Poor in Spirit

An Update to Poor in Spirit

I’m updating Poor in Spirit  in response to a Tweet from Kevin Shearer this morning asking what we, the Church, were going to do about the problem of loneliness among various groups. To my friend whose cross is heavy with a mentally ill adult child and parent with Alzheimer’s, ignore this, you just keep doing what you’re doing.

Social Media Calls to Action

I am commanded to love God first, then my neighbor. And of course my enemies. Social media skews the definition of neighbor daily herding categories of people into issues. Can I love an issue or fix a general societal problem? No, but I can with God’s power become holy and approximate to some level my highest calling in 1 Cor 13 and love those around me. Yes societal loneliness is a problem but it’s complicated, and it is only a problem for me to concern myself with as it impacts the Body of Christ and those I can touch, the key word being “touch.”

Forget social media programs. Who do I see, talk with, and meet daily?  These are my neighbors. Anyone at arm’s length is my neighbor in the moment. Not a keyboard stroke away but an arm length away. So, as a disciple, that body of neighbors can always be growing. To help them and any who seem isolated and lonely, I can:

  1. Ask God to send me to people he needs and the people who need me.
  2. Become poor in Spirit-read on further.
  3. Refuse to beat myself up constantly for what I’m not doing. What can I do now and today?
  4. Be approachable. If I don’t know how, there are many good books. One of the first and best is, How to Win Friends and Influence People. No, it isn’t a book on manipulation.
  5. Create regular space and time in my home or church where people can meet, talk, eat snacks, watch movies, etc. Keep inviting. Remember God is going to send the people who need me. And if I haven’t been hospitable for a while, it’ll take time.
  6. When I sense the time is right, ask if some of them would like to meet to pray together. Don’t be pushy. Listen.
  7. Give a devotional message on prayer, search prayer on my website. Many, many, books are available, but the best is Foster’s Celebration of Discipline.
  8. Create a regular prayer group where everyone prays for what is troubling the others. As God adds, prayerfully break them out into smaller groups.
  9. Use texts SHORT to keep in touch with prayer group. Maybe a Bible passage daily.
  10. Twitter and other social media can be used for supporting group communication, but texts and emails work much better.
  11. Remember, only God can fix loneliness as it arises from the broken relationship to him, self, and others. So pointing to him is the only permanent solution.

This is not a prescription for everyone, just something I’ve done from time to time. The key is to pray and do what part I can. There are many books with probably better ideas. Loneliness will be defeated in someone’s life when they learn to talk to God on their own. Not everyone will be interested in this solution, and I can’t force it. It will be painful many times because people will want friends but not God. They may start to avoid me, but without him, a friendship  can only go so far. As God continues to transform me, he’ll give me the friends I need and the friends that need me. He’ll also trim away some for his reasons. My job is to keep focusing on Him, praying, believing, and loving. Results and time are His.

Though it breaks my heart and I am intimate with it among some neighbors, I can do nothing to help loneliness among those described by Psalm 74:22-23 who scoff at God all the day. Loneliness is the immediate term consequence of their stubborn choice. I must continue with persistent prayer to overcome my grief and to break down their walls. Cracks do form, and there is hope that the seventh day of Jericho will come.

The Original Post

As we continue the study of the Sermon on the Mount, remember ‘poor in spirit.’ When looking at his teaching, we will frequently despair, ‘I can’t do this.’  This is normal. This is our nature. This despair is us trying to do this on our own. We must return to the first beatitude, ‘poor in spirit.’ We cannot become what Jesus requires with our own spirit, our own attitude, our own ideas. We must empty ourselves and stop trying so hard. Later own in our study, Jesus will say in Matthew 7, ‘ask and it will be given you.’ Two older posts on prayer might be helpful. What Do I Pray For? and How Often Should I Pray: The Value of Persistence in Prayer.

Every time we begin to despair or think about the difficulty, we are taking our eyes off Jesus and forgetting to ask his help. We must remember what Jesus said in Matthew 11:30, ‘For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ For more discussion on this you might want to read, The Try Hard Life vs. ‘My Yoke is Easy.

Poor in Spirit: Further Difficulty

Further difficulty in becoming ‘poor in spirit’ is in having patience to allow the Spirit to perform his work. We accept that we must become poor in spirit and we want to become that way now. In a culture permeated with self aggrandizement that elevates pride to a virtue, where families, churches, and social groups encourage us to be rich in our own motivations, goals, and personal pride; it is often a lonely road to become poor in spirit and many will discourage us and work against us—only a relationship with the risen Savior can get us to the place of poor in spirit.

Shut Out the Noise, Listen to Him

And for most of us it will take time to recognize and stop listening to all the counter messages around us, especially social media. The quicker we learn to submit, to listen to Jesus in prayer and study, the quicker the Spirit can begin to work in us. How long it takes depends on what he wants us to learn through circumstance, what lessons we need to carry to share with others, the testimony he is building in us, and how resistant we are to giving him full lordship.

The inner war may last a long time and it will be painful at times—mine certainly has, but this will give us a great testimony we can share with those seeking him. Okay, truth is, ‘poor in spirit’ is always going to be a daily choice, but with time it will be a choice we embrace first thing in the morning and throughout the day. In time, we will see that leaning on Jesus is the best way, and we will quickly realize when we stray from this mindset. We need Jesus more than we need air, food, or water. We will know we are poor in spirit when he heals our spiritual blindness.

Don’t Forget to Begin with Poor in Spirit when Reflecting Upon Calling

When someone asks me what my calling is, I immediately respond, “My highest, overriding calling is 1 Cor 13.” Read it and perhaps this post will be of interest as well: Calling.

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