Monthly Encouraging Words
Barbara Fiscus, M.A., CCLC | June, 2021
Blessed by Surrender
I believe the Lord recently prompted me to go back and read, study and journal on the Gospels. In my last blog, I was directed to some verses in Isaiah where God said, “Remember not the former things, or consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:18-19a, ESV). That thought, combined with a message my pastor had given on getting back to basics, and the fact that I have been watching The Chosen series about the life of Jesus, caused me to wonder if God may be leading me back to the basics of the gospel message where He wants me to “behold” the “new thing” He is doing.
Once I came to that conclusion, I turned the pages in my Bible to the New Testament and it opened right to the first page of the book of Matthew! I chose to take that as confirmation. I began to read, relying on the Holy Spirit to call my attention to words or passages He wanted me to see. After finishing the first two chapters, a couple of things stood out: 1) how many times Matthew recorded that either an angel of the Lord, or the Lord Himself, appeared in a dream to Joseph, and later to the wise men (Matthew 1:20, 2:12, 2:13, 2:19, and 2:22). It gives me pause to consider how rarely I attend to, or even remember, my dreams. Surely God would make it obvious if He wanted to communicate to me in that way. I did, however, ask Him to help me be receptive and aware enough to discern when He is showing me something, and then wise and courageous enough to respond with immediate obedience, as Joseph did.
The second thing I noticed was that Matthew repeatedly stated the things that took place were to fulfill what was spoken both to and through the prophets (Matthew 1:22, 2:15, 2:17, and 2:23). This helped to fortify the faith I have put in the words of certain prophets over the past year. I wrote a MEW back in November entitled, Believe the Prophets, in accordance with 2 Chronicles 20:20, which I believe was a word of faith for last year. That Scripture says, “Believe in the Lord your God and you will be established; believe his prophets and you will succeed” (ESV).
As I continued poring through Matthew, I journaled my thoughts, whether revelations or questions. When I got to chapter 5 and the Beatitudes, I slowed way down. I didn’t want to breeze over them too quickly. I read through commentaries in an effort to better understand what Jesus was saying to His followers at the time, as well as--more importantly--what He might be saying to me now.
I don’t know about you, but when I read the Beatitudes, I don’t exactly feel encouraged. It seems to read like an impossible checklist of character traits I should possess, and yet, don’t even want to. I mean, few people really want to be poor in spirit, mournful, and meek. What was Jesus saying here anyway? Does God want us to be depressed and oppressed? That to be happy we should be sad? No, and no.
I liked Pastor Brian Bell’s comments regarding the Beatitudes. He said the qualities Jesus listed can only be acquired through surrender to our Savior. Rather than achieving them directly through effort, we acquire them indirectly, as a by-product of our submission to Jesus. It’s less about doing and more about being. My responsibility is to invest in my relationship with Jesus. As I do, my trust will build, which will lead to greater surrender and, by default, the development of these traits.
In this edition, I will only address the first three Beatitudes as that is as far as I have gotten at this point and I don’t want to rush through the others. The first words of Jesus’ teaching are, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3, ESV). Many commentaries translate “poor in spirit” as humble. This verse is fairly easy to understand: those who are humble and not filled with a sense of self-importance are blessed because, while their outward status is low, their inward status is not. They have a secure future in Heaven with Jesus. Again, it is not the humility, per se, that qualifies them as much as the fact that the humility is a natural result of a submitted spirit to Christ.
The second of the Beatitudes took me longer to digest: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4, ESV). I read several commentaries before finding something that resonated with me. Alexander Maclaren made the point that, essentially, it is better to have been sad and received comfort than to have never been sad at all. I can vouch for this sentiment. While--like most people--I prefer to avoid pain and sorrow, I have learned over and over again that difficulties truly can be to our gain. There are several advantages:
They give us a deeper understanding and compassion for others.
They help us appreciate the good times even more.
They make us more like Jesus, who is certainly no stranger to mourning.
They open up a level of vulnerability to the Lord we may not otherwise have.
When we are comforted, we learn more about the Father heart of God. We also become better able to share that with others. He “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4, ESV). The verse doesn’t say, “Blessed are those because they mourn;” it says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for (because) they shall be comforted.” The blessing is in the comforting.
I am not sure we can truly experience the depth of God’s love for us until we are broken and He heals us. Who appreciates the hero of a story more than the one who is in the most danger--the one who is helpless and hopeless otherwise? “’It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick‘” (Luke 5:31, NIV). “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, ESV). The experience of being comforted in our times of greatest need (when we “mourn”)--whether by God directly, or indirectly (by others who God sends to minister to us)--truly is a blessing beyond never having had the need at all. God has revealed to me many times the purpose to my pain. Discovering that value helps me to love God more, and serve His people better. How wonderful that He assured us all in this verse that there will be blessing and comfort built into our mourning!
The third of the Beatitudes says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5, ESV). What I learned from the various commentaries on this verse is that, in contrast to being “poor in spirit,” meekness refers more to how one behaves than how he or she feels. A person who is meek is self-denying. He will bear offense without returning it. She will defer to others, exhibiting a “gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4, ESV) with a heart to bring honor to the Lord rather than to herself. Meekness is not weakness; on the contrary, it is the use of self-control to cede one’s strength, choosing judiciously when to stand and fight for a cause and when to let it go. Meekness is the observable outflow of our submission to Christ more so than to men. It is not something we can produce in our own effort. Otherwise, it would lead to pride, which is the exact opposite of meekness.
Pride is what drives most of us to react defensively when someone points out our failures and weaknesses, even if we would be humble enough to admit them ourselves. Instead of trusting God to deal with us as He sees fit--allowing Him to defend or teach us--we often prefer to control the reins ourselves. Sadly, we call Him, “Lord,” but ignore the implications of that name. As I was journaling, I sensed God telling me that the difference between where I am now and where He wants me to be lies in how much I trust Him. Again, it comes back to the idea of surrender. It is difficult--if not impossible--to surrender our hearts and wills to someone we don’t trust. This is an area in which I truly want to grow. The only way to trust God more is to know Him more, and the main way to do that is to spend more time in His Word…and preferably not out of obedience or obligation, but out of desire.
As I was writing in my journal, I was reminded of the verse in which God said, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11, NKJV). Then I thought: the Bible is God’s Word which He spoke forth through His Holy Spirit to its authors. It is filled with references of His love for us. Surely, the thing that most pleases Him is to be in close, intimate relationship with the object of His affection. Therefore, the purpose of His Word must be to draw us in to His love. And He said His Word “shall not return…void, But…accomplish what [He pleases], And…prosper in the thing for which [He] sent it.” It seems a reasonable interpretation that, since God spoke His Word for the purpose of relationship with me, He intends for it to accomplish that purpose. So by spending time in His Word, I can be assured that our relationship will prosper.
Isn’t it amazing that the Creator of the universe desires us as we are, with all of our faults and flaws?! It is an astounding truth that I don’t have to strive to be a better person for God to love me. He doesn’t want my perfection; He just wants my heart. As I surrender to Him, He will mold me into the person He wants me to be so He can better bless me, and bless others through me. This may be a lifelong process, with many successes and failures along the way, but though we may falter, God’s love never does. We are truly “blessed” when we surrender to our Savior.
NOTE: Feel free to reply to contact Barbara if you would like a copy of any previous MEWs.