It’s an amazing feeling for an athlete to win a competition. Whether it’s being the overall winner, or winning an age group, weight class, or the team championship, it feels so good to see your hard work pay off in victory. It’s an incredible feeling to be “top dog” – to stand out from the crowd. For the huge majority of us, that is a rare or nonexistent experience, but we all know we’d enjoy it. Keep in mind, though, that being outstanding in your sport is a temporary situation.
There is a way to stand out from the crowd, and it’s a way that can last as long as you live. It isn’t spectacular. Many will notice, but most won’t understand. Some will be impressed while others will scoff. Either way, you will stand out in a crowd, and even more importantly, God will take notice. I am talking about living the be-attitudes in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It’s a list of character traits that goes against the grain of today’s society, yet it is a list that God desires for those who follow Him. Jesus said in His sermon that people with these qualities will be blessed.
Poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. I did some digging to get a better idea what this means. I tend to think we should be positive and joyful, so I didn’t understand this, at first. I found this wonderful explanation by Billy Graham that made it clear to me. “When we come to God we must realize our own sin and our spiritual emptiness and poverty. We must not be self-satisfied or proud in our hearts, thinking we don’t really need God. If we are, God cannot bless us. The Bible says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).” In a nutshell – I desperately need God. Nothing I do on my own is going to get me to heaven. Remaining humble in our awareness to this honors God, and God in turn honors this type of spirit.
Those who mourn, they shall be comforted. Does this mean everyone who has mourned over something will be comforted by God? More digging. What I read from multiple sources is that this reference to mourning is connected to the quality of being poor in spirit. By recognizing one’s sinful nature, one mourns, and thus repents, because it is our sin that separates us from God. Thankfully, God is generous with His grace and is continually ready to comfort us when we acknowledge our need for forgiveness.
Meek, for they shall inherit the earth. The big thing that I learned is meekness is not weakness. I love this description that I found, “Meekness is therefore an active and deliberate acceptance of undesirable circumstances that are wisely seen by the individual as only part of a larger picture…Meekness does not identify the weak but more precisely the strong who have been placed in a position of weakness where they persevere without giving up.” I am a huge believer in perseverance. I picture a strong person choosing not to freak out but rather quietly persevering under trial. Now that is outstanding!
Hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled . Pastor Chuck Swindoll describes this as a character trait of someone who has a hunger to know God. I think many of us would like to understand Him, but do we strive to know Him? Reading the Bible is a great way to get to know God. Do you know where yours is? Find it, read it, and be filled with all that God has for you.
Merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. These days, it seems as if judgement is in huge supply and mercy is taking a back seat. It certainly is not the go-to response when life is a mess. Give it a try and you are sure to stand out from the crowd.
Pure in heart, for they shall see God. It may sound a little scary to see God, but I’d like to suggest that those who are pure in heart (completely transparent, honest, humble not a hypocritical bone in their bodies) see God in their lives, daily. I do believe the pure in heart will one day see God, literally; however, they likely see Him in action quite frequently.
Peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Peacemakers are solution finders. They never stir up trouble, and they keep things calm. They are peaceful, not hateful. Sounds a lot like Jesus, the Son of God we know, doesn’t it?
Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Jesus gives this blessing to those with this quality as well as the poor in spirit. Around the world, people are persecuted for being followers of Jesus. We are blessed to live in a country that gives us the freedom to follow Christ without having to hide it. However, these eight character traits are not impressive or honored by our society, and may lead to ridicule, or you may find there are some who don’t like the way you think and live.
It’s a daring list, isn’t it? I see that I fall short in all eight, but I keep striving toward the goal of living my life in a way that honors God. I hope that this is what makes me stand out from the crowd.