By Russ Ramsey
Christ-followers live with our feet in two worlds: this present world that we taste, see, and touch, and the world to come—the new heavens and the new earth, the eternal Kingdom of God. That second world is the one where our true citizenship lies. But that first world, this world, is the one where we are currently living out our days.
In this world, Jesus said, we will have trouble. But then He told us to take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). We live in tension here, don’t we? We hold on to the hope of, as Tolkien put it, every sad thing coming untrue. But we still daily brush up against things like conflict, inadequacy, grief, poverty, lustful appetites, and (for some, anyway) persecution. One day, all of our struggles will become distant memories, if any memory of them is permitted to remain. But for now, we live in the tension.
How do we respond to this tension? How do we not cave in to the sorrows, conflicts, and stresses that so often seem to want a piece of us? One exercise we can always turn to for help is the prayerful practice of gratitude. When we take time to reflect upon and give thanks to God for the work of Christ, we set our minds on truths larger than the circumstances right in front of us. We ascribe the seat of power to its rightful King. We remember that the darkness can’t have us (Psalm 23).
Meditating on gratitude is more than an exercise we can use to combat stress. It is a way to deliberately set our minds and hearts on what is true. The empty tomb proves that Jesus has, in fact, overcome the world. Because of this, we can confidently live with our hearts and minds trained on the world to come. Jesus wants this for His people. We need look no further than the Beatitudes to see that this is true.
Early in his Gospel, Matthew gives us the Sermon on the Mount—the single largest collection of Jesus’ teaching on how to live in this world in light of the life to come. The Beatitudes, which open that sermon, frame some of our deepest present struggles against the solution that will be ours in the coming Kingdom. The first four beatitudes focus on our relationship with God, and the last four deal with how we relate to one another.
The Beatitudes don’t simply describe our future hope. They define what Christ Himself embodied during His earthly ministry. Each beatitude makes a promise about the coming and certain peace and healing that belong to all who follow Christ. And every promise they contain is backed by the fact that Jesus perfectly embodied them. He was the meek One who inherited the earth, the One who hungered and thirsted for our righteousness and, by His resurrection, was satisfied. He was the Peacemaker we know as the Son of God. And when our faith is in Him, we are fellow heirs to His kingdom.
The promises of God are anchored in the finished work of Christ. All of them are. Rest in that. Give thanks for that. And may your time in this study be marked by a gratitude-saturated worship of Jesus, Who has overcome the world.
Written By Russ Ramsey