Summary: Jesus came to bring us happiness, and he reveals the keys to our happiness in the Beatitudes.
The Keys to Happiness:
Ask 100 people what they want out of life, and seventy-five of the 100 will say, ¡§I just want to be happy.¡¨ Ask that same 100 people what does it mean to be happy, and ninety will say something that has to do with people, places or things. The myriad answers would range from living in the right house to having the right job, from being loved and appreciated to feeling financially secure. Other answers might have to do with having the right spouse, or healthy children. We might even hear a few answers that have to do with fame and fortune, or achieving our goals in life.
Regardless of the answers we get, we are soon confronted with the reality that happiness seems so transitory, so fleeting, so circumstantial. We discover that happiness too often seems to be dependent on the conditions or the people around us. Yet, there is always that moment of truth when we realize that all we have accumulated and attained, all we have accomplished and achieved has not made us happy. We find ourselves asking the question ¡§Why am I not happy?¡¨
In America, we believe we have a right to be happy. Our founding fathers even wrote that belief right into our constitution. Remember the words of Thomas Jefferson? He said we were endowed with certain inalienable rights¡Xamong them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So maybe we don¡¦t have the right to be happy, but we certainly have the right to pursue happiness, don¡¦t we. Benjamin Franklin said the constitution only gives us the right to pursue happiness. He said we have to catch it ourselves.
And do we ever try to catch happiness. We work, we save, we spend, we buy, we travel, we give, we search, and we strive. Happiness becomes something we take captive, or acquire, or package as a result of what we do and have. And just about the time our cup of happiness is half full someone comes along and jogs our elbow, and our happiness drips away to be dried by summer sun or winter¡¦s chill.
We all long to find the secret of true happiness¡Xa happiness that withstands the ups and downs of life, the storms and trials that inevitably come our way. We want that happiness that lasts, that no discouragement, no frustration, no grief, no hurricane can destroy. The more we search, the more we discover that happiness is not an exterior characteristic. Happiness is not dependent upon those circumstances of life that change so frequently. We soon discover that happiness is an inside job. Happiness begins inside us, in our hearts, and it is that kind of happiness that Jesus came to give us.
To discover the keys to happiness that begin on the inside, we have to return to the teachings of Jesus. I find it incredibly interesting that when Jesus began his earthly ministry, when he began to teach, his first teaching is about happiness. We find those earliest teachings in Matthew 5. We have come to know these early teachings as the Beatitudes, the beginning of Jesus¡¦ long monologue on what his kingdom looks like. And his is a kingdom that looks much different from the one his first century hearers would recognize. It is much different from the one in which we live, too. Listen to the context Matthew sets for us, and then listen for the first key to happiness Jesus reveals in the Beatitudes.
Matthew 5:1-3 (King James Version)
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:  And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,  Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus saw the multitude, and seeing them, he saw their suffering, their anxiety, their worry and their fear. He looked across a sea of faces and saw into their hearts. He saw their deepest desire¡Xtheir desire for happiness. So Jesus sat down. Now understand that anytime a rabbi sat in ancient times it was, in essence, an exclamation point. He was announcing to his students that what he was about to say was very important.
Jesus said, ¡§Blessed are¡K¡¨ What does it mean to be blessed? Well, biblical scholar William Barclay translates that phrase ¡§O the bliss of the man¡K¡¨ Blessedness and bliss. How do we get happy from that? Follow me for a moment.
We must trace the Greek word that is translated into English to find its meaning. The Greek word is ƒ½ƒÑƒÛƒßƒâƒÙƒßƒã. ¡§Makarios¡¨ is a Greek adjective that means ¡§happy.¡¨ When we think ¡§happy¡¨ we most often think of joy or pleasure. Webster¡¦s actually defines happiness as ¡§lucky, fortunate, having, showing or causing great pleasure or joy.¡¨ But Webster¡¦s definition and our feeble minds miss the meaning contained in this simple Greek word. Markarios was used in ancient Greek literature to describe the gods. It meant sufficiency, satisfaction, security. It is interesting that the Greeks called the island of Cyprus the ¡§Happy Isle.¡¨ It was this Greek word, Makarios, that they used for happy. They referred to Cyprus as the Happy Isle because it was completely self-contained. A person would never have to leave the coastline of this beautiful island for anything. It was a ¡§happy¡¨ place. The blessedness Jesus speaks of in these words is that blessedness that is completely untouchable and unassailable. The beatitudes speak of that joy, that contentment, that peace that shines through our circumstances, good or bad.