When Everything Goes Wrong, You Can Have Peace

Horatio Spafford did not have an easy life. His two-year old son died in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Two years later, he sent his wife and four daughters to England, planning to meet up with them after he attended to some business. He later received a telegram from his wife Anna stating: “Saved alone …” The ship they were sailing on collided with another ship and sunk quickly. While traveling to meet up with his wife he penned these words when passing the place where the ship went down:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say

It is well, it is well with my soul

How can someone who has suffered so much pain be so full of peace to pen such words, “Whatever my lot … It is well with my soul.” I know that all it takes is a bad day with children for me to trade in my peace with God for a bitter and angry spirit. I can look at all that I have been given and want more. I can get angry at God for the supposed “injustices” in my daily life and trade his peace for the “right to be angry.” What does it mean to have peace with Christ? What does that really look like? Does it mean being happy with every trial that comes into our lives?

In Colossians 3:15-17, Paul is teaching the Christians in Colossae how to live a life rooted in Christ. He begins with some “dos and don’ts” but finishes the passage by talking about the “peace of Christ.” The Hebrew word for peace in this passage is shalom. As Ben stated several weeks ago, shalom means “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.” If we use this as our starting place, “peace with Christ” means that we have found completeness and welfare in him. We are not looking for something else to make us whole, but have everything we need in him. We don’t have to be happy about everything that happens to us, but we know that in him all of our needs are met.

Once we accept that in Christ we are made complete, how do we let it “rule in [our] hearts?” Once again going back to the original word, “rule,” helps us understand what Paul meant. In this context, “rule” is a word used in athletics – it means umpire or referee. So, when we let his peace rule in our hearts we let him be the ref; he makes the call and we abide. We don’t let our feelings and desires make the choice as to how we react. We look to him. When we do this, we will automatically be at peace with others. When we treat those around us as Christ would, we bless them and live in peace with them even when we don’t always like them.

What is the “message of Christ?” Put simply, it is the Gospel – our story of hope. When we let the Gospel “dwell” with us, we let it rule our lives. The Gospel of Christ is our master and we make all decisions according to what we know through his words. Finally, by “do[ing] it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” we are calling attention not to ourselves, but to Christ who lives in us. We do not take credit for our “good deeds,” but direct all credit back to him who enables us to live at peace with those around us.

So now what? What does this mean for you and for me today when the kids are fighting, or our co-worker gets the promotion we deserved, or someone we love hurts us deeply? It means that we allow Christ to rule in our hearts; his word and spirit help direct our responses. We love those who hurt us. We pray for those who persecute us. We offer gentle responses to harsh statements. And when people notice, we point them back to Christ. We don’t take credit for our good deeds, but thank God that his peace is in our lives through Jesus and that he saw fit to work his plan through us.

Colossians 3:15-17

15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Are you at peace with God? Does the “peace of Christ rule in your heart?”

 

When you think about the message of Christ, how does it make you feel? The Gospel story is amazing, it is life changing and absurd. Why would God continually seek after us – the rebellious children he created? How can you let this message change you? Who are you telling?

 

Prayer: God thank you for your amazingly absurd love for us. Thank you for this message of hope and redemption. I ask, Lord, that the peace of Christ rules in my heart and gives me the peace you so freely offer. Help me to boldly proclaim this love story and invite others into this life of peace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


This post was written by Julie Mabus. Julie has a passion for thinking about big ideas, art, reading and seeing God reveal himself through creation. She is married and is homeschooling her four young children.


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In God We Trust

Most of us are familiar with the phrase “In God we trust” in association with its presence on various forms of U.S. currency where it has appeared for more than a century.

The phrase is believed to have its roots in The Star-Spangled Banner, which was penned by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812. The fourth stanza of our national anthem contains the words, “And this be our motto: In God is our trust.” The phrase was altered to its more familiar form – “In God we trust” – by U.S. Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase in the early 1860s when it made an appearance on selected U.S. coins. In 1956, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower established “In God we trust” as the official motto of the United States.

Today, the phrase “In God we trust” is so well-established in our national lexicon that it’s worth considering the question of whether we view it merely as a patriotic remnant or as a true declaration of faith.

So, do you trust in God?

During the fourth week of the “What Makes You Happy” series, author and guest speaker Barb Roose examined the topic of Peace with God. The Apostle Paul believed that trust in God is central to attaining peace with God. Paul wrote in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Paul’s prayer speaks to two key concepts – joy in God and peace with him – both of which are rooted in the sense of hope that we gain from trusting in God. But what happens when hope is elusive because we are struggling to trust in our lord?

Even as followers of Christ, there are times when we feel as though we aren’t at peace with God. Sometimes, this is because we aren’t pursuing him as we should. This can be because we have sin in our life that we aren’t addressing. Or perhaps we have grown cold to some of the disciplines that help us draw closer to him.

As Paul suggests, trusting in God unlocks the door to finding peace with him. On a spiritual level, this means that we must believe in God’s love, his power, and his undeserved gift of forgiveness for our sins through the death and resurrection of his son. As Barb noted this past weekend, peace with God begins with faith in Christ. And peace with God is sustained by our submission to Christ.

Submission to Christ means that we say “yes” to him by not only believing, but also demonstrating our obedience. It means that we pray to him, that we confess our sins to him, that we forgive others, and that we relinquish our doubts and worries and trust in him, especially in trying times.

Pastor and author Francis Chan said, “Worry implies that we don’t quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives.”

There is no question that trying times test our faith. In the eye of the storm, when we’re wrestling with relational problems, financial woes, health concerns, or any number of other challenges, we can be all too quick to forget that we can and should trust in God.

Pastor David Nicholas, founder of Florida’s Spanish River Church, once said, “God’s promises are like the stars; the darker the night, the brighter they shine.”

When we realize the beautiful truth in God’s promises and trust in him, we find peace with him, peace with ourselves, and peace with others.

Do you trust in God?

 

If so, what can you do to ensure that you sustain this trust, even in seasons of doubt or worry?

 

If you struggle to trust in God, what steps can you take today to move closer to fellowship with him?

 

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, help me to always know and remember that I can trust in you. Help me to believe the good news of what you have done for me and to see the beauty in your promises and be fulfilled by the peace found in a life lived with and for you. Amen.


This post was written by Todd Romain. Todd is a regular contributor to and editor of the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Happiness is Not Immediately Accessible, but God is

Tired. Restless. Weary. Burdened. If you would use these words to describe your life right now, it is unlikely that this is how you would like to feel. But for those of us who are struggling, there often doesn’t seem like any way to find the rest and peace we long for. As Barb said, “Happiness is not immediately accessible.”

Fortunately, Jesus is, and he has invited us to come to him to get the help we need.

Matthew 11:27-30

All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus teaches that by coming to him – by believing that Jesus is who he said he was – he will give us rest, which is what we need most when we are tired and burdened. Think about those stressful situations that keep you up at night, or the feeling you have when you are carrying a weight of responsibility. Then think about how you feel when you are able to stop, relax, and enjoy the stillness. We feel peaceful. When we have peace with ourselves, with others, and with God, we can be happy, and that starts with being at peace with God.

Jesus also says we will have to take up his yoke, which means we have to do some work. “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent,” (John 6:29). Peace in our lives begins with faith in Christ. Having faith does take work, and a large part of that work involves learning to love and to forgive. As John teaches, we continue to live a lie if we say we love God but do not love other people (1 John 4:20) and if we claim to be without sin (1 John 1:8).

Jesus gave us the “greatest commandment” in Matthew 22:37-38: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

When we are able to admit to ourselves that God doesn’t hold our past against us, we realize we don’t have to dwell in it either. We have the freedom to be happy and to find peace in Christ. God has forgiven us for every mistake, for every regret, for every lie.

What are the things or people in your life that prevent you from having peace?

 

Do you need to seek forgiveness from God, from someone else, or even from yourself?

 

How will you find rest for your soul?

 

Prayer: God, I know that my hope and my peace rests in you, and I want more of it. Show me how to love others. Teach me how to forgive – starting with myself. Thank you that you do not count my sins against me, but that you offer freedom in Christ. Let the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard my heart and my mind, and provide my soul with the peace it desires.


This post was written by Ryan Cook. Ryan is the business director at Chick-Fil-A in Toledo. He enjoys spending time with his wife, son, and daughter, and watching Cleveland sports as much as anyone can. Follow him on twitter @cookfila


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Embezzlement, Prison, and Mercy

Imagine you had embezzled millions of dollars from a company. What do you think that company would do to you? You have no means to repay the money, and the penalty for such a crime is years in prison. Now imagine you are standing in a courtroom before a judge who is about to hand down your sentence. Just before the judge’s gavel falls, someone bursts into the courtroom and exclaims that the money has been repaid, and someone else has offered to serve any time in prison in your place. The judge slams down the gavel, looks you in the eye, and declares you, “Not guilty!” Does that sound pretty far-fetched? Today’s scripture passage may make you think otherwise.

There exists an impasse between God and man that prevents a relationship between us (before we are saved). We are wholly incapable of fixing the problem and restoring the relationship. God is perfect and we are fallible. This is simply the fact of the matter, and we need to come to grips with this reality if we ever want to have a relationship with the Creator of the universe.

Romans 5:1 states that we (followers of Christ) have been justified. Other translations state that we have been “made right,” or declared righteous before God. The divide between God and humans has been bridged. There is now peace between us. We the imperfect are now considered worthy to come into the presence of, talk to, and receive untold blessings from the only perfect being ever to have existed. Not only that, we are considered his friends (John 15:13-15) and children (Galatians 3:26).

How is this possible? Jesus Christ, the Son of God, paid our penalty and declared us righteous in the eyes of God. Jesus Christ was tortured and died a horrible, excruciating death … in our place! That was supposed to be you whipped within an inch of your life. That was supposed to be me hanging on a cross for hours until I could not take another breath. But you and I were declared righteous and allowed to go free, never suffering one sting of that whip, or one stroke of the hammer that would drive a spike into our hand. Jesus, however, felt every punch, every leather strap, every nail. And because of his loving sacrifice, not only will we one day avoid eternal separation from God, we will reign in his Kingdom with him, sharing in his victory and glory. How does being declared righteous make you feel? If you have not accepted Jesus’ offer to pay your penalty, what is stopping you from taking this step?

Romans 5:1-2 (NIV)

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

What does it mean to have peace with God?

 

What does this passage say we have gained access to?

 

What is grace?

 

Prayer

Sit quietly for a moment and think about everything from your past that has been erased … wiped away as if it never happened. Let it sink in that not only has your slate been cleared, you have been declared righteous in the eyes of a perfect God, so much so that he calls you his friend and his own child. Now, what do you want to say to your heavenly father and your savior, Jesus Christ, who took the nails for you? Just tell him everything on your heart.


This post was written by David Vernier, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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What’s the Key to Happiness?

Have you ever waited to get in trouble? Maybe you experienced this when you were younger and you did something wrong. In these cases, you knew that if you got caught, you were going to get in a whole heap of trouble, so most of your thoughts were consumed with not getting caught — sometimes to the point that you even hoped that you’d finally get caught so it would be over. You’d be free.

I had this problem anytime I did something wrong growing up. My fear of being caught would consume my every waking moment. I would hope with everything in me that I wouldn’t get caught, but I also knew that if I did get caught, there would be a great sense of relief, knowing that the momentary shame of getting found out would be worth it to experience the freedom of not carrying around that guilt.

As a kid, these memories seem to fade. As an adult, it’s much worse. This feeling is more than just a feeling. It’s like your soul gains 20 pounds – like there’s a big sign above your head displaying your sin in big letters, and you’re hoping no one is paying attention.

Why does this happen? Why is it that when we do something wrong, we carry that guilt around with us for so long?

Author and speaker Barb Roose explained this past weekend that what ultimately makes us happy is peace with God. However, when we don’t deal with the sin in our lives, it becomes a problem. Simply put, our sin separates us from God.

We’ve heard this often, but usually, we think this statement applies to those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus. Their sin has separated them from God. What we forget, however, is that this also applies to us. After we enter into a relationship with Jesus, our sins do not cause us to lose our salvation, but they can significantly impact our relationship with God in a negative way. As Barb said, though peace with God begins with faith in Christ, it is sustained by submission to Christ. In 1 John, 1:5-6, John writes:

5This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. 6So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.

John, as with all of the writers of the different letters of the New Testament, is writing to Christ followers. We are called to live for God, and when we don’t, we experience a sort of separation from him. The writer of Hebrews explains that this separation is discipline from God (Heb. 12:7-8).

We cannot have peace with God when we don’t deal with our sin. That weight we feel, that more-than-just-a-feeling weight might be the discipline of God meant to draw us closer to him.

So, what do we do? When we know we are struggling to be at peace with God, what step can we take to fix that?

We need to confess our sins to God, because as John writes in 1 John 1:9:

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

When we trust God to forgive us; when we confess our sins to him and then to others (James 5:16), we can experience healing. When we do this, we can experience the peace of God, which is what ultimately makes us happy. It’s the purpose for which God designed us.

Are you at peace with God?

 

Are you carrying around unconfessed sins?

 

What can you do today that will help you to have peace with God?

 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, you are gracious and merciful to me. I know that you created me to be in relationship with you, but that I hurt that relationship when I sin. Help me to be holy as you are, and help me to confess the sins that I carry around because I know that you are faithful to forgive me. Help me to always be at peace with you. I ask this in the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


This post was written by Andy Rectenwald. Andy is the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study. He has a passion for bringing the Bible to life for people and for Christian Apologetics. He is married with two young children. You can follow him on twitter @andyrectenwald.


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Following Jesus May Cause Persecution, but It Also Makes You Happy

Think back to a time you had to make a decision. Not just any decision, but one that left you with two choices, one clearly good and the other clearly bad. Maybe it was back in junior high when your best friend forgot to study for a test and wanted to cheat off of yours. Or, it could have been in your job when you overheard coworkers gossiping about others and invited you to join. Whatever you decided, there was a cost. If you didn’t help your friend on his test, he would stop hanging out with you. If you didn’t join in on the gossip, your coworkers might talk about you, too.

In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches the crowd and his disciples about living a life as a follower. Jesus begins his teachings with “Blessed.” Blessed refers to the ultimate wellbeing and spiritual joy of those who share in the salvation of the kingdom of God. But it’s not as simple as we would like to think. In verse 10, he says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus is explaining that we will ultimately be happy by being persecuted for doing the right thing, making the right decision, or saying the right words. Andy Stanley makes a great point by saying, “You are going to suffer for doing the right or wrong thing but you can only be happy on one end of the equation.” Either way, each decision comes with a cost.

Jesus goes on to say in verses 11 and 12, “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” (capitalization mine). Making the right decision based on your faith in Jesus Christ is going to give you happiness and peace with yourself and God. “If you suffer for doing the wrong thing, you won’t have peace with yourself or with God” (Stanley). We will be persecuted, made fun of, and mistreated because of our faith, but rejoice in that, because a reward is coming for being faithful and defending the gospel.

Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” He is telling us we will absolutely be on the frontlines of difficulties and in the midst of hard decisions, but it is worth it. We will eventually reap the reward of happiness. It’s a process, not an immediate outcome. Jesus has overcome the world, and while the battles are not over, we already have victory.

What difficult decision are you currently facing? What are the costs?

 

What steps can you make toward the right decision?

 

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your promise of peace and happiness when making the right decisions for you and for our faith. Help me to make the right decisions in the future and to stand firm in you. Amen.


This post was written by Rachel Marroquin, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Daily Bible Study.


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An Incredible Act of Mercy

In the summer of 1986, NYPD Officer Steven McDonald began what would be a life-altering shift. After chasing some suspicious looking young people in an area that had experienced a slew of bike thefts and other small crimes, McDonald and his partner caught up with the teenagers. McDonald writes,

While questioning them, I noticed a bulge in the pant leg of the youngest boy – it looked like he might have a gun tucked into one of his socks. I bent down to examine it. As I did, I felt someone move over me, and as I looked up, the taller of the three (he turned out to be 15) was pointing a gun at my head. Before I knew what was happening, there was a deafening explosion, the muzzle flashed, and a bullet struck me above my right eye. I remember the reddish-orange flame that jumped from the barrel, the smell of the gunpowder, and the smoke. I fell backward, and the boy shot me a second time, hitting me in the throat. Then, as I lay on the ground, he stood over me and shot me a third time.

I was in pain; I was numb; I knew I was dying, and I didn’t want to die. It was terrifying. My partner was yelling into his police radio: “Ten Thirteen Central! Ten Thirteen!” and when I heard that code, I knew I was in a very bad way. Then I closed my eyes…

Has someone ever done something to hurt you? If you’ve been breathing air for any amount of time your answer will most likely be “yes, of course!”

Most of us haven’t experienced the kind of attack Officer McDonald did, but we’ve felt pain caused by another person more than a few times.

This past weekend, Andy Stanley continued the series, “What Makes You Happy?” with his answer: Plan For It.

Yes, he told us that to be happy we need to plan for it.

Doesn’t this seem crazy?!

With so many other factors contributing to our happiness outside of our control, how can it be up to us to be happy?

In Matthew 5, we come across the Sermon on the Mount. Part of this sermon – from which Stanley draws his answer – is called the Beatitudes. Here, Jesus lists types of people and how they are blessed.

Stanley substitutes the term happy for blessed and thus answers the question, “What makes you happy?”

One particular group of people are quite striking. The merciful. Of them, Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Here, Jesus makes giving mercy the requirement for receiving mercy. Simply put, you can’t receive mercy if you don’t give it.

Theologian and philosopher Dallas Willard wrote, “It is not psychologically possible for us really to know God’s [mercy] for us and at the same time be hardhearted toward others.” This is not an either/or. We cannot expect to receive mercy from God when we are unwilling to give it to others.

Obviously, giving mercy isn’t just an exercise in obedience. Instead, in offering mercy to others, we are growing closer to God and thus experiencing happiness. Theologian and Minister Alan Barnes explained this when he wrote, “Nowhere do we imitate God more than in showing mercy. In nothing does God delight more than in the exercise of mercy.”

So, what is mercy? What does it mean to be merciful? Stanley defined merciful as relationally generous.

When we are merciful, we are generous to people, even to those who seemingly don’t deserve it.

Officer McDonald’s story didn’t end in death, but for many, it would be close enough. He ended up being paralyzed from the neck down.

Most people, myself included, would feel all the negative emotions at once toward their attacker. Hatred, jealousy, bitterness, anger, etc. We wouldn’t blame Officer McDonald if he had chosen that route.

But he didn’t.

Instead, six months after the incident, just after his wife gave birth to their son, Conor, McDonald encountered God. He writes,

To me, Conor’s birth was like a message from God that I should live, and live differently. And it was clear to me that I had to respond to that message. I prayed that I would be changed, that the person I was would be replaced by something new.

That prayer was answered with a desire to forgive the young man who shot me. I wanted to free myself of all the negative, destructive emotions that his act of violence had unleashed in me: anger, bitterness, hatred, and other feelings. I needed to free myself of those emotions so that I could love my wife and our child and those around us.

McDonald forgave his assailant, Shavod Jones. It wasn’t instantaneous, but he did it. Why?

I forgave Shavod because I believe the only thing worse than receiving a bullet in my spine would have been to nurture revenge in my heart. Such an attitude would have extended my injury to my soul, hurting my wife, son, and others even more. It’s bad enough that the physical effects are permanent, but at least I can choose to prevent spiritual injury.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Steven McDonald died on January 10th of this year. Imagine the mercy being rained on him by his Father in heaven. If we could talk to Steven right now, he’d probably tell us that his suffering on earth pales in comparison to the joy he is experiencing from his all-merciful Father. May we all show mercy to those around us. Jesus’ promise is that when we do, we will then receive mercy.

Why do you think it is so difficult for us to show others mercy?

 

Are there people in your life that you need to forgive?

 

What can you do today to show mercy?

 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I want to be close to you. I know you’ve offered me mercy upon mercy through the death of your Son, Jesus. I know that this mercy is undeserved and that you call me to give that to others. Help me, Father, because this is difficult. I know that I should, and the joy I’ll experience will be incomprehensible. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

For extra reading, check out Matthew 18:23-35.


This post was written by Andy Rectenwald. Andy is the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study. He has a passion for bringing the Bible to life for people and for Christian Apologetics. He is married with two young children. You can follow him on twitter @andyrectenwald.


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Pursuing Righteousness Can Make You Happy

C.S. Lewis wrote If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

How many times have you felt like you were made for something else? I have often times felt like that, especially after something that I was pursuing didn’t quite work out.

It is in those moments that I have to stop and ask myself what it is that I am pursuing and why I am pursuing it.

In other words, if I am attaching my happiness to an object or an experience, I am going to be overwhelmingly disappointed, and that is no way to live life.

We learned this week that the word “blessed” means fortunate or happy. Jesus teaches us some pretty unconventional ways to be happy in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-10). We like to attach our happiness to something tangible, when what we really need to do is realize that it is an outcome. Therefore, if it is an outcome, then we had better make a plan.

Our happiness can be compared to a computer code. It is like a series of “If-then” statements. If the input is                    , then the outcome will be happiness. Obviously, we are not robots or computers, and it tends to get a little messier. However, the logic is no doubt the same.

As you have read earlier this week, there are a few ways to achieve happiness. The one that we are going to focus on today though is found in Matthew 5:6.

Up to this point the methods have been about becoming empty, or getting rid of something.

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit
  2. Blessed are those who mourn
  3. Blessed are the meek

 

Now we are focusing on being filled. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

We all have desires, ambitions, and goals. We all have things that we want to pursue. The problem is that we think those things are going to satisfy a longing inside of us that cannot be filled with the things of this world, no matter how hard we try.

A rich, happy, satisfying life only comes from a rich, happy, satisfying relationship with Jesus.

“Happy or blessed are those with no guilt, no regret, and a clear conscience” – Andy Stanley

So how do we hunger and thirst for righteousness? What does that mean?

It means that we constantly seek what Jesus has to say. It means that we want to do the right thing.

It is a desire for the things of God, and it supersedes our desire for the things of this world.

In Matthew 4:4, Jesus has recently been baptized and is fasting in the desert for 40 days. Meanwhile, Satan approaches Jesus and tells him to turn some stones into bread so that he may eat because he is hungry. Jesus replies “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

1 Peter 2:2 tells us; “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…”

Our food, our sustenance, our life source comes from our relationship with Jesus. This is how we become filled.

We, too, are tempted; we lust after temporary things that cause guilt, shame, discontentment, and an unsatisfied craving for more.

We buy into the lie that “stuff,” “a new                    ,” or “more                  “ will make us happy.

Jesus tells us in John 15:5: “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”

We are told to abide or remain in him, and only then will we produce good fruit, the fruit of the spirit, which is where true happiness is. It is the outcome of remaining in him.

Psalm 1 is my favorite scripture in the Bible, my life verse. I have it memorized. When I am faced with any decision or experience during the day, I can use it as a gauge or lens to filter all of my actions through. It is how I can be sure that I am doing the right thing.

 

1“Oh, the joys of those who do not

   follow the advice of the wicked,

   or stand around with sinners,

   or join in with mockers.

2But they delight in the law of the Lord,

   meditating on it day and night.

3They are like trees planted along the riverbank,

   bearing fruit each season.

Their leaves never wither,

   and they prosper in all they do.

4But not the wicked!

   They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.

5They will be condemned at the time of judgment.

   Sinners will have no place among the godly.

6For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,

   but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.

 

It is essentially giving a contrast of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and those who hunger and thirst for the things of this world. This scripture really exposes what our motives are rather than our feelings; it divides the truth from a lie.

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, or popular. Other people might even tell you something is right, but you can always determine truth by seeking God and being filled by him rather than things that don’t satisfy.

What do you hunger and thirst for? Are you trying to fill yourself with something other than righteousness?

 

Do you have a verse that you can filter all of your decisions through? If not, find one, write it down, and commit it to memory.

 

Read Psalm 1. What stands out do you? What does it mean to delight in the law of the Lord?

 

Have you ever thought of scripture as food? Or the Holy Spirit as living water? Does it really fill you up?

 

Prayer:

Lord, create in me a hunger and thirst for you. I eagerly desire you. Help me to take my thoughts and decisions captive and seek your counsel. Like Psalm 51:12 says, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.” Amen.


This post was written by Stephen Dull. Stephen is a Continuous Improvement Engineer, Triathlete, and Blogger. He is passionate about Faith, Finances, Fitness, and helping men to discover their God-given dream. He has a lovely wife and 2 beautiful daughters. You can follow him on twitter @maxxdull or on his website: www.the360manproject.com


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What Does It Mean to Be Meek?

Everyone likes an underdog story: the type where the character who is undervalued (and maybe a little quiet) surprisingly wins a fight or game, or saves the day. Think of Frodo in “The Lord of the Rings” – a tiny hobbit who is tasked with delivering a ring to Mount Doom to be destroyed. He faces foes who are bigger than him in size, power, and personality, but (spoiler alert) he is successful. Even still, supporting characters, like the warriors Aragorn and Legolas, are the ones to whom fans tend to give the most credit and value. They are bigger physically, more aware of their strength and power, and often they can be self-serving. Many blockbusters are about the strong, charismatic, extroverted characters who we have no doubt will come out on top. Think of Iron Man: a rich, famous, arrogant man who uses his resources to help fight villains and save people. He remains prideful and very aware of the power and impact he has. Not everyone likes him, but they know they need him, so he is nonetheless valued.

Though I don’t think we will be tasked with journeying to destroy a ring or with creating a robotic exoskeleton to save the world, we can still learn from these characters, their traits, and how people react to them. Our culture values the strong, confident, outspoken, and proud. We are told to reach for the stars and follow our dreams because we should not let anyone tell us we can’t. We’ve got to fight for our right to party. (Just had to throw that in there.) Nothing better illustrates our culture’s fascination with pride than some of the self-help books out there. Titles like “You are a Bad***: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” are frequently displayed atop the best seller lists. These messages blatantly tell you that you are great, and because of your own greatness, you can be happy. It’s as if to say, “Don’t give credit to anyone else, your awesomeness is your own!” But Jesus teaches the opposite. He taught that those who know that their power comes from God are the ones who will be blessed and happy.

 

Matthew 5:5 (NIV)

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

 

This statement is so counterintuitive in today’s society. Not many of us would naturally be inclined to encourage our children to go out there and be meek! Meekness, defined by Pastor Andy Stanley, is “a proper estimation or valuation of oneself within the context of God’s creation and love.” The meek face the reality of who they are. They know they are part of God’s creation, not the center of it. The New Living Translation uses the word “humble” in place of meek. Famed author and Christian Apologist, C.S. Lewis defined humility as “not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” So why do the meek/humble inherit the earth?

 

Psalm 131:1-3

1Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. 2Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3O Israel, put your hope in the Lord – now and always.

 

The above passage speaks of learning to control and calm yourself, shifting focus from your needs to God. The meek/humble don’t flaunt their strength, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any. They may even be the strongest, for they are capable of controlling human nature’s need for recognition. Because they are not so self-serving, they notice when others are in need, and they step up and help. They give credit for all of their successes and good works to God, knowing all of their power is from him. They know they need him in order to do anything. They are already living in God’s kingdom and are blessed in this.

Do you find it hard to accept the idea that happiness is an outcome? How can meekness lead to happiness?

 

On a scale from meek (1) to prideful (10), where do you rate?

 

How might you get closer to meek?

 

In what areas do you struggle being quiet, gentle, and/or humble?

 

Prayer:

Dear God, help me to be humble. All of my goodness comes from you. With every success, let me not take the credit, but give all the glory to you. Help me focus on the joy that can come from controlling myself and limiting my innate desire for recognition. Any moment I try to build up my own importance, help me to transform that feeling into awe of you and submission to you. Amen.


This post was written by Ashlee Grosjean. Ashlee loves anything arts-related, and really enjoys writing for the LivingItOut. She is married and has a little girl and boy.


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Are Christians Supposed to Be Poor in Spirit?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Of all the Beatitudes, this may be the most difficult for us as 21st century Americans to grasp because we can barely fathom what it means. We intrinsically believe that we deserve to be, if not rich, at least well off, and that anyone can have that American Dream. Furthermore, I equated spiritually poor with spiritually bankrupt, and they’re not the same at all.

I think that Saint Francis of Assisi was probably the one who really got this idea down pat. I imagine when he got to heaven, Jesus gave him a high five and said, “Yes! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” Francis came from a very well-to-do family, and when he came back from being a prisoner of war in the 4th crusade, his father had amassed quite a fortune from taking advantage of the poor people who had struggled through the war. Perhaps because of the combination of war and seeing the greed of his father, Francis realized that the only way to be truly free and happy is to completely rely on God. So, he gave up all of his possessions, renounced his birthright, and devoted his life to God. In fact, the reason Franciscans wore a rope around their waist was because leather belts often were more like fanny packs and contained a man’s wallet.

When Francis read the Beatitudes, he saw that the call to be poor stood right at the beginning: “How blessed are the poor in spirit!” Therefore, Francis considered poverty to be the foundation of all other virtues – and this is brilliant. Francis saw that the other virtues receive the kingdom only in promise; poverty, however, is invested with heaven now! “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Present tense! Francis and his followers did not just preach the gospel, they lived it. They tried to live as closely to the way that Jesus lived as possible, and if you will recall, Jesus had no home, no possessions. By their example, they showed the world Christ and they lived in the kingdom of God.

I’m not saying we have to give up all our stuff and live as a wandering monk in order to be happy. What we do need to do is completely rely on God instead of external things for our happiness. People who are happy are completely dependent on God regardless of what they have. In this week’s sermon, Andy Stanley said, “The moment you put your trust in riches instead of your Heavenly Father, who richly provides, you become unhappy.” That is because it is then up to you to control outcomes which is impossible and too much to handle. We cannot control outcomes, and when we struggle trying to do so, it makes us stressed, angry, and miserable. We are living closed-fisted instead of open-handed.

The happiest people are everywhere on the scale as far as things they possess. However, they have found satisfaction in the One who provides. They recognize that stuff will not make them happy. The kingdom of heaven is theirs now because they are poor in spirit.

What in your life do you think prevents you from living fully dependent on God?

 

What do you need to do to start living more dependent on God?

 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, help me to find satisfaction, happiness, and joy in you. I know that I am fully dependent on you, please help me to live this out. I ask this in Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Kelda Strasbourg, Kelda is a grateful member of the LivingItOut writing team. She has a love for Jesus and the desire to help others find that same love. She has her own business and a border collie named Emily.


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