“But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him, it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him, the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:18-22)
Throughout the Scriptures, God makes some pretty hefty promises to all who hear his Word. He promised Abraham that through his barren wife, Sarah, a nation would rise and be holy to the Lord. He promised Noah that he and his family would be saved despite the world being drowned. Jesus called Paul to a saved life of service and then promised him suffering. We may not always like God’s promises for us, or even believe in them, but they always come true. Always and in due time.
Abraham had to wait 25 years for God’s promises to come to fruition. Noah had to actually go through the storm. Paul could not have salvation without the suffering. Sometimes we need to wait patiently, weather the storm, or take the suffering with the salvation. However, we must never doubt the promises of God. Ever. They will come true.
How many promises are in the Bible? That question is debatable. We could be conservative and count 3,000. A well-known author lists 8,000 in his book. You could study out a promise from the Bible once a day for the rest of your life. If you had a complete understanding of all the promises you would be overwhelmed by both grief and grace. Not all of God’s promises are meant to give you hope. But all are certainly true.
One of Jesus’ first sermons before a multitude, commonly called the “Sermon on the Mount”, began with eight heart-warming promises from God. In breaking down the beatitudes, or blessings, we understand these very special promises and gain God’s perspective on the ideal disciple. Let us take on these characteristics!
1.“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
I think it goes without question that most people want to go to heaven. Right here Jesus calls his disciples to be “poor in spirit.” This would contrast the pridefully self-sufficient disciples (like those found in Revelation 3:17). Someone poor in spirit is literally poor spiritually. They see their need for God and His Word. They realize they have nothing without God. Unlike the rich person who doesn’t need a thing, they humbly accept anything. The ideal disciple is always following and always learning. They never “arrive” spiritually and so they constantly strive to gain wisdom, knowledge, experience, and opportunity from God. When following Jesus we can confidently be poor in spirit knowing we will be rich in heaven.
2.“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
Jesus is challenging the Jewish multitude to mourn over the spiritual state of God’s people. Equally, we need to mourn over the lostness of our world. Mourn, not from your pain, but in view of the pain that surrounds you. Likewise, Jesus wept over Jerusalem because, though it was populous, it was empty without God (Luke 19:41). The mourners will be comforted some day when tears serve no purpose and our eternity with God begins in heaven.
3.“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
Gentleness is meekness and meekness is not weakness. To be meek is to have strength under control. For centuries men have tried to gain fame and power in the world by their own strength. Our faithful ancestors have awaited the day when the whole world would be inherited by God’s people. To evangelize the world we must be meek. We must control the strength given to us by God. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) Jesus had the power to do as he pleased, and yet he kept it under control. He could have called twelve legions of angels before hanging on the cross, but he didn’t. We must learn strength in meekness.
4.“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)
Righteousness is upholding God’s Law. A mere desire for righteousness is not good enough. God expects us to crave righteousness! Jesus says, “Seek first his kingdom and righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) Doing right by God must be a top priority for true Christians. This may come at a cost. Righteousness is expensive. Consider the times in the Old Testament when valuables were destroyed because they were obtained by unrighteous means. Jesus commanded the rich man to sell everything he had and give to the poor (Luke 18:22). Many converts in Ephesus burned very valuable scrolls because they were unrighteous (Acts 19:19). Is there anything you are unwilling to give up for your righteousness? Empty yourself for the sake of righteousness and God will fill you back up.
5.“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
When Jesus saw the crowds he had compassion on them (Matthew 9:36, 14:14, 15:32, 20:34) because he was so merciful. Some scholars describe showing mercy as “active compassion.” We all deeply desire mercy, but it starts by being merciful. Ask yourself these questions: Do you overlook offenses (Proverbs 19:11)? Are you annoyed quickly (Proverbs 12:16)? Do you bear with people’s failings (Romans 15:1)? These are all good tests to see how merciful we are.
6.“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
Purity is one of the key distinguishing marks of a Christian. No other religion focuses on purity the way a Christian does. No philosopher focuses on purity this way. Socrates and Aristotle didn’t teach about maintaining purity like Jesus did. Our Lord Jesus Christ expects absolute purity. Purity is a salvation issue spoken about in so many passages. Paul warns the church in multiple places about the dangers of impurity (Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13) and the spiritual ramifications. Every Christian must have a conviction about absolute purity that is deeply embedded in their heart. This is something a disciple must never compromise.
7.“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
Our world needs peacemakers. In the past week, we have seen: severe fires throughout the western United States, an 8.1 magnitude earthquakes in Mexico, and the largest hurricane ever recorded on the planet in the Southeastern United States. Do you think God is trying to get the attention of North America? We need peace. God created us to be at peace. When we were called to be disciples he called us back to peace (Colossians 3:15; Philippians 4:7). God is not biting his nails nervously wondering what may happen next. God is at peace. To make peace we must first be at peace. So focus on the latter. Then you’ll make peace.
8.“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)
The key word in this passage is “because.” At this time there were many Galilean zealots rising up against Herod and receiving persecution. The persecution a disciple receives will be for prioritizing their craving for righteousness. The brother who is persecuted and poor in spirit will receive the same promise from God: the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is saying that if you empty yourself of pride and lose your social status then you will receive the kingdom of heaven. In God’s Kingdom, you will have all the riches and friends you could ever ask for. Consider Jesus’ promise found in Mark 10:29-30: “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.” A disciple of Jesus may face many hardships, including persecution, but the promises of God always far exceed the challenges. Consider the following passages and be further encouraged:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
My gentle admonition to you is to find several promises of God that are special to you and memorize them. The ancients were motivated by the promises God made to their ancestors. Let us remember the end goal of heaven and never give up. You are special to God. His promises are for you. Make them your own and hold them near to your heart.
We are family… to do the impossible,
Joel R. Parlour