January 19, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 6)
Submitted by Andy T. from Gracepoint Hsinchu Church
Note the radically countercultural definition of being blessed.
•Why would these be the ones who are blessed in Jesus’ eyes, and what does this say about discipleship and the world-system?
This passage tells us that the poor, those who are hungry now, those who are weak, and those whom men hate, exclude, insult, and reject because of our faith in God are those who are actually blessed. This is obviously opposite to how the world would evaluate a blessed person. However, Jesus calls them blessed not because these are good situations to be in, but because these are situations that cause us to seek God and rely on God instead of ourselves. When we are poor, when we are hungry, when we are weak, we come in contact with the fundamental reality that we are frail beings. We recognize that we don’t have the ability within ourselves to secure our future–we realize that we are finite, needy people. While this is never a comfortable feeling, it allows us to come before God in humility. So ultimately, this will cause us to seek God.
I grew up in a well-to-do family that provided for all my needs. I was given tutors when I needed it, I was given opportunities to develop skills, play sports, and even have work experience early. And while I am thankful for these things, these are also the things that made it so I didn’t think I needed God. I thought I could control my own destiny, that I could control my own life. I felt like if I tried hard, if I worked at something, I could be successful. So I never saw my need for God. It wasn’t until high school and the early part of college when I started to realize that I didn’t have control over my sin addictions, that as hard as I tried, I couldn’t secure my future, that I started to have the humility to seek God. At the same time, my mother was hospitalized with a brain aneurism and had two consecutive major brain surgeries. I knew at that time, that no matter how put together I looked externally, I was not in control of my life or the lives of my loved ones. Through these difficult times, I started to seek God and the result was that I became a Christian my freshmen year. Since then, my life has been filled with ups and downs, and again and again I have experienced that during the difficult times of my life, when I cry out to God, I experience him in a more intimate way. But it is when things are going smoothly in my life, when I forget God or don’t feel the need for God. So in many ways, when I face difficulty, when I experience my own weakness, it becomes a precious time where I can experience the truth of God’s power and the reality of my own reliance on God.
• What may come to those who follow Jesus in this world?
This passage tells us that there will be times when men hate you, exclude you, insult you, and reject you for following Jesus. When I read this, I think of the students that we’ve been ministering to out here in Taiwan. As this is a country made up of over 70% Buddhism/Taoism and closer to 90% that practice these traditional family religions, nearly all our students face opposition from their family when they make their decision to become Christian. For many, facing the cost of discipleship means that they will receive rejection and insult from their parents. On top of that, Taiwanese culture is such that children grow up valuing obedience to their parent and their extended family. So for them to experience this kind of persecution from the family is very painful since for many of them, this is the first time they have disagreed with their family. So for them, following Jesus, literally means they will be hated by some of their loved ones that view their decision as a rejection of the family. Yet, when I see their faith, I see how this has matured them. I see how they struggle to make sure what they believe is true, and I see them changing as they take their faith seriously. And in many ways, this experience is that blessing for them. I also see how much they pray before they return home for vacations, and how much they desire to be a good witness to their families through serving around the house. And for many of them, after being a Christian for a while, their parents are won over in the sense that they admit that their children have grown up since becoming Christian. They recognize that they have changed from being selfish to more other-centered. And what started out as rejection gives way to acceptance. And this was even more actualized during our past baptism as four families attended the service and heard the testimonies of their kids. These parents shared how they have notice that their children are more happy than before, how they have changed, and for that they are thankful to the church. And it is simply amazing because these are the same parents that our students were very scared to share their decision with and the same parents that initially reacted very strongly against their faith.
Submitted by Jessica C. from Gracepoint San Diego Church
Being poor, being hungry, weeping/mourning, being hated/rejected, being excluded/left out/not welcomed…this list contains everything that this world tries desperately to avoid. To them, such a life is a tragic life. No one wants to end up this way, and so people do everything they can in order to secure success, financial cushion, comfort, popularity, and acceptance. We see this philosophy played out at every stage of life—from middle school years, to high school, college, the working world, and then with family/kids. Growing up, I, too, believed that that was a blessed life. My parents raised me to place high value on securing success so that I could live a comfortable life. Media, classmates and friends taught me that the value of my worth is dependent on how many friends I have, and whether I’m in with the “in” crowd. Therefore I grew up believing that once I attain all of these, then my life will be set, and that it will then be a blessed life. I knew that my life was nowhere near blessed (according to those terms), but hoped that somewhere down the line, in the future, I will finally get there. But I thought about the irony of such a pursuit. Because as I pursued after securing a good job in a reputable company making good money, as I pursued after financial comfort and security, as I pursued after amassing materialistic things for myself, as I pursued after social acceptance and trying to find that niche to belong…that process to get there was far from what I would have called blessing. To pursue that great reputable career that I believed would solve all my problems involved tirelessly giving my time and energy, putting in 60-70 hour weeks, only to have my work discarded or redone. It meant constant stress, and the ever-present need to compete with other coworkers to stand out and win the approval of our supervisors. It meant giving up time to spend serving at church and building deeper relationships with people God placed in my life. To pursue financial security for myself involved being stingy and tight-fisted with my money when it came to opportunities to be generous. It meant constantly calculating how much I’m giving compared to others, and making sure I’m not being taken advantage of monetarily. It meant creating a chilling, cooling effect on my relationships with people. It meant constantly thinking about and being consumed about my finances and making sure I’m leaving a nice cushion for myself so that I won’t ever have to worry about being in lack. To pursue that desire for acceptance and sense of belonging involved me putting on all sorts of different masks, and doing things that I didn’t feel comfortable doing, and making a fool of myself at times in order to gain people’s attention…and at the end of it all, feeling degraded, empty, pathetic, and ashamed…not to mention feeling lost and confused as to my true identity. I had sought after a blessed life, but as I pursued after the world and its pleasures and promises, what I received instead were a bag of woes.
As I think about my life and what characterized it before I met Christ, in reading this passage, I see God’s wisdom and the truth of these words. God’s ways are right, His ways are true. His definition of a blessed life is correct. This is something that I need to embrace again and again, as I see how I still naturally default to wanting the blessed life as defined by the world’s terms. But as I’m reminded of the woes of following after worldly pursuits, and then also remembering various people in my life who live lives of sacrifice, self-denial, whose sphere of concern extends to so many people and who know what it means to weep and cry out for another person, who have experienced pains and at times “insults” that come with ministry and yet are able to persevere and remain committed to their calling…they are living examples of people in my life whose lives model after God’s definition of a blessed life. It is because of their obedience to God and their commitment to love others that their lives have been a great source of blessing and inspiration for me to also live accordingly. And as I see their lives full of joy, peace and purpose in the midst of its share of difficulties, I’m able to have that shift in being able to see what really is blessed.