We have learned how to wait until God comes or until our prayers are answered, but how we receive answers, gifts, or God’s move is also important. The answer usually comes in a different way or form, than we expect. Imagine spending a significant amount of time asking for something, but when it comes, you reject it.
This is tragic, seems absurd, and is a paradox. How can this be? The biggest example is when Jesus came.
Messianic expectation was great, by the time that Jesus was born. The Messiah had been promised from Genesis through Malachi. Yet, when Jesus came, he was mostly rejected.
I have a few thoughts or ideas on how we can prepare ourselves to receive God’s gifts and answers to prayer. The first one is humility. There is a Proverb that says that God resists the proud but gives grace or favor to the humble or the afflicted (Prov. 3:34). Peter and James both cite this verse (1 Pt. 5:5, Js. 4:6).
It is a Biblical concept that humility is good and pride is bad. Jesus says that the humble will be exalted, but those who exalt themselves will be humbled (Matt. 23:12), and that people have the choice to fall onto him and be broken, or he will fall on them and crush them (Matt. 21:44, Lk. 20:18).
We have a collection of Jesus’ sayings in Matthew 5, that have been called, “The Beatitudes”. This word means, “state of bliss”. Many translations have Jesus’ words as, “Blessed are …”, but another way to say it in English would be, “Happy are …”. When they translated the Bible into Latin, they translated this word, that most translations in English have as Blessed, or as Happy, as Beatus in Latin. That is where we get “Beatitudes”. They went with Beatus, and the Greek word here does mean Happy, according to Greek dictionaries.
As is often the case, the Greek word has deeper and wider meaning than we can cram into one English word. Blessed works really well because it carries with it the meaning of happiness and good fortune. It makes perfect sense for Jesus to say, “Fortunate are you”.
In any case, I want to tell you that this word for “blessed” in Matthew 5:3, literally means “happy”, and that is what Young’s literal translation, the CEB, and a handful of obscure translations, including Phillips (1), and the Amplified Bible, parenthetically, has.
The collection of sayings from Jesus in Matthew 5 through 7 are about how to be his disciple. And Matthew begins all of this teaching with these eight or nine (the ninth seems to be an amplification on the eighth (5:10-11)) beatitudes: “You are happy, blessed, very fortunate …” All of these have the cord or chord, running through them of humility. Jesus’ disciples are humble.
These are the beatitudes in the J. B. Phillips NT:
- “How happy are the humble-minded, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!
- “How happy are those who know what sorrow means for they will be given courage and comfort!
- “Happy are those who claim nothing, for the whole earth will belong to them!
- “Happy are those who are hungry and thirsty for goodness, for they will be fully satisfied!
- “Happy are the merciful, for they will have mercy shown to them!
- “Happy are the utterly sincere, for they will see God!
- “Happy are those who make peace, for they will be sons of God!
- “Happy are those who have suffered persecution for the cause of goodness, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!
- “And what happiness will be yours when people blame you and ill-treat you and say all kinds of slanderous things against you for my sake! Be glad then, yes, be tremendously glad—for your reward in Heaven is magnificent. They persecuted the prophets before your time in exactly the same way.
Check yourself against these words of Jesus. The discipleship process, in Christ, is to become like him and let him live through you. How are you doing in regards to these 8 or 9 check points above, from Jesus?
If you are very weak on these and don’t really care, you may not be his disciple. There are people who say they are Christians, but are not disciples. That is actually an impossible thing, an oxymoron. And yet, people live in this deception.
Jesus never called and does not call people to church membership or attendance. He calls us to radically change our lives by following him and learning to live through him. Did you see that word I used, radical? The statements above, the beatitudes, are radical.
If we fall short, if Jesus’ words bring us under conviction, then we repent. Repentance is part of the life of humility. Just like salvation, repentance is an event and a process.
And what was Jesus’ message when he preached? It was, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand”. Do you think his message has changed?
Jesus followers are called to be radical, radically different from those who are not his followers. There is radical love and a radical lifestyle.
That Love is certainly the marker of the Christians. “They will know we are Christians by our love”. And our love from God through Christ and by the Spirit, is not like the love that is in the world. Our brand of love, that comes from God, is authentic and real.
And the way that we are able to operate in that love is only through Christ, living in Christ and by humility. We grow in, develop in, humility; becoming more and more humble. Jesus is our example of humility and our quest in life is to live humbly in him.
The life in Christ is able to receive answers to prayer and gifts from God gladly. That is the message I am trying to get across. I am saying that when we are not humble, we can not receive.
Pride has preconceived notions about God, other people and how things ought to be. Pride has a narcissism that believes it is God and all others must bow to it. Judgmental-ism is pride. My way or the highway is pride. Forcing others to do what you want them to do is pride. Pride ends up deciding what God can and does do and what God thinks. Pride stinks.
Pride despises, pride has contempt, pride leads to rebellion, pride rationalizes its sin and makes excuses. Pride is unrepentant. Pride is hard hearted. Pride is selfish. Pride is cruel. Pride is not content, because proud people have no peace and are not satisfied and never will be.
Pride is actually not love of self but love of accoutrements. Why did Satan fall? Pride. Why do people go to hell? Pride.
The disciple has to always be letting God develop humility and purge pride in their lives. Humility comes through humbling your self or being humiliated. We may resist the former, but it is the easier way and if we do not humble our selves, we will indeed be humiliated.
The way to operate in real love, and real love for the brother or sister in Christ is the mark of the Christian, is through humility. Godliness is love and humility with wisdom and grace. People in this place can be trusted with power and prosperity.
Humble people are able to receive gifts from God and answers to prayer.
1. The Emphasized New Testament: A New Translation (J. B. Rotherman), The New Testament: An American Translation (Edgar J. Goodspeed), The New Testament in Modern English (J. B. Phillips), The New Testament in Basic English.