Summary: Examination of the first BE-Attitude: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven
PURSUING HAPPINESS : Declaring Spiritual Bankruptcy
1. This past Tuesday our nation celebrated its 230th year of Independence and one of the most famous phrases in the Declaration of Independence, listed as one of the “unalienable rights of man” is “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.
• So one of the reasons this nation was established was so that people could pursue happiness.
• It’s one of the essential ingredients of “The American Dream” and has contributed to the influx of millions of aliens – legal and illegal - from all over the world who have come here with that same drive.
2. I did a Google search on the Internet on the topic “Happiness is…” and it pulled up 79,700,000 sites. I did not review them all – but just sampling a few showed that one of the primary things people want out of life is happiness – it is a common pursuit.
• But the sad news is that while most people are seeking it, very few seem to find it or experience it on a fairly consistent basis. Just when you think that your cup of happiness is full, someone or something comes along and bumps your elbow.
• According to one study only 20% of Americans claim to be happy. For most others it is the bumped elbow or the thing that never happens for them that keeps happiness beyond their grasp.
3. The booming sales of sleep inducing drugs like Ambien, Sonata, and Lunesta and all kinds of anti-depressant drugs plus the huge increase in traffic I see to the Sleep Clinic at Swedish Medical Center in Issaquah are strong indicators that many people are not at peace at the core of their being – many are struggling with hopelessness and despair.
• Many people are using the Internet as an anonymous tool trying to find just the right person to help make them happy.
• Others flock to Casinos or buy Lottery tickets each week hoping to hit the jackpot, believing that if they didn’t have to worry about money they would be truly happy.
• For others it is the acquisition of things. Since they were small kids the idea was instilled into them that if only they could have this or that toy then they would be truly happy and now even as older adults it’s got to be the latest appliance or automobile or technology gadget.
• Some even wander into church, hoping that here they will find happiness.
4. In His famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus provides us with 9 statements – called The Beatitudes – as His formula for genuine happiness and over the next 8 Sundays we are going to examine Jesus’ prescription.
• Each of those Beatitudes starts out with the words “Blessed are”. The Amplified Bible that provides a fuller range of the meanings of key words puts it this way: “Truly happy, [a]to be envied, and [b]spiritually prosperous--[c]with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions…”
• I like to think of this passage as “The Be Attitudes for True Happiness” – the right Attitudes you need to have for a truly happy life.
• And these attitudes are progressive in nature – like a spiritual stairway to abundant living. They start out with “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and they end with “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”
• You see this kind of happiness is not determined by your outward circumstances but is centered in a vital and living relationship with Jesus Christ and that is the source of inner contentment regardless of your external happenings and pressures.
• In John 16:22 Jesus promises His disciples that “no one will take your joy from you” – no matter what they may go through – no mater what happens to them – He offers the pathway to unshakeable happiness.
5. We see in this passage that His teaching on true happiness was not given to the crowds in general, but specifically to His disciples. Verse 1 and 2 state that “Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up on the mountain, and when He sat down His disciples came to Him. And He opened His mouth and taught them.” And the first thing He said was “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
• He is not advocating financial poverty. While Jesus did say that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, He is not saying that being financially destitute or homeless or a beggar is a blessing. It certainly is not.