What is your definition of blessed? For some, it only applies to money or material possessions.
Pastor Tom Shepherd shares the following story. John D. Rockefeller lived from 1839 to 1937. In 1916 he became the first person in the world to reach a nominal personal fortune of one billion dollars. He was the founder, chairman and major shareholder of Standard Oil Company. By the time of his death it is estimated that his net worth was estimated conservatively at $340 billion dollars. If you adjust for inflation – he is often regarded as the richest person in history.
As a youth, Rockefeller reportedly said that his two great ambitions were to make $100,000 and to live to be 100 years old. He believed that “God gave me money” and followed John Wesley’s dictum: “gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.” Rockefeller was a religious man and always gave a tithe to the church and also supported efforts in education and medicine.
It is reported that at one time Rockefeller was asked about wealth; “How much money is enough?” His reply was, “More than I have.”
By many peoples’ standards, we would refer to Rockefeller as a “blessed,” man. But is that really accurate? Is blessing always tied to your bank account? How does God define blessed? There are many who are wealthy, yet still struggle with depression, guilt, and mistreatment by and toward others.
For our answer, we turn to the section of the Sermon on the Mount known as “the Beatitudes.” These series of short statements by Jesus can be challenging and troubling on the one hand; yet comforting and helpful on the other. And all of them come from Jesus. Matthew 5:2: “And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying….” First of all, let us look at who is considered blessed from God’s point of view.
BEING BLESSED COMES WITH MEMBERSHIP IN GOD’S KINGDOM.
We were taught in seminary that “context is king.” And so, we must interface with the context in which Jesus made these statements. One is that they come in the context of His preaching on the kingdom of God. Matthew 4:17: “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The Beatitudes are the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. But before He ascended to the mountain and began to share what arguably is the greatest message ever given on earth, Jesus devoted himself to going from village to village in Galilee preaching the kingdom of heaven. And the Sermon on the Mount shows us what kingdom life consists of.
I would argue that being a member of God’s kingdom affords you an ability to resist temptation and the opportunity to be forgiven of sin. David wrote in Psalm 32: “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”
And so what is the vehicle to which a man or woman may become part of God’s kingdom? In order to be called “blessed,” we must respond to the invitation to the kingdom. We must repent and believe in the gospel, as Mark 1:14 states.
Important to note is that fact that no one is born into the kingdom of God from a physical sense. No one is physically born a Christian, nor are you a believer because your parents trusted Christ. Spiritual birth must truly take place in your life. Jesus said in John 3:3: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” It is not through being a good person or adhering to a moral code or being “religious,” as the world puts it. It is through the gifts of repentance and faith.
Repentance means to turn; a change of heart and mind. It is implied in the act of confession; asking God to forgive you for your sins and offenses done to Him and to others. It also means that you hate sin and love God and your life reflects that. It is to the church, that John wrote: 1 John 1:8-9: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
The other act is faith. Faith is not just believing that there is a God, but embracing Him; following Him; becoming a disciple of Jesus. So there is urgency for you to repent of your sins and place your trust in Jesus Christ, in order to have citizenship in the kingdom of God and possess heaven as your home. Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God….” It is a wonderful thing that God reached out to us in the gift of His Son, so we could be reconciled to Him.
Once the Lord has taken up residence in your life, you are forever changed. Your status is new. You have a different identity. 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Christians have a new identity.
But with God’s definition of blessed comes a different way of life.
GOD’S BLESSINGS ARE NOT THE WORLD’S BLESSINGS.
What does it mean to be blessed? The world has a different idea of blessing. It usually means being physically fit and free from disease; being rich and having many material possessions; being popular among your peers, etc. Being on top of the world, kind of like Leonardo DiCaprio as he stood on the bow of the Titanic and felt the wind in his hair. This is unrealistic. In a worldly mindset, you can never have enough money. You can be famous and be incredibly miserable. Author and speaker Awdhesh Singh states:
“Most people are unhappy since they fail to get what they want in life. However, even when they actually get what they want, their happiness is short-lived because very soon they raise the bar to a higher level and again start struggling to achieve the next level. Their happiness level thus comes back to the original level as before.”
That’s why Rockefeller said: “Just one more dollar.” But God calls blessed those who from an outward sense are not! The Greek is markarioi which can also be translated: “happy.” One commentator explains that “blessed,” here is “…more than a temporary or circumstantial feeling of happiness, this is a state of well-being in relationship to god that belongs to those who respond to Jesus’ ministry.” Matthew 5:3:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
How can those who are poor in suffer various hardships or ill-fated conditions be seen as favored? It is what those things produce in the caldron of God’s formative grace through the power of the Spirit that transforms a person on the inside. And that Jesus was all of these things. What’s more, they are promised the very thing that they want or need. “Blessed are… for theirs is the…;” “Blessed are…, for they shall….”
Sinclair Ferguson states: “In the context of the whole of Matthew’s Gospel, then, we discover that the chief theme is Jesus himself. In each part of the Gospel we learn some new facet of Jesus’ identity. The entire Gospel, and each part of it, centers on Jesus Christ- who He is, what He says, and what he does. The Sermon on the Mount should be understood in light of this.” And… Living the Sermon on the Mount means fundamentally, bowing to the authority of Jesus.”
Some argue that the Beatitudes have to do with future blessings. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (in heaven). But I would argue that it is a both/and condition, rather than an either/or. Only God can give enormous comfort and purpose in this life while one experiences grief or mistreatment. And so the Beatitudes offer a counter-cultural psychology to the present condition of living in a sinful world that produces heartache and trial.
The Lord changes your identity and redefines the term “blessed.” He said to His grieving disciples in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Only Jesus offers you peace in the midst of your sorrow. Money cannot do that. Friends are only partly successful.
Lastly, your blessings are always intended as instruments of ministry.
- YOU ARE BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING.
The Beatitudes don’t stop with a classification of blessing. Rather, they move on to what we’re supposed to do/be with those blessings. Jesus calls us salt and light in Matthew 5:13-16 and then says: “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” As a Christian, you have a profound capacity to change the world because of who you are and how you react to such events.
God blessed Abraham and said to him after he was willing to sacrifice his one and only son at the Lord’s request in Genesis 22:17:
“I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
And so the experiences that you and I encounter in our Christian walk are meant to hold blessings for us, as well as for others. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:3:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who 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. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”
How can I help someone else? What way can I minister to others? Just as Jesus spent His life for you and me, we are to spend our lives for others.
Writer Mitchell Dillon tells the story:
“When I was a boy, I always looked forward to our summer trips from San Francisco to West Texas to spend vacation time with extended family. My two younger brothers and I would pile into our un-air-conditioned car, anxious to begin the long trek across the Southwest. At the end of each day’s journey, the three of us would beeline our way to the hotel pool to re-hydrate—something we really looked forward to after hours of being blasted in the back seat by the hot desert air. These were great adventures filled with the excitement of seeing new places and the extravagance of eating out (something we never did back home).
One year during our journey, my youngest brother did something completely out of character for his normally compliant nature. Despite a tight budget and strict instructions to the contrary, James defiantly placed the same order every time we stopped to eat. “I’ll have what Dad is having,” he would insist. Apparently, my little brother had noticed that the plate of food placed in front of our father always looked a lot more appealing than the one typically placed in front of him. That was all it took. From then on, all he wanted was what our father was having. At five years of age, my little brother didn’t know much, but he knew that anything Dad ordered would be better than what he knew to order off the Kiddie Menu. Genius!
If only we were that smart about what we desired in life. If we were, we would stop setting our hearts on things that are certain to disappoint us and start dreaming of things that promise to bring lasting satisfaction. We would forget about the Kiddie Menu, where the portions and satisfaction are limited, and turn instead to God. We would ask our Heavenly Father to do the ordering for us, trusting that His choices would be bigger, better and more satisfying. We would order what He was having—not mere happiness, but blessedness!
This is precisely the prescription we find in
the Beatitudes. Rather than calling us to desire less, Jesus calls us to
desire more. Rather than asking us to let go of our dreams, Jesus exhorts
us to dream bigger. Rather than expecting us to be satisfied with mere
happiness, Jesus invites us to experience what it is to be blessed.
Happiness is what we order for ourselves, while blessedness is what we get when
we let God order for us.
 Awdhesh Singh, 31 Ways to Happiness (Wisdom Tree, 2019).
 ESV Study Bible, electronic edition, Notes on Matthew 5:3.
 Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount: Kingdom Life in a Fallen World (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1987), 4-5.
 Mitchell W. Dillon, founder of Illustration Exchange, found at https://illustrationexchange.com/illustrations?category=229. Accessed 14 September 2019.