Jeremiah 29: 11-14
Matthew 5: 3-12
What does it take to be happy? Or prosperous? Or to have hope and marvelous future?
The world offers answers. How rich, famous, powerful, popular, influential does one need to be to be happy? With God these temporary worldly attributes can be used for building the kingdom of God. Without God these temporary worldly attributes….well suffice it to say…don’t satisfy and don’t last.
In Matthew 5: 3-12, Jesus maps out the road to a blessed, happy life with the attributes and rewards of a believer.
I grew up going to Sunday School, where in the olden days we memorized scripture. The Beatitudes–this passage–was one required section. I am pretty sure we got a badge or something for doing this. I remembered the words when I was called on to recite them, but it has taken me a lifetime to begin to understand. Even as a child I had a hard time reconciling “mourning” with “being blessed”.
Consider each one but in the end consider them as a whole. How can I be the joyful, happy, blessed servant of Jesus, how can I witness to His power and His grace, how can I find and know God without these attributes.
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven–when you got no more in you, when you are at the end of your rope, that’s when more of God can shine through you, that’s when the Holy Spirit works best through you.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Loss comes in this life. “Jesus wept.” when he learned of Lazarus’s death, his friend. Tears, sorrow come. Grief that tears your insides out happens. Beware of numbing yourself to grief, avoiding pain, that only brings hardness. Comfort comes when we acknowledge our pain and our inablility to change what has happened. Comfort comes so that we too can become comforters and that brings happiness.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Meek does not equate with weak. Meekness is restraint in difficult situations. Meekness is contentment with just who you are. Meekness stands tallest when life becomes chaotic. Meekness allows you to see all you have rather than all you do not have.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Appetites define us at times. Appetites drive us. When I crave chocolate, nothing satisfies but chocolate. Jesus knows fleshly appetites have only momentary satisfaction. An appetite for God fills us over and over again and keeps us wanting more. In Jeremiah 29: 12-13, He says if we seek him, hunt for him, desire to know him, He will be found by us. We will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. The Message puts it this way, “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.” God desires that we should experience compassion not judgement. That we experience mercy in both giving and receiving. “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. “(Micah 6:8 NIV) Clearly, God knows that an element of the happy life involves a merciful heart.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Congruent living, a heart and mind tuned into God. Actions may evidence a pure heart, but no one but God can see one. A pure heart requires opening all the dark cubby holes, the ones filled with trash, the places, we want no one to see. To have a pure heart, we need to fling these doors open so the Holy Spirit can work on the most intimate hidden areas of our insides. Then we can see God in others; we can see where He is working; we can begin to understand how He works, because with a pure heart there are no self conceived notions to overcome.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Nothing in the Bible convinces me that God is a pacificist, but God is a Peacemaker. Where possible we should live at peace with all, especially other Christians. Happiness for the peacemaker comes as one acts to help people cooperate instead of fight.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Provoking persecution sounds like the farthest thing from living a happy, blessed life and certainly not all persecution begets happiness. Only when commitment to God brings the insults, the lies, the put downs, or other anti Christian restrictions…only then can we delight in the fact that the truth has made the persecuters uncomfortable. That is when the Kingdom of God is near and we can Cheer for their discomfort in the presence of godliness pleases God. And as it says in The Message, “And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”
Carolyn’s Musings for this day
So today I decided to start this study, to dig deeper into the “red letter” passage in Matthew 5-7. I don’t know what I expected, but to start with I did not sleep well. Twice in the night my dogs insisted on going out. This doesn’t happen often, so I knew they really needed it. Even my caffeine fix couldn’t produce the bounce I thought I needed.
Still as I worked through the familiar passage, I began to consider these words of Christ as a pattern for not just a blessed happy life in the final product, but as the daily work of the Holy Spirit as He shapes me into the image of Christ. Paul wrote of the fruit of the Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 23 NIV) as the evidence of the Christian to the world. Each of these finds purchase in the Beatitudes and so this day with all its interruptions, challenges, with a sleep deprived brain and a true feeling of inadequacy I encounter Spirit led opportunities to deepen my root system in these initial words of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount.