Truth really is stranger than fiction. Take the Sermon on the Mount, the best-known sermon Jesus ever preached. This sermon was so strange that the people who heard it "were astonished at [Jesus'] teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matthew 7:28-29).

In this sermon, found in Matthew 5-7, Jesus focused on the strange truthfulness of kingdom living. The kingdom of heaven is indeed a strange kingdom. It has no armies, no weapons, no taxes. It has no pomp, ceremony, castles, or pageantry. It's different than any kingdom the world has seen (see John 18:36). It's completely countercultural.

Tied into that is the strange happiness of those who belong to it. Notice that the first word of each of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 is blessed (see vv. 3-11). This word could also be translated happy, fortunate, or blissful. It speaks of an inward contentedness and soul satisfaction.

But these verses don't describe happiness as we tend to think of it. They say happy people are "the poor in spirit," "those who mourn," "the meek," "those who hunger and thirst for righteousness," "the merciful," "the pure in heart," "the peacemakers," and "those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake." Everything you thought you knew about what it means to be happy is challenged right here.

That's because Jesus was declaring not what people feel but what God thinks. These were proclamations, paradoxical as they are. You want to be happy? Happy people are those who are poor, those who wail and mourn, those who are merciful, those who are insulted and get persecuted.

This is God's upside-down kingdom. The world says happy are the rich, the thin, the powerful, those who push others out of the way and make a name for themselves. Jesus said, "That's not it. My kingdom is completely different."

True joy, true happiness is not the absence of trouble—it's the presence of Jesus. In fact, joy is perhaps the most infallible sign of the presence of Jesus. If you're a Christ follower and you've been in any of the situations described in the Beatitudes, you know that it's possible to be filled with a joy that's completely independent of your external circumstances.

Jesus will put within you a joy you can't find anywhere else. I pray that He would fill you with that inexplicable joy, that strange happiness today.

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