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Summary: God’s Proverbs instructs us in how God wants us to live. These Proverbs teach us that God has designed us to function better when we are cheerful. Even our physical & emotional health is effected by our spiritual mood.

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A CHEERFUL HEART

PROVERBS 15:13, 15; 17:22

In the Bible the heart can be the center or focus of passions; the center of the thought processes and even the spring of conscience. Heart, in fact, is associated with what is now meant by the thinking, the will, and the emotions of personal life.

The Book of Proverbs is packed full of wisdom about the heart. There are nearly fifty occurrences of the word "heart" in the Book of Proverbs. I want to call your attention to some of them tonight.

Do you remember the BURMA SHAVE SIGNS that once lined the highways? "Within this veil of toil and sin, Your head grows bald, but not your chin." -Burma Shave. And "Don’t lose your head to gain a minute. You need your head, your brains are in it." -Burma Shave. Like these short pity statements those of Proverbs stick with us. But God’s proverbs reminds us of how God wants us to live. These Proverbs teach us that God has designed us to function better when we are cheerful (CIM). Even our bodily health is effected by our spiritual mood. Voltaire said, "The practice of medicine is amusing the patient while nature cures the disease." Spiritual, emotional, and physical health are related. Let’s look...

1st in Proverbs 15:13 where we learn that joyful hope in the heart puts a smile on the face. "A joyful heart makes a cheerful [good] face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken" (NASB). ["A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken (NIV).]

Inner feelings whether from joy or sadness will come to exterior expression. To be joyful is to be glad, merry or cheerful. Inner joy (s mah) shows on a person’s face. When we’re happy on the inside, our faces can’t help but show it on the outside.

Happiness and depression are issues of the heart. What a person is inwardly has more lasting impact on his emotional state than do his circumstances. Some people hold up under difficult circumstances better than others because of inner strength. Christians though can have inner joy.

Body language communicates without words. The shrug of a shoulder, a raised eyebrow, a false smile, a down-turned mouth, a knowing nod-all of these can speak clearly even when no sound is heard.

Sit on a shopping mall bench and study the faces of those who pass by. Listen to snatches of conversations, and catch the emotions expressed. Soon the evidence of a broken spirit will become obvious in someone by both words and body language. A pretended cheerfulness is difficult to maintain for long.

So we wonder are only a few fortunate people born with a bright outlook on life or is optimism an attitude we can learn? Susan C. Vaughan, author of Half Full, says that seeing life’s potentials and possibilities instead of its pitfalls is the result of a internal process anyone can follow. One of her conclusions is that "there is a powerful link between facial expression and emotions. She believes that people who begin to act happier actually feel happier."

There is merit in thinking and acting positively, but the Bible declares that true spiritual joy begins deep inside us, then spreads to our faces.

How do we develop a merry or joyful heart? We can begin by thanking the Lord for being with us and working for our good in every situation (Romans 8:28). A daily walk with God can produce a merry heart if we focus on His blessings. It’s not a matter of pretending but of practicing an outlook on life that reflects our faith in Christ. "Rejoice in the Lord always," Paul wrote from prison. "Again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4). That kind of optimism begins with a merry heart and spreads to the face.

In turn, a truly cheerful countenance spreads a contagion of hope and joy to others. We don’t know who will cross our paths today or what burdens those persons may carry. Check your mirror. How’s that smile? Hmm ... that’s more like it.

Father, Help me to reflect the deep joy love and peace that comes from You.

Inner grief (heartache; 14:13) depresses a person’s morale (crushes the spirit; 15:4; 17:22; 18:14). The challenges of life can stress us and the demands we face can deplete our energy. Coping with various difficulties can be hard, and following Christ obediently is certainly serious. But there is a place for joy and healthy laughter in our lives. [In fact, we will likely feel better if we learn to laugh more often.

Today we know from various studies, research, and the writings and experiences of people like Norman Cousins that laughter can reduce stress, help ease pain, allow us to better manage anxiety, encourage us toward overcoming depressive feelings, and even aid in stabilizing our mood. There is less absenteeism and more productivity in a work environment where laughter is present. Victor Frankel, who was tortured in a Nazi concentration camp, wrote, "There were moments when laughter saved my life."

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