“Beatitudes series: hungry and thirsty”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 112

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6 NIV11)

What does it mean that hungry people will be filled? And how is this connected to the kingdom of heaven?

In this series we are immersing ourselves in the beatitudes – Matthew 5:3-12.  We’re trying to figure out what each beatitude means for us practically and how that affects our relationship with God, and in particular, our times of quiet with God.

The reason this is on my mind is because I am preparing a teaching and preaching series for the Thames Valley churches of Christ, and a teaching day for the Watford Church of Christ based on the sermon on the mount.
Join me today as I examine what it means to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness.

This beatitude aims at the heart of the Sermon on the Mount. Righteousness (and the kingdom, which is what the SOM is about) is the priority:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33 NIV11)

We’re on to something big here. Let’s dive in deeper.

  1. Hungry and thirsty

What does it mean to hunger and thirst, biblically?

Do we seek experience and personal fulfilment or righteousness?  The former are not wrong, but righteousness is more fundamental and foundational.  If we do not desire this more than anything then pursuing the former will lead to shallowness and an addiction to ever-increasing emotional highs.  We will not achieve happiness by pursuing it.

If we are in pain we want to relieve it – fine.  But a doctor will have a deeper duty to discover the cause of the pain.  If he only treats the pain he may miss something far more important and deadly.  Similarly we have a hunger and thirst provided by God – if we meet that hunger in the wrong way we run the risk of spiritual death.

“According to the Scriptures happiness is never something that should be sought directly; it is always something that results from seeking something else.”

Food and drink are essential to life – so is righteousness for a Christian.  There is a painful hunger that only righteousness can satisfy.  It should be consistent.  Psalm 42 sums this up. 

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1–2 NIV11)

  1. Righteousness

If more and more people pursued righteousness the world would be a much better place. Why? Because a community expressing a pattern of life lived in conformity to God’s will cannot help but influence this world for the better.  Let’s have a deeper look at the issue of righteousness.

Three aspects to ‘righteousness’ dominate the Bible:

i) Legal – i.e. right relationship with God – not the point here since Jesus is addressing people who are already in a right relationship with him.  Remember, he is talking about the characteristics of his Kingdom people – not those who want to know how to enter the Kingdom.  He talks about that elsewhere (see the parables in Matthew 13).  In many Old Testament passages ‘righteousness’ is synonymous with ‘salvation’ …”  – Is 45:8, 46:12-13, 51:5, 56:1, 61:10.  However, it should also be noted that the concept of ‘salvation’ in the Old Testament included more than simply being in a right relationship with God.

ii) Moral – i.e. right character and conduct that pleases God – contained in this verse and subsequent parts of the SOM (v20).  It contains the idea of sanctification.  A desire to be free from sin’s power and right with God in ongoing relationship.  A desire to be free from the desire of sin. A desire to walk with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the light of fellowship (1 John 1:5).  A desire for holiness – effectively, Christlikeness. Growing in the fruit of the Spirit is a sign of being filled, which in turn is a sign of hungering and thirsting after righteousness.  It’s a comfort that Jesus indicates that the ‘blessed’ are not those full of righteousness, but those who ‘hunger and thirst’ after it.

iii) Social – i.e. a concern with seeking to liberate the oppressed, promote civil rights, justice, integrity in business and honour in the family.  Luther said that we need a, “hunger and thirst for righteousness that can never be stopped or sated, one that looks for nothing and cares for nothing except the accomplishment and maintenance of the right, despising everything that hinders this end.  If you cannot make the world completely pious, then do what you can.” We know when we’ve grasped this when we have no smug sense of self-satisfaction about our own ‘righteousness’.  We need the attitude of Paul (Phil 3:7-11, Rom 7:18).

The call to righteousness is not passive.  Although we can do nothing to ‘increase’ our own righteousness in God’s eyes, we are still responsible for hungering and thirsting after the right things.  We are capable of being proactive in seeking righteousness.  But it takes concentration and effort – it is not automatic or a default setting we don’t need to maintain.

Some things that encourage the right appetite:

  • The company of godly men and women
  • Time in the Bible
  • Time in Prayer
  • Reading godly books

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied, but in an on-going fashion. It’s good to stay hungry and thirsty and keep finding food and drink by going to the same place – our God.  A Christian does not need to be hungry for salvation, but he or she should be hungry for growth, for sanctification, for the work of the Spirit in our lives.  We desire ‘perfection’ and must press on. 

Not until the next life will we know no hunger or thirst – Rev 7.16-17.

“Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”” (Revelation 7:16–17 NIV11)

These first four beatitudes have a logical progression and are primarily about our attitude towards God and his priorities.  The next four beatitudes are more about our attitude towards our fellow human beings. We’ll move on to the next beatitude in the following podcast.


RETREAT UPDATE

I’m delighted with the take-up for the “Wait for the LORD” retreat so far. There are a few places left. Email me if you would like to attend – malcolmcox@malcolmcox.org. All the details can be found on the dedicated page of my website.


Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community. 

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

Malcolm’s Magic Moments, 26 October 2019

Episode 17: Podcast Version of the Newsletter

Salt and light

The more I study the Sermon on the Mount, and especially the Beatitudes, the more it’s changing the way I view my responsibilities as a Christ-follower. The quote above from the book “Fearfully and Wonderfully” by Philip Yancey and Dr Paul Brand, reminds me of the way God works.

He does not come to us in a way which compromises choice. He speaks through people more than he speaks directly to humankind. He sends us evidence of his love (in Jesus) rather than simply telling us of his love. And then he sends us, disciples of his son, to make the invisible visible. In what way can we make the invisible visible? By being salt and light.

We are called to be salt and light.  I must confess that I don’t always feel my life is very ‘salty’, or bright.  Yet, if we realise we are the light and salt of the world then we know we are powerful – if not by the methods of the world, yet more powerful than any force in the world.

I offer my recordings this week in the hope that they will help you to be as bright and tasty as possible.

The podcast summary contains a reminder of what’s been posted on my site this week. I.e. the usual TTT, SS & QTC. To watch/listen to any posts, just head over the the website.


Prayer request

Please keep me in your prayers as I continue to prepare the teaching series for January and February as well as the teaching day on the Sermon on the Mount.


Thank you for reading this far, and encouraging me in my endeavours to support our times of quiet with God, our corporate worship experiences, and the effectiveness of our preaching and teaching.

If you know anyone who might enjoy these materials, please send them a link to my website and encourage them to sign up for this newsletter.

God bless, Malcolm

“How did the congregation sing?”

The Sunday Sample, Episode 106

What’s one of the tell-tale signs a worship leader has understood their role?

It’s revealed by which of these two questions they ask themselves at the end of church service:

Question one: “How did I sing today?”

Question two: “How did the congregation sing today?”

While the first question has its place (especially if you saw people wincing!), the second question is more relevant and, in fact, more scripturally informed.  Consider what Paul tells the Ephesians:

“…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(Ephesians 5:18–20 NIV11)

His instruction is not to worship leaders. His instruction is to the congregation. We don’t know exactly how they organised their singing and whether they had what we would recognise as a leader of worship.

However, whatever their methods, the priority was the spirituality of their congregational singing.

I’m reading the book “Sing!” By Keith Getty at the moment. Here’s what he has to say about this question at location 250 of the Kindle edition:

“How did the congregation sing? Each of us is part of the answer to that in our own church, whether we are on stage or standing by our seat on the main floor. It’s a harder and in some ways less comfortable question than all the other ones people tend to ask about the music in church. Yet Paul does not tell us to perform for one another, but to sing to one another. We need to ask, “How did the congregation sing?”” 

Getty, Keith. Sing! . B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

There are two ways to interpret the answer to the question, “How did the congregation sing?”.

The first is to pass judgement on the congregation. The second is to pass judgement on our effectiveness as worship leaders. 

I suggest that when the congregation is not singing wholeheartedly we consider carefully our response.

Before we express our frustration (“How can they be like that after all the work I put in preparing this worship service?”), we would do better to reflect on our personal ‘performance’.

What is it about the way I led the worship today, and what is it about my Spirit, or the methods we used that could have been healthier? In what way could I have helped the congregation to sing in a way more like that envisaged by Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians?

Here’s an idea for you. The next time you finish a gathering which includes worship, before you do anything else, before you’ fellowship’, pack away the equipment or jump in your car to go home, read Ephesians 5:18-20, and then ask these two questions:

  1. Did the congregation, generally speaking, make music from their hearts to the Lord today?
  2. What could I do next time to help deepen the congregation’s devotion to expressing thanks to God through song?

What do you think about this perspective? How do you evaluate your congregation’s singing? How do you avoid being negatively judgmental, whilst retaining objectivity?

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community. 

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“Beatitudes series: Blessed are the meek”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 111

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5 NIV11)

What does it mean that meek people will inherit the earth? And how is this connected to the kingdom of heaven? The blessing is paradoxical.  The proud, boastful and pushy seem to inherit the earth in our experience.

In this series we are immersing ourselves in the beatitudes – Matthew 5:3-12.  We’re trying to figure out what each beatitude means for us practically and how that affects our relationship with God, and in particular, our times of quiet with God.

The reason this is on my mind is because I am preparing a teaching and preaching series for the Thames Valley churches of Christ, and a teaching day for the Watford Church of Christ based on the sermon on the mount.

Join me today as I examine what it means to be meek.

Overview

Jesus seems to be quoting Psalm 37:11, or at least have it in the back of his mind. You might want to read the rest of the Psalm as background to the thinking of Jesus.

Is the position of this beatitude between those who mourn and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness significant?  Meekness is required if, having acknowledged my sinfulness, I am going to be humble enough to really hunger after righteousness. 

Now let’s look at the specifics.

Meek

What does the word “meek” actually mean? The Greek word is: ‘praus’, meaning, ‘gentle, humble, considerate, courteous’.  In Is 61.1 the Hebrew word translated in Septuagint as ‘poor’ is the same as that underlying the word ‘meek’ here. Thus there is a strong connection between this beatitude and the first. This being the case, the meek are also those who are humble because oppressed, those in need who have been humbled, yet will soon receive their reward.

What does meekness look like?

  • It looks like Abraham giving in to Lot (Genesis 13).  
  • It looks like Moses (the meekest man) refusing to defend himself and in choosing to reject the comforts of Egypt – a humble self-emptying made at his own choice (Numbers 12). 
  • David’s dealings with Saul show the same meek attitude. 
  • Jeremiah would not give up speaking the message God had given him despite what people were saying about him. 
  • Stephen at his martyrdom is meekness incarnate. 
  • Paul is gracious to people and churches who have hurt him. 
  • Of course it looks like Jesus (Heb 11:24f, Phil 2). He is the ultimate example (same Greek word) – Matt 11:28f. (translated ‘gentle’) & 2 Cor 10:1. Jesus was led as a lamb to the slaughter – not dragged.

How do we look when we are meek?

Someone said that, “Meekness is a controlled desire to see the other’s interests advance ahead of one’s own.” Gal 6:1. Meek people are excellent listeners and learners. They do not seek revenge, but trust God for vindication.  However, this does not mean they are weak or easy-going. Meekness is not niceness, laziness, complacency, compromise, tolerance. Meekness and strength go together. One writer put it this way,

“The meek man is one who may so believe in standing for the truth that he will die for it if necessary.”

Fundamentally it’s a very constructive characteristic. There are many positive scriptures about meekness: 2 Cor 10:1, Gal 5:22, Col 3:12, 1 Peter 3:15f, James 1:19-21. A meek person is at peace, because he or she realises he has all things in Christ anyway (2 Cor 6:10, 1 Cor 3:21-23) and so has no need to fight for things. One person said, “The meek are happy, deeply happy in a way to which the big-headed can never aspire.” 

Inherit the earth

What does it mean to “inherit the earth”? Is the ‘earth’ here a reference to the new heaven and new earth in the age to come, rather than this one (Matt 19:28, 2 Pet 3:13, Rev 21:1)?.  the word biblical commentary makes this point:

“In the present context of messianic fulfillment it connotes the regenerated earth (Matt 19:28; cf Rom 4:13), promised by the eschatological passages in the prophets (eg, Isa 65–66).”

Hagner, Donald A. Matthew 1–13. WBC 33A. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.5. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000.

We know our ultimate inheritance is in the next page and guaranteed by the Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14).  However, there’s no reason to suppose it could not refer to both the here and now and the next age.  So many of the kingdom promises contain an element of the present and the future (the “already, but not yet”).

We inherit this present earth in that a truly meek person is wholly satisfied in the here and now. Already content. Not frustrated waiting for contentment to arrive (2 Cor 6:10, Phil 4:11, 1 Cor 3:21).  

Someone who is at peace with Jesus has the fruit of a content mind and heart.  A meek follower of Jesus is someone who lives amazed and grateful that God thinks of them as well as he does, and treats him far better than they deserve. As a result, they finds great fulfilment in this life and treat others with superlatively gentleness and respect. 

Do you find the prospect of growing in meekness attractive? What intellectual, or emotional barriers interfere with developing more meekness?


RETREAT UPDATE

Details of the “Wait for the LORD” retreat are up on my website, where you will find a new page with all the information you should need. Click here to go to the page.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community. 


Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“They Spoke So Effectively” Acts 14.1, Class 3: “How to speak”

Tuesday Teaching Tips Episode 180

“They Spoke So Effectively”

Acts 14.1

Class 3: “How to speak”

Delivery; dealing with nerves; use of A/V; voice; style

  • QUESTION: “What are the most challenging aspects of presentation?”
  1. Personal
    • Nerves
      • Exodus 4.10-12
      • “I’m e…………” instead of, “I’m frightened”
  1. Practical
  • Voice
  • Notes
  • Impact
  • Personal sharing
  • Audiovisual
  • Titles
  • Practicals
  • God-focus

Conclusion

  • Develop a plan for one personal issue
  • Develop a plan for one practical issue to be improved at the next time you speak
  • Send me questions/suggestions

Resources: Tuesday Teaching Tips

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community. Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org. If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.
“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)
God bless, Malcolm
PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“What to speak about”

Tuesday Teaching Tip Episode 179

“They Spoke So Effectively”, Acts 14.1

Class 2: “What to speak about”

How to pick a passage/topic; text or topic; lesson planning tips.

  • QUESTION: “How do we know what to speak about?” 
  • Intersection of:
    1. C………………
    2. C………………

1. Text

  • Different types:
  1. Word
  2. Verse
  3. Passage
  4. Narrative
  • Exegesis / Eisegesis
    • What …….it mean?
    • What …….it mean? 

2. Topic 

  1. Biographical
  2. Doctrinal

Lesson planning tips

  • Templates
  • Question: “Why is it important to prepare well in advance?”
  • P…… it
  • L…… it

Conclusion

  • Next week: “How to speak” – delivery; dealing with nerves; use of A/V; voice; style.
  • Homework for next time:
    • Use one of the templates or make up your own to prepare a welcome, hope talk, communion or lesson. Bring it next time to share.
    • Send me questions/suggestions (malcolm@malcolmcox.org)

Resources: Tuesday Teaching Tips

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community. 

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“The Excitement of Bewilderment with God”, Acts 16:6-10

Sermon for the Watford church of Christ

“The Excitement of Bewilderment with God”, Acts 16:6-10 

  • How might bewilderment be necessary and helpful?
  • God closes and opens doors

A. Negative information

B. Positive information

Discussion: “Have you ever had a ‘strange’ experience of God opening or closing a door?” 

What did you learn from it?

2. How to respond with faith

“How did Paul and his companions respond to God opening and closing doors?”

A. E………….

PERSONAL QUESTION: “What is God leading you to e………..…..?”

B. P…………..

PERSONAL QUESTION: “Where is God leading you to p…………..?”

C. D………….

PERSONAL QUESTION: “What d………….… is God placing before you?”

  • All three are an expression of faith – trusting God that he has a purpose

Conclusion

SUMMARY THOUGHT: 

“Bewilderment is ………….. and ………… because it makes us ……….. and keeps us ……………”

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community. 

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm
PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

Malcolm’s Magic Moments, 19 October 2019

The podcast version of this week’s newsletter

In celebration of the future

A slightly shorter note this week since I’m in a season of more frequent teaching, preaching and preparation.

The future is unknown. We don’t even know if we will have tomorrow (James 4:14). But that doesn’t mean we can’t look forward to the future with joy. Someone said, and I’m sure I’m paraphrasing with errors here, “We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know who holds the future”.  How are you viewing your future at the moment?

If you’re anything like me there are times when you find life to have lost its sparkle. The projects you are involved in seem to lack lustre. However, right now I have an abundance, perhaps even an over-abundance, of exciting projects.

The, “They spoke so effectively” series for Thames Valley is something I’m finding particularly stimulating. Talking about the basics of why we speak in our church community and how to do so is refreshing my enthusiasm.

I’m also preparing for the “Sermon on the Mount” teaching and preaching series for Thames Valley which will run through January and February 2020. There is so much wonderful material in that sermon it makes me quite ‘heady’.

On top of that, I’m preparing a teaching day for the Watford church on the sermon on the Mount. February 29, 2020 is the date. Mark it in your diary.

And one last thing – the prospect of starting two new Skype mentoring groups for the location leaders and worship leaders of Thames Valley is giving me a palpable sense of anticipatory excitement.

All of these projects give me good cause to pray and ask you, my friends, for any advice which might enable me to carry out these duties faithfully and effectively.

I offer my recordings this week in the hope that they will help you to be as bright and tasty as possible in this dark and dull world.

The podcast summary contains a reminder of what’s been posted on my site this week. I.e. the usual TTT, SS & QTC. To watch/listen to any posts, just head over the the website.


Prayer request

Please keep me in your prayers as I continue to prepare the teaching series for January and February as well as the teaching day on the Sermon on the Mount.


Thank you for reading this far, and encouraging me in my endeavours to support our times of quiet with God, our corporate worship experiences, and the effectiveness of our preaching and teaching.

If you know anyone who might enjoy these materials, please send them a link to my website and encourage them to sign up for this newsletter.

God bless, Malcolm

“The connection between the spoken word and the sung word”

The Sunday Sample, Episode 105

Last week the title of the Sunday Sample was, “The worship leader is pastor and prophet”.  We discussed the way in which we viewed our role. Musician? Worship organiser? Worship leader? How about Pastor (Shepherd)? How about prophet?

I was really pleased to see a comment on this broadcast from my old friend Reeta. Truly this is a global community – she sent me her thoughts from Ghana. Here is her post from Facebook:

“In point no 2 he should specifically contact the preacher for his message for the day and choose songs which will reflect and enhance the word of God for the day to allow for an enhanced understanding.”

This is a great point. It set me to thinking about the connections between the spoken word and the sung word. 

Coordinating songs with the message is easier if you follow, as some denominations do, a lectionary with set texts for each Sunday of the year. Even then, some topics are harder to coordinate with songs and hymns than others. We don’t have so many songs about the Trinity compared to those about the cross, for example.

In my tradition however we don’t follow a lectionary. On occasions we decide preaching and teaching topics for a few weeks or months. For example, at the moment in the Watford church of Christ we are preaching through Acts.  When I remember, I tell Danny or Charl or whoever is picking songs what my text is and what my key emphasis is likely to be. I try and do that a week in advance. And, for the Thames Valley churches of Christ I remind the preacher to let the worship leader know what his text or topic will be.

How significant is this?  What I’ve noticed is that for some speakers this question helps them sharpen their thinking, especially if asked well in advance of the lesson. For others, however, it seems to add pressure to their preparation. I wonder what the right balance is here?

What I’d be interested in is to know what your thoughts are as to the significance of connecting songs with the Bible topic or text to be preached on any particular Sunday. Do you see it as essential, optional, preferable, insignificant or as a bonus?

Here are the key questions for today:

  1. “How important is it to link the songs with the message?”
  2. “Why do you have the conviction you do?”

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community. 

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“Beatitudes series: Blessed are those who mourn”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 110

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

(Matthew 5:4 NIV11)

What does it mean that mourners will be comforted? And how is this connected to the kingdom of heaven?

In this series we are immersing ourselves in the beatitudes – Matthew 5:3-12.  We’re trying to figure out what each beatitude means for us practically and how that affects our relationship with God, and in particular, our times of quiet with God.

The reason this is on my mind is because I am preparing a teaching and preaching series for the Thames Valley churches of Christ, and a teaching day for the Watford Church of Christ based on the sermon on the mount.

Join me today as I examine what it means to mourn and to be comforted.

1. Overview

This second beatitude follows naturally from the previous one. When we recognise our poverty, and the poverty of the world, it will cause us to mourn.  

Is mourning appropriate for a Christian? Shouldn’t we be people characterised by joy? Certainly, we are offered the joy of Jesus (John 15:11).

However, Christians are not called to a kind of perpetual, glib smile. Jesus shed tears, and plenty of experiences in our lives make tears appropriate.

We are promised joy, yes, but a joy (blessedness) that comes from the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). 

Let’s take a deeper look at the issues of mourning and comfort.

2. Mourn

The first question to answer is, “What kind of mourning is envisaged here by Jesus?”  Let’s first consider what it may not be.

a. It’s not about grovelling self-pity. Nothing in the Scriptures indicates that Jesus thought this was a healthy state. What God made is “good”. Damaged, certainly, but not irredeemable. 

b. It’s not about a ‘religiousness’ that moans about the state of the world. In other words, we are not those who point at the world with an attitude of condemnation. For, if we condemn the world, surely we condemn ourselves. We are no less worthy of condemnation than any at whom we might point. 

So, what kind of mourning might Jesus have in mind?

a. On a personal level it’s healthy to mourn our sin – Isaiah 6:5, Rom 7:24, Ezra 10:1, Acts 2:36, 1 Cor 5:2, 2 Cor 7:10, 12:21.  Our sin hurts God, ourselves, and other people. There are times when it is appropriate not only to acknowledge our sin, but to mourn over it and its consequences.  This is the mourning which accompanies repentance.

b. Join Jesus in mourning over the consequences of sin for other people (Luke 19:41). Old Testament people also wept in this way – Ps 119:136, Ezek 9:4, as did Paul – Phil 3:18 & Romans 7

Now, let’s think about what it means to be comforted.

3. Comforted

Only when we truly mourn our sin can we be truly comforted by God’s forgiveness.  Mourning leads to and is a sign of repentance which leads to rejoicing (Acts 3:19). If we understand sin properly and understand grace properly we will mourn deeply and rejoice greatly. One of the Messiah’s jobs was to be ‘the Comforter’ who would ‘bind up the brokenhearted’ – Is 61:1, 40:1.

Some of the promised comfort is now and some comes later. 

a. Now. The shepherds are told by the angel: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” (Luke 2:10 NIV11), and Jesus tells his followers: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32 NIV11) These are words of comfort connected to the promise of the one who would bring what Simeon was waiting for, “the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25 NIV11).

b. Later. There is a gap between a measure of comfort we receive now, and the ultimate fulfilment of comfort which comes in the next life. “For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” (Revelation 7:17 NIV11).  The tension between the two is expressed well by what Paul writes to the Romans: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18 NIV11)

The Word Biblical Commentary sums up Matthew 5:4 well: “Those who mourn do so because of the seeming slowness of God’s justice. But they are now to rejoice, even in their troubled circumstances, because their salvation has found its beginning. The time draws near when they shall be comforted (cf Rev. 7:17; 21:4), but they are already to be happy in the knowledge that the kingdom has arrived. Their salvation is at hand.” Hagner, Donald A. Matthew 1–13. WBC 33A. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.5. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000.

4. Application

How can this beatitude find its appropriate application to our times of quiet with God? Four possible applications occur to me for our times of prayer:

a. Connect with the consequences of sin in your life. Talk to God about any recent sin that’s on your heart and conscience. Not to dwell on it, not to wallow in self-pity, not to enjoy some perverse and inappropriate enduring guilt, but to create soberness, a reminder of the need for God’s grace, resulting in a thankfulness and gratitude for the kindness, patience and mercy of our Abba Father through Jesus his Son, our redeemer-King.

b. Connect with the consequences of sin in this world. Not to condemn the world, but to stimulate urgency in your prayers for God’s intervention. Check the news at least often enough to know what’s going on and what to pray about. Pray for “kings and all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2:2 NIV11) as well as situations in your own town, country or the world where we find significant tension, disharmony or pain.

c. Connect with the promise of comfort provided in the here and now by the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). Rejoice in prayer, thanking God that the Spirit of Jesus is with you today and that you can trust in his comforting promise: ““Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”” (Matthew 11:28–30 NIV11)

d. Connect with the promise of comfort still to come. “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”” (Revelation 21:4 NIV11) Pray with joyful anticipation looking forward to the fulfilment of that promise.

Mourning and comfort go together. There are spiritually compatible and healthy. Do we try to create her own comfort instead of allowing God to be our comforter on the basis of our own commitment to mourning? What difference might it make to your times of quiet with God to incorporate some regular mourning? Perhaps it would bring you a greater, fuller more powerful experience of God’s comfort. 

Let me know what you learn from incorporating some mourning into your devotional times with your heavenly Father.


“Wait for the LORD” retreat update

Registration is open to all for the, “Wait for the LORD” retreat, 27 – 29 March 2020.  You can find details on the dedicated retreat page on my website and in previous podcasts.  Six of the 17 available places have gone. Eleven remain. If you’d like to come, drop me a line via email and I will tell you how you can make payment.  


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Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

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God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John