If you gathered a group of 25 people together from different socio-economic backgrounds, a variety of ethnicities, perhaps even different nationalities and asked them to define "happiness" they would be hard-pressed.
No doubt the group would share things that brought them a feeling of happiness. Listing people, places and things but only to define happiness through various synonyms of the same word.
Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount recognized that happiness is more than the right body chemicals and mechanics. It is more than just arriving at a continuously moving finish line. Jesus' teaching on happiness can be summarized this way: Happiness is a thermometer, not a thermostat.
Thermometers reflect the temperature. Often we base our happiness only in the environment we are in. Reflecting what is happening around us.
A thermostat, however, is a different story. When a thermostat is adjusted it causes a chain reaction that changes the temperature. If the room is too warm, the air conditioner is turned down. If the room is too cold, the heat is turned up. In either case the thermostat changes the room temperature while the thermometer registers the change.
Jesus tells us to seek after God by embodying a poverty of spirit, meekness and mourning for the soul -- all the while hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Happiness is tied to our souls knowing God.
He tells them to extend mercy, to extend purity, to extend peace. The heart that seeks God, and finds Him, is the heart that extends to the hurting and discouraged humanity. Happiness is tied to extending ourselves into the soul of others.
Jesus also reminds them to endure. Discovering the art of enduring fuels the growth of happiness.
We all want to be like the man who prayed, "Lord, let me be the one to prove winning the lottery does not bring happiness." None of us wants to be like the man who prayed, "Lord, let me be happy while I endure this suffering."
Jesus reminds us in the Sermon on the Mount that often we try to measure our happiness by a thermometer when he calls his disciples to be the catalyst that changes the thermostat.
The definition of happiness may be allusive, but the effects can be clearly seen -- especially for those seeking God. You may be the agent though whom God changes the temperature around you.
Rob Hurtgen is a husband, father, minister and writer. Read more from him at www.robhurtgen.wordpress.com.