Continuing our theme, on which you gave so much thoughtful input, let’s consider what leads to happiness. I used to think, and even have written, that God is not particularly concerned about our happiness, but rather, our holiness. I liked what Susan wrote: “What father doesn’t want his children to be happy?” What I was missing, which is huge, is that holiness leads to happiness.
Randy Alcorn, in his book on happiness, said the idea that God is not concerned about our happiness didn’t emerge until the late 1800’s! I’ve been reading a biography of Blaise Pascal, whom Keller calls one of the greatest intellects who ever lived, and he absolutely believed God wants us to be happy, and that evangelistically, we should appeal to people on that basis.
Most apologetics try to feeds spinach to a reluctant baby who stubbornly closes his mouth. …What you have to do is make that baby hungry.
He goes on to talk about the love and fulfilment that comes to one who receives Christ, saying:
Christianity is not a hypothesis, it is a marriage proposal.
There is great joy, and yes, happiness, in knowing Christ.
George Mueller who experienced the power of God in founding and sustaining so many orphanages said:
Jonathan Edwards said:
And Hannah Whitehall Smith, who was part of the holiness movement in the 1800’s, had a bestseller. Can you guess what the secret of a Christian’s happy life is?
And in the 1900’s, C. S. Lewis said:
And the Beatitudes show us how.
This week we learn:
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
- What have your thoughts been on God and happiness?
- In our study so far of the Beatitudes, what secrets have you learned about finding happiness?
Monday: Merciful to Those In Need
The first aspect of the concept of being merciful is showing kindness to those in need. I’d love to tell you about Gretta, a young woman living near me whom I have come to love and respect. She grew up as the lone white kid as her parents were international teachers. Gretta developed a heart for reaching out to those who are different, “fringe people,” those who feel outside the circle of love — for whatever reason. Here is Gretta with her family – her husband and two active four-year-olds, one recently adopted from China.
Gretta sometimes challenges our thinking in Bible study, and was one of the first to disagree with the contemporary belief that happiness and joy are very different. I love that she does that — just the way I love it when you disagree, in love, on this blog. That is iron sharpening iron. Gretta also brought our attention to an excellent book, about how the church can better minister to those who are struggling with same-sex attraction. It is by Ed Shaw, a pastor in England who experiences same-sex attraction but does not act on it. He tells how the church can better minister in truth and in love to those who, like him, experience this.
This book impacted Gretta to start looking for people, right in her church, who might identify with Ed Shaw, and to invite them to join her family in a meal, and to express love to them. A huge aspect of being merciful is reaching out to the poor, the lonely, the fringe people, and the hurting. And what I see in Gretta is great happiness. For indeed, “Happy are the merciful.”
4. Read Matthew 5:7.
A. What does it say?
B. What two promises do you see?
5. The Greek word, which Strong’s translates as “active compassion” is used in only one other place. Find it in Hebrews 2:17 and share what insight this gives you.
6. Read Luke 14:12-14
A. What does Jesus tell us to do?
B. How does this corroborate Matthew 5:7?
C. How does Gretta, in the illustration above, live this out?
D. Do you? If so, how have you experienced God’s blessing through it?
Tuesday: Mercy as Forgiveness
7. What similarity do you see between Matthew 5:7 and Matthew 6:14?
I have often talked about Ron and Debbie, and how Ephesians 4:29-32 has become “their passage” turning their stormy marriage into a place of peace. Though they had been married 50 years, God did a new thing in their marriage when He brought them both to Himself. He reconciled them not only with Himself, but truly, with one another. Ron, a Viet Nam vet, had anger in his soul, but the Lord delivered him. Whenever they begin to quarrel, Debbie says, “Wait, wait — let’s read our passage!” In the same way, Colin Smith uses this passage as a prescription for how to forgive when it is really hard to forgive.
8. Step 1: Ephesians 4:30
A. From whom do we get “the momentum,” to forgive?
B. Why should we fear grieving or quenching the Spirit?
9. Step 2: Ephesians 4:31
A. What are we to get rid of?
B. What does malice mean?
C. Do you tend to brood over wrongs done to you? What could you do to change this?
10. Step 3: Ephesians 4:32
A. How are we to view the one who has hurt us?
B. How can compassion aid in our forgiveness?
C. How can remembering Christ’s forgiveness of us help us to forgive?
11. Is there anyone you have not forgiven? What steps can you take to forgive?
Wednesday: The Controversy — Must We Forgive The Unrepentant?
I’m hoping for some “salty” discussion today — some iron sharpeninn iron. Colin Smith says we are not called to forgive the unrepentant, but to love them. He writes in his book, “Momentum:”
Forgiveness involves the reconciling of two people — one who repents and the other who forgives — and I believe it is a mistake to tell people to forgive when there is no repentance. It is more faithful to Scripture to say that we must love an unrepentant person, have compassion on them, and pray for them. If we do this, we will be more faithful to release forgiveness wherever and whenever it is received.
12. Do you agree or disagree? Support your answer scripturally.
Thursday-Friday: 15 minute message from Colin Smith
13. Listen to the following and share your notes and comments.
14. What’s your take-a-way and why?