Great sermon this Sunday. You can see the video or read the transcript here.
Our preacher, Lyndon, is starting a series on Matthew 5 (NKJV), specifically what’s known as the Beatitudes. Of course, I’ve heard many preachers talk about Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, and they’ve tackled it from all kinds of angles. But Lyndon made several points that evoked an “a-ha!” moment in me.
Today’s focus was what it means to be Blessed. There are multiple uses of Blessed throughout Scripture, which I think causes some confusion. Specifically in Matthew 5, Jesus is using it much as we would use BLISS – that perfect sense of peace, fulfillment and contentment. We may also call it Happiness — not the kind of happiness that we experience from an extra serving of dessert or finding a $20 in your jeans that you had forgotten about. This is happiness that is not fleeting – unchanging and eternal.
So the question is ‘does this mean I have to be happy when something bad happens to me like I lose my job or I’m suffering an illness or I’m struggling with a relationship / friendship?’ And as Lyndon shares,
Well, yes and no. We don’t have to be happy about all the perceived bad or evil around us, but we are to be happy in the middle of the circumstances because what makes us supremely happy has not changed, even if we’ve lost our job and our income. Happiness is not based on that, shouldn’t be based on that. He has still placed His love on us as sinful children, and our future is forever secure in Him in all His glorious kindness, and if this is true, then losing a job and having no money cannot steal away true happiness in God. This doesn’t mean we ask for pain, that we want pain or say “bring it on.” No, it simply means there is something that runs deeper than the pain, and it is a contented joy in Christ. That is happiness in Him.
If the source of our joy / happiness / blessedness is not tied to the things and circumstances around us, then it can’t possibly change when those things go away or change. Easier said than done, to be sure. I am guilty of losing my patience or joy quite frequently. What seems to upset me most is seeing hardships or struggles affecting the ones I love. When my children are nasty to each other or to my wife, it makes my blood boil. I’ve got a pretty tough skin, but if you hurt my daughter, angels had better be guarding your butt.
In some lame, cop-out, attempt at justification, I would argue that I work really hard to ensure my loved ones don’t have to struggle if I have anything to say about it. I know it’s fleeting as everything good comes from God’s hand, not by my own. But my counter argument would be the Parable of the Talents. We obviously have to use the gifts that God has given to us – for HIS glory.
[Interesting side note. Jenny and the kids recently all did their Personality Profiles online. I’ve always known that I’m an INTJ (aka. The Scientist). These personality descriptions always fascinate me.]
INTJs spend a lot of time inside their own minds, and may have little interest in the other people’s thoughts or feelings. … INTJs tend to blame misunderstandings on the limitations of the other party, rather than on their own difficulty in expressing themselves. This tendency may cause the INTJ to dismiss others input too quickly, and to become generally arrogant and elitist. … Others may falsely perceive the INTJ as being rigid and set in their ways. Nothing could be further from the truth, because the INTJ is committed to always finding the objective best strategy to implement their ideas. The INTJ is usually quite open to hearing an alternative way of doing something.
There’s another point that Lyndon makes that I think I’ve known my whole life but never actually verbalized or heard put this way. Some Christians believe that Happiness and Holiness are in constant opposition with each other, meaning that we can’t be Happy unless we sacrifice being Holy and vice versa. If I’m suffering and totally miserable, then I must be doing something Holy. For someone that needs to be around people, maybe this suffering actually manifests itself into being Lonely.
I’ve never understood that line of thinking. I’m sure it’s rooted in Catholic doctrine of penance and always feeling guilty. I loved that our preacher takes it one step further to say that in order to truly be Holy, you must be Happy.
I’m not sure one can be holy if he is not also happy in Christ. I don’t see how that’s possible. Just think about that for a moment. Can one be holy, I mean genuinely so, and not be happy in Christ? What kind of holiness would that be? Maybe some kind of a legalistic holiness, maybe a self-righteous holiness, maybe a self-earned facade of holiness. I don’t know. Because if someone is truly walking with Christ in obedience from the heart, then wouldn’t that include obedience to all the commands for joy from Philippians, and happiness from the Sermon on the Mount?
So are you happy? I certainly am. It is extremely comforting to know how the story of my life will end. This doesn’t mean we have to stop working and earning. I don’t think this means we have to sell all of our possessions and live in a mud hut in Brazil. I also believe that doing so won’t bring us Happiness either in or of itself. And as much as I cannot wait for the day where I will go to my Home, we still have labor to do today. That labor may test us. It may try our patience. These frail, decaying bodies may fall apart. Life will bring us heartache, disappointment, betrayal, frustration, and cause to cry out “why me, Lord?” Jesus assures us that the things we can see and feel are not the source of our Happiness. When we focus on Him, we will be able to weather the ups and downs of daily living.