Slap Happy: Have a Plan
We are in the second part of this series, “Slap Happy”, discussing what makes you happy. Last week we introduced it and spent a lot of time talking about what makes you happy. I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but when I ask you the question “What makes you happy?” you are supposed to say what? “Absolutely no thing!” Because last week we talked about it being about a “who” and not a “what” that makes us happy. When we go back and think about everything about growing up, even before we started school, it was about “who” was in the backyard, not exactly “what” was in the backyard. When we think about going to elementary and Jr. High, it was about “who” was in your homeroom and not “what” was in your homeroom. When we get into high school and colleges, it is all about the “who’s”, or what kind of “who’s”. What group were you going to be in, and how you were going to get close together? It’s about the “who” and not the “what”.
Happiness involves the “who” or two. I know I’m sounding a little like Dr. Seuss today, but where two or more meet, Christ says, “I am there”. So, it’s about the “who” or two that makes us happy. If you went to church or if you’ve been around religious people, you may have heard this. I don’t know about you, but I was told that God doesn’t want you to be happy. God wants you to be holy. Oh man, just think about that. How many of you have ever heard that? None? Good, sermons over. See you next week. No. (laughter) God doesn’t want you to be happy; God wants you to be holy. The people who say this probably look miserable. You are walking into church, you are excited, it’s the first day of the week, I can’t wait to see these people, and you run into someone. “Why are you so happy?” (In a grumpy voice) They think God doesn’t want us to be happy. God wants us to be holy.
To be honest with you, there is a dichotomy there between happy and holy. Can you image it? (Singing) If you’re happy and you know it…. Then repent! No. (laughter) There’s nothing happy about that, right? That’s God’s most favorite song, right? Oh, God doesn’t want you to be happy; he wants you to be holy. Maybe you thought you couldn’t follow Jesus, because you wanted to be happy. Happy sounds like more fun than holy, doesn’t it? And so, it’s weird. Honestly, I’m standing here to tell you this morning that it is a farce. It’s not the truth. God wants you to be happy. God wants you to be holy, but God created us with the capacity for joy. Why wouldn’t God want you to feel the greatest capacity of joy in your life? To have it and to have it…oh did Jesus say this? to have it abundantly.
So today we are going to look at the words of Jesus in probably his most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. Cleverly entitled, because Jesus was on a mount giving a sermon, right? So, it is called the Beatitudes, and my first inclination was to spread out these Beatitudes over eight weeks and just focus on one a week. There are eight of them. But we are going to bring that back in January. About six years ago I did something, and we have had the request to bring that back, over and over and over. We are going to bring back the Beatle-tudes in January. Yeah. Some of you were around for that. We put a Beatle’s song with every Beatitude. So we are going to do that in January. Yep, the band is looking at each other. “Oh, good to know that.” (laughter) So we’re going to play the Beatle’s songs and all that, and yes I know that when I did it six years ago, I got the phone call, “You know John Lennon said that they were bigger than Jesus!” I said, “Yeah, I know. I lived in England; they were.” (Laughter) We are going to do that and have a little fun. Really what the beatitudes mean, the word beatitude means blessing. If you’ve grown up in church, maybe you’ve heard the word “Blessed”. Blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek. I just know some of you went, “Blessed are the cheese makers,” (laugher) but we are not going to go there today. If you watch that movie, God bless you.
The words bless or blessed come from this Greek word which is Makarios. Makarios means to be fortunate or to be happy. To be blessed means to be fortunate or to be happy. So blessings should be translated as happy. When we read these beatitudes if it says, Blessed Are, we should really read those as happy are, or fortunate are; blessed means happy. Jesus is saying in this sermon what happy people do or what happy people are like. So the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes are an understanding of what it takes to be happy. Now I’m going to be honest with you. So to see what you need to be happy, we will go through all eight this morning, all eight beatitudes. I’m going to go through them rather quickly, because I’ll expand on them in January, so I cannot give too much detail to each one. But I want you to pick up through all eight a common denominator. When you are listening to these eight beatitudes, these eight what it takes to be happy statements of Jesus, what is in common? What is the common denominator? What leads us to the understanding of the key to happiness? What is the key? Something that will either allow us to embrace happiness, or we will spend the rest of our lives butting up against it. As we are unpacking this, I want you to start thinking about, not really what all have in common, but the common denominator. And like I said, we will either embrace it and say, “OK. That’s how you can be happy.” Or we will butt up against it for the rest of our lives.
If we turn to Matthew chapter five, and we start with the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount, because what happens here is that Jesus gives us these keys and he preaches on other things; light, the darkness, the salt of the earth and these things, but the reason why they think this is the best message of Jesus is because Jesus goes back to this throughout his ministry. It’s kind of like when I went to seminary. I only wrote three papers, but when in each class I worked on those three and brought them together, so I never had to write another paper beyond the three. I just meshed them, used this paragraph from one and this paragraph from another. Jesus retells the story several times not in the Sermon on the Mount and so these are things we know Jesus believed in because he repeated them.
So in chapter five starting with verse one, it says, ‘Now, when Jesus saw the crowds’. You’ve got to realize anytime in the New Testament when Jesus uses the word, or when the writer uses the word apostle, disciples and crowds, he is talking about three different distinct groups. The apostles are the twelve that followed Jesus, the disciples are the ones that were followers of Jesus, disciples, even Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were disciples, and then there was the crowd who always wanted to see Jesus when he was in town. When he was on tour, they bought tickets and showed up, and wanted to see him. So there are always those three distinctions. ‘Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.’ In fact what I could say is he began to teach about happiness and what it meant. And so, ‘He said’.
Starting in verse three it says, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’. Now what that really means is that the poor in spirit should not be recognized as dependent upon how much money you have, or how little. It is not about the education you have or maybe the lack of education, not that that is a good or a bad thing. The poor in spirit is an understanding; it means that we are dependent on God. When we are dependent on God, when we can realize that regardless of what happens in our world I’m dependent upon God. The poor in spirit are people who place their daily dependence on God regardless of what they have. You see, the moment you put your trust in riches instead of Him who richly provides, we are unhappy. It becomes more of a task, because when we are trying to control our lives, what are we trying to control? We are trying to control outcomes. Sometimes I kind of feel like, “How is that working for you?” We can influence outcomes but we cannot control outcomes. We can do our darnedest, and we can try real hard, but when we decide that we are dependent on God and not on our own outcomes, then that is the definition of poor in spirit. It’s when you recognize that blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God; For God is large and in charge. They get it. The kingdom of God is theirs.
Verse four, ‘Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.’ “Buck, you can’t be happy and mourn.” Let me give you insight to this word here. ‘Blessed are those who mourn’ means that they are relationally and emotionally connected; when we are connected emotionally to others. Remember what I said last week? You are only going to be as happy as the happiest one around you. So spouses, when your other spouse is not happy, forget happiness! You are only going to be as happy as your happiest kid, when we are connected emotionally to one another. People that don’t run and hide from the worlds’ problems, granted this is probably my biggest challenge, because I’d rather not pick up the world’s problems and bring them here. “Buck, you never preach on world problems. Buck, you’re not going to tell us how you are going to vote for President.” No; I don’t want to get shot. Anyway. (laughter) “Buck, you didn’t attack this problem of human trafficking”, but we have people in this church that do. “You didn’t address this problem of Haiti.” It doesn’t mean that we don’t have heart strings. When we are emotionally connected, we mourn, don’t we? People that don’t run and hide from the world’s problems, this is probably the most pastoral thing I can say regarding, ‘Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.’ We pastors say, “The fear of dying will rob you from the joy of living.” We mourn because we live. We mourn because we are emotionally attached to someone, and Jesus said if we are emotionally attached we will be comforted when it is our time. That is what that word mourn means. It becomes our task that if we fear we are going to die, if that is all we are going to worry about, we are worrying about ourselves, aren’t we?
I had two grandmothers. They were totally opposites. I had one that worried about dying. She sat in her house and read her bible, an incredible, religious woman. She worried about dying so she thought she had this problem, and that problem, and this problem, and to be honest with you, she was the healthiest out of the two. My other grandmother didn’t care about her health at all. She crocheted and knitted so much, her last digits pointed to each other at a 90 degree angle. She threw her back out at the age of 92 moving a table. The way she did was she crawled underneath it and picked it up on her back, lifted it and was walking it this way, (Demonstrates lifting a table with his back.) because she needed a larger table to serve coffee and tea to her neighbors, you know? She was the one with all the back problems and everything. The other one who worried about dying lived longer. It is true; the fear of dying will rob you of the joy of living. I said earlier that God has given us the capacity for joy. So, why don’t we feel that? Why don’t we explode in the capacity of joy?
Oh, here comes verse number five. ’Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.’ The word meek in our society has a negative connotation, especially for us men. You don’t tell your daughter to go and find a young man that’s meek, and marry him. You tell them to go and find one that has a job. Meek, we associate with the word weak, and so we think it has a negative connotation. “When I grow up I want to be meek!” We don’t get that. We think of meekness as weakness, but meekness is actually this. It is the proper estimation or valuation of one’s self within the broader context of God’s creation and love. It is the proper estimation. You know? When we talk about how small we feel, or that we know that we are just a working gear in a wonderful thing called creation. That’s meekness. We understand what meekness is; a meek person faces the reality of who they are.
I’ve shared this story before. One of my best mentors ever was Dan Hoke. When I got my own church, I wanted to be Dan Hoke. I wanted to preach like Dan, I wanted to teach like Dan, I wanted to act like Dan, because I admired Dan. First of all, I can’t grow one of those red, Yosemite Sam mustaches that cover the top lip. Colleen wouldn’t have that. Also, Dan is from east Texas. He is like Roy Rogers. He has that twang, you know? “You’ve got to sit on it, spin and love it!” He just had this way of saying things, that to be honest with you weren’t eloquent at all, but you loved him for it. So I really wanted to preach like him, until the day I realized I’m not Dan Hoke. I’m a pastor whose been called to ministry, who fought it, who God gave a tongue bigger than his head. I don’t think like Dan. I don’t speak like Dan. And when we come to grips with just who we are, we come to grips with the word meekness.
Now we don’t like it, but it just reminds us that we are just a part of this great, wonderful world and not the center of it. I always love it when they always say those jokes. “How does this person screw in a light bulb?” My favorite one is, how does this person screw in a light bulb? So and so, you can put anyone in. They just hold it and let the world revolve around them. That person doesn’t know meekness; that person doesn’t know what being meek is. When we recognize we are part of a larger order and not the center, we become meek and we inherit the earth.
Verse six says, ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.’ You see, blessed are those who are committed to doing the right thing. When you are righteous, it is not that you are pompous; it’s not that you place yourself above anyone else. What it means is that you are committed to doing the right thing. Another way of saying that is happy are those who have no guilt, no regret and a clear conscience. Blessed are those with no guilt, no regret and a clear conscience. You know, I don’t usually hear of anyone, although I’ve run into one person in my life who wishes she could go back and be sixteen again. I don’t wish that on my worst enemy. I don’t hear anyone say, “I’d like to go back, because I’d like to get into trouble more.” OK, good. We do have regrets, but when Jesus says,’Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness’, it is the people who want to do the right thing. You know it is an incredible feeling when we do the right thing. What is it somebody says? You’ve probably heard it before. “No good deed goes unpunished.” Would you rather be punished for doing a good deed, or do you want to be punished for the other side of the equation? We’ll get to that later as well. So, ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.’
Verse seven, ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.’ You see, to be merciful means you are relationally generous. Now notice I’m not talking money here. That’s another thing I don’t talk a lot about. Happy are those who are relationally generous. That goes with “mourn”, when we are emotionally connected. That goes with meekness. That goes with doing the right thing. When we are connected generously, we give of ourselves. We are there; we are connected. You can tell. I love talking to folks that keep doing this (looks at his watch repeatedly). You know what? They could be doing that and I could ask what time it is and they’d have to look again, because they are not looking to see what time it is. They are not engaged. Happy are those who are relationally generous. That means, ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.’
Verse eight. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart.’ Now this is an important one, because how many of us want to see God? How many of us want to know God? How many of us wish we had those new camera virtual reality things? So we could just look around and see where God is working around us? I think we’d be surprised. ‘Happy are the pure in heart. for they will’, what?’See God.’ That is the want of most people. You know? When we say something, when we get in trouble or catastrophe happens in our lives, and we are explaining it to others, what do we usually say? “I didn’t see it coming.” I didn’t even see this coming. What Jesus is saying is that if we are pure in heart then we can see it coming. Jesus said you could see God. This is really incredible, and maybe my favorite one.
The only time we talk about purity is when we talk about how good the water is. Oh, the media isn’t going to put it in a good light; people aren’t going to put it in a good light. But when we talk about someone who is pure of heart, someone who is genuine, we see someone who sees God. We understand that. This is very difficult for our society to understand. What it means to be genuine, to be pure and to have that in our heart. You know?
Verse nine. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’ God wants to make peace with you. And if you make peace with others you will recognize that you want to emulate your relationship with God. I mean, I know some people play this very well, so if you are one of those, don’t raise your hand, but how many of you want to be trouble makers? All right, I told you not to raise your hand. When you think about it, we don’t want to cause trouble. Yes, there are people who have to be in the middle of things. There are people who cause things and then they have no idea they are causing it. But happy are those who reconcile. Happy are those that are reconcilers. If you’ve been here long enough you know this is one of my keys. I usually hit it pretty hard right about Christmas, don’t I? Call that person you have n’t talked to in a while. Call that person who doesn’t feel like they are invited to Christmas dinner anymore. Reconcile, reconcile, because to be honest with you we all have those in our family. You don’t want trouble, that’s why you don’t want that person there, but we are called and Jesus says, “Happy are those who reconcile.”
This is a hard one, we don’t like it. Verse ten. We don’t care for it. ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.’ Happy should not be in the same sentence as persecution, right? We don’t get it. ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ You think with persecution you can’t be happy, but here is what Jesus meant and we talked about it earlier today. You could either suffer for doing right or suffer for doing wrong. Which would you rather have? The suffering for the pure of heart, suffering persecution; you are either going to suffer for doing the right thing, or suffer for doing the wrong thing, and you can only be happy on one side of the equation.
We have peace when we get called out for doing the right thing; when doing the right thing goes wrong we have peace. If you know in your heart that you did the right thing, then you are willing to put up with the persecuted, aren’t you? If you know that yeah, I did the right thing, I called out that person, I righted injustice, I don’t know, maybe it is a little easier to swallow. ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness’, for doing the right thing. ‘For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’
So when you hear all those, the eight Beatitudes, the eight keys to being happy, then let me just ask you, “What is the common denominator? What is the take away from the Beatitudes?” Here is my answer; you are luck I’m giving it to you today. Happiness is an outcome. Happiness is an outcome of the way we live our lives. It’s not anything instant, it’s not just add sugar, it’s not just add water and stir, but happiness is an outcome. It is a result. It is about something now that leads to something later. That’s been difficult, hasn’t it? In our microwave not crock pot kind of world, even though some of us still use the crock pot, because it is more like Momma made than the microwave pizza, in our drive-thru, instantly getting it, having the two drive-thru’s right next to each other world. A little farther down on Osage Beach parkway we look to see which line is shortest, and we know that the brown building is going to take a little longer than the brick building, even though we want the brown building. I’m sorry; I’m getting a little personal here. Happiness is a result. It is something we do now, that we’ll find later.
Happiness is more of an ultimate than an immediate. That becomes difficult. Happiness is not immediately accessible. You see, I’m going to say something I’m probably going to have to explain. Happiness is being a farmer not a programmer, because we have to sew it and then we have to reap it. You sow and reap on your way to happiness. For those who are unhappy, you sow your way to there. It is not immediate. Whether we are happy or unhappy, we got there as a result of something back here (points to the back or past).
In Matthew chapter seven, later on, we were in chapter five with the Beatitudes, now we are in chapter seven, and Jesus gives this illustration in verse 24. ‘Therefore everyone who hears these words…’ We won’t sing the song today.’ of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock…‘ We took you back to vacation bible school or children’s Sunday school there. ‘The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation.’ It had the Beatitudes, it had the “happy are” understanding. ‘… on the rock.’ But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.’ So, we put into practice these Beatitudes to get us to a place of happiness.
So now let me ask you, “What makes you happy?” Think about it. “Absolutely No Thing!” Alright, “What makes you happy? Everyone can read it now. (Screen says, “Absolutely No Thing.”) (Congregation: Absolutely No Thing.) Today, what makes you happy is absolutely no thing, absolutely nothing, and sowing. I know the quilting guild is just happy to have you, but no. We need to sow the seeds that grow happiness, meekness, peace, a pure heart, an understanding of who we are and why God created us to be just, in my case, mediocre, but to thank God for that. So let’s sow our way to happiness.