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Finding Happiness

Matthew 5:3

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Premium members-- graphic
 Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  Don’t confuse being poor in spirit with being poor. Premium members-- graphic Woody Allen says, "Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 Jean Chatsky, a columnist for Money magazine, conducted a poll and discovered "that money makes folks happier if their family's income is below $30,000 a year.” But once they able to meet their basic material needs, she found that “more money doesn't equate to more happiness.” (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 That makes sense.  If a person doesn’t have their basic needs met, it is unlikely that they will be happy.  But that doesn’t mean that money buys happiness, "People tend to crave more money and more things to restore that peak of good feeling -- only to adapt to those pleasures and seek the next high -- an addictive phenomenon that economists have labeled the hedonic treadmill." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

Premium members-- graphic Addressing World leaders that gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this past week, Anne Graham Lotz, said "Happiness is not about getting what you want, when you want it, and how you want it." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)  Jesus said the poor in spirit are happy, not the poor.

Premium members-- graphic Self-absorbed, arrogant people who live life with a “what’s in it for me” attitude aren’t happy.  Happy people are those who’ve learned to give of themselves to others. Happiness starts with humility.

Premium members-- graphic  In the mid-1960's, little Jimmy Bradley sat in his third grade classroom staring at a picture on page 98 of his history book; it was a picture of his father. The photograph depicted six soldiers planting a flagpole into the rocks of Iwo Jima, one of the soldiers was Jimmy's father, John Bradley.

 Bradley is the man the second from the right, his elbows extended, firmly holding onto the 100-pound flagpole. He appears to be supporting most of the weight, as the others help guide it into its resting place. This photograph became symbolic of World War II and Jimmy's father was a part of history. There he was, right in the middle of the photograph on page 98 of Jimmy's history book.

 Jimmy's teacher drew the class’s attention to the photograph on page 98 and to the man in the middle of the picture-Jimmy's Dad, and said, "John Bradley is a hero, and his son is sitting right here with us." Jimmy was as proud as any son had ever been of his father.

 That night, he couldn't wait for his Dad to come home from work. When he came through the door, Jimmy cried out, "Daddy, Daddy, come here, there's something I want to show you." John Bradley walked over to his son, saying "What is it?" "Right here Daddy, on page 98, it's your picture. My teacher said you are a hero. She wants to know if you'll speak to our class."

 Jimmy was surprised by his Dad's reaction. "Come over here and sit down," his Dad said. Sitting next to his Daddy, Jimmy knew that his Dad was going to tell him the story. "Jimmy," his Dad said, "your teacher said something about heroes today and well . . ." John Bradley paused as Jimmy stared into his eyes. "The real heroes are the men that came back in body bags."

 That was all he said. No war stories. No embellishments. Just, "The real heroes are the men that came back in body bags."

 Jimmy's Dad didn't say another word about it until six years later. It was an ordinary evening sitting at home watching television when Jimmy asked his Dad about it again. All he could get out of his Dad was that he spent most of his life trying to forget about the terrors of war and didn't want to talk about it. He did talk about his buddy from Milwaukee that he shared a foxhole with. Someone cried out for a corpsman, so Bradley left the foxhole to go and treat the wounded, when he returned, his buddy was gone and nobody knew where he was. A few days later, they found him. The enemy captured and tortured him to death. Jimmy was speechless, and never violated his father's privacy again by asking about the war.

 After his father's death in 1994, Jimmy discovered a Navy Cross, with an official citation among his father's private belongings. As it turned out, on the third day of the assault John Bradley witnessed the enemy mow down a soldier with machine gun fire. He grabbed his medical bag and ran across 30-yards of gunfire to his fallen comrade.

 The man was in bad shape, Bradley was afraid he would die if he tried to move him, so he thrust the man's rifle, bayonet first, into the ground and hung a bag of plasma on it. With his back to the hostile gunfire, Bradley shielded the soldier while he administered first aid. Motioning to the others to stay back, he pulled the Marine back to safety.

 John Bradley never breathed a word of his heroism to anybody. Two sergeants and a captain reported what Bradley did, and as a result, he was awarded the Navy Cross.

 Yes, Jimmy's teacher was right. John Bradley was a hero. He was a great man. And like most great men, he didn't talk about his accomplishments. Great men don't have to. People recognize greatness when they see it. Besides, to be truly great, a person has to be humble. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 Being poor in spirit includes humility, but it is deeper than that.  Premium members-- graphic Those who are poor in spirit have a correct estimate of who they are.  Romans 12:3 says, “As God's messenger I give each of you God's warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you.” (TLB)  One of the clearest Biblical statements of humility in the Bible was uttered by Paul in Phil 4:13 when he said, “for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.” (TLB)  Paul was honest about his strengths.  Those who are poor in spirit, are humble, are honest about their strengths and are honest about their weaknesses--they are totally dependant upon God.

 Luke 18:9-14 says,  “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: [10] ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. [11] The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. [12] I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' [13] And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' [14] I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’" (NKJV)  Those who are poor in spirit don’t have a false, inflated sense of worth.  They know their weaknesses and have a broken spirit.  Psalm 51:17 says, “It is a broken spirit you want--remorse and penitence. A broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not ignore.” (TLB)

Premium members-- graphic  In short, the poor in spirit understand that when it comes to spiritual things they are totally dependant upon God.  We cannot come to Christ without this great sense of need.  We do not come to a spiritual potluck, where we contribute our dish to with others.  We come to a spiritual banquet, provided solely by God.  Hidden in the third verse of his hymn, Rock of Ages, Augustus M. Toplady, wrote, “Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to the cross I cling; Naked, come to Thee for dress; Helpless look to Thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Savior, or I die.”  Toplady clearly teaches in this hymn that we do not contribute to our Salvation.  God and God alone saves. (Eph 2:8-9)

 We come to Him with a poverty of spirit, and we abide in Him with the same attitude.  John 15:1-8 says, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. [2] Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. [3] You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. [4] Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. [5] I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. [6] If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. [7] If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. [8] My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.” (HCSB)

 Happiness begins with the recognition of a person’s total dependence upon God. Are you ready to take the first step towards happiness today?

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