Poor in Spirit

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
Theirs is the kingdom of Heaven
Matthew 5:3

This is the first of the beatitudes. And rightly so. It sets the tone for the other beatitudes.

What does it mean to be poor in spirit. If we look at the definition of the word poor, we see that it means a condition where there is a lack in possession. The word spirit is defined in scripture as that which is the deepest part of a person. So to be poor in spirit is to have no possession in the deepest part of our person. What does this mean then. If being poor materially means that there is an absence of material things, then being poor in the spirit means an absence of things in our deepest person.

This is only possible if we detach ourselves from anything that is not God - even our desire to know him! We empty ourselves of everything so that we can be nothing. And when this is done, God fills us with himself.

This process of emptying ourselves is a grace from God. We cannot achieve this on our own. Instead, it is the work of God, it is his grace that moves us to desire to empty ourselves. It is his grace that moves us to empty ourselves and it is also his grace that comes and fills our hearts with him.

One of the dangers of the Charismatic Renewal is that because the Spirit moves mightily in these prayer meetings, people become content with the emotional highs and physical manifestations they experience in these meetings. There is a danger of forgetting about true worship of the Lord - in Spirit and Truth. Spiritual worship goes deeper than just praising the Lord. If we look at Scripture we see Jesus going to lonely places to pray. This gives us an idea of what true prayer is. It is not only praising. It is not only the actions we do during worship (dancing, singing, prophesying, etc.). Prayer is communion with God. It is being silent before the Lord - waiting for him, responding to him in love - uniting with him in Spirit and truth.

It is quite sad that some people have the idea that once they have repented and resolved to follow Jesus, everything will be just fine. But on the contrary, when we accept Jesus as Lord, things change in our lives. He begins to work in us, taking away things that hinder us from knowing him. This is often a very painful experience to us but if we hold still and continue to be silent before the Lord, we will eventually see God's purpose for us.

I am the vine and my Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more.

John 15:1-2

The more we follow Jesus, the more we will be pruned - not as a test to see how strong our faith is - but as a test (purification) so that we will be stronger. In the words of the Lord, so that we will bear more fruit. This process of pruning leads us to empty ourselves of all that is not God. And once we have emptied ourselves, the Lord himself will fill the empty space so that we can continue to grow in him.

This is a constant process. No one can say that he has achieved this already because we will always have some attachments in us. And the pruning process continues until we fulfill what Jesus said,

Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:48

When we grow in faith, we can then say that God reigns over us. When he reigns over us, he is the one who now controls everything we are and have. We submit to God all our desires, dreams, ambitions and will - so that in the end, our will is joined with God's. His desires become our desires, his dreams become our dreams. When this happens, God reigns over us and we get a foretaste of his kingdom. When we enter the kingdom of God, we are one in Christ - and his words remain in us. This is the requirement to God giving what we ask for - his words should remain in us.

Another mistake that we often hear is that if we ask the Lord, he will give it to us. This is a misinterpretation of what the Lord really meant. Just think, if we ask the Lord to kill someone, will he do it? Of course not! But Jesus said that, "Ask and you shall receive" so is he lying here or is he contradicting himself? The key to this question is that there is always a pre-condition to the Lord's promise. In the case of our petition, the precondition is that our prayers should be united with his will. Why is it that the Lord does not heal some people from their sickness? This is because the Lord has other plans for those he does not heal physically.

True, praying for someone's healing is good - but will it be the best for the other person? Do we really know what is best for the other person? Who would know what is best for someone? God of course! If we persist in believing and 'claiming' that something will happen because the Lord said so, or because we persist in our prayers, then there is something wrong with our belief in God. Does God have to do something just because we say so? Does God have to do something just because you hold his word to his face? God is supreme and he does whatever he wants.

Being poor in the spirit is emptying our entire selves from everything. This includes most importantly, our idea of who God is. In the Book of Judges, we read that Gideon asked the angel for his name, the angel said, "Why do you ask my name, it is a mystery." This can be paraphrased as, "Don't think that you can know me completely, You cannot fully know me." Indeed, God never changes but we do. The way we see God years ago is different from how we see him now (If it is the same, then we have to worry about our spiritual growth). This is because God continually reveals himself to us. And this revelation takes more than a life time - it takes an eternity. And if we empty ourselves of everything while we are alive, then we shall have the whole of eternity to know God and see him face to face.

Blessed are those who empty themselves of everything that is not God - because they will be filled with God.