The Merry Heart
"The Merry Heart" is a textual sermon by Mark Hollingsworth.
Pro 17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
Introduction: Mirth is short and transient; cheerfulness is fixed and permanent. Those are often raised into the greatest transports of mirth are those who are subject to the greatest depressions of melancholy. On the contrary, cheerfulness, though it does not give the mind such an exquisite gladness, prevents us from falling into any depths of sorrow.
Mirth is like a flash of lightning, that breaks through a gloom of clouds, and glitters for a moment. Cheerfulness keeps up a kind of daylight in the mind. It is the best promoter of health. Repinings and secret murmurs of heart give imperceptible strokes to those delicate fibers of which the vital parts are composed, and wear out the machine insensibly; not to mention those violent ferments which they stir up in the blood, and those irregular disturbed motions which they raise in the animal spirits.
I scarce remember, in my own observation, to have met with many old men, or with such who (to use our English phrase) wear well, that had not at least a certain indolence in their humor, if not a more than ordinary happiness and cheerfulness of heart. The truth is, health and cheerfulness mutually beget each other.
I. A Merry Mind.
Some people seem to have a merry mind, that is, they can have fun or work up some happiness for a short while, but they don't have lasting joy or lasting health.
- Mind Over Matter.The mind definitely acts upon the body. It is a fact which no observant person would deny, that there is an intimate connection between sorrow of soul and sickness of body, and that cheerfulness of spirit tends to physical health. A physician always tries to keep his patient in good spirits, and when he discerns that he is weighed down by some mental burden, he wisely seeks to lighten that as well as to administer remedies to the body.
- Spirit Over Soul.And when a man is in health, cheerfulness of disposition tends to keep him so; while a depressed condition of mind makes him a more easy prey to disease. That "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones," is a convincing proof of the mysterious sympathy that exists between the man and his earthly dwelling place. The depressed soul destroys the body and the only thing that can overcome the depressed soul is the Godly spirit.
II. A Merry Heart.
What we want is not just a temporarily merry mind but a permanently merry heart. What will lead to cheerfulness of spirit...to what Solomon here calls "a merry heart"?
- A Heart at Peace with God.Some poisons taken into the system produce, for a time, a calming and quieting influence upon the body, but it is a quiet and a calm which comes from deadening the capabilities of feeling. Opium may send a man to sleep, but it is a sleep which gives neither refreshment nor strength. A quiet conscience is the first and indispensable element of heart-cheerfulness, and there are other methods of getting free for a time from pain of conscience beside "that peace with God which comes from being justified by faith" (Rom. 5:1).But all other quietness of soul comes from opiates whose power is but for a time, while this peace comes from the consciousness of reconciliation with God. It comes from a sense of standing in a right relation to all that is right and true in the universe...which is of God.
- A Vivid Realization of Unseen Realities.Though a state of reconciliation with God will give freedom from the sense of guilt, it does not always give that active state of cheerfulness which can be called "a merry heart." A river sometimes glides along between its banks in a state of undisturbed calmness; but there are times when the volume of water is so great that it overflows its channels. Peace is like a calm river, but joy is like one whose waters cannot contain themselves within its boundaries, but must pour forth on the right hand and on the left.Peace has been defined as "love resting," and joy as "love exulting." The one is a passive state of mind, while the other is active. But it is the latter, rather than the former, which makes that cheerful spirit which "doeth good like a medicine," and it is the fruit only of a vivid sense of "things not seen" (Heb.11:1).Those who live on high lands and breathe the pure mountain air, are conscious of an exuberance of animal life, of which even perfectly healthy people who live in the valleys know nothing. So, men who live in the higher regions of spiritual life know a "joy in God" and are sensible of an uplifting of spirit to which ordinary and every-day Christians are strangers. They are not only "believers," but they are filled with "all joy and peace in believing;" they not only have "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, but they "rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom.5:1-2).
- A Life of Active Love.A selfish person can never be a cheerful person. He who lives for himself alone can never know the healing power of "a merry heart." There can be no abiding cheerfulness of heart without joy in God, and there can be no abiding joy in God without love for God that leads to love for man. "There is nothing," says Dr. Maclaren, "more evanescent in its nature than the emotion of religious joy, faith, or the like, unless it be turned into a spring of action for God. Such emotions, like photographs, vanish from the heart unless they be fixed. Work for God is the way to fix them. Joy in God is the strength of work for God, but work for God is the perpetuation of joy in God."
Conclusion: Proverbs 17:22 - A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. The verb means, "to cure," and, as far as we can fix it, the noun means, not a "medicine," but a final "cure." In the world at large cheerfulness is an immense gift; but in religion the wise man wishes to say that hopefulness is strength (Neh.8:10); that it is better to look cheerfully upon God, than with complaints; that if we are to be cured at all, a glad heart will help accomplish it.
All true mirth is from rectitude of the mind, from a right frame of soul. When faith hath once healed the conscience, and grace hath hushed the affections, and composed all within, so that there is a sabbath of the spirit, and a blessed tranquility lodged in the soul, then the body also is vigorous and vivacious, for the most part in very good plight and healthful constitution, which makes man's life very comfortable. "They that in the use of lawful means wait on the Lord, shall renew their strength (Isa.40:31).
Do you have the healing medicine of a merry heart or the dried up bones of a broken spirit? God wants you to have a merry heart and you only get that from Him.
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