by Mary Alice McGinnis
How would you complete this sentence:
“I will be happy when . . .” or
“I will be happy if . . .”
In today’s reading, from the beginning of Jesus' ministry, He has a large crowd following Him. They were curious about Him. They wanted to know, “Is He the Messiah, the One who will deliver us?” Would He reveal to them His mission plan? How would He bring about the prosperity, justice, security, peace, and happiness they longed for?
Here in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, He makes eight declarations - declarations that we might call Kingdom declarations.
Each declaration begins with “blessed are...”
Let’s take the beginning of each one of these declarations and substitute the word “happy.”
Happy are the poor in spirit...
Happy are those who mourn...
Happy are those who are meek...
Happy are those who hunger and thirst...
Happy are the merciful..., the pure in heart ... the peacemakers...
And finally, happy are those who are persecuted.
Does that trouble anyone else like it does me? It all seems so absurdly counter intuitive, a bit trite, and less than believable. It seems too phony, like being told to paint on a plastic smile no matter the circumstances and just be “happy” about it.
What if instead we substitute the word “favored”? What would it mean to you to know that you have been given the Almighty God’s unconditional favor?
God’s voice from heaven at Jesus' baptism announced, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased?” Jesus’ mission was to trade His right standing before God, for your sins and mine. God grants us His favor in exchange.
The meaning of the Greek word for “blessed” is richer than just “be happy.” It describes a joy that has a secret!
The secret? Having Jesus as our Messiah!
He has come to make things right.
He has granted us God’s everlasting, abundant pleasure.
Anchoring our souls on the unshakeable favor we have with God produces a joy that nothing and no one can ever take away.
Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
Read again the “Beatitudes” pondering how knowing the God's undeserved favor through Jesus Christ makes these Kingdom declarations REAL. How does it change your perspective of what "blessed" really means?
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Take 2-3 minutes today to pray a simple breath prayer. Get somewhere quiet and relaxing. Breathe in deeply, and then breathe out fully. As you breathe in, ask God to fill you with His undeserved favor. Consider using the list of beatitudes and the thing He promises to bless us with. As you breathe out, offer to God the things you need Him to take from you—sin, doubt, shame, anxiety, fear, etc. Pray this way for just a few minutes, trusting God to work.