Time Magazine ran a cover story in the summer of July 2013 entitled “The Pursuit of Happiness,” stating that only about 1/3 of Americans would call themselves “very happy.” The same story also stated that 25% of American women reported taking anti-depressants. “We’ve got all the toys,” the article concluded. “Now we need to relocate the joy.”
Even seven years later, this topic of restless emptiness in our hyper-affluent culture remains relevant. The “pursuit of happiness” is in our national DNA. It’s a core component of who we are; Thomas Jefferson engraved it into our consciousness.
Still, so many seem to struggle to really experience true happiness. What is the key to obtaining this seemingly elusive “happiness?” Jesus offers us a radically counter-cultural view of how to discover happiness, or what He refers to as spiritual joy.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Blessed means ‘happy’ or ‘joyful.’ Confused? How can Jesus relate ‘poor in spirit’ to happiness? Well, ‘poor in spirit’ means recognizing our need for God. It is the opposite of arrogance. The arrogant say, “I do not need God. I am self-reliant. I am self-sufficient.” That’s very much a part of the American way. Jesus, however, is trying to communicate something deeper – the power of humility. Humility is one virtue that once you believe you’ve master it, you’ve just lost it. It does not come naturally. You’re never going to discover ultimate happiness until you have enough humility to recognize you need God. Without Him, you’re going to miss the ultimate meaning of life. Without God, lasting happiness is unattainable.
The end of this Scripture, however, leaves us with a promise. Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Once we humble ourselves to become “poor in spirit” and recognize our need for God, then we have the opportunity to claim His grace and forgiveness through Christ’s death on the cross. Only then, can we enter the kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are one and the same. They are used interchangeably in Scriptures. Where is the kingdom of God? It’s wherever Jesus reigns. If He reigns in your life, then the kingdom of God is there. If He reigns in your family, then the kingdom of God is there. If Jesus reigns in your church, your ministry, then the kingdom of God is there.
Wherever Jesus reigns, there is the kingdom of God. Only in the center of God’s will, in His Kingdom, will we finally experience ultimate happiness.