Summary: Happiness is a choice, not a consequence. It is centered on God’s rule in our lives and it is connected to what Christ has done for us.

Last December 2006, Columbia Pictures released the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness,” starring Will Smith and his son Jaden Christopher. Christopher Gardner inspired the movie. He was a salesman struggling to provide for his family until he finally makes it big in the stock brokerage business in San Francisco, USA. Before he became successful as a stockbroker, he and his son slept in homeless shelters or parks or even in the bathroom of the train station. To survive, they would eat in the soup kitchens of Glide Memorial Church.

Now I would not tell the movie plot so as not to spoil the fun in case you want to watch the movie. But, at the beginning of the movie, Chris Gardner shared how he doubted that he would ever be really happy: “Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I thought about how he knew to put the ‘pursuit’ in there, like no one can actually have happiness. Maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue. And maybe we can actually never have it no matter what.” Is happiness really just a futile pursuit? Is happiness really elusive?

Thus, it is interesting to note that in the most popular message of the Lord Jesus Christ, He started with the word “blessed.” In the Greek, the word “blessed” is “makarios,” which means “happy.” In the Gospel of Matthew, we find that Jesus mentioned this word “blessed” thirteen times, nine of which is found in the first twelve verses of the “Sermon on the Mount” in chapters 5-7. So, here we find how to pursue “happyness” according to our Lord. Let us pray first…

Let us read Matthew 5:1-12. Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 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. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”[1] This morning we start a new series on the Beatitudes or the nine “blessed” or happy characteristics.

To get a feel of the atmosphere of this sermon, let’s look at the verses before it. “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis [or ten cities] Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.”[2] Just imagine! Thousands of people were following the Lord. Now a political candidate would be very proud of such a big following. He would have a landslide victory if these translate into votes. But our Lord has a different agenda. We tend to rush to the sermon itself that we miss out on the details. Note that it says in verse one, “Now when he saw the crowds…” Have you ever wondered what was running in His mind when He saw the crowds? Matthew gave us a clue: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”[3] The New Living Translation goes like this: “He felt great pity for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn’t know where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd.”

In other words, Jesus saw and felt their need. The Message says “his heart broke.” He felt confused and clueless. In short, they were so unhappy. Let me ask you: “Are you unhappy?” You may be going to church with a “praise-the-Lord-yes-I’m okay-thank-you” smile plastered on your face. But deep within you are crumbling. You are slowly dying inside. You say to yourself, “If only people knew what I am really going through…” But you may be a little ashamed to admit that. You may be thinking that people might think you are not spiritual or “good Christians” if you feel that way. Or worse, they might judge that you are not a believer.

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