One of the most famous portions of the Bible is Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which begins with what have become known as The Beatitudes. Each of these snippets of divine wisdom begins with the word, “Blessed,” which actually means happy. So, “Blessed are you when…” can also be read, “Happy are you when…” Therefore, these verses contain a description of true happiness. In Matthew 5:1-12 we learn of ten marks of those who experience true happiness.
Happiness comes to those who recognize their spiritual poverty can only be cured by God’s riches in Jesus Christ (v. 3) – To be “poor in spirit,” as Jesus described, is to sense in oneself the utterly destitute condition that we as sinners are born into, and remain in, without Jesus Christ. When this realization sinks in and we turn away from our sin to God for salvation and forgiveness, we inherit the kingdom of heaven, that is, we become children of God by personal faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior (see John 1:12). When this occurs, we are adopted into God’s family and made to be co-heirs with Christ (Ephesians 3:6). This is made possible only by the riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:7; 2:7), which result in being made partakers of the riches of Christ’s inheritance (Ephesians 1:18). The personal embrace of these truths produces true happiness.
Happiness comes to those who seek comfort from God in times of grief (v. 4) – Jesus said, “Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The Apostle Paul reminded us that God is the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). In other words, pain and suffering in our lives should drive us to God and the comfort we receive from Him will then equip us to become better comforters of others in their times of trouble. This kind of selfless ministry, along with the newfound joy gained from our own experience of comfort, will produce true happiness.
Happiness comes to those who serve others and endure cruel treatment with gentleness (v. 5) – “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” What did Jesus mean by that? The word “gentleness” is also translated meekness. Meekness has sometimes been referred to as power under control. In other words, a meek person is not a weak person, but a meek person is one who is able to maintain self-control while serving others, even those who unjustly criticize or harshly attack him. Jesus described Himself as “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29) and the ultimate display of self-control was His endurance of the cruelty of the Cross where He sacrificed His life in place of ours for the purpose of rescuing us from the just penalty of our sin and bringing us back to God (1 Peter 3:18). This focus—returning lost sheep to the Father—was the joy that was set before Him, which fueled His endurance (Hebrews 12:2). So, Jesus found His joy and happiness in fulfilling the will of God by serving others with gentleness.
Happiness comes to those who pursue satisfaction in God (v. 6) – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” True happiness can only be found in God Himself. The words hunger and thirst describe the realization of need. When someone says, “I’m hungry,” he means he senses some pain in his stomach, i.e. he recognizes he needs food. When someone says, “I am thirsty,” he means that his throat and mouth need refreshment, i.e. he recognizes his need for a drink of water. When a sinner hungers and thirsts for God it reflects a work of the Holy Spirit awakening him to the realization of his own sinfulness and need for a Savior, without which he will perish eternally. This creates the awareness of God’s demand for righteousness, which can only be satisfied in Christ. “He [God, the Father] made Him [God, the Son] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ now offers His perfect righteousness to those who acknowledge their need of it, hunger and thirst for it, and receive it by faith. In God, the saved sinner is satisfied.
Happiness comes to those who have mercy because they recognize their own need for mercy (v. 7) – “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Mercy is the attribute of God whereby He withholds from us the horrendous punishment our sin deserves. Therefore, the Apostle Paul described God as being “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). In other words, the most magnificent display of mercy in all of history is the Cross of Jesus. It was there God took the sins of His rebellious creatures and imputed them to His Son (credited them to Him) and then judged Him for our sins, i.e. God treated Jesus as if our sins were His own though they were not (Hebrews 4:15). Another way of applying the truth of this verse is to remember that all actions have consequences. Therefore, those who make it a habit of life to spread the mercy of God to others because they themselves have received mercy from God will reap the benefit of having others show mercy to them in return. Proverbs 14:21 says, “He who despises his neighbor sins, but happy is he who is gracious to the poor.
Happiness comes to those who have integrity of heart (v.8) – Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” However, the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah described the human heart as anything but pure when he wrote, “the heart is more deceitful than all else” (Jeremiah 17:9). Which man told the truth? The answer is both of them did. Jeremiah was describing the human heart as it is naturally, without God, bound in sin. Jesus was describing the heart that has been reborn by the Holy Spirit and has experienced forgiveness and cleansing because of faith in Him as divine Sin-bearer. Hebrews 10:22 compels believers in Jesus to draw near to God in worship “with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience.” Those who have been cleansed by God through the sacrifice of Christ will “see God” in the sense that they will spend eternity in His presence. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).
Happiness comes to those who seek peace in their conflicts (v. 9) – Why does Jesus call true believers “peacemakers”? I think the Apostle Paul answers part of that question in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God.” In other words, peace with God is a prerequisite to other evidences of peace, i.e. peace with others. Now, this is not always true in our everyday experience with people. Sometimes, Christians will experience conflict as the direct result of their faith even if they themselves seek peace. Therefore, Jesus encourages us, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The true Christian understands that real peace is found only in Jesus, not the ever-changing circumstances of life. However, this inner peace will also produce an outward peace that impacts our relationships with others, especially other Christians. In Colossians 3:14-15, the Apostle Paul calls love “the perfect bond of unity” and then tells us to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” No one can let the peace of Christ rule in his heart if he does not know God by means of a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Therefore, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Happiness comes to those who love Christ more than crave being loved by others (v. 10) – To be persecuted means to be constantly harassed, or treated poorly. In relation to being a Christian, it means to endure this kind of treatment from the world because of the Christian faith. In other words, Jesus forewarned His followers that because the world did not accept or love Him, but turned away from Him instead, His followers should not expect better treatment than their Master received (John 15:18-19). The Apostle Paul warned the young pastor, Timothy, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). For this reason, Christians who are serious about living out their faith should not expect tender pampering from our ungodly world. If followers of Christ suffer because of their own sin that is nothing to boast of, but if they are afflicted for the sake of His name then “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Happiness comes to those who are ridiculed because of their faith in Christ (v. 11) – This is a most bizarre statement: “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.” How in the world could Jesus expect anyone to be happy while being insulted by those who hate them? The reason is that Jesus draws extra close to those who are verbally assaulted for being a Christian. This is what the Apostle Peter meant when he wrote, “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14). God the Holy Spirit rests upon believers in Christ to empower, encourage, and embolden them when they are ridiculed because of following Jesus. This is a supernatural ingredient to happiness.
Happiness comes to those who look to heaven, not earth, for their reward (v. 12) – It can be very hard for Christians to wait for their eternal rewards. Instead, we are tempted to seek acceptance, approval, and praise from men rather than God. Unfortunately, the end result is that if we seek an earthly reward we lose the heavenly one (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16). When believers in Christ are treated poorly, we need to remember that our Lord not only endured infinitely more than we have or ever will suffer, but also that He promises to reward those who are faithful to Him. Therefore, “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
It should be pretty obvious by now the Bible teaches that happiness is not determined by our circumstances (which are often filled with incredible disappointments), nor by how we are treated by others (which can be incredibly painful), but on our view of God and the reality of our relationship with Him. Though we have considered ten stops on the road to happiness, in reality, these principles are all aspects of one exclusive road. That is, true happiness cannot be found in this life apart from knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Do you know Him? Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). Respond to God’s call:
…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed” (Romans 10:9-11).