Sermon: Where True Happiness Lies
Where True Happiness Lies
RUMC 29 January 2017
All of us want to be happy. How often had you thought any of the following?
- If I could only afford to buy that new car…
- If I could truly find someone to love me…
- If I could get that great job or if could retire early…
- If I could own that home or live in that condo…
- If I could have good health and get over this cold…
then I would be happy.
But let me tell you,
- If you did own that brand new 2017 automobile…
- If you did find Mr. Wonderful or Ms. Right…
- If you did get that job or retire early…
- If you did own that dream home or got into that condo or found a place that provided assistive living…
- If your health was good or you recovered from some medical condition…
there is no guarantee that you would be happy.
You see after the initial euphoria of getting your heart’s desire, there will be cares and concerns, financial expenses, ongoing maintenance and cleaning. The novelty of a new job or retirement will give way to new realities. In relationships, imperfect people will let you down.
So then, how do you find happiness; if it is not found in money, things, career advancement, retirement or personal relationships? I believe happiness comes from peace from within. The Beatitudes taught by Jesus teach us how to secure that peace. So whether you are winning, losing, succeeding or failing. Whether you are healthy or suffering, you can be content and happy.
My text is Mathew 5:1-12
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I would like to look at each of the eight beatitudes and see how we can better live our lives.
Verse 33 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Poor in spirit is when people know their need of God. It is also when we reach a point in our sinfulness, in our shortcomings, and cry out to God:
- Lord, I have a problem, can you help me?
- Lord, I don’t understand, can you show me the way?
- Lord, I am ready to quit, can you strengthen me?
Before Jesus can comfort us, before he can help and heal us, we must have the attitude that we are willing to be helped; that is the first step in this blessed type of happiness. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God.”
Verse 44 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. For those who have experienced loss in their life, the Lord will see to it that we are comforted. Part of our healing occurs when we reach out and comfort others in their loss.
The comfort that God gives is like the comfort shown in this story. A mother sent her daughter to the local grocery store to buy some milk. The mother made it plain to the girl that she should go straight to the store and return home. However, the little girl was gone a long time and the mother was concerned. When the girl finally came home, she explained that her friend Julie broke her doll and she stayed to help fix it. Her mother asked how she did that and the girl confessed, “I couldn’t really fix the doll, but I sat down with her and helped her cry.” That is the type of comfort God gives and shares with us. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Verse 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” I think most people confuse meekness with weakness. The best explanation I had ever heard came from my former pastor who said “Meekness is strength under control.” Numbers 12:3 tells us that “Moses was the meekest man on the face of the earth.” In the field of horse racing, jockeys and trainers have been known to say, “The horse that wins the race is the meekest on the track,” which means that particular horse is most under control and responds to the jockey’s guidance. As Christian believers, we have this realization that God is in control, and we are subject to his will, just as the horse is with its jockey. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
Verse 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” All of us have physical needs and desires. The need for food and water is basic; without them we will die. In the spiritual realm, the need for God is a desire that can be compared to hunger and thirst. It needs to be satisfied.
Perhaps the most amazing worship service that I ever conducted was when I was a chaplain. I was sent to the Bahamas for a weekend to minister to pilots, mechanics and helicopter crew chiefs of an Aviation unit. Their mission was to fly over the ocean and help the DEA look for drug smugglers. If they were not flying or fixing their helicopters, the crew members were enjoying the Bahamas – fishing, snorkeling, waterskiing, etc. I had scheduled a 9 AM worship service overlooking the ocean, and honestly, I didn’t expect anyone to show up. It was the weekend of the time change. I expected everyone to be sleeping in. But to my shock and amazement, almost 100% of the aviation unit attended the service. Even though they were in a place of paradise, the need for God was there.
You see, those aviators could do all those fun, outdoor activities, but those things don’t completely satisfy. Only God can truly meet the needs of the human heart. So the next time you are really hungry or thirsty, you need to ask yourselves, “Do I hunger for God like food and drink.” “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Verse 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” If we want God to show mercy to us, we have to show mercy to others. The Lord’s Prayer reminds us that if we want God to forgive us, we need to forgive others; when I hear someone saying that they will not forgive, it makes me cringe.
Let me share this story. After General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to end the civil War, President Lincoln spoke to a large crowd from the balcony of the White House. He told them of a policy that he had in mind to integrate the South with the North. At the end of his speech, Senator Harlan of Iowa shouted, “What shall we do with the rebels?” The vindictive crowd shouted back, “Hang them!” President Lincoln’s 11 year old son Tad turned to his father and said, “No, no Papa. Do not hang them. Hang on to them.” Lincoln thought for a moment and then told the crowd. “Tad has it. We must hang on to them.” The way we treat others is how God will treat us. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
Verse 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. A pure heart is a character trait that only God’s spirit can produce. Purity stands for what is clean, innocent, and sincere. A person who is pure in heart is one who has their sins forgiven and is in a right relationship with God.
Once there was a young army officer who was blinded during the war. He met and married the nurse who took care of him in the hospital. One day he overheard someone speak about him and his new wife. These were the comments: “It was lucky for her that he was blind, otherwise he never would have married such a homely woman.” When the young officer happened to hear those comments, he rose to his feet and walked to where the voices were and said, “I overheard what you said, and I thank God from the depths of my heart, for blindness of my eyes, that might have kept me from seeing the marvelous worth of the soul of this woman who is my wife. She is the noblest character I have ever known. And if I had been able to see, I might not have been able to see her inward beauty.” You see, God looks on the heart and prefers purity to outward appearances. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Verse 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Peacemaking is the activity of creating peace in a threatening atmosphere. Peacemakers are declared by God to be his sons and daughters. I am reminded of that famous scene of President Carter with Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat as they stood outside in the Rose Garden on the White House grounds, they shook hands in peace. Many conflicts or battlegrounds can be found in the office, home or even in the church. Whenever we are able to make reconciliation between people or cause enemies to become friends, we are peacemakers. Before we can be a peacemaker, we need to meet the greatest peacemaker of all time, the Prince of Peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”
Verse 10 to 12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
One of the great Christian classics is Foxes’ Book of Martyrs. In it are listed some of the martyred lives from Apostolic Times to the present time. Even today in certain parts of the world, it is dangerous to openly live as a Christian believer. If Jesus was persecuted for his life and message, then we as his devoted followers can expect the same. Even here in Connecticut, a person holding strong Christian beliefs can still be ridiculed. May God help us to be faithful and stand up for what is right.
Let me conclude:
- Poor in Spirit and Mourning is truly being sorry for our sins or painful situations.
- Meekness is strength under control.
- Hunger and Thirst-Do we have a desire for God like we do for food and drink?
- Mercy-When we show mercy to others, we will receive it from our Heavenly Father.
- Pure in Heart-A character trait only God’s spirit can produce.
- Peacemaker-is when we bring people together.
- Persecution-It is standing up for the things of God or doing what is right.
So how do we find happiness? Again it is not in some new gadget, car, home, career, retirement or a new relationship, but it is peace within.