Summary: A sermon on how to have some zest for life with laughter, enjoying the little things and fearing the Lord. Sermon based around Proverbs 15:13-17
In writing about Lincoln’s Civil War years, author Richard Hanser says that on September 22, 1862, the War Cabinet was summoned to the White House for a special session. Lincoln was reading a book as everyone came in. Secretary of War Stanton later said this of the meeting: “Finally the President turned to us and said, ‘Gentlemen, did you ever read anything of Artimus Ward? Let me read a chapter that is very funny.’”
The president then read aloud a skit called “Highhanded Outrage in Utica.” Stanton was furious, but Lincoln read on and, at the end, he laughed mightily. “Gentlemen,” he asked, “why do you not laugh? With the fearful strain that is upon me day and night, if I did not laugh, I should die. And you need this medicine as much as I do.”
When Tamer Lee Owens celebrated her 104th birthday, she credited "laughter, the Lord, and the little things" for keeping her going. She still finds enjoyment each day in talking with people, taking a walk, and reading the Bible as she has done since childhood. "I don’t know how long He’ll let me stay here," she said. "I just thank the Lord for what He’s given me already." Most of us won’t live 104 years, but we can learn from Tamer Lee how to enjoy each day.
Thesis: I see these three things talked about in Proverbs 15: Laughter, Little Things, and the Lord.
Proverbs 15:13- A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.
Also Proverbs 17:22- A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
These verses don’t specifically talk about laughter but we see the picture of a heart that is given to merriment and laughter. A heart that wants to laugh or is ready to laugh.
“People who laugh do better than people who don’t,” said Dr. Clifford Kuhn of the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Dr. Kuhn reports that kids age 3-5 laugh 250 to 300 times a day, while adults age 30-35 average laughing 15 times a day. As we get older, do we simply become more serious or do we miss out on the laughter our God has given us for our good?
The challenges of life can stress us and the demands we face can deplete our energy. Coping with difficulties can be hard, and following Christ obediently is certainly serious. But there is a place for healthy laughter in our lives.
Today we know from various studies, research, and the writings and experiences of people 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.
Now a word of caution here: there are times when laughter is not appropriate and times when it should not be sought out. Unhealthy laughter is sinful. It feeds on what is wrong, victimizes another person, perverts what is holy, or distorts what is true. Dr. Kuhn has reported that unhealthy laughter does not take a person to a lower tension level, but actually increases the level of tension. We should laugh with people and not at the expense of people.
Here is a prescription for healthy laughter:
Attitude: We cannot and should not laugh all the time, but we can be willing to laugh.
Awareness: Know what makes us laugh. Make sure it a win-win for everyone.
Discipline: Expose ourselves to clean, wholesome opportunities to laugh.
Exercise: Try to laugh about 30 minutes a day (about 3% of our conscious day)
Proverbs 15:15- All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.
Victor Frankel, who was tortured in a Nazi concentration camp, wrote, “There were moments when laughter saved my life.” Try to find something humorous even in the worst of times.
Joy involves something inside. Happiness involves external circumstances. Only Christ can give joy. Psalm 51:12- Restore to me the joy of your salvation
The Little Things
Proverbs 15:17- Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.
Maintaining loving relationships and enjoying the basic things of life are more important than wealth and success.
In the days of the Bible, meat was only eaten at a couple of meals a week. Many times vegetables or grains were the only things on the menu for the meal.
Better to have vegetables with those we love than a feast with people we are at odds with.
Recent Lookout article by Phil and Bev Haas (http://www.lookoutmag.com/articles/homelife.asp?id=2294) Reader wrote in and asked this question: I dread getting together for the holidays even though I love my family. Maybe I’m just jealous, but it seems to become a brag session about whose kids are doing the best and who makes the most money. How can I break this cycle and overcome my feelings of inferiority?