Some Essentials for Happiness

For a people who know and are devoted to the Lord it is not necessary to speak of the happiness which may be enjoyed by every human being, but of the happiness which is far superior to it and is not so dependent on circumstances and environment. Jesus spoke of the essentials for true happiness in his introduction to the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew 5:1‑12, where we are reminded that the word "Blessed" indicates true happiness.

The lessons in the school of Christ are mainly such as find a response in the heart rather than the head, and these words of Jesus prove an incentive to practical living instead of a statement of doctrine to be accepted. He does not mention faith or works, although there will be no lack of either in those enjoying the qualities indicated. His words do not imply that some are blessed or happy because they have, after much laborious effort, become "poor in spirit," "meek" or "merciful," but rather happiness is on account of the possession of these qualities. "Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear" (Matt.13:16) are the encouraging words of Jesus to such.

A visitor to an interesting building may find that the rooms they wish to see are available only by passing through the entrance hall. The first essential for happiness may be regarded as the entrance hall to all the others, for none of the succeeding qualities is possible to the person devoid of the first. It is, therefore, of primary importance to be "poor in spirit," which means to enjoy the grace of humility and the promise of the Kingdom. Not everyone who is humble will be in the spiritual Kingdom, but no one will be there who is not humble. He that "exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (Luke 14:11) Next in order Jesus mentions "mourners" as blessed or happy because they shall be comforted. We suggest that Jesus is approving the sympathetic disposition as manifested by Himself—the "Man of Sorrows." His sorrow was not because of sin in Himself, for He had none, but because of the distress observed everywhere and which could be relieved only by the operation of His Kingdom. Jesus’ sorrow led to action, thus "He went about doing good." The "God of all comfort" is not unmindful of those who emulate Jesus’ sympathetic disposition. Meekness is the outward manifestation of the sympathetic heart. To be meek is to be self‑controlled, not easily provoked, and forbearing under injury, and is impossible without the first essential of humility. A meek man is usually happy and peaceful. The anger of a meek man is like fire struck out of steel—hard to get out, but soon gone. How beautiful is the expression of the Apostle in 1 Peter 3:4 which reminds us of "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."

Only the "poor in spirit," "the mourners" and the "meek" will be hungering and thirsting for righteousness; others are satisfied in themselves: they cannot hunger for what they do not comprehend. Hungering for righteousness must be based on our love of truth, and needs to be modified by submission to the divine will, for to demand justice, truth and righteousness when God permits the reverse to persist, may lead to unauthorised excesses. The appropriate hunger seeks first God’s Kingdom, and is also expressed by Paul when he writes: "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." (Phil.3:10‑11) Jesus lays great stress on the necessity for exercising mercy. Although indispensable it is obtained only in proportion to the mercy we extend to others, for "if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt.6:15), and "He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment." (James 2:13) The same Apostle (5:11) describes our Father as very pitiful and of tender mercy, and failure to be of this character will rob us of some of life’s happiest experiences and finally of God’s approval.

The pure of heart shall see God. Purity of heart cannot mean perfection, for everyone is imperfect, and mercy is not needed by the perfect. Jesus taught the necessity of purity of motive and intention, of sincerity and truthfulness, of transparency of conduct, without ulterior motive. To fully realise the promise, "we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2), assists us in remembering that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor.6:19) and inspires us to walk as He walked. All the preceding essentials are necessary in order to be a peacemaker. The exhortation "follow peace with all men" (Heb.12:14) is surely more needed today than at any period in the history of the Church. Only the peace‑makers have that happy description—"Children of God." The combative disposition may be a great asset to the child of God if rightly exercised in warfare against those forces within which are in opposition to the way of righteousness, but is highly dangerous to spiritual progress where used to the destruction of peace. Happy the man who bends his energies to the promotion of peace. Persecution is a cause for rejoicing if it results from faithfulness to God. To invite persecution by foolish conduct is as much to be deplored as the touchy disposition which assumes persecution where it does not exist. A benevolent disposition does not think of slights. Jesus spoke of blessedness in persecution, but said that our love must be even for our enemies. Surely only a little flock will attain this high standard!

The persecuted are in good company with our Lord, the Apostles and the prophets, and will they not be in good company when the Lord makes up His jewels? If the former essentials persist the more we are persecuted and reviled the more will our good qualities in the grace of the Lord be manifested. To be reviled and persecuted and to have all manner of evil spoken against us falsely "for My sake" are causes for rejoicing. When this occurs we are counselled by Jesus to "be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven." (v.12) What kind of reward is this which our Lord calls a great reward?