Summary: A sermon on happiness based on J.B. Phillips’ translation of The New Testament.
“God’s Recipe for Happiness”
BY: Rev. Kenneth E. Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News,
When I was a real young kid I used to like to bake cookies...cause I really liked to eat
cookies and my mom would very rarely buy the store-bought kind.
So, I would pull out my mom’s “Joy of Cooking” book--find a recipe and start making a
I can remember several times when I would inadvertently miss one of the ingredients in
the recipe, and the cookies would come out tasting horrible.
What a disappointment that was.
Later on in life--as a bachelor--I would often cook spaghetti--but I wouldn’t follow any
recipe. And I got to thinking that I made pretty good spaghetti.
Unfortuantely, I was the only one who thought it was good.
Now, when Jeanne, Ben and I are trying to figure out what to have for dinner, I’ll say,
“How about I make some spaghetti?”
There’s always a brief pause....then almost in unison Jeanne and Ben will say.... “Let’s go
out for dinner.”
In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus is giving us a sort of recipe.
It’s a recipe for happy and constructive living.
It cuts across all differences of temperament and abilities.
It outlines the kind of character which is possible for any person--gifted or relatively
ungifted, strong or weak, clever or slow in the uptake.
Christ is placing His finger not upon the externals, but upon the vital internal attitude.
It’s not what we are that really counts--not what we possess or have done.
It is our internal attitude.
There is a wonderful book called Your God is Too Small. It was written by a man named
Phillips is also highly acclaimed for his translation of The New Testament in Modern
In his book, Phillips addresses Matthew chapter 5, and says that verses 3-10 which are
commonly called the Beatitudes outline the sort of people God intends for us to be.
In his translation, Phillips substitutes the more modern word ‘happy’ for ‘blessed’.
When you ask someone what they want out of life, the normal response is that they want
to be happy.
And you see, God wants us to be happy too, but the way God defines happiness and
the way the world defines happiness are polar opposites.
For instance, many of us think: Happy are the pushers: for they get on in the world.
But Jesus said, “Happy are those who realize their spiritual poverty: they have already
entered the kingdom of Reality.
Poverty of spirit is basically equivalent to being humble.
In other words, a humble person is a person who realizes that he or she is dependent on
God....that he or she cannot do it on their own.
And this is true reality.
This is the first step toward entering the kingdom of God.
The opposite of humility is pride, which the Bible judges to be the root of all sin.
And in this world, pride is something which is often encouraged.
In our society, as well as many others, to be humble or obedient is seen as a sign of
To take orders marks us as the ones who are inferior to the ones giving the orders.
And in this world, the strong often impose themselves on the weak.
But Jesus says that this is not the way it is supposed to be with His followers.
As Christ’s disciples, we are called to be willing to be servants and give up the striving
for positional advantage, because power and position have nothing to do with our value or worth.
And they certainly have nothing to do with our happiness.
And we can only overcome the sin of pride through the power of the gospel.
Christ took the weakness of pride to the cross and nailed it there.
Through our obedience to Christ, God makes our spiritual weakness our real source of
The new birth that we experience once we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior
can be compared to a heart transplant.
God uses the weakness of our old hearts in order to get us on the operating table so that
He can implant in us new hearts--hearts that are no longer ruled by pride--but hearts that long
for the living God.
Many people think: Happy are the hard-boiled: for they never let life hurt them.
My friends--this is a ruse.
Sure, we can harden our hearts, and live only for ourselves....doing anything and
everything we can to get ahead....but this is not where true happiness lies. This is a cop-out!
Jesus said: “Happy are they who bear their share world’s pain: in the long run they will
know more happiness than those who avoid it.”
Who do you think lived a happier life?...