I think there is a very poor translation error when the Sermon on the Mount says, “Happy are those who . . .” instead of “Blessed are those who . . .” or more accurately, “God blesses those who . . .”
Those who Jesus is calling blessed are not those who obey the apparent rules that we see in the Sermon. Rather, blessed are those who have taken on the character of those who will be, and in fact are part of the coming Kingdom, the Kingdom that has now begun with the arrival of Jesus.
Happy is when you accomplish something by your own effort. Blessed, in this case refers to the inherent, almost second nature or new nature that becomes ours when we accept the invitation to become Kingdom people. This is a new way of being human; a new way of looking at life, a new way of living.
In my own case, this new way of being is recognized only in hindsight, for it is something that happens to me. I ask for God to change me and then I watch for ways in which He is doing it. And then, months or years down the road, I look back to see that I am no longer the man I once was. I am now becoming the kind of man that God wants me to be.
The more time that I spend with Jesus, in His Word or through prayer, the more time that I spend following Jesus, the more this new character transformation takes place. Being fully alive, as God promises to bring to those who step into His Kingdom even here on earth, is truly a blessed way to live.
This is not the kind of striving that atheists brag about, “I don’t need God in order to be good,” or “Just be good for goodness sake.” That only leads to pride.
This is a change that is brought about by God’s grace and mercy and power and it leads to gratefulness, peace and as sense of being blessed.