Summary: A look at the Beatitudes
HOW TO BE HAPPY
I was in the bookstore the other day and I noticed a title. It has become increasingly popular as a title. Perhaps you’ve seen it. It was called, "The Idiot’s Guide to..."
There is something about that title that appeals to me. Some of you would say, "Well, that fits your intellectual makeup." And perhaps it does. Or perhaps imbedded in that title is a promise of simplicity. No frills. Just give me what I need to know in a way in which I can understand it."
The Bible contains that kind of simplicity. And it tells us how to live our lives for the best possible results. In this chapter I would like to explore the question of how to be happy. After all, Jesus talked about that. And He made it the opening section of His most famous sermon ever preached. Let’s look at it.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
"Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:1-12).
The first thing that you need to know is that the word "blessed" can be translated "happy" (the New American Standard gives it this translation in Romans 14:22). That means we could subtitle this section: "How to be Happy."
HAPPINESS COMES WHEN YOU COME TO TERMS WITH YOUR SPIRITUAL POVERTY.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3).
What does it mean to be "poor in spirit"? That is a quality of which we do not speak. But if you take the words apart, it is really very simple to understand.
We know all about poverty. That is when you don’t have something. That is the lower end of the "have’s" and the "have nots." Of course, we know that poverty can be a bit relative. When I say that, I’m not speaking of family relatives: "Where there’s a will, there’s a relative". I’m referring to the truth that not all poverty is created equal. I saw that when Tom and I traveled to Moldova earlier this year. What we call poverty, they call normal. We call poverty when you have to do without certain luxuries. They call poverty when you have no food for an extended period of time.
The Greek language has a word to distinguish between the two types of poverty. In Greek, you can speak of someone who is poor and they have no money for any extra things. Or you can speak of someone who is completely impoverished and who is without even the basic necessities. It is the second type of poverty that Jesus describes in this verse.
Happy is the one who is not merely spiritually lower middle class. Rather happy are those who are spiritually bankrupt and destitute.
This goes beyond all normal reason. Why would Jesus say such a thing? Because it is only when you come to terms with the fact that you are spiritually bankrupt that you can even be saved. It is only then that God gives to you all of the riches that are in Christ Jesus.
On what are you depending for your salvation? If you were to stand before God this morning and He were to ask you why you should be allowed into heaven, to what would you point? If your answer was to have anything to do with your own goodness and spiritual worth, then you are lost. The only one who ever gets to heaven is the one who realizes that he doesn’t deserve to be there. Christ didn’t come to save good people. He came to save the lost. And you can only find His true happiness and blessings when you come to understand that you are spiritually impoverished.
Jesus is saying, "Happy is the man who is spiritually destitute, who has to come and plead for mercy, because it is that kind of man who enters the kingdom of heaven."
You will never enter the kingdom of heaven unless you have a sense of your own spiritual bankruptcy. You will never become a citizen of the kingdom unless you realize that you are unworthy. The kingdom is not for the self-sufficient. They have no reason to trust in Christ. God does not save the self-sufficient. He only saves those who have found their sufficiency in Christ.