Summary: 1st sermon in an 8 part series on the Beatitudes. This series challenges us to "Shift" our thinking in what really brings true happiness. (*Refreshed with some rewrite in 8/08. PowerPoint and Video Clips available on request.)
SHIFT -WEEK 1
THE WEALTH OF POVERTY
INTRODUCTION TO SERIES:
For the majority of people, Christian and non-Christian alike, the popular idea of finding happiness is based on having the right circumstances. It is what one preacher calls, "When & Then thinking." "When I get a good job, then I’ll be happy." "When I find the right mate, then I’ll be happy." "When I have kids, then I’ll be happy." "When the kids leave home, then I’ll be happy." We think outward circumstances bring contentment. But Jesus Christ tells us the exact opposite is true. He insists that happiness doesn’t come from without but from within. Further He says that all of us have the potential of possessing genuine contentment, authentic joy, if we will just recognize it.
Recently a friend of mine told about how he and his wife went up into the mountains and stayed at a beautiful, quiet cabin. There were none of the normal distractions.. No TV, no phones, no neighbors, just peace and quiet. But after a couple of days they were also looking for something to do. One of the things the cabin did provide were jigsaw puzzles. They loved doing that kind of thing so they picked out a 1000 piece puzzle and started. However, from time to time they became annoyed because they couldn’t find the right piece. They would check borders and colors and the puzzle box picture but finally they became completely frustrated when they realized that the puzzle was missing several pieces. Then, just as they were about to break up their work they happened to pick up the box and heard some noise. When they looked further they found all the pieces they were missing in the packing of the box. Once they retrieved the pieces their puzzle became complete, the picture made sense. And it had been right within their reach. What was root of frustration became a source of joy.
That true story illustrates precisely what Jesus is trying to teach in the Beatitudes. The key to genuine happiness, to a genuine contentment is not from without but within. Joy is not based on certain external pieces but on internal attitudes. Jesus insists that we can have a happiness that holds its ground against pain, a contentment whose roots extend deep into the bedrock of eternity. What type of joy is this? It is a sacred delight. It’s a delight because it thrills. It’s sacred because it is God’s. Think about God’s joy. What can cloud it? What can quench it? Does God ever have a bad day? Does God get ruffled over long lines or traffic jams? Does God ever refuse to rotate the earth because His feelings are hurt? No, His is a happiness which consequences cannot quench. His is a peace which circumstances cannot steal. And it is right within our reach. Within the packing of our Bibles, in Matt. 5, lie the pieces that will complete your life. But be prepared for the fact that the answers will surprise you. We’ll have to shift our thinking some. Many of the things that Jesus says bring contentment are directly opposite from what we think. But if we will listen, if we will heed what He has to say, we will be surprised with joy. My prayer, for the next 8 weeks or so, is that we will learn that our happiness does not depend on what happens around me but what happens in me. So let’s gather with those on the mountainside and listen as He says: “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.” Now, the word "blessed" means happiness. The Greek word is emphatic, it means "happiness many times over."
This morning we begin with "Happy are the poor in spirit." Jesus could of hardly produced a more startling beginning. Happy are the poor? Yet it makes sense when you understand it, in fact upon this beatitude, all the rest are built. If you are not "poor in spirit" it will be impossible to be genuinely happy. Let’s look, as we will each week, at what Jesus means by this saying, how it applies to our lives and what Jesus promises will come when we put the beatitude into practice.