As [Jesus] was saying these things, a woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “The womb that bore you and the one who nursed you are blessed!” He said, “Even more, those who hear the word of God and keep it are blessed.” (Luke 11:27-28)
Some traditions venerate Mary, the mother of Jesus. They speak of the favor she had with God, the righteousness she had before God, and the blessing she received from God.
Yet, Jesus says that if you follow Him faithfully, hearing His words and obeying His commands, something incredible can be said of you.
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled… (1 Peter 3:14)
The reality of suffering is one that many people don’t like to deal with. Even many Christians, uncomfortable trying to reconcile God’s love with His allowance of pain, gloss over the harsh truth that pain comes to all people, in all places, no matter what kind of relationship they have with God.
Think about it…
Jesus was crucified. The Apostle Peter was crucified upside-down. The Apostle Paul was beheaded, and the Apostle John boiled alive in oil and then exiled when he didn’t die.
Throughout history and even to this day in countries across the world, countless millions have been and still are persecuted for their faith in Jesus, yet they continue to trust and praise Him through it all. Why?
Because Jesus Himself is the greatest blessing of all.
The mighty presence of the risen Savior is a far greater gift than any change in circumstances could ever be. The lavish hope of glory awaiting believers is a far greater pleasure than any removal of pain. This is why generations of Christians have endured pain and suffering with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts and praise on their lips.
Will you be one of them?
In the midst of whatever trial you’re facing, let the presence of Jesus bring you hope as you remember this powerful truth.
As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:10-11)
In the midst of Job’s suffering, it’s doubtful he felt like a recipient of mercy and compassion. Yet, how many countless millions or more have been strengthened and encouraged by the example of his life?
How compassionate and merciful is God, then, that He would allow one man the opportunity to impact lives for thousands of years after his death! What an incredible gift!
Never forget that the impact of your life can be far bigger than your lifetime. Remember that the purpose of your existence is far greater than your experience.
If you’re willing to embrace a big picture perspective, you’ll discover a strength and resolve like you’ve never known. So, take your eyes off your immediate circumstances today and let God bring you joy through this truth.
When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15)
God gave a word of hope to these outcasts, these unwanted, low-society shepherds. He gave them an announcement of better things, of blessing, of new possibility. Notice, now, what the shepherds did NOT do…
They didn’t play the victim and say it was about time something good happened to them.
They didn’t show themselves to be lazy and dependent and ask someone else to bring the Messiah to them.
They didn’t make excuses or give reasons why they couldn’t get up and take hold of the promise.
An angel of the Lord appeared to [Zechariah], standing to the right of the altar of incense. (Luke 1:11)
Every detail matters in Scripture. Here, the angel stands to the RIGHT of the altar of incense. Why?
In this culture and many others, the right side was and is the side of favor and blessing. For example…
In Acts 7:55, Stephen the martyr sees a vision of Jesus at the right hand of the Father. In Genesis 48, Jacob the patriarch intentionally crosses his hands when blessing the two children of Joseph, his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh, so that he places the right hand of blessing on the younger one.
The angel appeared on the right side of the alter. This was a sign of favor to Zechariah.
In Hebrews we see that Jesus “holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore, He is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them…” (7:24b-25) and that He “sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (8:1b).
There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god. I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. (Psalm 81:9-10)
Do you ever see God prohibiting things and feel like He’s holding you back or holding out on you? Here’s good news. Nothing could be further from the truth!
God’s prohibitions are for your protection, and He knows what will truly satisfy you and what will leave you dry. He longs for you to turn your eyes from counterfeit Christs that can never save, and open yourself up to the fullness of His grace.
Even today, He’s calling to you, “Let go of your fear and foolishness and let Me be the only source to which you look for help.” Listen to Him!
Blessed is the one You choose and bring near, to dwell in Your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, the holiness of Your temple! (Psalm 65:4)
Distance is a disheartening thing. In any relationship, the farther away from each other you are, whether physically or emotionally, the harder it is to maintain closeness and intimacy.
The same is true with God. Those who are far from Him have little if any relationship with Him, and that is a frightening thing.
Yet, God was not willing that we should remain distant and cut off. In His great love, He made a way, so that “now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13)
That means if you are in Christ, you don’t have to be distant from God anymore! If you feel far from Him, you were the one who moved, not Him, and He is right there waiting and hoping for you to come back where you belong.
If you’re in Christ, may this promise draw you close to your Heavenly Father, and may you find hope and courage in this truth: God has blessed you by bringing you near.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
Jesus was not rich in silver or gold, but in power, in glory, and in love.
He was infinitely adored in heaven, yet came to earth to be despised and rejected by men. He was infinitely glorious in heaven, yet came down to be born out of wedlock, a poor peasant from a backwater town. He was infinitely powerful in heaven, yet came here to have His rights stripped away and let Himself be mocked, beaten and killed. All these riches and more, Jesus chose to give up. Why?
So that you could receive them by grace through faith in Him.
You were created for the purpose of displaying the glory of God. Yet, sin stepped in and hijacked your life, turning it in on itself instead of up to God where it belongs.
So, glory you received was focused on you. Power you attained was wielded for you. Love you gained was hoarded by you. Even good deeds you did were ultimately about you, and a self-focused life is a poor one, indeed.
But Jesus wants something better for you!
Jesus let Himself be unloved by men so you could receive the love of the Father.
Jesus gave up full use of His power so you could be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus gave up His heavenly glory—for a time—so that you could become glorious in Him and thus bring great glory to God.
Through power and provision, glory and good deeds, Jesus wants to do great things in and through your life. That’s why you can have hope in this incredible truth: Jesus wants you to be rich in Him.