The Quest for Real Happiness

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is the continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.


Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
~Matthew 5:8

The Comparison Trap:  Week Two, Day Three… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

One of the biggest takeaways for me in today’s devotional is the photo above. The locked gate has two sides and two perspectives. Some of us might look at the closed gate and see that the lock keeps us from getting to the other side, but some of us might look at the closed gate and see that the lock keeps in what it’s meant to keep inside its bounds.

Which one do you see?
I hope you can see both.

With the ugliness in our culture and in our world, these are times when we need both sides of that gate to exist. The challenge with the gate is in finding our purpose, our joy and our happiness within the confines and within the freedoms the gate might offer. It can seem like an elusive search.

In today’s verse, the word blessed can also be translated as happy. This isn’t just your “chocolate makes me happy” kind of happy; it’s much more.

It’s the most supreme happiness.

Strong’s Definitions defines the original word makários (from the Greek word μακάριος) as supremely blest. If you go to Blue Letter Bible, you’ll see that Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines the same word as the nature of that which is the highest good. This is a pretty special word, and it means a pretty special way of being blessed.

These are the people who will see God.
These are the people who will behold Him.

The first qualifier to being blessed this much is being one who has put their faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. Without this, there is no blessing. With this, we can know the eternal blessing of forever being in His presence, but we can also learn to fully experience His blessings and presence on this side of eternity. We will find a special happiness when we do.

Whaaaat? When? It can sound pretty big, but it’s something every Christian with a personal relationship with Jesus wants to have happen to them. I know I’ll walk in His presence someday, but I’m working toward that dwelling place right here on this earth and in this lifetime. It is possible to achieve a truly happy version of that right now.

How?
Do you know that?
Are you working toward that?
Do you live a version of that now?

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
~Proverbs 4:23

For the purposes of this study and where we are in walking through the Comparison Trap, it’s about ridding ourselves—as best as we can—of the temptations and comparisons all around us. Doing so as a follower of Jesus will allow us to start to have a pure heart… one pure enough to allow “us to recognize God’s gifts, to discern his will, [and] to feel his nudging.”

Sandra Stanley closes today’s devotional with a sample prayer. Do more than just repeat the words… approach them with a purely guarded heart:

“Heavenly Father, I so very much want a pure heart. I commit today to doing the work it takes to clean out the comparison and other temptations that make it harder to see you and your will for me.”

When we start to figure all of this out, we’ll see that the locked gate provides us some guarded protection in this life by keeping out what will keep us from being pure AND by keeping in all He wants us to know in order to be supremely blessed by knowing, feeling and walking in His presence.

 


 

 

 

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Finding Hope through the Temptation

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A few nights ago, I made a fire in the outdoor firepit. Why is it that when you WANT to start a fire, it’s often a challenge to get it going with the newspaper and tinder teepee? People have accidentally burned down their home by smoking in bed or playing with matches, but when you want to get a campfire going, it can be tough!

In any case, I finally did get it going. As I watched the flames slowly build and consume the dry wood, I had some time to reflect. As beautiful as the fire was, my mind was drawn to sin and how it often can consume us if we are not careful.

The wood I used was dry, but not too old. It was a soft wood — not the best for burning in a fire, but it was what I had on-hand after losing some branches to a storm last fall. The bark was still intact, and I could tell there was still a great deal of moisture left in the heart of the wood, as the smoke was thick and pungent, and it took a while for the wood to actually start to burn.

Sin can be like that for us:  it can take some time until we start to burn under the temptation. When we’re a Believer walking with the Lord, we’re not always the easiest target for the prowling lion to devour, but when we suffer some kind of loss or spiritual test of our will, we can be weakened.

That prowling lion is always ready to pounce. He watches for our weaknesses.

When we’re put into the flame, it often takes some time until we give into the sin. We choose to stay in the Word, we spend time in prayer, we ask others to pray for us, and we remind ourselves about the path we are supposed to be on, but if we aren’t careful, we can be slowly overtaken by the sin — much like the wood can be overtaken by the flames.

A fire, when it has fuel, will grow.

Sin, when it has fuel, will grow.

The flames dance around as they change the still-fresh, bark-covered wood into an ashen-covered char. We dance around our temptations. We justify them, and we justify why we can handle them — because we are Believers.

Eventually, the glow of blue, orange, yellow and red takes over the wood, and a seething-hot bed of coals begins to form beneath the wood that stands little chance of survival. For us, we can eventually be worn down from the temptations, from the worldly viewpoint, from our challenges and justifications. Sin provides us with a distraction, a place where we can be different, a place where we can fit in — this is our bed of coals. It is here that we stand little chance to escape unharmed and unchanged.

A dancing fire. An enticing sin.

In 1 Corinthians 10:13, we are told:

“No temptation has overtaken you
except what is common to humanity.
God is faithful,
and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able,
but with the temptation
He will also provide a way of escape
so that you are able to bear it.” (HCSB)

The hope is in the Word. It’s in knowing that there is always a way of escape. Watch those flames!