Everyone has some idea of what happiness is to them. If you were to ask someone, "What would it take to make you happy?" you'd probably get answers like, "I would be happy if I made this much money" or "I would be happy if I owned this thing I've wanted for a long time" or "I would be happy if I was married to that person" (or "if I wasn't married to that person").

The Bible has a lot to say about true happiness, particularly in the Beatitudes of Matthew 5. In this chapter, Jesus described what life is like in the kingdom of heaven, and one word He repeated over and over again was blessed, or happy. This isn't some sort of giddy, crazy happiness about everything; the idea is an inner, steady, blissful, joyful contentedness.

I think it's safe to say that not many people today, especially in America, feel that way most of the time. But Jesus was making a declaration about the inward, spiritual state of those who are part of the kingdom of God. And it's best summed up by that word: blessed. This is what you and I are to be by the grace of God.

Let's look at the first of the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).

This is how you enter the kingdom of heaven: You don't come proud or puffed up, saying, "Well, I've done this and that; I've earned it." You come humbly; you come poor in spirit. The word poor is the Greek word ptóchos, which literally means threadbare or poverty-stricken. It speaks of destitution or abject poverty.

In classical Greek, it described a person who held one hand over their face so they wouldn't be recognized while holding out the other hand for a handout. Nobody enters the kingdom as a proud, self-asserting person who thinks they've earned it, but as someone who recognizes, "I'm bankrupt. I have no resources in and of myself."

I think of the words to that old hymn "Rock of Ages": "Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling." To find true happiness and to enter the kingdom, you have to recognize, "I'm broke before God. I'm poverty-stricken. I can't make it on my own." It's in recognizing that, Jesus said, that you are blessed--that you'll find that inner, steady contentedness that comes from being a child of God.

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