As you read and reflect on today’s beatitude, please listen to this track from contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. We will feature this track throughout Lent.
Jesus warns us about the self-righteous Pharisee who puffed himself up and prayed: “God I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income” (Luke 18:11-12). Let me be honest, I have sometimes prayed: “O God, I thank Thee that I am not like the Pharisee.” And with such a prayer I have joined the ranks of all seriously religious people who forget how spiritually bankrupt and bereft we are.
The late Mike Yaconelli, writing in Messy Spirituality, pleaded with all religious zealots who take themselves too seriously:
There is no room for pretending in the spiritual life. Unfortunately, in many religious circles, there exists an unwritten rule. Pretend. Act like God is in control when you don’t believe he is. Give the impression everything is okay in your life when it’s not. Pretend you believe when you don’t; hide your imperfections; maintain the image of a perfect marriage with healthy, well-adjusted children, when your family is like any other normal, dysfunctional family. And whatever you do, don’t admit that you sin.
In the spiritual classic, The Normal Christian Life, Chinese Christian Watchman Nee related an experience that taught him how God needs for us to recognize our spiritual need. Nee told how, as a young man in Communist China, he stood on the bank of a river watching a friend in the water with a leg cramp beginning to drown. Not knowing how to swim Nee looked to another who was a good swimmer to do something. But the good swimmer just stood there. Nee writes that it was only “when the man was actually sinking, with a few swift strokes the swimmer was at his side, and both were safely ashore.”
After the drowning man was revived, Nee complained to the good swimmer for not having acted sooner. Nee continues:
But the swimmer knew his business better than I did. ‘Had I gone earlier,’ he said, ‘he would have clutched me so fast that both of us would have gone under. A drowning man cannot be saved until he is utterly exhausted, and ceases to make the slightest effort to save himself”. (emphasis added)
We must stop trying to save ourselves, because we can only be saved by the Savior. We must become poor in spirit before we can know the blessedness of God’s kingdom.
PONDER AND PRAY
“When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them.”—Isaiah 41:17
- Do you think that you sometimes try to “save” yourself by your spiritual accomplishments? If so, how?
- Is the Christian life sometimes a struggle to justify yourself and your existence before God? Before others?
- Do you ever feel that you are drowning spiritually? Can you be honest with God and others about this?
- Is it okay for you to come to the end of yourself and rely only on God?
- What do you want To Say To God?