Mourn • Devotion #2: His Grace is Sufficient

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

About a year and a half ago, my best friend lost his little brother to suicide. It was a really hard time for all of us as we were at a loss of words wondering why and how this had happened. For the funeral, he had asked me to come and read some Scripture along with some other members of his family, to give them some encouragement and peace in their time of struggle. In that moment of feeling joyful that he asked me to come and say a few words to be able to bless them, I felt unworthy to do so. I felt that I was not the person to try and give them some words that may give them just a sliver of peace in this dark valley. Before I went to the funeral, this verse in 2 Corinthians is where God brought me, to remind me that it is not about me or my life, but solely about His power and grace. In my weakness, His power is made perfect. His grace is all I can ever want, and more than I will ever deserve. This verse taught me that I will not fear my inability to do God’s work, but I will rest in the fact that even with my many weaknesses and faults, Christ’s power can and will work through me because He, not I, is that powerful.

What Paul says here to the church of Corinth is one of the most radical, encouraging, and hard to grasp verses that there is. In our culture, we focus so much on our strengths. It is not about how well we can do something, how long we have worked at perfecting our craft, and what we can do for ourselves. These are all great things, but that is not the focus for us as Christians. That first statement at the beginning of this verse, “My grace is sufficient for you” caught my attention. Before he even begins to talk about his weaknesses, he first states that above all else God’s grace is more than we will ever need. Even if we live our lives with no money in our pockets, no roof over our heads, or no clothes on our backs, if we accept the free gift of grace that God offers through the blood of Jesus Christ then we will have more than we can ever want, need, or deserve. The rest of what Paul says rests on this idea. In the midst of all our weaknesses and struggles, God’s grace is enough for us, and His strength is enough to do all that He wants to do through us. Boast in our weaknesses because in them the power of Christ is made perfect. That is an amazing, and radical truth.

Mourn • Devotion #1: What do you mourn?

Recently my two sons have taken up playing with blocks, more specifically making giant robots with their “Mega Blocks.” So naturally, I was recruited as the head architect for most of these builds. The one area I have put the most emphasis on teaching them is ensuring that all the blocks are fitting together, and ensuring each section of blocks helps the whole structure’s sturdiness. Ensuring that each block helps lock another block into place allows one to make a pretty sturdy robot.

Understanding the Bible is a lot like understanding how to build giant robots, each block gets its strength from the blocks with which it is connected. The same can be seen in the Sermon on the Mount, and specifically for us, within the Beatitudes. Jesus’ first statement was, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Hopefully, last week’s lesson was a blessing for you, but the overall focal point on Jesus’ statement there was that those who are poor in spirit, or spiritually bankrupt, will receive the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus’ revolutionary teaching to a group that God’s kingdom is there for those who are void of religiosity was mind-boggling. It was a major reinforcement that our works are not the thing that gets us to Heaven.

This brings us to Jesus’ second statement, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). I am all for the ability to pull this verse out and discuss the truth found that God brings comfort to those who are mourning a tragedy in their life, but I feel Jesus is linking these two ideas more than them just remaining separate truths. In the Beatitude before this one, Jesus discussed the idea of being spiritually poor, this is a life that is ruled by sin. When Jesus says those who mourn will be comforted, He is teaching more than just comfort from tragic events. In the original language, the Greek word used for mourn (pentheo)is closely linked to a deep degree of mourning over our sinful nature. “Pentheo” can be used in the same aspect as a lament. It is no coincidence that we have an entire book of the Bible called Lamentations. Jesus here is telling us that those who have great grief over their fallen state before God will be comforted.

We should come to a point where we see our sin and we lament over it. There is a point in our lives when we should see the toxic nature of our disobedience towards our Creator and mourn over the effects and damage that has been caused. However, Jesus does not want to leave us in a place of lamenting over the ungodly aspects of our life, Jesus wants to bring us to a place of being comforted by Him. Paul, a man who was the reason for Christians being murdered, wrote, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Our mourning over our sin should lead us to a place of repentance which then leads us to the One who comforts us.

Poor in Spirit • Devotion #6: Humble Spirit

Being a worship leader is an honor and a blessing that I have been granted the opportunity to hold. Being a good leader comes with many responsibilities not only for the leader but for who the leader shepherds. It is human nature to struggle with wanting to be recognized for our personal efforts. Just about every musician you know has struggled with pride and self-satisfaction. I know this all too well and it is a constant battle with the devil. It is also a responsibility of mine to make sure that anyone with whom I do ministry, be it in worship or not, has the genuine heart of worship towards Christ that is pleasing to Him. Constant self-assessment is pivotal to be successful in a healthy ministry.

When the Bible forces extreme self-evaluation after you are caught in habitual sin, are you upset because you get caught or upset because you can do better? Matthew 5:3 says,Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I first thought to myself, “Why would the poor in spirit inherit the Kingdom of Heaven?” I researched what some other scholars had thought of this Scripture and came across a great interpretation. The late Billy Graham said to substitute the word “poor” for the word “humble.” As soon as you make that click in your head, it is easy to understand that being humble in all aspects of your walk with Christ is imperative for your reward that is Heaven. Whether it be an event plan in ministry or leading someone to Christ, you must always know that God did the work, He made the way for success, and that He must be given all the glory no matter what. We must not be self-satisfied or proud of ourselves in the ministry that we do. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Be sure to check yourself regularly in your walk to make sure the devil is not creeping in with pride and self-righteousness.

Think of the moments in your life that make you feel the most guilty. Why? Is there something that you should have done differently or something that could have gone way worse? I will be the first to admit that I have sinned my fair share and then some in my lifetime. However, what I do know is that because of God’s grace and mercy, I am still alive and doing ministry. What is even more important than doing ministry is the heart that is behind it. Are you keeping a steadfast mindset that God is proud of while you are doing it? What can you do to continuously check yourself to make sure you are genuinely poor in spirit?

Poor in Spirit • Devotion #5: Broken

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

It is confession time. How many times have I read this verse and not been grieved by the implications and depth of what it means? Writing a devotion on this verse has convicted me of my inability to see the truth. My sometimes haughty attitude was brought to full display as I thought about the meaning of what Jesus is saying here. While it is true, after receiving the gift of grace I have experienced moments of peaceful humility. More often than not, arrogance snuffs out the true peace that only absolute obedience to the Word brings. The root of pride runs deep even in the midst of sinful action. How quickly I find an excuse for my behavior when I feel confronted by others. How can I feel justified in my action and reason when I live outside the commandments that God has given me? Pride knows no boundaries.

Quickly, I am confronted by my own selfishness when I devote myself to Scripture. The Bible illuminates the real me and all that it implies, it becomes the litmus test that I must use to determine my nature. Brought to a place of self-reflection by the world around me, the Bible helps me to understand the nature of “self.” Thinking about the implications, I see that without the grace of God in my life, I have no ability to experience the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). My love for myself is only defeated when I submit to the Lord. There is no good that resides in me.

Romans 7:18 says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”

I see myself in God’s hand as He molds and shapes me, and sometimes “it just ain’t pretty,” but I know that I am a work in progress. As He transforms me into the likeness of His Son, I begin to experience that peace we all desire. Giving me a glimpse of what it means to have this peace, assures me of a future that I can look forward to. It is one in which the love for myself is replaced by a real and immovable love for the Lord. It is where I can look at my neighbor and truly understand what it means to love them as myself. I will be completely submitting to His will, and not my own vain desires. Even when I take a step back, I hope others might see the small step attributed only to Him, as the focal point. It is by the working of His grace within me that He will be glorified and I will gain the peace I long for.

Finally, in 1 Corinthians 15:10, we read, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

Poor in Spirit • Devotion #4: The Real You

Parents, have you ever been accused of being an armchair quarterback? You know, that parent that knows exactly what your child needs to do to “up his game.” My son, Tyler, played travel soccer for years. During the game, I would shout my pearls of wisdom to encourage Tyler. My gems were greeted with his stern stares. One day I decided to offer them to the coach. He was very kind and listened respectfully and when I was finished, he thanked me and said something to the effect of, “Oh, Tyler has a great head on his shoulders; he knows exactly what he needs to work on.” In other words, Tyler is well aware of his strengths and weaknesses. I was both proud and leveled.

Having a proper view of myself has never been my strong suit. I have spent most of my life vacillating between thinking better of myself than I should and being my own worst enemy. When I was asked to write this devotion on the first Beatitude, I was reminded of this shortcoming.

Matthew 5:3says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  

“Poor in spirit” is a misunderstood concept in the Bible. I have heard people define it as downcast, downtrodden, oppressed, and unworthy. When I set out to study the Scripture, my definition was humble. While this is accurate, I realized it was incomplete. Warren Wiersbe adds, “To have a correct estimate of oneself.” Again, this is not my strength.

In 1990, my sister began “witnessing” to me. While on vacation, she shared her “conversion story” with me. She explained that she now knew Jesus and was going to spend eternity with Him in Heaven and if I did not repent I would spend mine in Hell. Honestly, I do not remember her exact words but this is what I heard. I was appalled! What kind of person did she think I was? I was not breaking any laws; I was a good person (mostly). I was 26 years old and had the world by the tail. I was a successful Occupational Therapist; running my own pain management clinic in Texas. I was independent, successful, married, and well on my way to my first child. I was living the American Dream. Then in 1995, my world imploded. With marriage problems, health problems, and parents divorcing, I found myself lost for the first time. Life was out of control and I was out of control. I needed help. In April 1995, I was broken and felt alone. Humbled by my circumstances, I repented of my sin and asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life. Over the next two years, the Holy Spirit would reveal the truth of who I was and the life I had been living. According to the world, I had it all, but in truth, I had been an enemy of God (Romans 8:7), completely separated from Him and without hope (Ephesians 2:12). I was focused on the world and pursuing all it had to offer (1 John 2:15-17), living for myself (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Twenty-five years later, Jesus and I have covered a lot of ground together. Over the years, the Holy Spirit has taught me much about who I am in light of my Perfect Savior. At times, the conviction has been so heavy that I questioned my salvation and His presence in my life. Consumed with my tendency to always fall short, I began to pray and ask God to show me how He sees me. He lovingly reminded me that I am a sinner saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8), chosen and adopted by Him (Ephesians 3:1-8), loved by Him and bought with a price (John 3:16). He began to show me all that He had accomplished in me through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:10) and reminded me that through Him I can do all that He calls me to (Philippians 4:13) and bear fruit that will glorify Him alone (John 15:16). God is so good! Yes, He is good all the time!

To the Lost:

Please do not allow the father of lies (John 8:44) to convince you that you are good enough. God would not have sent His only Son to die on a cross for you if there were any other way. It is not enough to believe in His finished work on the cross. After all, Satan himself believes and is committed to keeping you convinced that you are all you need. You must confess your sin and receive Him as Savior (Romans 10:8-9). The choice is yours.

To the Believer:

In confessing your need of a Savior and asking Jesus to be the Lord of your life, you have displayed the first Beatitude – “poor in spirit.” Choosing to humble yourself under His Lordship has opened the door to all His blessings and promises. Welcome to the family! Please keep reading!

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