Too many think of happiness as some sort of will-o’-the-wisp thing that is discovered by constant and relentless searching. Happiness is not found by seeking. It is not an end in itself. Pots of gold are never found at the end of the rainbow, as we used to think when we were children; gold is mined from the ground or panned laboriously from a mountain stream.
Jesus once told His disciples: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). The “things” He spoke of were the basic needs of life: food, drink, clothes, shelter. He told us not to make these the chief goal of our lives but to “seek the kingdom,” and these needs would be automatically supplied. And if for some reason only He knows they should be withheld, know that it is for our good and His glory. There have been occasions when Christians have been deprived of one or all these things. They have died of starvation at times—or of thirst or exposure. It is not because He has broken His promise, but because He has something better for us.
There, if we will take it, is the secret of happiness: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God . . . and all . . . shall be added unto you.”
Steps to Abundant Living
In the foregoing pages we have tried to interpret Jesus’ formula for happiness. We realize that in many ways the interpretation falls short, both in content and clarity. The more we read this introduction to the Sermon on the Mount, the more wisdom we see hidden in it and the more convinced we are that if it is read thoughtfully and prayerfully and applied to life that a richer, fuller happiness will ensue.
In summing up the secret of happiness within the framework of the Beatitudes, we would like to suggest several steps to the abundant life:
We must recognize our spiritual poverty. Don’t let pride say, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:17). Remember that our own righteousness is as filthy rags and that salvation is not of works but is the gift of God. We must keep ever in mind the first Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
God measures people by the small dimension of humility and not by the bigness of their achievements or the size of their capabilities.
We must make sure we have received Christ. Remember, it is not creeds, culture, or even respectability that saves us. It is Christ. The Bible says: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” ( John 1:12).
Let us say that one day you decide to go to Europe on a jet plane. Perhaps you might contact your travel agency and get all kinds of information about flight schedules and the type of plane you would be flying. You might talk with people who had traveled across the Atlantic on that aircraft. You might even have investigated the airline’s safety record and become convinced that the pilot and crew were trustworthy and the aircraft would take you safely. You might have said to yourself, I believe this airplane is able to take me across the Atlantic. You might even have gotten a ticket and gone to the airport. You might have done all this and still never have crossed the Atlantic. One thing was lacking: You needed to get on the plane—commit yourself to it and trust it to carry you to your destination.
To know about Christ is not enough. To be convinced that He is the Savior of the world is not enough. To affirm our faith in Him, as we do in the Apostles’ Creed, is not enough. To believe that He has saved others is not enough. We really don’t actively believe in Christ until we make a commitment of our lives to Him and receive Him as our Savior.
We can best demonstrate our faith in a bank by putting our money in it. We can best show our faith in a doctor by trusting him with our physical welfare in times of illness. We can best prove our faith in a boat by getting aboard and going some place on it. We can best demonstrate our faith in Christ by trusting Him with our life and receiving Him unconditionally as our Savior.
We must maintain a contrite spirit . The Bible says: “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17). Remember it was to Christians that John wrote: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
A cultured person is quick with a courteous apology when he has done wrong. If a gentleman stumbles over a lady’s foot in a drawing room, he doesn’t wait a week to say, “I beg your pardon!” He begs forgiveness immediately.
When we break God’s law, utter a hasty, bitter word, or even think an evil thought, immediately we should confess this sin to God. And in accordance with His Word, He will forgive and cleanse our hearts and transform us into His likeness.
We must be sensitive to tbe needs of others. In the eternal triangle of Christianity, God is first, others are second, and self is last. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15). We should be sympathetic, tolerant, and understanding. Remember the third secret of happiness: “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
There is no joy in life like the joy of sharing. Don’t be content to have too much when millions in the world have too little. I should remember every time I read the Bible that millions have no Bible to read. We should bear in mind when we hear the gospel preached that more than half the world has never heard the gospel story. Let our lives, our means, and our prayers be shared with those millions who at this moment are wondering whether there is any relief from their distress.
Don’t be a half-Christian. There are too many of such in the world already. The world has a profound respect for people who are sincere in their faith.
The Bible tells us that we can’t serve God and mammon, that no man can serve two masters. Too many Christians, so called, are like the little chameleon which adapts its coloration to that of its surroundings. Even a critical world is quick to recognize a real Christian and just as quick to detect a counterfeit.
We must live surrendered lives. The Bible is explicit at this point. It says: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16).
A friend of David Livingstone once said: “When I watched Livingstone carry out the ‘leave all and follow me’ life, I became a Christian in spite of myself.” The world knows no greater challenge than the surrendered life.
We should be filled with the Spirit. People who have moved the world have been Spirit-filled. Filled with the Spirit, the first disciples “turned the world upside down.” Filled with the Spirit, the Reformers started the spiritual blaze which became the Reformation. Filled with the Spirit, John and Charles Wesley, working out of Oxford University, saved a great nation from moral and political collapse. Filled with the Spirit, Francis Asbury, George Fox, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, and David Brainerd set the mountains and prairies of America aglow with the fires of real Christianity. Filled with the Spirit, D. L. Moody and Ira Sankey shook two continents out of their spiritual lethargy. Corrie ten Boom and Mother Teresa impacted their world greatly.
The tides of civilization have risen, the courses of nations have been changed, and the pages of history have been brightened by people who have been filled with the Spirit of God.
What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? It is not necessarily an emotional experience, nor will it necessarily bring us some type of spiritual experience that is obvious or open. To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Spirit. It is to be so yielded to Christ that our supreme desire is to do His will. When we come to Christ the Spirit comes to dwell within us—whether we are aware of His presence or not. But as we grow in Christ, our goal is to be controlled by the Spirit. Have you yielded your life to Christ without reserve, asking Him to fill you and use you for His glory?
We should seek to produce the fruit of tbe Spirit in our lives. The Bible says: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23, emphasis added).
You say, “I am powerless to produce such fruit. It would be utterly impossible for me to do so!”
With that I agree! That is, we can’t produce this fruit in our own strength. Remember, the Bible says: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23, emphasis added). When the Spirit of God dwells in us He will produce the fruit. It is ours only to cultivate the soil of our hearts through sincere devotion and yieldedness that He might find favorable ground to produce that which He will.
I might have a fruit tree in my yard; but if the soil isn’t enriched and the bugs carefully destroyed, it will not yield a full crop.
As Christians, we have the Spirit of God in us. But ours is the responsibility to keep sin out of our lives so that the Spirit can produce His fruit in us.
Billy Graham, The Secret of Happiness (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011).
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