What does it mean to be happy? Well meaning people may exhort us to this end, but how do we define happiness? Some would argue that happiness is found in one’s appearance. Others would maintain that it is found in education. Still others would argue that it depends on extracurricular activities and achievements. Of course, there are some people who think of happiness as nothing more than a life of leisure. But those who follow Christ need to define happiness according to Jesus. Contrary to the world that says happiness is about comfort, convenience, charisma, cash, career advancement, and the like, Jesus teaches in His sermon on the mountain that true happiness is found in godly character.
First, happy are the poor in spirit because they will receive the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3). The humble of heart who depend upon the Lord will receive eternal life. To be happy is to be humble.
Second, happy are those who mourn because God will comfort them (Matt. 5:4). Believers will suffer in this fallen world, but they will receive comfort from God (2 Cor. 1:3-7), and in turn will be able to comfort others. At the same time, they look toward the future with hope knowing that in the new Jerusalem God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:4). To be happy is to hurt with hope and to help others hurting to hope.
Third, happy are the meek because they will inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5). As those who are chosen by the Father in Christ, and sealed by the Holy Spirit, we have a guaranteed inheritance in the new heaven and earth that we will acquire possession of when Christ returns (Eph. 1:13-14). To be happy is to humbly hope for our eternal home.
Fourth, happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness because they will find true satisfaction (Matt. 5:6). While the world tells us we will be satisfied if we pursue sinful passions, Scripture is clear that true fulfillment is found in pursuing “righteousness, faith, love, and peace” (2 Tim. 2:22). To be happy is to hunger for the right things.
Fifth, happy are the merciful because they will receive mercy (Matt. 5:7). The inclination of the human heart is to be greedy, stingy, and unmerciful, but because God is merciful to us, we are to be quick to extend mercy to others, especially when it comes to forgiving others (see 18:23-35). To be happy is to handle others mercifully. Sixth, happy are the pure in heart because they will see God (Matt. 5:8). Although we cannot be perfect on this side of glory, we are to “strive for holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). To be happy is to be holy.
Seventh, happy are the peacemakers because they will be called sons of God (Matt. 5:9). Because Christ “is our peace” (Eph. 2:14), we are to “make peace” (Jas. 3:18). This does not come naturally to us. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). To be happy is to be a peacemaker.
Eighth, happy are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness because they will receive the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:10). Christ, who “suffered once for sins…that he might bring us to God” is our example (1 Pet. 3:18). Now in heaven, He intercedes for us, as we persevere in suffering, awaiting the day when we will join Him at the marriage supper of the Lamb. To be happy is to handle persecution with an eternal perspective.
Ninth, happy are those who are reviled, persecuted, and falsely accused on Christ’s account because their reward in heaven is great (Matt. 5:11). If the prophets of God were persecuted on Christ’s account, then disciples should be prepared for persecution. In fact, we should “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet. 4:13). Persecution “for the name of Christ” reveals that we are true believers (v. 14). Therefore, Christians should “not be ashamed, but…glorify God in that name” (v. 16). To be happy is to highlight God’s glory in the midst of hardship.
How does your definition of happiness align with how Jesus defines it? If we’re honest, it’s likely very different. Let us pray, then, that God will help us to pursue true happiness. Father, please help us to be humble. Help us to hurt with hope, and to help others hurting to hope. Help us to humbly hope for our eternal home. Help us to hunger for the right things. Help us to handle others mercifully. Help us to be holy. Help us to be a peacemaker. Help us to handle persecution with an eternal perspective. And help us to highlight God’s glory in the midst of hardship. Amen.
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.