Qualities of Genuine Happiness, Pt. 7
Study Guide, November 29, 2020
Pastor Clay Olsen
So, since it has been such a difficult and frustrating year we have been walking through a study on the Beatitudes, or the Be-Attitudes, or the Be-Happy Attitudes, as they are often called. The Beatitudes are not only a description of the pathway of discipleship, but they are also God’s revelation to us on how to be genuinely happy in this life. And there sure are a lot of ideas about happiness! Some are just weird, some are fine, in principle, and others are, well…just foolish. Like, here is a weird one: “Happiness is being weird every now and then.” Actually, that’s not so bad after all. But this is good, and you’ll recognize it: “Happiness is a warm puppy.”… Charles Shulz, creator of the good old ‘Peanuts’ comic strip. And this is pretty good… “Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like.” That so of goes along with the New Testament counsel about ‘losing your life in order to find it’…losing it by finding real life ‘in Christ’, that is. And this was encouraging… “Happiness is knowing that there is new food out there that you haven’t yet tried.” There’s got to be a Biblical principle behind that one, right? How about this one? “Be happy…it drives other people crazy.” Have you noticed that some people are just really bugged by happy people? Very strange… You could follow that up with… “Everyone wants your happiness…don’t let them take it.” Watch out for the ‘happiness stealers!’
And here’s an example of a foolish one: “Happiness is not an ideal of reason, but of imagination.” Say what? That sounds like someone had way too much time on their hands. But this was good… “Happiness does not have a price tag.” That’s liberating, right? And then there’s this: “Happiness is when you find that what you ought to be doing and what you are doing is the same thing.” And that’s where the Beatitudes take us…they take us into doing what we ought to be doing; and in doing that, we discover genuine happiness!
So, let’s return to Matthew 5, and we have come to our next Beatitude of Matt 5:7- “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” NASU Now then, before we explore, we need to fill out the picture of what is happening here in this experience called ‘Happiness’, or ‘Genuine happiness’ or ‘Biblical happiness’. Remember, God graciously designed the human condition in such a way as to be able to experience happy sensations. Like with that Thanksgiving dinner we had. That created the sensations of a super happy tummy, right? And we can be glad about that and thankful to God about that as well. But that full and happy stomach feeling is not to be equated with the soul happiness for which the Beatitudes promise and provide! No, the genuine happiness we see promised here is more like the bestowal of a crown upon the head upon a faithful servant by the hands of a proud and loving King. This is a ‘well done, thou good and faithful servant’ kind of happiness. This is a kind of happiness that settles deep into your heart and your soul and your mind, and then it gives you motivation to excel still more. Plus, it provides the courage to press on in the face of whatever life may throw in your path. So this unique kind of happiness is a deep satisfaction that draws directly from the true source of happiness…the Creator of soul happiness, God Himself! As Charles Spurgeon stated it: “As there is the most heat nearest to the Sun, so there is the most happiness nearest to Christ.” Again, yes, there are ‘happy sensations’ in life, but the true source of true happiness is the Creator of happiness, Jesus Christ. And that’s also why the Beatitudes are referred to as a ‘pathway of discipleship’, because ultimately this pathway brings us closer to Christ!
And that leads us to another important discipline in our discipleship, especially in better understanding just what Jesus is saying to us here about this blessing of happiness that He bestows upon us. Meaning, we will have to dwell on what Jesus meant in these Beatitudes as opposed to what we think about them. And that will require us to stop one thing and start with another. Here’s what we mean: We have to stop assuming we know what the Scriptures are saying until we know what the author meant when he said it, which is actually God the Holy Spirit. Even here when it comes to what we just read in Mat. 5:7 about mercy, we first have to ask some questions. You see, the first thing to think when we read that is not ‘what does ‘mercy’ mean to me, but what does ‘mercy’ mean to God? And what does God mean by ‘mercy’ here? And what place does mercy have in God’s attitude and in His dealings with others? What does mercy look like in how God demonstrated it? And then, what place does this ‘mercy’ have in our day to day dealings with others? The Scriptures always have, God always has, first position and first priority in defining the attitudes and the actions we are to adopt as our own. And when we discover and then practice this attitude, that will then be the attitude that will result in Jesus bestowing, or conferring, these blessings of happiness that we see Jesus promising us in the Beatitudes.
So let’s explore it. So what does this ‘mercy’ mean to God? Where else has God spoken about it? Just what is it that God wants us to know about His mercy? Well, let’s let the Psalmist give us an indication of that. I’ll read the first part of each verse and you read the second…and we’ll go through several verses this way: Ps 136:1-6- “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.” 2 Oh, give thanks to the God of gods!
For His mercy endures forever.” 3 Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords!
For His mercy endures forever:” 4 To Him who alone does great wonders,
For His mercy endures forever;” 5 To Him who by wisdom made the heavens,
For His mercy endures forever;” 6 To Him who laid out the earth above the waters,
For His mercy endures forever;”… NKJV And it goes on like that for 26 verses! I can hear the Psalmist going… “Now do you understand what I’m saying here?!” Other versions state; “His lovingkindness” endures forever, and others “His faithful love” endures forever…but it’s all describing how serious it is to understand just how seriously central ‘mercy’ is to God’s nature and His dealings with people…with us!
And so let’s inject that into Mt 5:7- ‘Blessed (Happy) are the merciful…those whose mercy towards others, like God’s mercy, endures forever, for they will receive and experience and enjoy that kind of mercy themselves, and it will bring them ‘happiness’.’ You see it? Again, to be more and more like Jesus, we, too, have to be serious about seriously keeping mercy a central part of who we are and also how we treat others. Is our ‘mercy’ fickle and fluctuating depending upon how, say, we feel we are being respected or disrespected, or noticed or not noticed, or ‘liked’ or ‘not liked’? If it is, then that is one thing, in particular, that has been cancelling out our experience of genuine happiness. Jesus didn’t say, “Happy are the unmerciful…He said “Happy are the merciful”.
Remember one of the principles that comes out of what is called ‘Biblical exegesis’ is this: Part of understanding what the Scriptures are saying is to also consider what the Scriptures are not saying. Or, part of understanding what God is saying to us is to understand what God is not saying to us. And we’ll give another example of that in a moment.
We should also ask: So how does God feel about showing mercy? Look at what the Prophet Micah says about that. Mic 7:18- “Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.” NKJV And the ERV Bible version states it: Mic 7:18- “There is no God like You. You take away people’s guilt. God will forgive His people who survive. He will not stay angry with them forever, because He enjoys being kind.” How about that? God actually delights in showing mercy to you and to me. He truly enjoys being kind to you and to me. Okay, so let’s now inject that into Mt. 5:7 – ‘Happy are those who also delight in showing mercy, just like their God does, and who enjoy being kind to others, just like their God does; for they shall receive and experience and enjoy that very mercy and kindness from God.’
Again, if you’ve ever wondered about how to ramp up your experience of genuine happiness, or if you’ve ever wondered if there was anything that has been plugging up or canceling out your experience of happiness, then check your ‘mercy meter’. Do you delight in showing mercy to others around you? Do you enjoy being kind to others around you? If not…then that’s part of the reason your well of happiness is so stagnant! Jesus cannot pour His supply of genuine happiness into a well that’s full of unkindness and unforgiveness. Like oil and water, harshness and happiness do not mix.
So often people say things like, “Well, I can’t give them mercy because they don’t deserve it.” What? If they deserved it, it wouldn’t be mercy! Have you ever thanked God for not giving you what you deserved? Right! We ought to thank God daily for not giving us what our sins deserved. And, do any of us deserve God’s mercy, deserve God’s grace? What our sins deserved was the Cross. Thank you, Jesus! Jesus took what we deserved, and that was justice! And now He gives to us what we don’t deserve, His mercy! And somehow God even delights in showing mercy to us. Oh my, Help us Lord, to also learn how to delight in showing mercy to others in order to become more like You, and in order to become genuinely happy.
Now, of course, showing mercy does not rule out doing justice. Justice is also important to God…and should be to us. And this gives us a great example of better understanding what the Scriptures are saying by understanding what they are not saying. Let’s look. Mic 6:8- “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God.” NKJV Now, here is the example of what the Scripture is not saying: ‘And what does God require of you, but to love justice, and to do mercy, and to walk humbly with your God’… Not! Now, it might feel better to love doling out justice, but of the three things here that God requires us to love doing… ‘mercy’ is the one He chose. God requires us to love showing mercy to the undeserving. Why? Again, justice is important. And God requires us to be just in our own lives and to carry out justice for everyone. But isn’t it interesting that God didn’t require us to love that one, since our desire to see justice done is not one that takes much effort. Many have a strong desire to enforce justice. But ‘mercy’, well, that’s going to take a lot more effort. And ‘loving mercy’ is going to take a whole lot more effort. We’re going to have to really step it up and rise up to another level if we’re going to obey that one. And you see where we are going with this, right? Yeah, we’re going to have to go up to God’s level in order to have the ability to love mercy…to delight in showing mercy…and to enjoy being kind to others…especially to others who don’t deserve it…just like how our God does it.
But, it’s this one here, ‘loving mercy’…this is the one that really makes us more like God, rather than just like everybody else around us. And when we learn to delight in doing what God delights in doing, and learn to enjoy doing what God enjoys doing; it is then that we open the gates to the kind of happiness that Jesus promises to give to those who share His attitude about it all. For in essence, these ‘Beatitudes’ are really ‘God’s Attitudes’. What God is trying to do in these ‘Beatitudes’ is to get us to share ‘His Attitudes’ about all of these matters of life.
So if you really want to be genuinely happy, make your attitudes more and more like God’s attitudes. And God will bestow on you His blessings of ‘happiness’ for trying to be more and more like your God.