In the second of the Lord’s famous beatitudes, Jesus expresses another of the keys to true joy:
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
On the surface it would seem that joy and mourning could not be found together. Why would the happy person mourn? How could a mournful person be joyous? But under discussion here is not just any kind of mourning. In context Jesus pronounces a blessing on those who mourn over their poverty of spirit (Matt. 5:3).
Legion are those who mourn getting caught. Fewer are those who mourn their sin. Far from rationalizing or laughing off transgressions, the right-hearted person’s sins will bother him. Immensely. David revealed this kind of heart when he wrote of not being able to distance himself from his transgressions,
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
His conscience worked well. When ours works likes his, we will grieve when we realize that we have broken the law of God. What’s more is that it was David’s sorrow over sin that paved the way for him to later exclaim,
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
That’s how a mournful person can be comforted. His grief leads him to seek forgiveness. How about you? How do your sins affect you? Your soul is in serious danger if you can look at your own spiritual failures and merely brush them off with little thought to what they do to your eternal soul. If eternity means anything to you, then admit your poverty of spirit, mourn your sins, and turn to God!
To the worldly mind, happiness and contentment arise from the acquisition of material things. The more stuff you have, the happier you are. Therefore, it is not coincidental that Jesus begins his description of true blessedness by using the language of poverty.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
But it is actually not material poverty that Jesus commends. It is spiritual poverty. The mantra of the world is, “I neither want nor need God.” But the proper perspective of life is, “I am nothing without God.”
The first step in the journey to lasting peace of mind and true joy is to accept the fact that we are spiritually bankrupt, justifiably standing under the righteous judgment of God. It was the lowly tax-collector in the famous parable who had captured this disposition and expressed it in these simple words, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
Until we divest ourselves of pride, embrace our helplessness, and admit our total dependence on God, we will never find the joy we want. Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). If you aren’t making time for God each day, can you really claim to depend on him?
I have not met the person who wants more than anything else to drudge through life feeling unhappy, bitter, hopeless, and sour. Folks often pursue wealth, fame, and power because they believe that those things are the vehicles that will magically transport them to that which they want most of all – happiness. But any person who has ever found true and lasting joy has not found it in wealth, fame, or power. There certainly have been wealthy, famous, and powerful people who have found true joy, but it wasn’t their cash, popularity, or clout that gave it to them.
The word that is translated “blessed” in Matthew 5:3-12 means “happy.” But this happiness is not a superficial giddiness dependent on always having blue skies and rainbows decorating our days. It is an unfailing peace of mind and contentedness that allows a person not only to enjoy the good times, but also to weather the storms of life with grace, tranquility, and joy. It is the ability to say, regardless of what is happening around you, “It is well with my soul.”
And this secret to real happiness has been in the Bible all this time.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Take a few minutes today to contemplate these characteristics, noting especially how different they are from the world’s prescription for happiness. The next few morning morsels will explore these traits more deeply.
“It is better to speak wisely and well than to speak first; a shallow well brings the bucket to the top faster, but a deep well gives better water.”
David R. Hamrick
If someone asked you to identify the most basic fundamental principle that must be present in order for humans to reach their full potential in knowledge and wisdom, what would you say? How about this:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
True knowledge and wisdom are rooted in the originator of both. When the fear of God is present, doors are opened to understanding truths as profound as the origin, purpose, and destiny of man. When the fear of God is missing, you end up with people believing in organic evolution, a purposeless existence, moral anarchy, and complete hedonism. Civilizations that reflect godliness in their lives and laws will benefit from increased knowledge and wisdom. Civilizations that reject God reject the only basis for real progress.
Let us pray for a greater fear of God – in ourselves and in our nation.
Fifteen of the 150 Psalms are labeled as “Psalms of Ascents.” They are Psalms 120-134. Historians believe that Jews sang these psalms as they made their journeys from all over the world to Jerusalem for their three annual major feasts. The Ascent Psalms, therefore, offer encouragement and instruction regarding worship. In Psalm 126 we read a beautiful prayer of earnest request.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb! Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
The psalmist nostalgically recalls with fondness a time of great joy when God had “restored the fortunes of Zion.” Whether this was the restoration from captivity or from some other calamity is immaterial to the point. God had blessed Israel and the mouths of the people were “filled with laughter.” I can recall times when gathered with friends and family in which I laughed until I couldn’t breathe. Though some of those times were years ago, I still smile when I think of them.
But the psalmist is doing more than reminiscing. He uses God’s past blessing of laughter and joy to give him hope for the future. Apparently at the time he writes, he is experiencing a spiritual valley. He “goes out weeping,” but as he goes he is sowing seed with the expectation of a future harvest of joy. What a wonderful thought! As we go through times of difficulty, let us be reminded of God’s gift of joy in the past and look with confidence to a time when that joy will be restored.
In the famous parable of the sower (Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23) our Lord calls his listeners’ attention to four kinds of ground, each of which responds differently to planted seed. But it was not horticulture that interested Jesus. He was making a point about human hearts and how receptive they are to the seed of the kingdom, which is the word of God (Luke 8:11). The conscientious Christian should not allow too much time to pass without examining himself to make sure that his heart is still receptive to the seed. Let’s consider one of the soils: the good soil.
Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
This is the soil that every farmer wants: deep, fertile, and not overrun with weeds and thorns. Seed planted in this type of soil will grow and yield a plentiful crop. Note the spiritual application Jesus makes:
As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.
But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.
As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
Considering all three synoptic accounts affords us this picture of the good soil: it is the honest heart that understands, accepts, and holds fast the word of God, patiently bearing fruit.
Is that you? Investigate your fruit production. It doesn’t have to be the same amount that others are producing (Matt. 13:23; Mark 4:20), but it should be the same kind (Gal. 5:22-23).