Florencio, a friend of mine, received the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on multiple occasions. We wrestled by text message in the middle of the night as he faced the Gospel of Jesus’ death for him. We would talk in person over the last couple of years about generosity to the physically and spiritually poor. He understood God’s heart on many levels, but he wrestled with his own heart’s place in the presence of the Holy God of Heaven. This is where our friendship had an up-tick in careful attention to the true story of Christ’s death for us.
“Flo” as many called him, was truly poor in spirit, especially in the final months of his life, and God promises in Christ that such a person has the Kingdom of God as their own. Florencio wrestled hard and wanted to be saved so badly. He would beg me to save him and say, “Torrey, I want what you have.” I gave him a Bible and wrote a very personal and loving note inside of the cover. He promised to read it and at one point texted me that he was getting into it. He stated some things about Mary and praying hard to her and to God. He wanted to be free from his strong desire to be liked by his hang-out buddies. He wanted their approval so badly, and I remember seeing the look in his eyes when he would be hungering for the approval of the cool kids so-to-speak. However, those middle of the night texting conversations are where I learned of the deeper wrestle Florencio had before a holy and loving God in Christ. He feared dying so much and more deeply he feared encountering God’s wrath. I strongly encouraged him on into the green pastures of God’s grace, the still waters of His forgiveness, and the peace found in repentance, a full turning from sin and destruction… Only ultimately found in the face of Jesus Christ in personal confession, repentance, and receiving of Him as your Lord and Savior.
The statements Florencio made to me in those late nights are recorded in my prayer journal, as I felt strongly that he had taken that initial step of faith to receive Christ during those conversations. He had not yet experienced freedom from his deep desire for approval from his night-life friendships. I know that at the end of the day, I could lose my life for speaking up and living out a love for the poor in spirit. It’s not safe to love anyone God places in your path and to love them right where they are. We take steps into their space and go deeper than our safety alerts want us to go. Self-preservation says to stop a long ways back from where we have gone.
Yet, as we scatter and distribute freely to the poor, especially the poor in spirit like Florencio, we encounter Jesus face-to-face according to Jesus’ own words in Matthew 25.
On the other side of the conversation would be people not nearly as well-off financially as Florencio, and these would be those who are literally physically poor, which is more where the text that inspired this post comes from (Psalm 112).
“He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor…”
This is the ESV’s translation, but in the NIV it gets a little more reckless, that we as God’s children would scatter gifts to the poor. This seems so irresponsible. I’ve stretched this a little in applying this passage in my prayers this morning to also include what Jesus called us to which is honoring of the poor in spirit. Tied together with what Jesus says in Matthew 25, we get a full heart for encountering with frequency the actual poor, those who can give us nothing in return. I’ll never regret the time I pour into “centers of influence” like Florencio. This man I firmly believe will be in the joy of Jesus’ presence for eternity because of his simple faith and him being poor in spirit at his deepest level, though still fighting for the safety of godly friendships. My friend Del is truly poor from a financial point of view, and I wrestle with why I don’t spend more time with friends like Del, giving him my time and friendship. God has convicted me of this, so I have gone back recently and spent time with him. He is so content and peaceful in the life he lives, and he doesn’t really need anything physically but more relationally, so I spent time enjoying him and laughing with him. He is a sweet spirit and has a warm affection for Jesus. His neighbor family has shown him a lot of love and availability as well, which refreshed me to know. I want to form more friendships like my friendship with Del. Why?
Selfish reasons really. I want to see the face of Jesus more often! Read Matthew 25, Psalm 112, and Matthew 5 and spend a few days in prayer, and you’ll know this same deep desire to encounter Jesus through loving on the physically poor and the poor in spirit. That’s where we walk in the Kingdom of God most often right here on this sin-stained earth’s surface. Right here we get to encounter the Living God face-to-face, as we freely distribute our presence, our presents, and our practice of loving affection and loving sharing of the hope we know in Jesus Christ’s death for our sin!
It’s all because of Jesus that we are alive and know these deep pleasures in His good pleasure, friends!
May we abandon our pride and materialism and comfort-hunting and run into God’s joy!