I can’t forget the billboard. Every time I drove through Manurewa, there it was at the side of the road – a giant face with a ludicrous smile. Across the top was written, ‘Eat yourself happy’.
Each time I drove past I pondered its meaning. Would eating hamburgers from a particular joint leave me feeling peaceful and contented? Would burgers by other global franchises have the same effect? Would my daily dose of porridge also induce lasting cheerfulness?
Obviously, the idea of using food to induce lasting happiness is stupid – yet the worrying rise of obesity in NZ is proof that too many of us doderive happiness, albeit fleeting, from food. We also depend on alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, sport and any number of other pursuits to seek happiness.
But who is truly happy? Jesus gives us the answer in the ‘Beatitudes’ of Matthew 5:1-12. ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’, he told his disciples, ‘for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. The term ‘blessed’ could be translated ‘happy’.
Here, as he begins his public ministry, Jesus pronounces the Divine Shalomupon certain kinds of people – those who, as citizens of his kingdom, enjoy the sunshine of God’s smile. They have not earnedGod’s favour through their actions, but the grace of God has brought them into a state of utter dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ. In their reliance on him rather than their self-achievement, they had found safety and happiness.
Perhaps when you have shared the gospel with someone they have replied, ‘Christianity is just a crutch for people who can’t make it through life on their own’. Well, they are right – with two minor corrections.
Christ himselfis the crutch for people who knowthey can’t make it through life on their own! Truly happy people have discovered they are cripples but have found all they need in the Lord Jesus Christ.
What happy people look like
What do these ‘happy cripples’ look like? They are spiritual bankrupts (v. 3) who mourn over their sins (v.4). They view themselves through the ‘reality glasses’ of Scripture, which results in meekness and humility (v. 5). In a world bloated with deathly junk food, the kingdom citizen hungers and thirsts after Christ’s righteousness (v.6).
The character of the happy person is further defined by their willingness to operate by grace rather than by the letter of the law (v. 7). In a day of sordid secrets, they are distinguished by their purity and innocence (v. 8).
When the best that rulers and officials can do is send in the peacekeepers, these blessed ones bring the Prince of peace to rebel sinners through the gospel (v. 9).
Finally, the really happy are those who have the grace that makes them loyal to Christ, even to the point of death (v. 10). When they are insulted, persecuted and slandered for Christ’s sake, their happiness rises to rejoicing – because they are counted with the godly prophets of old (vv. 11-12).
Are you happy?
Ask yourself today, ‘Am I happy?’ If so, go on and ask a second question, namely, ‘What makes me happy?’ Test yourself. How much wealth is there in your spiritual bank account? Does your sin make you weep?
What satisfies your hunger and quenches your thirst? Know this for sure – nothing but the Lord Jesus Christ will ever bring you true happiness, God’s smile of blessing on your life.