One of the most famous portions of the Bible is Jesus’s 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 markers on the road to 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.”
Tomorrow, we will consider five more stops on the road to true happiness.