This past Sunday, I began a series of studies on the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:3-12. No less than nine times in these verses do we read the word ‘blessed’ as Jesus deals with the subject of blessedness and explains how it is characteristic of those who are subjects of His kingdom. The word itself means ‘happy,’ though not in the sense that we are used to. It refers to a happiness that comes from another world, the kind of true happiness that only God Himself supplies. To be blessed is to have the approval of God upon one’s life. The fullest meaning of the word ‘blessed’ is inward contentment that is not affected by circumstances. In fact, this same word is used elsewhere in Scripture to describe God Himself. 1 Timothy 1:11 refers to Him as the “blessed God,” and 1 Timothy 6:15 refers to Him as the “blessed and only Potentate.” God is perfectly content and satisfied in Himself, and our satisfaction and happiness only comes as we are satisfied in Him as well. Thus, the ‘blessedness’ spoken of in the Beatitudes is a characteristic of Jesus Himself, and it can only be characteristic of us as we share in His nature through a personal relationship with Him. Here are a few principles to consider before we begin looking at each individual Beatitude:
1. Jesus defines what true happiness is
The world constantly bombards us with its own ideas of what happiness is and how it can be obtained. Ask any ten different people and you will get ten different answers about what constitutes a happy life. The world’s happiness is a superficial happiness that depends on the happenings of our lives. True happiness, however, is supernatural and is produced by God. In the Beatitudes, Jesus destroys the world’s illusion of happiness and clues us in on those who are truly blessed. This is the kind of happiness that is revealed through the Beatitudes–a state of joy and well-being that does not depend on temporary things and temporary circumstances.
2. Jesus desires for His followers to be truly happy
C.S. Lewis once said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” Only Jesus can satisfy the longing of the soul. In John 10:10, He said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” As the perfect Son of God, Jesus perfectly embodied what happiness is and what it is supposed to look like. His words in the Sermon on the Mount reveal that He wants us to know what it is and experience it as well.
3. Jesus declares that happiness is inward, not outward
According to Jesus, true happiness is not something that comes as a result of favorable outward circumstances. Each of the Beatitudes describe inward character traits, not outward conditions. Thus, the joy that God desires for us to know is not connected to the outward circumstances of life, whether they be good or bad. His joy flows from within through the indwelling of His Spirit who lives within the believer.
4. Jesus designates happiness as a byproduct, not a goal
The blessedness that Jesus speaks of in each of the Beatitudes is not what He intends us to seek; it is merely the byproduct. For instance, when He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” He intends for us to focus on being poor in spirit, and the byproduct of that is being blessed. When we focus on happiness as the goal, we completely miss it. To pursue happiness as your conscious aim in life is the surest way to miss it altogether. Nowhere in Scripture are we told to pursue happiness. However, we are instructed to pursue Jesus, to pursue peace with all men, and to pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. The pursuit of Jesus is our goal, not the pursuit of happiness. As I pursue Him, He brings happiness to my soul.