Qualities of Genuine Happiness, Pt. 10
Study Guide, March 14, 2021
Pastor Clay Olsen
So, how many really like Salmon? Did you know that Salmon is the fastest growing food production industry in the world right now, with a valuation at about 10 Billion dollars? Its popularity is also due to it being a major health food, especially with its age-related benefits, like being heart healthy, and a natural cancer fighter, and assists with warding off things like stroke and dementia and other age-related problems.
But the other amazing thing about Salmon is how this remarkable fish’s life is like a picture of the Christian life. Why? Because they go against the flow! What they are known for is that the closer they get to the end of their life, the more determined they are to swim upstream and head home, where they will reproduce, and also finish out their days. So, they courageously go against the flow as they head home, and they reproduce, and they finish well.
The journey of the Christian life is a journey to our real home. It’s a journey on the ‘narrow way’ as Jesus called it, as opposed to the ‘broad way’, or the way of the world. And in living against the false beliefs of the ‘broad way’ we are certainly going against the flow. We are going against the flow of Humanism, since we are going in the direction of Realism – the Realism of Righteousness and Truth, as we head home…home to Heaven. And along the way we are to share the Gospel of Truth, so that others can be redeemed…be born again, reproduced into the family of God. And the closer we get to Home, the more committed we are to become in going against the flow, and in sharing the Gospel, and in being committed to finishing well for the sake of our Savior.
And as we choose to do this very thing, Jesus told us, choosing to live this way is the best choice we can make in life; or it is the ‘blessed’ choice we can make, as well as the happiest way we can take, because whatever blesses our God is going to bless us! And one sure sign that you are going the right direction is that you will be going against the flow of the world.
And that brings us to our last sign-post in our journey through the Beatitudes. Yet, be warned – it’s a tough finish. But at the same time, it’s the finish that results in great celebration and rejoicing, not only along the way, but especially when you make it ‘Home’. It’s like at the finish of a marathon, where upon finishing well, the runner is celebrated and rewarded by all those that are cheering for him or her at the finish line.
So let’s explore what Jesus said about this in Matt 5:10-12- “Blessed (Happy) are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed (Happy) are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” NASU
What a finish to these Beatitudes! It’s like a crescendo of rejoicing and gladness. The last beatitude breaks into a song of joy. These beatitudes have been described as ‘the Diatonic scale of heaven’s music’. I had no idea what that meant…but I found out that ‘Diatonic’ refers to any step-by-step arrangement, or progression of seven natural pitches, that then forms an octave, or eight tones. But, interestingly enough, the Beatitudes are seven steps or tones that end with the eighth note being: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” This ‘key-note’ of being persecuted for the sake of righteousness is the upper octave, it is the crescendo, it is the celebration of the one who went against the flow of ungodliness for the sake of their God and Savior. It is Jesus Himself rejoicing over us!
It’s like the crescendo Psalm of Psalm 150 with it’s trumpet sound, and harp and lyre, and timbrels and dancing, and stringed instruments and pipes, and loud cymbals…crashing cymbals. It’s like, if living a life of faithfulness and service for Christ, or going against the flow in following the Scriptures, or sometimes enduring persecution in some way for the sake of the Savior…if this isn’t being celebrated like it should be celebrated on Earth, then when you get Home, there is going to be party and celebration in your honor! The great crowd of witnesses that are cheering you on now will really cheer for you when you enter the arena of Heaven! Especially the prophets, that were persecuted before you, will rally around you because of this special bond that they share with you, and that you share with them. The harder you have had to go against the flow, the greater will be the celebration and the rewards that await you upstream…up home in Heaven.
As Jim Elliot so brilliantly proclaimed before becoming martyred for the sake of the Gospel: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.” As we give of our time, as we give of our talents, as we give of our treasures for the sake of our Savior, we gain so much more, in many ways now, but especially in our eternal Home, we gain great rewards for eternity…and our Lord Jesus Himself will say to us: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”.
But again, know that as you live out these steps of blessed obedience for the sake of your Savior you will be going against the flow. Or, as Jesus put it: John 15:18-21- “If the world hates you, remember that it hated Me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted Me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to Me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of Me…” NLT It’s important to realize, as well as sad to know, that every unrepentant person’s central problem is with their Creator and Lord, Jesus Christ. And since Christ’s followers are with Jesus, the world’s rebellion against Jesus shows up in persecution towards His followers.
Open Doors Ministries reported that in just the last year there have been over 340 million Christians living in places where they have experienced high levels of persecution and discrimination. Over 4,700 Christians were killed for their faith, 4,500 churches and other Christian buildings were attacked, and 4,300 believers were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned, again, in just the last year. The world is growing increasingly hostile to Christianity.
In a recent report by the Family Research Council, it said: “Many of the first European settlers on American shores sought freedom from religious persecution. Decades later, the Founding Fathers considered religious liberty to be the paramount principle in the new United States. Religious liberty is our “first freedom,” not only because it is listed first in the Bill of Rights but because without it, all other freedoms are impossible: The Founders affirmed that allegiance to God precedes allegiance to the state, and that our rights come from our Creator, not the government. This is the essential assumption upon which our entire system of government has been built. Religious liberty was so important to the Framers of the new United States Constitution that they included it in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Fast forward over three hundred years, and hostility to religious expression in the public square is reaching levels unprecedented in the history of the United States. Militant atheists and progressives continue to target America’s religious heritage in public places. Teachers tell young school children that they can’t read their Bible in school. Private citizens and the government alike are attacking religious expression by other citizens. Whether it’s a media backlash to merely expressing a faith position on sexuality, or the use of nondiscrimination laws to punish religious business owners for their decisions, threats to free speech and free exercise are heating up both in the courts and the public square.”1
We are clearly witnessing the growing coldness and callousness of those who oppose the laws of nature and the laws of nature’s God. That is what the Framers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution called the witness of Creation and the Revelation of the Creator, referring to the Old and New Testaments. And Jesus warned us about this growing coldness of the secular world toward sacred things and toward those who love and worship the Savior. Matt 24:9-12- “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” NASU As we have said before, the real problem that the world needs to be warned about is this: the problem of ‘Global Cooling’! Worldwide, there is a growing coldness of the human heart toward the things of God and toward the people of God. America was always one place in the world where religious freedom was honored and respected and at one time, even revered. But now, even America is now falling into the first phase of religious persecution, which is ‘Social Persecution’. Physical persecution always starts with social persecution…persecution in the media, persecution in the schools and universities, persecution in the workplace, persecution in the government and courts, persecution in sports, and so on.
But I have always loved what God said to Ezekiel about facing those who were hard-hearted and hard-headed toward the things of God and toward the people of God. Ezek 2:4-8- “They are a stubborn and hard-hearted people. But I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ And whether they listen or refuse to listen—for remember, they are rebels—at least they will know they have had a prophet among them. Son of man, do not fear them or their words. Don’t be afraid even though their threats surround you like nettles and briers and stinging scorpions. Do not be dismayed by their dark scowls, even though they are rebels. You must give them My messages whether they listen or not. But they won’t listen, for they are completely rebellious!” NLT And then God went on to say: “These people have hard heads—they are very stubborn! And…will refuse to listen to you. They don’t want to listen to Me. But I will make you just as stubborn as they are, and your head just as hard. A diamond is harder than flint rock. In the same way you will be more stubborn than they are, and your head will be harder. Then you will not be afraid of them or those who always turn against Me.” Ezek 3:7-9 ERV
So there really is a time to be stubborn and hard-headed, if it’s being stubborn in proclaiming the truths of the Gospel and God’s Word and if it’s being hard-headed about living godly and righteously in the midst of those who are hard-headed about living selfishly and un-righteously. Now, certainly, God is not calling us to go out and butt heads with people since He has made our heads harder than flint rock. But God certainly is calling us to go out and bless others with the truths that set them free, whether they listen or not. And because God Himself is our King, and our King is also the Judge of all the Earth, we don’t have to fear them or their words or whatever they do about it. If the captives of sin and the devil refuse to be rescued from their sin and their condemnation, then they will have to endure the consequences of their rebellion against God. But the rescuers will reap the rewards of their faithfulness and will be blessed beyond imagination for seeking to honor their God and serve their Savior, even in the midst of a rebellious world.
And in the meantime, along the way, as you walk this pathway of discipleship, regardless of its difficulty, you will also get to experience what few people in this world ever experience, even with all their attempts at manipulating and falsifying and faking and controlling their own happiness, genuine happiness still alludes them and leaves their souls empty and unsatisfied. Jesus says that we will get to experience genuine happiness, an ‘it is well with my soul’ kind of happiness that God reserves for those who genuinely seek to please their Lord and Savior in how they worship Him and in how they serve Him.
This happiness is like a deep well. And these waters of genuine happiness can only be reached by the bucket and ropes of obedience to our Lord and Savior. This happiness is reserved for those who are poor in spirit, or who humbly depend upon Christ for spiritual life; and reserved for those who mourn over the things which causes God’s heart to mourn; and for the meek and gentle as they seek to be more like their Savior; and for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness in order to better know and better serve their Savior; and for those who are merciful like Jesus is merciful; and for those who are pure in heart, seeking grow in holiness like their God is holy; and for those who seek to pass on the peace that their Prince of Peace is trying to pass onto others through their life. And should they then have to face persecution of any sort because of their stand for their Savior, they can know that not only will their God also sustain them with this deep happiness in their soul, but they will also be honored and granted unimaginable rewards by their King in the eternal Kingdom that is just about to be revealed.
The greatest joy in life is found in going against the flow, as you follow your Lord and Savior wherever you go.
- Family Research Council, Hostility Toward Religion, The Growing Threat to Religious Liberty in the United States, frc.org