In the 1600s, the brilliant French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic theologian, Blaise Pascal, wrote, “Everyone, without exception, is searching for happiness."
An article I read listed seven habits of chronically unhappy people.
*A default belief that life is hard. “Unhappy people see themselves as victims of life… versus finding a way through and out the other side.”
*A belief that most people can’t be trusted. This closes “the door on any connection outside of an inner-circle and thwarts all chances of meeting new friends.
*A concentration on what is wrong in this world rather than what is right. “…Unhappy people turn a blind eye to what’s actually right in this world and instead focus on what’s wrong.”
*Comparing oneself to others and harboring jealousy.
*Striving to Control your life. “Unhappy people tend to micromanage in effort to control all outcomes and fall apart in dramatic display when life throws a wrench in their plan.”
*Considering the future with worry and fear. “Unhappy people fill their thoughts with what could go wrong versus what might go right.”
*Filling conversations with gossip and complaints.
We’ve probably all had those kinds of thoughts. Our text today has eight statements about happiness or being blessed that we should allow to become our guides for our own search for happiness. The Beatitudes are some of the most profound statements ever recorded. They are often quoted 2,000 years since Jesus spoke them - even by the nonreligious. Here Jesus tells us of the kind of happiness we can experience in Jesus Christ.
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Can we find happiness? This text affirms we can.
1. WE CAN FIND HAPPINESS BECAUSE IT IS PROMISED
Happiness is such a vague term. What does it mean? George Burns: “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” We need to know what Jesus is telling us when he says that those who follow his teachings are “blessed”.
According to Rubel Shelly in Happiness Is … “The word ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’ is translated from a Greek word (makarios) which was used originally to describe the state of the gods as opposed to that of mere mortals. The Greeks also used a form of the same word to refer to Cyprus (he makaria), ‘the Happy Isle.’ They believed Cyprus to be so lovely and fertile a place that a man could find happiness enough there so he would never want to leave it.”
The happiness that Jesus promises in the Beatitudes is of Divine origin and therefore cannot be bought, produced, or packaged. It is an inner state that comes from a commitment to following the path of our Master, Jesus. Living the life to which He has called us gives us a \happiness that isn’t human in origin. It comes from God, so yes, we can find happiness.
2. WE CAN FIND HAPPINESS BECAUSE IT IS FOR EVERYONE
Randy Harris, in Living Jesus, wrote, "The people on the mountain that day were occupied by a foreign country. Many of them were poor. They were the marginalized people of society. And Jesus wanted them to know from the very beginning that God loved them, and they were blessed by God because the rest of the world told them that they were throw away people…"
When you look at the people Jesus addresses, you can see that they were the “throw away people” according to society. As always Jesus is drawn to the hurting, struggling, unsure they’re going to make it. Brennan Manning wrote The Ragamuffin Gospel "for the bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out," the marginalized folks to whom Jesus ministered: the children, the ill, the tax collectors... Sometimes we may believe that we are not good enough for God or that we’ve made too many mistakes. Jesus looks at the strugglers around him and offers blessing…tells them they can live in happiness in spite of their pain.
3. WE CAN FIND HAPPINESS BECAUSE GOD REWRITES OUR STORY.
Imagine that your life is a book. Each chapter we've written has it's mistakes, troubles, and hurts. The beatitudes show us how God rewrites every chapter of our lives and gives us the hope we desperately need.
The chapter where I lost everything, and Jesus gave me all that mattered. (“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.)
The Chapter when I lost a loved one, and Jesus came near to my broken heart. (Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.)
The Chapter when I felt run over and beat up, and Jesus gave me hope. (Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.)
The Chapter when I thought I knew better than anyone else, and Jesus filled me with grace. (Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.)
The chapter when I took revenge and it didn’t make me feel better, and Jesus relieved me of my guilt. (Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.)
The chapter when I followed my flesh and came up empty, and Jesus gave me new vision for a new life. (Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.)
The chapter when I hated my enemy, and Jesus showed me a path toward serenity. (Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.)
The chapter when I hid my faith because I was ashamed, and Jesus said 'They treated me that way too.’ (Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.)
Thank you, Jesus, for re-writing the chapters of my life and giving me a new vision for the life you have given me. Tennyson wrote, “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, Whispering 'it will be happier'...” Much of what Jesus promises here is a blessing that comes later, not always right now. The Sermon on the Mount calls us to the life that the blessed people live.
LIFEGROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. Name a person or persons that you believe are good examples of being genuinely happy people.
2. What clues do you see in the text that Jesus was talking to people who may have struggled to find happiness?
3. Do you believe that most people in the world would scoff at these Beatitudes? Why or why not?
4. Which of the Beatitudes is the hardest one for you to embrace for your own life? Which is the hardest to understand?
5. One of the beatitudes relates to being a peacemaker. In what ways am I led to be a peacemaker in my home life? At work? In my community? In the Church? In the wider world?
6. Brazilian fiction author Paulo Coelho writes with subtle religious and philosophical themes throughout his stories. What do you think about this statement from one of his stories: “Every human being has the right to search for happiness, and by 'happiness' is meant something that makes other people feel content.” Do you see a similar thought in the Beatitudes anywhere?
7. In the section of Matthew 5 immediately following the Beatitudes is the familiar admonition that we are salt and light in this world (vs. 13-16). How would living by the Beatitudes empower us to be salt and light? Can you think of some examples?
8. Following the section on salt and light Jesus says, in part, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (vs. 18)”. How might that be an encouragement to the crowd gathered to hear him? And us?
9. Anything else in this text you’d like to talk about or share?
Bulletin Article to go with Sermon
What I Learned About Pain from The Beatitudes
The Beatitudes are found in Matthew 5:1-12. The Beatitudes are not platitudes for happy days nor are they simply positive affirmations for Pinterest posts and Facebook memes. One way to listen to the Beatitudes is to hear how Jesus recognizes the pains and hurts of those gathered before him for this Sermon on the Mount.
The original listeners were people who lived in and through painful circumstances. Like all of us, they had a lifetime of hurts that needed the attention of the Great Physician. Before Jesus gives any commands or talks about any of the expectations of discipleship, he spends a moment with them as the Man of Sorrows, both sympathizing with them and giving them hope. What can we learn about living through painful experiences from the Beatitudes?
Painful Experiences Are Common. The people that Jesus says are “blessed” are not without struggles. Life has left them humiliated, mourning, trampled, and yearning for God’s righteousness and mercy. They are in conflict and insulted by others. Everyone experiences pain in life. Losses accumulate, such as loss of loved ones, loss of health, loss of relationships. Job confesses that, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble (14:1, NKJV)”. The Beatitudes teach me that Jesus knows we will all face pain in our lives.
Painful Experiences Require A Different Perspective. So often when we are in pain we react with pride, anger, self-righteousness, or even revenge and hatred. If we are to experience healing from Jesus we need to see our pain from a different perspective. Jesus knows there are things that we are helpless to address on our own, so He calls us to trust and not to fall into worldly or ungodly ways of responding to our pain.
Painful Experiences Are Followed By Blessing. Jesus does not promise to take the pain away, remove heartache, nor to provide justice on our timetable. He does promise to ultimately make all things right. The poor will be rich. The mourning will be comforted. The meek will overcome. The hungry will be filled. The merciful will receive mercy. The pure will see God. The peacemakers will be children of God. The persecuted will be rewarded. Paul echoes this faith in the familiar Romans 8:28.
Which of these beatitudes speaks to your heart today? What pain do you need to hear Jesus speak to … and for which you need His blessing? Pray over Revelation 21:3-5 sometime soon. What we learn from the Beatitudes is that Jesus sees our pain, gives us a new perspective and offers a promise. That’s what I learned about pain from the beatitudes.
Seven Habits of Chronically Unhappy People