Sunday, August 18, 2013

Happy Happy

Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise [man] glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty [man] glory in his might, Nor let the rich [man] glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I [am] the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the LORD.  Jeremiah 9:23-24  NKJV
I’m sure that I am not alone in occasionally watching a show on television called “Duck Dynasty”, and if you have you have also probably heard the expression “happy happy” used once or twice.  Of course, there are probably quite a few people who would say it’s easy to be happy happy if you have the money they have, yet in all seriousness, is that really true?  Many spend their whole lives chasing after things that they believe might make them happy, yet if we really want to be happy as believers, should we not look to our Heavenly Father for an answer on how best to do that?

If you have ever questioned whether or not God is interested in our happiness, you need look no further than the very first teaching Jesus did when He began His ministry here on earth. If we examine that occasion revealed to us in the book of Matthew, we find the subject of Jesus’ very first teaching was in fact how to be truly happy.  His teaching about true happiness can be found in the portion of scripture which we call the Beatitudes. I also found it very interesting that the answer He gives us is not about what we are expected to do, but rather what we are expected to be. If you look closely at what Jesus teaches here you will find that the very first thing He requires from us is the proper “attitudes” in order to “be” a follower of Christ. In other words, He lists for us the “Be-attitudes”.
And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: "Blessed [are] the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.         Matthew 5:1-3  NKJV

“Blessed” is the Greek word makario, which simply means happy. When I saw this my first thought was “how appropriate”. At that time in Israel's history, they were under the rule of Caesar and suffering because of it.  I think it goes without saying that most if not all of them were very unhappy with life under Roman rule and would have welcomed hearing someone talk about how to be happy. If you took a poll and asked the question “what do you want most in this life”, how many of us would answer “happiness”?  Nine times in this teaching Jesus tells us how to find happiness in this life and each time we find that true happiness is rooted in our attitudes.

He who heeds the word wisely will find good, And whoever trusts in the LORD, happy [is] he.
Proverbs 16:20 NKJV
Now I'm the sort of person that always asks the question “why”? Although I know there is always a reason for something, I have always wanted to know what it was in order to better understand. I'm sure many of us as believers can remember back to the time when we first decided we wanted to serve Christ and do whatever we could to be a witness for Him. I'm also fairly certain that at that point we were all thinking about service, or the “doing” part of ministry. Yet here Jesus tells us that the very first thing we need to concern ourselves with is our character. Why? I believe what He is trying to tell us is that conduct is a result of our character, and not the other way around.

“Poor in spirit”. These two words used together give the idea of someone who is completely destitute spiritually. In other words, this phrase describes someone who recognizes their spiritual deficiencies, understands that by their own efforts they can accomplish nothing, and is willing to admit they need the spiritual assets that only God can provide. While the world would have us concentrate on our material deficiencies and spend our time and efforts chasing after those, Jesus shows us our priority should be the spiritual and not the material.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but [how] to perform what is good I do not find.
Romans 7:18 NKJV

“Theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. To me, this is the most exciting part of this verse, and that is because of the promise it makes. Often this is understood to be simply a promise of salvation, yet if you examine it in light of the context, what we are being promised here is much more than that. This is a promise from Jesus that if we believe and are “poor in spirit” we will be “blessed” with all that is available to us in this life which comes from the kingdom of Heaven. As believers we have access to things from the kingdom provided to us from God not only for our benefit, but to help us serve Him in sharing the message of the Kingdom of God with an unbelieving world.

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 NKJV

The first thing Jesus teaches us is that our attitudes will determine what we do. As believers our character must conform to the example we have been given by the life of the Son of God. The character of a believer is what determines their conduct, and our conduct is the biggest witness we have for Jesus. Is your time spent trying to obtain the riches the world dangles in front of us, or do you cultivate the attitudes God tells us will bring true happiness? 

Acknowledging that our spiritual needs are far more important than our material needs is the first step to being happy in this life.  By spending time in the Word and pursuing a relationship with our Heavenly Father we allow Him the opportunity to provide for our needs as He has promised He would.  Everybody wants to be “happy happy”, and Jesus began His ministry by telling us all how we can do just that.  Check your “be-attitudes” and find out how happy this life can really be.
Keep watching.