So I ask, who are you willing to believe? Yourself, reinforced by the world and its way of thinking? Or Jesus Christ?
I say “Jesus” specifically, because I want to remind you of His teaching from the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. He speaks there about how to be happy. Indeed, the word is even stronger than that. It is the powerful word “blessed,” meaning to be favored by God. Jesus said,
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
We call these statements the Beatitudes, that is, the way to happiness or blessing. But this is not the way the world thinks one finds happiness. If a director of one of today’s popular television sitcoms or the editor of a widely circulating fashion magazine were to rewrite the Beatitudes from a contemporary point of view, I suppose they would go this: “Blessed are the rich, for they can have all they want; blessed are the powerful, for they can control others; blessed are the sexually liberated, for they can fully satisfy themselves; blessed are the famous, because they are envied.” Isn’t that true? Isn’t that the world’s way, the way even Christians can at times want, rather than the way of sacrifice?
But think it through carefully. The world promises blessings for those who follow these standards. But is this what they find? Do they actually find happiness?
Here is a person who thinks that the way to happiness is wealth. So he sets his heart on earning $100,000. He gets it, but he is not happy. He raises his goal to $200,000. When he gets that he tries to accumulate a million dollars, but still he is not happy. John D. Rockefeller, one of the richest men in the world in his day, was asked on one occasion, “How much money is enough?”
He was honest enough to answer wryly, “Just a little bit more.”
A Texas millionaire once said, “I thought money could buy happiness. I have been miserably disillusioned.”
Another person thinks that he will find happiness through power, so he goes into politics where he thinks power lies. He runs for a local election and wins. After that he sets his sight on a congressional seat, then on a place in the Senate. If he is talented enough and the circumstances are favorable, he wants to be president. But power never satisfies. One of the world’s great statesmen once told Billy Graham, “I am an old man. Life has lost all meaning. I am ready to take a fateful leap into the unknown.”
Still another person tries the path of sexual liberation. She launches into the swinging singles scene where the average week consists of “happy hours,” Friday night parties, weekend overnight escapes into the country and a rapid exchange of partners. But it does not work. Several years ago CBS did a television documentary on the swinging singles lifestyle in southern California, interviewing about half a dozen women who all said roughly the same thing. They said, “We were told that this was the fun way to live, but all the men want to do is get in bed with you. We have had enough of that to last a lifetime.”
Does the world’s “me first” philosophy lead to happiness? Is personal indulgence the answer? You do not have to be a genius to see through that facade. It is an empty promise. Paul calls it “a lie” (Rom. 1:25).
So wake up, Christian. And listen to Paul when he pleads, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” God does not lie. His word is utterly reliable. You will find His way to be “good, pleasing and perfect” if you will bend to it.