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Finding Happiness (Part 5)
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” (KJV)
Over the past few weeks we’ve studied the steps toward happiness that
Jesus gave us in the Sermon on the Mount. The path to happiness begins
by admitting, that when it comes to spiritual things, I am totally bankrupt
before a Holy God. Reflection upon my spiritual depravity causes
me to mourn. Because my heart is broken by my sin, I submit myself to God’s
control and make the pursuit of righteousness my primary objective in life.
These steps toward happiness are inward ones, involving spiritual reflection,
rechanneled energy and changed priorities. They are changes in our
internal world. The next step is an outward step resulting in changed behavior
toward others. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall
Every righteous person has a choice; they can use their righteousness
to hurt others or to help them. It is possible for a righteous person to
become vindictive and cold-hearted.
That’s what happened with the older brother in the parable of the prodigal
son. The younger son took his inheritance and squandered it
living “high on the hog,” until he was flat broke eating pig slop for dinner.
When he realized his life stunk, he decided to go home and ask his father
to give him a job. He knew he’d already squandered his inheritance
and the right to live under his father’s blessings. He wasn’t asking
for his father to treat him like nothing happened, he just wanted a decent
job and a just boss. When he returned, his father met him with mercy,
forgiving his trespasses and threw him a party.
The older son wasn’t happy about his brother’s return. He could
not understand how his father could show mercy to a disobedient son and
became angry with him because he did. Didn't the older son notice the heartbreak
of his father? Couldn't he rejoice with him that his son returned home?
If he really knew his father, he would have anticipated a gracious response
to his errant brother's return. His defense was that he’d remained
faithful; he played by the rules—in short, he was righteous. But
because he couldn’t be merciful, his righteousness wasn’t from God, it
was self-righteousness. Matthew 9:10-13 gives an example of self-righteousness.
It says, “While He was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors
and sinners came as guests to eat with Jesus and His disciples.  When
the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher
eat with tax collectors and sinners?’  But when He heard this, He said,
‘Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do.  Go and learn
what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to
call the righteous, but sinners.’” (HCSB) These men were righteous,
they knew how to keep the law, but without mercy, they were nothing more
than self-righteous hypocrites. They did not submit themselves to
God’s righteousness. Romans 10:3 says, “For not knowing about God's
righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject
themselves to the righteousness of God.” (NASB95)
Many people stumble on the way from the 4th to the 5th step of happiness.
They take their eyes off the Father and put them on themselves, become
proud of their righteousness and tumble down the stairs, needing to begin
the process again, admitting their own spiritual bankruptcy before God.
In Matthew 18:23-35 Jesus tells a parable about a man who was happy
to receive mercy, but not willing to extend it. "The Kingdom of Heaven
can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date.
 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him $10
million!  He couldn't pay, so the king ordered him sold for the debt,
also his wife and children and everything he had.  But the man fell
down before the king, his face in the dust, and said, 'Oh, sir, be patient
with me and I will pay it all.'  Then the king was filled with pity
for him and released him and forgave his debt.  But when the man left
the king, he went to a man who owed him $2,000 and grabbed him by the throat
and demanded instant payment.  The man fell down before him and begged
him to give him a little time. 'Be patient and I will pay it,' he pled.
 But his creditor wouldn't wait. He had the man arrested and jailed
until the debt would be paid in full.  Then the man's friends went
to the king and told him what had happened.  And the king called before
him the man he had forgiven and said, 'You evil-hearted wretch! Here I
forgave you all that tremendous debt, just because you asked me to--
shouldn't you have mercy on others, just as I had mercy on you?'  Then
the angry king sent the man to the torture chamber until he had paid every
last penny due.  So shall my heavenly Father do to you if you refuse
to truly forgive your brothers.’” (TLB)
Don’t stumble between the 4th and 5th step. Don't let your righteousness
become harshness. Actually, without mercy, you don’t have righteousness.
Psalm 37:21 says, “The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the
righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth.” (KJV)
Don’t let your righteousness become useless. Without mercy, your
righteousness is wasted. James 2:15-16 says, “If you have a friend who
is in need of food and clothing,  and you say to him, ‘Well, good-bye
and God bless you; stay warm and eat hearty,’ and then don't give him clothes
or food, what good does that do?” (TLB)
I for one don’t think the main character of the parable of the prodigal
son is the prodigal—it is the older brother. If you put yourself
in the role of the prodigal, the grace and mercy of the Father makes perfect
sense—as it always does when we are on the receiving end of forgiveness.
The parable isn’t so much about the prodigal’s reaction as it is the older
brother’s reaction. Receiving mercy is never hard—being merciful
is. It wasn’t as hard for the father as it was for the brother.
Fathers, I’m sure you will agree with me that it is easier to forgive our
sons than it is our brothers. My boys will always have a soft place
in my heart. Though I can see their mistakes, I usually can overlook
them quickly because I know their potential.
When I read this story, I wonder if the brother has the first clue about
the father’s heart. If he knew his father’s heart, he would have
anticipated his loving response to his brother’s sin and would have been
happy for him that his son had returned.
The merciful press into God, and know His heart, they feel his heartbeat
and to move with it. Our relationship with God is the air we breathe-the
very source of our existence. It is a great dance. God moves and we respond
with His slightest touch or softest whisper. He guides us from one end
of the floor to the other. We trust Him and He entrusts us with His Kingdom
work. With time, a deep love develops on our end that has existed on His
from eternity. Not a love based on what He does for us or what we do for
Him, but just out of a sense of belonging to one another and being together
in time and in eternity.
Don't you long for that? Not a religion that defines you by what you
don't do or what you do, but one that releases the spirit within you and
allows you to synchronize your soul with your Creator and empowers you
to move with the rhythm of his love. You will never learn to dance
with God until you have a merciful heart. Because if you have a judgmental,
self-righteous spirit you are out of step with God. Proverbs 28:13
says, “The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses
and renounces them will find mercy.” (HCSB)
Great mean of God are merciful. Abraham was merciful to his nephew
Lot and worked toward his deliverance (Gen 14:1-6). Joseph showed mercy
to his brothers who’d harmed him by helping to sustain their lives (Gen
50:15-21). David was merciful to King Saul and spared his life
when God delivered Saul into his hands (I Sam 24:1-22; 26:1- 25).
And Moses showed mercy toward Miriam after her rebellion. He cried
to the Lord, “Heal her now, O God, I beseech Thee" (Num 12:13).
In an episode entitled Monk takes Manhattan, Mr. Monk travels to New
York to search for his wife’s killer. At the end of the episode,
he meets the man, who for a couple thousand dollars placed a bomb under
her car. The man was near death, laying in a hospital bed, hooked
up to a morphine drip. As Monk finished his questioning, the man
asked, “Forgive me.” Mr. Monk walked over to the morphine drip, turned
it off while saying, “This is me turning off your morphine.” A few
seconds later, he turned it back on saying, “This is Trudy turning it back
on.” premium members
Mr. Monk’s action was just—punishing his wife’s killer. Trudy’s
action was merciful—forgiving him.