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Being poor in spirit: What poverty of spirit will teach you

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and depart from evil.” Proverbs 3:5-7.

God’s thoughts and plans for me always lead to a future and a hope. He has thoughts of life and peace for those who are poor in spirit; those who are willing to be taught by Him.

Poverty of spirit

Poverty of spirit shouldn’t be confused with being timid or shy. It does mean that I long to be like Jesus, the Master, but see how incapable I am of doing that on my own. I have a flesh, in which dwells no good thing, so I don’t know how to “perform what is good,” as Paul says, even though that is what I really want with all my heart. (Romans 7:18)

This poverty of spirit will cause me to turn to God to find out His will in every single decision I make, before I open my mouth, before I make a judgment. It makes me teachable and ready and willing to receive instructions from God through His Holy Spirit. A glass that is empty can be filled. Then I receive the power to act and have grace over my life. Everything works together for my good, because I love God.

The common behavior is to lean on my own understanding; to be strong in myself. I react and act impulsively, and base my decisions on past experiences. I am led by my feelings and thoughts, and judge according to what I see or hear. I do my own will instead of God’s, and there is no grace over any of it. This can only lead to further problems. This is the opposite of being poor in spirit.

Learning obedience

If we want to learn to be poor in spirit, then we need to follow the example of our Forerunner, Jesus.

He lived to do the will of God, in poverty of spirit all the days of His life. When He came to earth as a man, He had to learn everything from the Father. (John 5:30; John 12:49; Philippians 2:5-8) He too had to learn obedience in the things that He suffered. (Hebrews 5:8) It was because of this training that He could teach His disciples with the words: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3.

As His disciple I also have to be in this poverty of spirit, fully understanding that I know nothing as I ought to know it, and I have to learn everything from the Master. I also have to learn obedience through the things that I suffer. (1 Peter 4:1)

It is difficult to be quiet – whether externally or inwardly – when I am experiencing sufferings, when I am tempted and in difficult situations. The natural tendency is to blame others, judge the people involved, justify myself, make demands, and speak to others about what I am going through. This is an attempt to gain some human comfort, and escape the sufferings. The real problem is that I have a flesh in which dwells nothing good, and God is asking me to sacrifice the reactions that come up from it in response to the situation I am in. (Romans 7:18; Romans 8:12-13; Colossians 3:5)

When I am willing to acknowledge the truth about myself – that the root of the problem is in my own flesh – then I can go boldly to the throne of grace to ask for help to overcome. (Hebrews 4:15-16) God hears the prayers of the poor in spirit.

If you found this article about poverty of spirit inspiring, you might also be interested in reading our topic page about disciple life, or the selected articles below:

Being poor in spirit

20 examples of what it means to be poor in spirit

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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