hardest for you to be truly humble? Why is it hard for you surrender that part of your life to God?
- Want to dig a little deeper into Scripture? Check out these verses:
o Luke 18:10-14
o James 4:6
o 2 Corinthians 7:10