Summary: Jesus knew the importance of being happy, and that is why He begins His greatest sermon with a list of ways to be perfectly happy on earth for those who would follow Him and be citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
Edwin Markham in his poem The Shoes Of Happiness tells the
story of a king in Istanbul who was ill. He called his wise men
together to find a cure. They studied the situation and announced that
only one thing could cure him, and that was for him to wear the shoes
of a perfectly happy man. Off they went, therefore, to find this rare
man and bring back his shoes. They went to a rich man, but found
him unhappy because of worry over his money. They were
disappointed everywhere they went, for they could not find happiness
where they expected it. Neither the young nor the old supplied their man.
The young were restless that youth should stay; The old were sad that it went away.
On they searched finding lovers worried over their beloved, and
soldiers unhappy over their dead comrades, and even the wise
carefree pilgrim did not fit the bill.
But the pilgrim answered with star-still eyes,
I am not glad, I am only wise.
It appeared that the search was hopeless until one morning they
met a tramp of a man with laughter on his face, and he was singing as
he walked. They had found their happy man at last, and they rushed
to him eagerly only to discover that he had no shoes.
Markham was expressing his philosophy of happiness. He felt it
could only be found by giving up things. He had a point, for Jesus
recognized that some people are unhappy just because they are
possessed by their possessions. He counseled the rich one ruler to find
satisfaction and happiness by giving up his riches. It is possible then
to find happiness by the giving up of things. John Oxenham wrote,
Some have much, and some have more.
Some are rich, and some are poor,
Some have little, some have less,
Some have not a cent to bless.
Their empty pockets, yet possess
True riches in true happiness.
In Luke 6:20 Jesus is recorded as speaking to the literal poor and
saying, "Blessed (or happy) are ye poor for yours is the kingdom of
God." On the other hand, it would be very superficial to conclude
that poverty is the biblical road to bliss. The facts of life, and the rest
of Scripture no more support this than the other fallacy that riches
are the key to happiness. Kim Hubbard said, "It's pretty hard to tell
what does bring happiness. Poverty and wealth have both failed.
Most of what Jesus taught about happiness does not deal with the
absence or presence of possessions at all, but with what a person is in
himself. The blessedness, happiness, and joy of Christ was not in
anything he had, but in what he was. If our goal is to be Christlike
than a happy new year for us will consist in becoming more like Him.
Happiness on its highest level is not to be found in what comes to us,
but in what we come to be. That is what the beatitudes are all about.
Jesus knew the importance of being happy, and that is why He
begins His greatest sermon with a list of ways to be perfectly happy on
earth for those who would follow Him and be citizens of the kingdom
of heaven. Jesus wishes to each of His followers, not only a happy new
year, but a perpetually happy new life. Jesus expected His disciples to
be the happiest people on earth. Sometimes this has been true, and
sometimes not. Tertullian, and early Christian writer, said, "The
Christian saint is hilarious." Jesus said to His own, "My joy be with
you." The fruit of the spirit is joy, and time and time again through
history Christians have produced hilarious saints. A member of the
Salvation Army band was once asked not to beat the drums so loud.
He replied, "Lord bless you sir, since I have been converted I am so
happy, I could bust the blooming drums."
Every person wants to be happy, or if they are already reasonably
happy they want to be intensely happy. William James in his classic
book Varieties Of Religious Experience writes, "How to gain, how to
keep, how to recover happiness is in fact for most men at all times the
secret motive of all they do, and of all they are willing to endure."
Happiness is not only a result of health and peace of mind, it is also a
cause of these values. Philip Gibbs in The Hidden City writes,
"Unhappiness affects the internal secretions. It has an odd effect on
the heart sometimes. It lowers physical resistance. It debilitates the
nervous system and weakens willpower. Sometimes it leads to queer
obsessions. Louis Evans went so far as to say, "More people are sick