Eat Yourself Happy?
I can’t seem to forget the billboard. Every time I drove through town, there it was at the side of the road, with the giant face of a man with a ludicrous smile. Across the top was the statement: “Eat Yourself Happy.”
Each time I drove past I pondered the meaning of this piece of fast food advertising. Would eating hamburgers from a particular joint leave me with a feeling of peace and contentment? Would burgers by other global franchises have the same effect? What about a burger from the local fish and chip shop? Would my daily dose of porridge also induce lasting cheerfulness?
Obviously the idea of using food to induce any sense of lasting happiness is stupid – yet the worrying rise of obesity in NZ is proof that too many of us do derive happiness, albeit fleeting, from food. We also depend on alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, sport and any number of other indifferent or harmless pursuits to try and find happiness.
Who is Truly Happy?
5:2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons1 of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Jesus gives us the answer in what we call the ‘Beatitudes’ (Matthew 5:1-12). Matthew tells us that on one occasion when Jesus sat on ‘the mountainside’ (5:1) His disciples “came to Him, and He began to teach them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…’” The term ‘blessed’ that Jesus used might well be termed ‘happy.’ Here at the commencement of his public ministry, he was pronouncing the Divine Shalom (peace) upon a certain kind of person – those who were citizens of his kingdom and who had the smile of God upon them. They were not people who had ‘earned’ God’s favour through their actions, but people who through the grace of God had been brought into a state of utter dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ. In their dependence upon him rather than their self-achievement, they had found safety and happiness.
Perhaps when you have told someone else what your faith means, they have said, ‘Christianity is just a crutch for people who can’t make it through life on their own’? Well, they are right – with two minor corrections: ‘CHRIST is a crutch for people who KNOW that they can’t make it through life on their own’! Yes, truly happy people are cripples who have found all they need in the Lord Jesus Christ.
What Happy People Look Like
What do these happy cripples that Jesus is describing look like? They are spiritual bankrupts (v.3), who are mourning over their sins (4). They view themselves through the ‘reality glasses’ of Scripture, which results in meekness and humility (5). In a world bloated with all kinds of deathly junk food, the kingdom citizen hungers and thirsts after Christ’s righteousness (6).
The character of the happy person is further defined by their willingness to operate by grace rather than the letter of the law (7). In a day of sordid secrets, they are distinguished by their purity and innocence (8). When the best that rulers and officials can do is send in the peacekeepers, these blessed ones bring the Prince of peace to earth through the gospel (9).
Finally, the really happy are those who have the inner capacity of grace that makes them loyal to Christ, even to the point of death (10). When they are insulted, persecuted and slandered for Christ, then their happiness rises to rejoicing, because they are counted with the godly prophets of old (11,12).
Are you Happy?
Ask yourself, “Am I happy?” If so, go on and ask a second question, namely, “What is it that makes me happy, or unhappy, for that matter?” Test yourself. How much wealth is accumulated in your spiritual bank account? Does your sin make you sad? Do you accept others reminding you of your sins? Do you enjoy doing good and showing others what Jesus is like? What is that satisfies your hunger and quenches your thirst? Know this for sure: anything but the Lord Jesus Christ will never bring happiness – a happiness that is actually God’s smile of blessing on your life.