“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
–Matthew 5:3 (NLT)
In our opening passage, Jesus is saying something revolutionary that few of us notice. So after reading this scripture, you might be asking what He meant when He spoke about poverty of spirit. Another question might be, “Do we really need to study this?” My answer would be a resounding “yes” to both questions. Allow me to tell you why spiritual poverty is so important in your life.
Pretend with me that you have a pitcher full of juice, but that isn’t what you wanted. This presents a problem, because there is only one pitcher in the house. You are determined to fill it with water, but you have a difficult problem to solve.
You spend hours wondering how to change the liquid in that pitcher from juice to water. Then your friend comes over and sees you struggling. “What are you doing?” he asks. When you tell him, he laughs. “That’s simple,” he says. “First you have to empty the pitcher. Then you can think about filling it back up.”
That pitcher full of juice represents our spirits, which are constantly exposed to the sin and corruption of this world. Jesus is that dear friend who is telling us to empty the pitcher before we can try and re-fill it.
Scripture tells us that all of us are dead in trespasses and sin. So the first thing that poverty of spirit means, is coming to Jesus in simple faith. It is exchanging our sinfulness for God’s holiness. We have all broken God’s law, which leads to spiritual death. But instead of simply repairing our brokenness, Jesus wants to give us new life by teaching us to believe on what He has done.
As Christians, instead of walking in this newness of life and emptying our pitchers daily, we tend to fill them with the wrong things, such as pride and greed. Then we turn on the news and wonder why our world is the way it is.
When someone fills their life with the products of our self-centered world, there is little room for the fear of, or reverence for, God. To see what I mean, just think about how technology governs our lives. As long as we are hooked up to our phones or computers, we pretty much think we can accomplish things on our own. Most of us don’t live lives of peace and joy through Christ. Instead, we search for happiness in our own strength.
One way we can empty our pitchers daily and allow God to fill us is by praying the prayer that David did. He asked God to search him and know him, and to see if there was any wicked way in him.
My friend, I would challenge you to pray this way. Spend some time just being quiet, and listening to what God says to your heart.
If you’d like to see what I’m saying from another angle, please read the following story. My wife and I are hospital chaplains, and we run into a lot of interesting people. Many of them are experiencing sickness, and perhaps death.
We have discovered that the patients we meet tend to fall into two groups. First are the talkative people. They want to come to God on their own terms, and many of them profess to live by the Sermon on the Mount. This statement sounds very arrogant to my ears.
I agree that the Sermon on the Mount is a wonderful guide for our lives. Jesus was laying out kingdom principles for us, and for the crowds which He taught. However, trying to come to God in our own strength, only shows how far we are removed from Him.
That brings us to the second group. Instead of merely allowing Jesus’ principles to be a general guide for their lives, and trying to obey them in their own strength, this second group of patients cast their cares on a loving God. They realize that they can’t obey the King without first appealing to Him for mercy, and in His divine mercy, He tells us to bring our anxieties to Him.
Spiritual poverty needs to become a major part of our lives, for God’s best and highest plan is for us to learn to abide in Him. Jesus told us He came to give us an abundant life. But in order to receive that abundance, we must first empty the pitcher of our hearts. Then Jesus can rule on the throne, continually filling us like a fresh spring of water.
Once we have surrendered our lives to Him, the second step to an empty pitcher is a moment-by-moment confession of sin. Since much of our culture turns its back on God, poverty of spirit also means not living in conformity to this world. Instead, we must allow God to transform us by His Word. We are meant to find true contentment in Him and allow Him, rather than things, to fill the vacuums in our hearts.
In order to see the entire picture, let’s look at what poverty of spirit doesn’t mean. Over the centuries, many people have sought to obtain special favor with God by being financially poor. But that is not at all what this verse is saying. Notice that it is not talking about physical poverty at all, but humility before God.
This type of humility changes the way we think, and allows us to put others first. But many times, this realization of our neediness before God only comes when our lives are disrupted. Just as you might shake a child to get their attention, God sometimes has to shake His children.
When something awful happens to us, though, we tend to ask God why instead of how. In other words, while it is not wrong to ask Him why something is going on, I think we approach Him as though we are meeting Him in small claims court. We demand what we believe are our rights, and we may say a prayer that sounds a lot like this:
“God, I have tried to serve you for so long now. How could you have the audacity to let this happen to me?”
Let’s look at how this shaking took place in the prophet Isaiah’s life. Chapter 6, verse 1 of the book that bears his name tells us that Isaiah saw a majestic vision of God. Notice that this vision only occurred after he was shaken up by King Uzziah’s death.
Has someone that you loved and respected ever been taken out of your life? If so, you can probably imagine how Isaiah felt. I know from personal experience that the grief can be overwhelming, and your loved one’s absence will leave a huge hole in your life. But the main question is: what should you and I do when life leaves scars?
If we look at life through the lenses of pride, we might experience an overwhelming emptiness. In fact, we might never totally recover from that loneliness. Instead, we may shake our fists in God’s face, and walk away disillusioned. As a matter of fact, some of you might be feeling this way right now. If so, I invite you to read on.
I believe that God weeps when He sees tragic things happening to His kids. Instead of allowing the tough times to keep us from His arms, our Lord wants us to bring all of our pain and heartache to Him.
Of course, this is easier said than done, but The Bible tells us that instead of going around in continual self-pity, Isaiah chose to focus on the Lord. It is important to determine where each of us will place our focus, because our focus dictates our outcome in life.
Think about a runner, for example. He might achieve the fastest speed on the clock, but without focus he will be worthless, and unable to go anywhere fast.
So how do we place our focus on God during difficult times? Instead of concentrating on sadness or anger, pray and ask God to help you empty the pitcher of your heart of all the grief and sin you’ve been feeling. As I’ve said, this isn’t easy to do, especially during tragic situations. However, God has promised that He will give you His loving guidance if you will only ask Him for it.
Finally, ask God to increase your desire to learn more about Him. Pray often, study His Word, and ask Him to help you overcome the hurt you’ve been feeling.
Here is a final thought that I hope will challenge you to adopt this lifestyle. Just as Isaiah ultimately saw God seated on the throne in majesty, where does He sit in your life? God used the king’s death to bring the prophet closer to Him. Once Isaiah emptied his pitcher and acknowledged his spiritual poverty, he cried out to God, and the Lord used Him in a mighty way.
We will all have something shake us sooner or later, and we will have to choose how we react. Will we harden our hearts and live in loneliness and pain? Or will we empty our pitchers of pride, humble ourselves before the Lord in poverty of spirit, and allow God to fill us with His love and peace?
I pray you will use your pain as an incentive to draw you closer to God, for He wants to walk through all of the trials of life with you. Remember the words of the Psalmist who said, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870. Finally, you’re always welcome to join our Monday night Bible study or Tuesday night prayer meeting. Both are conducted by conference call, and they take place at 5:30 PM Arizona time. Our conference number is 712-432-6499. When prompted, press 1 for live chat rooms, and we’ll be waiting in room 31. You can press pound to bypass our friend Sharon’s intro message once you’ve entered room 31. We hope to talk with you soon!
If you have questions, comments or prayer requests for Timothy or Stephanie Burdick, please call 507-369-6861.