Merry Hearts – Proverbs 17:22
This message is the first message in our Merry and Bright series.
The chorus of the classic song “White Christmas” includes the line, “May your days be merry and bright!” For believers, Christmas should be an especially merry and bright time of year. All around us people are celebrating the birth of our Savior. Though our culture may not be consciously celebrating Jesus Christ, this is the only time of year that it’s the norm to hear the gospel rich lyrics in shopping centers and grocery stores.
For a season, the message of Christ permeates our ordinary daily commute of life like at no other time. If anything should make our days merry and bright, it’s more of Christ! For this reason, our theme for December will be “Merry and Bright.” My prayer is that as a church we can celebrate this season together and individually with Merry Hearts and a Bright Witness to our Friends, Neighbors, and Children.
This Christmas let’s celebrate with Merry hearts and be a Bright witness to our friends, neighbors, and children.
Today, we are going to start off by looking at the benefit of a Merry Heart as Proverbs 17:22 tells us
22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
In Proverbs 17 we find many words of wisdom about a wide array of topics, but there is a consistent theme of the nature and character of friends that is in this section.
Just 5 verse up Proverbs 17:17
17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Proverbs 18:24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
But a 5 chapters over there is a Proverb that sets a good contrast to our main passage for today’s message. The Proverb that a merry heart is like good medicine should be tempered by:
Proverbs 25:20 As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.
The idea there being when we tell someone, just cheer up!
You can’t simply decide to be happy or snap out of depression, your heart and spirit must be shaped for joy.
Just get over it. You just need to decide you’re not going to be sad… We’ll look at that passage in greater detail in a sermon series I’m working on for the new year… But I just wanted to point at it briefly now so that when you hear me speak of the benefits of a Merry Heart you don’t get the wrong idea… Our theme “Merry and Bright” comes from the best selling Christmas song White Christmas, but White Christmas is a super nostalgic almost sad song. When you understand the setting behind the song you really feel the nostalgia and sadness. The song first played in 1941 just 2 weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. America was thrust into preparation for war. For many young men it would be the last Christmas they’d spend at home.
When Bing Crosby would go over seas in the coming years to do USO shows for the military at Christmas he would not include White Christmas in the act because it made the men miss home so much. Crosby said, I didn’t come all this way to depress the troops. However, at many of the shows the men would yell for Crosby to sing White Christmas. Even though they were far from home at Christmas time, they wanted to hear it… to long for the days that were merry and bright.
A Merry heart can still experience sadness.
It’s the Christmas season and we have reason for joy in the birth of Christ, but when Jesus was born there was so much mess and heartache in the world… Jesus was born into a stable, laid in a manger, and welcomed by shepherds so we’d see that things aren’t perfect, they aren’t designer, but the Merry and Bright days are coming. It’s interesting that when Luke’s account of everything that happened around Jesus birth concludes it concludes by saying
“Mary treasured and pondered all these things in her heart….” I’m sure there was much in those moments that were heavy on a young mothers heart, and they couldn’t be enjoyed so much then, but they would become a treasure to her later… Maybe you’re not ready for your days to be Merry and Bright right now, but there will be a day when all our days will be Merry and Bright…And when the time comes, it will be such a joy. Such an encouragement. It will be like good medicine. The proverb I want to focus on is telling us that a Merry Heart is like good medicine…
If you have ever been sick and finally relented and gone to the doctor and gotten good medicine, medicine that makes a marked difference almost immediately, you know the what we are being told here… There’s benefit in getting good medicine. The word in the original means “cure” or “healing.” Because of the nature of medicine today, I’m afraid we might have a distorted view of what’s being said. Many medicines you take today you have to take them forever or at least until the side affects get so bad you switch to a different medicine…
Many of our medicines deal with alleviating symptoms, not curing conditions. The medicine being spoke of here is medicine that brings cure. It’s the antibiotic that makes you well by eradicating the infection, not the blood pressure medicine that keeps your numbers in a good range.
The medicine of scripture does not merely mitigate symptoms but rather brings healing.
So this passage says that a Merry Heart does good, like a medicine.
Like a cure. It makes a difference. A good difference.
So what is this Merry Heart that makes a difference?
If a Merry Heart makes a difference that is so good, what is it, I want to have it….
It’s a cheerful disposition.
It’s a joyful attitude.
It’s enjoying life.
It’s having fun.
Do you remember the stories of Christoper Robin’s hundred acre wood? The Stories of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger and Eyeore?
There’s a popular urban legend that all the character were written to illustrate a different mental disorder. That’s not was Milne did, however, each of the character has a very strong dominating character trait.
Tigger’s is he incredibly optimistic about everything.
Too much so really…
“The wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is Tiggers are wonderful things”
Everything he’s asked to do or has the opportunity,
“Sure that’s what Tiggers do best!”
The contrast to Tigger is Eyeore.
“Eyeore are you well?”
“Wish I could say yes, but I can’t.”
“Good morning, Eyeore”
“If it is a good morning, which I doubt.”
“Sure is a cheerful color. Guess I’ll have to get used to it.”
A Merry Heart is a general disposition toward happiness, enjoyment, fun, laughter… People who have Merry Heart aren’t always laughing, but they sure do laugh more than people who have a broken spirit.
J Vernon McGee wrote about this verse,
“God wants his people to have a big time. We should laugh and rejoice and praise God when we come together at church. We are simply too stilted and stiff in our churches.”
-J Vernon McGee
I remember when I was in a kid in our baptist church in Nashville and the Free Will Baptist Bible College was nearby. We had several married students, older couples who already had kids who were going to our church as they were in the area to attend college.
They let Duane, who was from Canada preach one Sunday night.
I don’t know that I have laughed so hard in church as I did that night. He was hilarious.
“We baptists walk into church stiff as a board…”
A pastor friend of mine got an email saying, I think you are just too happy all the time on Facebook. A man of God should be very serious minded and recognize that there are hurting people all around him…
“We make it fun to go to church so it’s hard to go to hell.”
The truth is, some of the unhappiest and most depressing people I have ever met have been in church.
That’s not how it should be.
We should 100% mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep, but our general disposition should be joy!
I was reminded of Martin Luther this week. Speaking to someone about the new movie about his life…
Martin Luther was a miserable monk.
He was terrified of judgement. He would come to his priest to confess multiple times a day.
His priest said if you want to spend this much time confessing you’ll need to go out and commit more sins worth confessing…
When Luther studied Romans for a class he was teaching he realized that Grace gave him righteousness before God.
He suddenly realized that Grace through Jesus covered his sins, he was no longer depressed and dark, he completely changed.
He married a nun, became known for his sharp sarcastic tongue, and though he remained steadfast and faithful in service to God- he enjoyed life.
When we experience the grace of Jesus, it becomes the basis of our merry hearts.
The Grace of Christ is the key to a merry heart.