The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Christians: Trust
If, in the last couple of years, you have had any exposure at all to the world of management training and leadership development, then you will know the book entitled, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The runaway best-seller, written by Stephen Covey, sets forth seven basic principles. which, should they become the daily habits of your life, will provide you with an empowering philosophy of life and will make you more effective both at home and in the workplace. The book is subtitled “Powerful Lessons in Personal Change,” and it is a book worthy of your attention.
However, I must tell you that as I read the book my mind kept drifting back to the Bible. It dawned on me that long before Stephen Covey ever encapsulated his principles in a book, Jesus Christ, in a sermon, set forth seven basic principles for human behavior which, should they become the daily habits of our lives, will not only change us but change the world. The sermon was the one we know as “the Sermon on the Mount,” and the principles are outlined in what we call “the Beatitudes”.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus underscores the basic Christian principles we should embrace and cultivate in our lives. These seven principles represent life as God meant for us to live it. That is to say, those who are humble-minded and kind-hearted, those who are courageous and righteous, those who work through pain and for peace, those who are genuinely pure in heart are the ones who are living out the will of God in life. And as we shall see, those people are the most highly effective Christians of all.
Now the key to unlocking the great truths of the Beatitudes is to come to a better understanding of the word which introduces each of them, the word “blessed”. What does it mean? Well, actually the Greek word “makarios”, translated here as “blessed”, is a word packed with meaning, but difficult to translate into English. It literally means a life marked by contentment, fulfillment and joy. It means living in a state of well-being, a state of closeness to God, a state of right relationships with other people. It means enjoying a life of happiness and significance. That’s the kind of life Jesus is promising us if we make those seven basic principles from the Beatitudes into the daily habits of our lives.
Let’s look then at the meaning of the first Beatitude.
Here is how it reads: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In many ways this is one of the most difficult of the Beatitudes to understand, because the phrase “poor in spirit” sounds so unattractive to us, so unappealing, so weak and docile and namby-pamby. We like people who are peppy and spirited and zestful and enthusiastic and full of life. “Poor in spirit” sounds so feeble and frail and unbecoming.
But that is not what Jesus meant at all. “Poor in spirit” does not mean “lifeless”. It helps to remember that in ancient Hebrew, the phrase “poor in spirit” was used to describe the humble people. It was a glowing compliment reserved for those humble-minded people who were never arrogant or pompous or self-righteous. Nothing grates upon us like encountering some self-sufficient braggart who goes through life singing Frank Sinatra’s peon to pomposity “I did it my way.” The person who is “poor in spirit” is the person who is humble enough to sing “I tried to do it God’s way.” God calls us to be humble, not haughty. And, of course, if we are honest, we know that no matter how successful we may be in life, no matter what our family life or our educational background may be, we cannot achieve spiritual excellence on our own. Don’t miss the thrust of this Beatitude. We cannot save ourselves. Not through the right rituals. Not through the right doctrine. Not through the right devotion. Not through the right goosebumps. We cannot save ourselves. Not with money, not with hard work, not with high intellect, not with good deeds, not with perfect attendance at church. We cannot save ourselves.
Those who are “poor in spirit” are humble enough to recognize that. They know that the jewel of God’s joy is received upon surrender, not awarded upon conquest. Those who taste God’s presence in life are those who have declared spiritual bankruptcy. Their spiritual cupboards are bare. Their spiritual pockets are empty. Their spiritual options are gone. They don’t brag, they beg. They ask God to do for them what they cannot do for themselves and what they cannot do without Him. That’s the meaning of the first Beatitude.
Now let’s look at the message of that first Beatitude.
I think it can be expressed like this: the most effective Christians in our world are those humble-minded people who put their whole trust in God and who honor and serve God as the King of their lives.
You may have seen the TV movie entitled “The Betty Ford Story”. It was the story of how Betty Ford, overwhelmed by the stresses of being the wife of the President of the United States and by the debilitating pain of arthritis, became addicted to medication and alcohol. In a most powerful scene of that movie, her family confronted Mrs. Ford, and, one by one, straightforwardly told her what they were seeing. In that poignant intervention scene, one of the children says: “Mother, always before when you had a problem, you turned to God and your family. But lately, you have shut us out, you’ve turned to pain-killers and drinking, and you are killing yourself.” You see what Betty Ford’s daughter was saying to her? She was saying something we all need to hear: You don’t need a crutch, you have a Christ. You don’t need a scapegoat, you have a Saviour. You don’t need drugs and drinks to get you through, you have God. The message pierced through to Betty Ford’s heart. She recognized her spiritual bankruptcy and her need for God and thus she took the first step toward healing. The humble-minded are those who put their trust in God and in God alone.
Some years ago, the great missionary John Paton went to live in a remote corner of Africa. He introduced the villagers to Jesus Christ and taught them about the faith. Then he began the arduous task of translating the Bible into their language so that they could grow in Christ. All went well until John Paton discovered that they had no word in their language for the word “believe.” He was stuck. After all, you can’t put a Bible together without the word “believe,” can you? One day as he was reeling in frustration over this problem, one of the villagers came in for a visit. The man was tired from a long day’s work. He flopped down in a chair, leaned back, and then in his native language he said: “How wonderful it is when you are worn out and tired to lean your whole weight on something.” Suddenly, the light went on in John Paton’s mind. He had his answer. That’s how he would translate the word “believe”. To believe is to lean your whole weight upon God. To believe is to do the best you can, the best you know, and then to lean the weight of your life upon God. That’s the message of the first Beatitude. The humble-minded, the poor in spirit, are those who know how to trust God completely, how to lean their whole weight upon Him.
Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Stop playing games, my friends, stop putting on false fronts. Recognize that you are spiritually bankrupt. Then kneel before our Lord in complete trust and say: “I want to be born again. I want a new life. I want a joyful and powerful Christ to come and live in me. O God, I surrender my life to you now.” My friends, if you say and do that today then
Heaven is yours!