Name eight things that would make you happy. If God said to you today, "Choose eight things that you feel would make your life happy and I will give them to you," what would you choose? Would it be to win the lottery or to be wealthy? Would you ask for healing and good health for you or your loved ones? Would you ask for that job or that promotion you’ve been wanting? What eight things would you choose?
Would you choose to be poor? Would you choose things such as mourning, meekness, hunger and thirst, to be merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker; or to experience persecution? Do you think these eight things would make you happy? Jesus says so.
In Matthew 5 Jesus climbs up a mountain on the northern side of the Sea of Galilee. His disciples come to Him. Jesus sits down on the hillside and teaches, giving the greatest sermon that’s ever been preached in the history of the world, the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus opens His mouth and He taught them saying “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3).
He uses the word “blessed” about those who have each of these attitudes (poor, mourning, meekness, hunger and thirst, merciful, purity, peaceable; persecuted). Really, to be blessed is more than to be happy. Happiness can come and go with outward circumstances. “Blessed” refers to the ultimate well-being and inner joy of those who share in the kingdom of God.
Before you conclude that Jesus is wrong, consider the opposites of those qualities: attitudes like pride, pleasure-seeking, aggressiveness, compromising, impurity, cruelty, hatred and cowardice. Would you be blessed with those attitudes?
Max Lacado in his book, the Applause of Heaven, tells the story of Robert Reed:
His hands are twisted and his feet are useless. He can’t bathe himself. He can’t feed himself. He can’t brush his teeth, comb his hair, or put on his underwear. Strips of Velcro hold his shirts together. His speech drags like a worn out audiocassette.
Robert has cerebral palsy. The disease keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike, and going for a walk. But it didn’t keep him from graduating from high school or attending Abilene Christian University, from which he graduate with a degree in Latin. Having cerebral palsy didn’t keep him from teaching at St. Louis junior college or from venturing overseas on five mission trips.
And Robert’s disease didn’t prevent him from becoming a missionary in Portugal.
He moved to Lisbon, alone, in 1972. There he rented a hotel room and began studying Portuguese. He found a restaurant owner who would feed him after the rush hour and a tutor who would instruct him in the language.
Then he stationed himself daily in a park, where he distributed brochures about Christ. Within six years he led seventy people to the Lord, one of whom became his wife, Rosa.
When Robert spoke at a church service Max watched other men carry him in his wheelchair onto the platform. They laid a Bible in his lap. His stiff fingers forced open the pages. People in the audience wiped away tears of admiration from their faces. Robert could have asked for sympathy or pity, but he did just the opposite. He held his bent hand up in the air and said triumphantly, “I have everything I need for joy.”
His shirts are held together by Velcro, but his life is held together by joy.
What holds your life together? Today and for the next few days I want us to check our attitude. And I hope that by hearing what Jesus says about it we will become the “blessed.”Which list more accurately describes your attitude today, or over the last week?