The Road To Happiness

May 27, 2018 Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Luke

Scripture: Luke 6:12–26

The Road To Happiness

>Luke 6:12–26
Sunday, May 27, 2018
Pastor Randy Smith


Blaise Pascal, the French overachiever from the 1600’s said, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even to those who hang themselves.”

Did you catch that? He’s right! Everybody is hard-wired by God to want to be happy. Joy is a good thing and the pursuit of it should be commended. All the decisions we make are motivated by our inner desire for joy. Even the extreme of those who selfishly take their lives is compelled by the false belief that nothing in life can make them happy and death is the best alternative for them.

The pursuit of happiness is good, however we get off the tracks when we think optimum happiness is found apart from God. As C.S. Lewis famously said, “We are…like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.”

We are far too easily appeased and far too frequently deceived. As humans, we often pursue our inner desire for happiness in the superficial, sugar-coated sin morsels, temporary trinkets of the world. In this pursuit, we are not satisfied and God is not glorified.

This is a radical call for faith. Contrary to the world’s pursuits and our internal cravings, we need to believe that doing it God’s way (according to His words in the Bible) will not only bring Him the greatest glory, but also bring us the greatest joy. We need to believe that our highest joy and God’s greatest glory do not compete, but are rather tethered to each other as one unified pursuit. As John Piper frequently says, “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.”

This morning in our Lord’s first recorded sermon in Luke, Jesus will turn the philosophy of the world upside-down and inside-out. He will give us four ways to be “blessed” (literally, “happy”) that are diametrically opposed to what you will hear from this culture. Commonly these are called “The Beatitudes.”

Look at the God-rejecting world. Are they really satisfied? Are they really happy? Our main point this morning? Let’s consider what God has to say as He discloses to us the true road to happiness.

Beatitudes – The Background (verses 12–19)

The first point, a little background to set the stage and establish the context.

We see in verse 12 that Jesus went away by Himself and spend the whole night in prayer. When the day arrived He named His twelve disciples. These are also called His apostles. This would be His close inner circle that He would invest with the majority of His time and confer the greatest authority. The men are listed in verses 14-16. For the most part they were common men, nobodies – fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot – no religious professionals, no priests, no scribes, no Pharisees.

Verse 17, Jesus came with the twelve and stood on a “level place.” May people were there – verse 17, the twelve disciples, other disciples (committed followers) and unbelievers for all over the region. According to verse 18 the people gathered for three reasons: To hear His teaching, to be healed of their diseases and to be delivered from unclean spirits.

So the question most are asking at this point: We are familiar with the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5-7 which also begins with the Beatitudes and also has similar content. Was this sermon in Luke the same sermon recorded in Matthew? Answer: It is hard to say, but I lean toward “no.” Different settings – a “mount” and a “level place.” Nine Beatitudes in Matthew and four Beatitudes in Luke. We can still reconcile them with these facts, but to me the wording is just too different to be the same sermon.

What is the point of the sermon? The call to follow Jesus is one of total commitment. The followers of Jesus will be radically different than those who reject Jesus. And the difference will be seen in the joy, the blessedness they experience because they are truly walking with the Savior.

Beatitudes – The Explanation (verses 20–26)

The second point, “The Explanation.”

Take a moment to look at the four subpoints in your sermon notes. These are the four beatitudes we’ll cover (verses 20-24) with the corresponding parallel negatives a few verses later (verses 25-26). Let me ask you, how many people in the world will tell you that you are blessed if you are poor, hungry, sad and persecuted? What a reversal of the world’s values and its wisdom. Even the church is so influenced by the world there is professing Christians that think these qualities are not the road to happiness. Do you agree with them or do you agree with Jesus? Well, you can see for yourself that is what Jesus said. Let’s now examine and see what He meant.


The first beatitude I am calling, “Blessed are the Poor.” Look at verse 20. “And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.’”

So the big question now, when Jesus says the “poor” are blessed, is He talking about financial poverty or spiritual poverty? The parallel in Matthew says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Mt. 5:3). That is spiritual poverty. Yet the negative parallel in verse 24 of Luke 6 says, “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.” To me that seems like Jesus is talking about financial poverty. Which is it? I spend a lot of time this week wrestling with this one and I believe either way you go you arrive at the same conclusion. Stay with me.

Is there any blessedness to being financially poor, listen, if it is being poor in and of itself? I would say, “No.” If so, we should all go and give away everything we have! There is no blessing in being unable to provide for your family. It’s embarrassing and miserable. Many are poor at no fault of their own. Yet there are many that are poor, especially in America, because they simply refuse to work and/or are undisciplined with their money. Neither of those is good. Just being poor is not a spiritual asset. You are limited in your generosity and ability to contribute to God’s work. Moreover, you can be poor and still be greedy, covetous, money can still be your idol. The Bible doesn’t condemn rich people. Not having money, but the love of money, according to the Bible is root of all evil. So what is Jesus getting at?

Jesus, as always is concerned with the heart. Jesus wants His followers to understand spiritually poverty. That’s what the beatitude in Matthew 5 teaches. And here we see in Luke that there is a blessing to being financially poor if we are walking in the Spirit because it can aid to spiritual poverty. Being poor, as were many of our Lord’s audience at the time, can indeed be a blessing because it humbles us, it keeps us away from trusting our money, it prevents us from accumulating possessions on earth and it allows us to be more single-focused in our devotion to the Lord. Why else would Jesus say, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mt. 19:24).

This is not a call, as Jesus said to the rich young ruler, to give away everything your own. Clearly in his case, money was his good and it kept him away from Christ. Here is a call to be generous. It is a call to understand the dangers of riches. But ultimately it is a call to be spiritually poor, and those who are financially poor have an easier road in that direction. Now, what does it mean to be spiritually poor?

It means to be humble. It means to understand that you have no merit to offer to God. It means to understand that all you deserve is hell. It means to understand that you are spiritually bankrupt. It means to understand the unfathomable riches of Christ that by God’s sovereign grace have been accredited to your account. It means to boast not in yourself, but in Christ. It means emptying yourself of all your pride that the Holy Spirit might fill you with all of Christ.

This desire is what identifies God’s true disciples and sets them apart from the world. The poor in spirit, verse 21, “yours is the kingdom of God.” Clearly, you are not God’s child unless you are poor in spirit. The humble pursuit of spiritual poverty is the path to true happiness. Empty of self, filled with the Holy Spirit and His fruit of joy.


The second subpoint, “Happy are the Hungry.” Verse 21, “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.” And the parallel negative in verse 25, “Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry.”

Again, I am led to believe this speaks of physical hunger, but ties to a spiritual truth, the same spiritual truth Jesus mentioned in the Beatitudes in Matthew: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6).

Again, this one is even easier than physical poverty. It’s hard to find any blessings in going hungry in and of itself.

Yet when you lived in a society where you often wondered where your next meal was coming from, you clearly understood the concept of hunger, the concept of deeply needing to depend on God for your existence? Have any of us ever been in that predicament? Probably not. In America we waste food. Our problem is not hunger, but overeating. For many, what do we even know about really hungering for anything? Let’s admit, most Americans are out of shape, lazy, comfortable, lacking drive and too often settling for mediocrity. You take these traits into your spiritual life and it is not going to work and you’re showing no evidence of Jesus dwelling in your life.

According to the Beatitude, you lack a spiritual hunger and you will never be satisfied. In the Greek grammar it’s a satisfaction that God provides to those who truly hunger for Him. Your joy and God’s glory are maximized when you truly hunger for Christ.

It’s a great Christian cliché, but what does it mean? How about some Psalms? Psalm 42, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psm. 42:1-2). Psalm 63, “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psm. 63:1).

A duck was flying with his flock in the springtime northward across Europe. During the flight he came down in a Danish barnyard where there were tame ducks. He enjoyed some of their corn. He stayed, for an hour, then for a day, then for a week, then for a month, and finally, because he relished the good fare and the safety of the barnyard, he stayed all summer. But one autumn day when the flock of wild ducks were winging their way southward again, they passed over the barnyard, and their friend heard their cries. He was stirred with a strange thrill of joy and delight, and with a great flapping of wings he rose in the air to join his old comrades in their flight. But he found that his good fare had made him so soft and heavy that he could rise no higher than the eaves of the barn. So he dropped back again to the barnyard, and said to himself, “Oh well, my life is safe here and the food is good.” Every spring and autumn when he heard the wild ducks calling, his eyes would gleam for a moment and he would begin to flap his wings. But finally the day came when the wild ducks flew over him and uttered their cry, but he paid not the slightest attention to them (Kierkegaard).

Do you hunger and thirst for God? Is there a spiritual longing for Him? Do you desire to be like Him? Are you passionate to meet with Him daily in the Word and prayer? Do you want anything more than Him? Do you find your satisfaction from the world or do you want to be, verse 21, satisfied by Him?


Third subpoint, “Happy are the Sad.” If “Happy are the Poor and Hungry” didn’t seem strange, I’m sure this one will get you! “Happy are the Sad” – even the wording appears contradictory. How are sad people happy? Look for yourself at verse 21. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” And the negative parallel in verse 25. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”

The issue here is not the absence of joy which would clearly goes against the Beatitude principle (of “blessedness’). And it doesn’t mean that Jesus is against laughing, smiles and cheerfulness. What this verse is condemning is the laughter of the world or put another way, not being sad over the things that make God sad. Jesus is assaulting superficial joy, worldly happiness that can’t see things through God’s eyes, ultimate pleasure in things that are either opposed to God or destined to decay, extreme pleasures in non-eternal things. Where is the indication of God’s Spirit in a heart like that? There is no true joy (verse 21) and there is only evidence that a person has not been regenerated and thus is really experiencing now and will ultimately experience in the life to come (verse 25) mourning and weeping.

Think of our Lord, when He overlooked His own people in the Holy City and understood their rejection of Him. “When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it” (Lk. 19:41).

The point is this: Christ’s joy is our joy and the things that break God’s heart should break our heart as well. The world may ignore these things or even find joy in these sinful things, but if we are God’s children we should be grieved. How do you feel about the lost on the road to hell? How do you feel about backsliders in their faith, some of whom attend this church? How do you feel about the world’s poverty, loneliness, injustice, child abuse, divorce? How do you feel about abortion? How do you feel about your own sin? How do you feel about your own lack of desire to mourn over these things? Have you ever mourned over your lack of mourning? The parallel beatitude in Matthew: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Mt. 5:4).


Let’s go to the fourth subpoint – again another concept that would be opposite from the world and possibly even confusing to our minds in the church, especially here in America. I’m calling it, “Happy are the Persecuted.” Look at the words of Jesus from verses 22-23, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.” And the negative parallel in verse 26. “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.”

A few thoughts to consider on this one. First of all, Jesus promised us that we will be persecuted. “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (Jn. 15:20). Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” What should technically surprise us is that if we call ourselves Christians and we are not being persecuted.

Second, again like before, persecution in and of itself is not a blessing. The blessing comes when we are persecuted, verse 22, “for the sake of the Son of Man.” In other words, we are not persecuted because we doing wrong or we are not persecuted when we share Christ, but do it in a way that is rude, insensitive, obnoxious, pious, irresponsible, incompetent or arrogant. Kent Hughes once said, “Christians are often persecuted not for their Christianity, but for their lack of it.” The blessing is upon those who seek to live out their faith in Christ and aim to be a light to the world, but are attacked by the world because the world’s darkness is confronted of their anti-Beatitude attitude.

And third, connected to this, the persecution in this fourth Beatitude will occur because we are seeking to live out the first three Beatitudes. When we are poor in spirit, hungering for righteousness and mourning over sin, the world will take notice (how can they miss it!) and either repent and join us in following Christ or most often feel convicted and oppose us with all of their might. If we do live as Christians so diametrically opposed to the world’s standards we shouldn’t expect them to pat us on the back!

There’s an old saying that goes like this: “Even a dead dog can swim with the tide.” My friends, it’s not hard to go with the flow of the world. It’s very easy, it appeals to our carnal desires and the world will love us. But Jesus gave us these Beatitudes to show us that this worldly attitude is not what the Holy Spirit produces in His disciples. God’s way is the opposite.

We are poor in spirit, humble, totally dependent of God. We hunger for God in a desire to know and experience His holiness. We grieve over that which breaks God’s heart. And when we do these things, we should expect the world to resist, to persecute us through the various means it employs. But whose words do we trust? Whose pleasure do we want? And whose joy do we wish to experience? Is heaven really our true home? Is Jesus really our true Lord? Is the Holy Spirit really operative in our lives?

More in Luke

April 25, 2021

The Final Charge

April 18, 2021

The Primacy of Scripture To See and Serve Jesus

April 11, 2021

Hope To Overcome Despair