All American Speedway
October 12, 2013
“Lucky are the Unlucky!”
We have now taken 6 races to look into “The Why” of things happening to us in life. We talked at the Driver & Crew Chief Meeting last time about Responding instead of Reacting to things when they go far differently than we expect or plan. Hopefully, by now all of us realize that it probably is not always a matter of sin in our lives; but that stuff happens to everyone. Today, I want to look at a very famous teaching Jesus gave us. Most call it “The Beatitudes” from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount where Jesus certainly gave us such provoking thoughts on life that many left Him.
Let’s look at Matthew 5:3-12 in the New King James Version and compare it against the New Living Translation side by side:
The term beatitude comes from the Latin adjective beātitūdō which means “happy”, “fortunate”, or “blissful”, or may I just say …LUCKY! The Beatitudes describe eight blessings in the Sermon on the Mount. Each is a proverb-like proclamation, without narrative, they are cryptic, yet precise, and full of meaning. Each one includes a topic that forms a major biblical theme. Each Beatitude consists of two phrases: the condition and the result. In almost every case the condition is from familiar Old Testament context, but Jesus teaches a new interpretation.
As you compare the two translations, do you get what Jesus was saying better in either one? Then as you pause and chew on this awhile, let me remind you that there were many who left Jesus after this because it was tough to swallow, as they say. You see, Jesus did not stop at this point. He followed this with the hard lessons about who His followers were to be like: …Himself.
From here He taught the rest of Matthew, chapters 5 – 7. Once you read all of this Sermon on the Mount will you throw your hands in the air and say “what’s the use? I can never live up to this. It’s hopeless.” But we are only dealing with the Beatitudes here, verses 3-12… and that’s enough right now!
The more I study Jesus, the more I realize these statements lie at the very heart of His message. If I fail to understand His message in these, then I fail to understand Him. It was here that Jesus skipped the parables and gave His audience a full-blown philosophy of life, both barrels blazing… especially in what He says after these eight sayings.
What meaning can the Beatitudes have for a society & world that honors the self-assertive, confident, and rich? Many regard the Beatitudes as a morsel of hope to the unfortunates: “well, since you aren’t rich, you health is failing, and your face wet with tears, I’ll toss out a few nice phrases of hope to make you feel better.” However, we forget that Jesus had actually “lived on the other side” and came down from heaven to establish God’s kingdom here on earth and could make such promises with authority.
One can simply read Hebrews 11 and today look at the many missionaries who prepare for a life of poverty and hardship trusting that after enduring those hardships God would make it worth their while – if not here, then in eternity. I know that this has always been in Kathy’s & my mind as we chose this life in ministry, 27 years ago. Then note that Hebrews ends with saying: 39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 for God had something better in mind for us, a better resurrection, that they should not be made perfect apart from us who believe today.
To believe in future rewards is to believe that the long arm of the Lord bends toward justice, At the same time however, don’t get the idea that it cancels out the need to fight for justice now, in this life …
Various scenes in the Gospels give a picture of the kind of people that impressed Jesus: a widow who placed her last two coins in the offering, a dishonest tax collectors so riddled with anxiety that he climbed a tree to see Jesus, a nameless child, a woman with 5 unhappy marriages, a blind beggar, an adulteress, a man with leprosy. Yet today we think that strength, good looks, connections, and competitive instinct brings success in society. But those very qualities may block entrance to the kingdom of heaven. Dependence, sorrow, repentance, a longing to change are the gates to God’s kingdom.
***Now, just before you think I am saying that the wealthy, or even all of us Americans who have so much compared to the rest of the world, (especially all of us involved in this sport called NASCAR, which takes so much wealth today); have no chance to be favored by God and enter heaven …hang in there a moment. That idea is absolutely not true. There are many extremely wealthy people that do so much for the Kingdom of God, right here on the earth today, and right here in NASCAR; that absolutely have the heart of God. My goodness, what about King David, who God Himself said was the apple of His eye, …and so many kings in the days of the great Israeli empire? David and Solomon’s wealth was beyond belief even compared to today. The simple deal is having your heart focused upon Jesus and following Him instead of the cares of the world. Eternal life in heaven is about as simple as it gets:
Acts 16:30-32 New King James Version (NKJV) (along with many more scriptures)
30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.
Let me say that “Lucky are the desperate,” with nowhere else to turn, the desperate may just turn to Jesus… the only one who can offer the deliverance they long for. Jesus believed that a person that is poor in spirit, or mourning, or persecuted, or hungry and thirsty for righteousness has a strange advantage over the rest of us because just maybe that desperate person will cry out to God for help. If so that person is truly blessed.
Monika Hellwig (1929-2005) wrote and lists the following advantages to being poor:
*The poor know they are in urgent need of redemption.
*The poor know not only their dependence on God and powerful people, but also on their interdependence with one another.
*The poor rest their security not on things but people.
*The poor have no exaggerated sense of their own importance, and no exaggerated need of privacy.
*The poor expect little from competition and much from cooperation.
*The poor can distinguish between necessities and luxuries.
*The poor can wait, because they have acquired a kind of dogged patience born of acknowledged dependence.
*The fears of the poor are realistic and less exaggerated, because they already know that one can survive great suffering and want.
*When the poor have the Gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not like a threat or scolding.
*The poor can respond to the call of the Gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.
When all is said and done …maybe we are LUCKY to be UNLUCKY!
New King James Version (NKJV) – 1975 -Thomas Nelson, Publishing Inc.
New Living Translation (NLT) – 2007 – Tyndale House Publishers Inc.
The Jesus I Never Knew – 1995 – by Phillip Yancey – Zondervan ePub Format
- Part Two, Why He Came
- Chapter 6, Beatitudes: Lucky are the Unlucky