Brothers and Sisters in Christ, How’s it going, everyone?… How many times in your life have you been asked that – have you asked that — How’s it going? And how many times hasn’t your or their answer been, “It’s going great. How’s it going for you?” But how many times haven’t you really wanted to say how your life is really going by saying from the bottom of your heart. “How’s my life? Well, it stinks. My life is not going great, because my life stinks, and I would like to say why to anyone who has a couple of hours to listen.”
If you have ever thought anything close to that – or if you are kind of thinking that way right now because of some things in your life — no matter if you are young or old or somewhere in between – Jesus is speaking to you today when he shares all these “Blessed are you” statements, which we could maybe call “Your life is going great statements” — even though what Jesus says may not always seem like it’s all that great – or at least not what my life is going like. Today I pray these words – no matter how anyone of us may feel – will help everyone of us to say to our God and to one another, “My Life Is Great, Even When… Even when it’s not. Yes, even when it stinks.
The reason I’m saying we can say our lives are going great is because Jesus is making very straightforward statements of fact which are connected to a promise. For example, in verse 3 he states a fact – “Blessed are the poor in spirit” – and he connects it to a promise – “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The fact is that as Christians you and I are poor in spirit, because as Christians we confess that our real riches and wealth are found only in Christ. We are in complete poverty when it comes to anything that we could possibly offer to God to get God to love us. Now, in one sense, that stinks. It is so sad that I have to keep admitting how much I don’t deserve to be part of God’s kingdom because of how much I keep doing to show I don’t deserve to be part of God’s kingdom. It stinks spiritually how I treat God and how I sin against other people. But what does Jesus say? You are blessed – life is going great – when you know and confess how poor you are, because that’s when you have the kingdom of God. That’s when to God you are the most important person in the world.
The kingdom of God – the kingdom of heaven — is really the key to understanding all these “Blessed are you” statements. The kingdom of God is God’s rule. God’s rule is where God lives. God lives in heaven, so heaven is his kingdom. God also lives in our hearts, because he has given us the faith to believe in Jesus as our Savior, so our hearts are also his kingdom. We don’t always feel like Jesus is ruling in our hearts, because it doesn’t always seem that Jesus is ruling in our lives or in our world, because so often our lives and the things of this world stink and do not go the way we wish they would. But that doesn’t change the fact that because Jesus says I am blessed, I can say my life is great. It’s going the way my King, my Lord, my Savior wants it to go.
So it’s the same thing when the next verses talk about mourning and being meek and hungering and thirsting after righteousness and being merciful and being pure in heart and being peacemakers.
Does anyone here like it when you go through things that make you mourn and cry and wonder, “God, why?” But what does Jesus say? “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Only people who know that Jesus always loves them and will dry those tears can truly be comforted. So my life is great, even when I cry.
Is it easy for anyone of us to be meek, when so many people around us – and even that sinful part inside us — thinks that being meek is simply being pitifully weak. But what does Jesus say, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth?” People who know that the work of the gentle Jesus is their strength to get through their life on earth really own the earth. Everyone else just lives here – and we so dearly want them to join us in believing in Christ and then in seeing every earthly blessing as something given by a God who has made all these things for our use and our enjoyment – so we can give him glory and praise.
Hungering and thirsting after righteousness. If you have ever even once in your life wondered if God could possibly consider you worthy enough to have any joy on earth or to have any hope to live with him in heaven after you die, then you have been hungering and thirsting after righteousness – yearning in your spiritual gut to know that you were right with God – craving in your heart what the Bible says about someone else’s rightness – someone else’s righteousness – the very someone else speaking these works, who became “sin for us,” the Bible says, “so that in him we could be the righteousness of God.” That’s what, as Jesus says, fills – what satisfies – our hunger and thirst, and makes us blessed. And that is why I can know that my life is great, even when I know how God has no reason to consider me right, but for Jesus’ sake he does.
And it’s those assurances that we are part of God’s kingdom and that the entire earth is our place of service and our mission field and that we have the righteousness and holiness that God says we have so we can be part of his kingdom on earth and in heaven that lead us, as Jesus says in the next “Blessed are you” verses to be merciful and to be pure in heart and to be peacemakers. God promises that as we show mercy to others because Jesus has shown such mercy to us; and as we thank God that we are pure in heart because the holy Jesus lives in our heart; and as we want to make peace — not anger or revenge or gossip – because through the work of the Son of God, he considers us all sons of God, God promises that we will continue to be blessed, because we will continue to rejoice and be glad that God has made peace with us by making peace for us. And that means my life is going great, because my God has made it that way, simply because he loves me.
But so many people don’t love me or the message of the Bible that tells me how much God loves me – and how alone anyone on this earth can have any real joy or meaning on earth and any hope to live with God in heaven, if they even believe there is a god or a place called heaven. And that’s why what Jesus says in the last Blessed are you statement can perhaps be the hardest statement to see as really being true. How can it not do anything but stink to high heaven when, as Jesus says in verse 11, “people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil again you because of me – and then say, “Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Think about how these words might have hit the disciples who were listening to them. This was very early in Jesus’ ministry. He had just been tempted by the devil in the wilderness and had overcome him with just some words from the Word; he had just chosen these disciples to be his disciples; and he had just shown them a glimpse of what it would be like to be with Jesus for the next three years when people – large crowds, we are told, from all over the country — came to hear him preach the good news and to be healed of every disease and sickness among the people. Life was really going great, and that’s the kind of life I would have to think they would have thought might just continue to be great, because it was obvious that this Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. But what does the Son of God say to these fishers of men? Many people are going to hate you and lie about you and maybe even hurt you and put you to death, just like they did to some of those prophets from long ago who talked about my arrival on the earth as the Savior of the world.
There will be people who will persecute us, either by perhaps hating us or sometimes by just plain feeling sorry for us that we believe in something they would say is so silly and so foolish. But what does Jesus say, “Blessed are you when these things happen… yes, Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” The very thing people may mock you for is the very thing we are longing for – a life in heaven – a life in heaven away from all the things that may stink on earth – a life in heaven which God promises you have, because yours is the kingdom of heaven. Because of Jesus Christ, it belongs to you. And, because of Jesus, he wants it to belong to more. So, brothers and sisters, how’s it going? … Amen.