Blessings and Sorrows

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18 • Psalm 149 • Ephesians 1:11-23 • Luke 6:20-31

20 Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said,

“God blesses you who are poor,
    for the Kingdom of God is yours.
21 God blesses you who are hungry now,
    for you will be satisfied.
God blesses you who weep now,
    for in due time you will laugh.

22 What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. 23 When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.

24 “What sorrow awaits you who are rich,
    for you have your only happiness now.
25 What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now,
    for a time of awful hunger awaits you.
What sorrow awaits you who laugh now,
    for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow.
26 What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds,
    for their ancestors also praised false prophets.

27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

Luke 6:20-31 New Living Translation (NLT)

Today is All Saint’s Day. It is the day that we remember those who have served Christ and are no longer with us. They have reached their eternal reward. I love this old quote from my friend Mark Wilson who talks about the definition of a saint:

A saint is someone whose life makes it easier for others to believe in Jesus.

Mark Wilson

In many ways, saints are nothing special. Most saints are Christ-followers who humbly go about serving Jesus – not bringing attention to themselves. Sometimes in that process – by serving Jesus and doing it humbly – they bring attention to themselves. We often think of saints as older people, but when you look at the scriptures and see how the Apostle Paul addresses the saints, they are believers – through and through. The saints are the church on the earth today.

In today’s scripture, Jesus gives us blessings. Luke records the words that are echoed in Matthew’s gospel, but then Jesus goes on to give the woes. We love to talk about the blessings of the saints, but we rarely talk about the dangers to the saint.

Jesus reminds us that if we follow Him, there will be people who don’t understand…they will mock us…they will persecute us…they will exclude us. I’ve experienced some of that over the course of my life. We are reminded that when that happens, we should consider it joy (as the Apostle James says (James 1:2) Our reward is not this earth. There are too many “Christ-followers” who forget that our reward is in heaven. Anything that we get here is a bonus. A saint shouldn’t go around acting sour, but should spread the light of Christ where ever they go.

If we are faithful followers of Christ, we will join that great cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

Hebrews 12:1-4

This is what it means to be a saint.

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