How have you been surviving this crazy season?
I have a confession to make … Some days my stress levels are going through the roof. So, if you’ve been in that place, you’re not alone!
One of the ways I’ve been working through my stress, that I’ve found particularly helpful, is by going for walks. While walking I’d spend time just talking to God, thanking him for the beautiful day, the gorgeous fall colors, and the soft crisp breeze. It felt like I was going for a walk with a friend and enjoying some quality time together.
Lessons from Flynn
On several occasions I decided to let my standard poodle Flynn join me while walking around our property. Flynn can get quite distracted and my walks were turning into me correcting my dog more than talking to God.
Overall on our first time around Flynn did great and I let him run off leash. Every time I’d call him back, or he’d come back to check on me, I’d give him a treat.
The second time I brought him with me he was way too excited. Nose to the ground and thoroughly enjoying his freedom. That dog could care less what I had to say. While I was going around a bend calling for Flynn he was nowhere in sight. When I had turned the corner he’d dash into the woods and eventually burst back out covered in tiny burs.
I was frustrated but at the same time thankful that this variety of bur could be brushed out pretty easily. We continued our walk, and Flynn stayed somewhat close.
As we looped back toward the house, we were coming up on a small patch of trees in the middle of a field and Flynn bolted. I yelled after him as he climbed in between the trees. He didn’t get too far before apologetically hanging his head and making his way back out.
Completely covered in thick sticky burs…
As we’ve been going through the beatitudes Jesus has been painting us a picture of how we are to live our lives as Christians.
Our foundation being poverty of spirit, realizing our spiritual bankruptcy and need for God in our lives. Out of our poverty we mourn and grieve over our fallen state, a godly sorrow that produces repentance. From there we build to meekness and a hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Each of the steps leading up to mercy are in themselves an act of mercy. We were shown mercy in our state of brokenness and shown the path of deliverance. In return we are asked to extend a hand of mercy. While it sounds like mercy starts with us, it first and foremost must start with God.
When Flynn and I made it back from our walk I locked him back in our fenced backyard and furiously started walking around the property again. This was supposed to be stress-relieving, and now I had a miserable dog and a painful burr picking and brushing experience in front of me.
This is when God opened my eyes. As I walked back toward the place where I first lost Flynn in the woods God showed me how I have done the very same thing.
God walks with us along the path, and we get so excited and distracted with everything around us that we lose touch and our focus on him. Then something grabs us, and we dash off the path and into the woods. When we finally realize what’s happening and hear the Holy Spirit’s voice calling us back, we’re already covered in burs. But God in his mercy forgives us and continues to walk alongside us.
We are doing pretty good but then the next temptation comes up, this time we are more in tune to hearing the Holy Spirit and after barely climbing in we head back to the path. But this time it’s worse, the burs are larger and won’t be coming out that easily.
Sin can quickly entangle itself into our lives and it’s not an easy or fun process working it back out. But God is merciful. When we ask for forgiveness, he welcomes us back and forgives us.
In the dictionary Mercy translates to, “compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence: Have mercy on the poor sinner.” [dictionary.com]
A powerful example of mercy can be found in our Bibles in the book of Matthew when Jesus answers Peter’s question, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Matt. 18:21). In verse 22 Jesus says, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” And he continues by sharing this parable.
Matthew 18:23-35 (NIV)
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
In this story the servant is bankrupt and unable to pay his debts. When faced with the reality of his sentencing he mourns his condition and begs for help. He’s in the same position where we all start, facing the cost of our sin and asking to receive Jesus’ payment on our behalf. Just as the king has mercy on his servant and forgives him completely of his debts.
To Approach with Mercy
Now it’s important to note the difference between mercy and forgiveness. Mercy is found in the approach; forgiveness is present in the response. Once the man asks for help, it’s mercy that opened the king’s heart to pour out forgiveness. This is obviously contrasted in the servant’s response to his fellow servant who owes him money.
By nature, we are selfish people. We are quick to ask for mercy but struggle to give mercy in return. A living contradiction.
We see this while scrolling through social media, especially during a heated and stressful election year. There is a thrill found in firing back the perfect zinger and knocking our commenting opponent to their knees. There is no hesitancy to offend or hurt the perceived “enemy” on the other side of the screen.
To approach with mercy is to see the other person as a human being. You’ve most likely heard the phrase, hurting people hurt people. We are surrounded by people in pain lashing out and causing this hurtful cycle to continue.
This is where our beatitude comes in.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7
We get to participate in a new cycle. Because of the mercy God has shown to us, He asks us to go and do likewise.
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THE BEATITUDES MELODY
Abigail Houston from Melodically Memorizing wrote and recorded this melody to help us write The Beatitudes across our hearts! We LOVE her ministry and passion for God’s Word! We hope this song blesses you as we memorize this passage throughout the “Blessed are…” Blog Series!
Find her on instagram @melodicallymemorizing
MATTHEW 5:3-12 [THE BEATITUDES]
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.