Sunday, May 29, 2016

Good Medicine

A cheerful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:22  NIV

Read also:  Psalm 46:10

How many Christians do you know that are caught up in being negative?  So many who claim victory in Jesus live as if nothing good ever happened to them.

How many times is the word joy or rejoice used in the Bible?  The answer is about 180, depending upon the version.

It is mentioned twice as much in the Old Testament as in the New.

What about love?  Would you believe over 500 times, and get this—most of those are in the Old Testament if you go by the NIV or NRSV.

Remember that joy and love are not the original words, so the frequency of translation will vary.

Grace shows up about 150 times, and yes most of those are in the New Testament in all translations.

Sin shows up just over 400 times in most translations with a 3 to 1 preference for the Old Testament.

But if the blood of Jesus took away our sin, why do we dwell on it so much?  Yes, that question is most rhetorical for the blood of Jesus did take away our sin!

So why do so many Christians dwell on the negative—their own faults, the mistakes of others, what is wrong with the world?

We are told to have joy in the Lord.  Rejoice in the Lord!  We just finished a series with Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi and he used the words joy and rejoice 16 times in this very short letter.

God is serious about our joy and he has been telling us this for a long time.  But let’s consider the proverb.

It is less of a command than it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  

What does it say?

A cheerful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Remember that the Hebrew people loved parallelism in their writing.  That is, both phrases essentially say the same thing with just a little different twist.

This little quip of wisdom says a whole bunch about our free will.  We can choose to take our medicine or we can choose to suffer in our illness.

We can choose this joy, this happiness, this cheerful spirit or we can choose bitterness, despair, and hopelessness.

It is a choice.

One is good medicine and the other empowers the illness.  

My countenance surely influences my health.

But there are days that just hurt too much to be cheerful.  There are times when I cannot muster joy.  I have gone through things that just hurt too much.

I just can’t seem to honestly choose joy.

Then take counsel from the psalmists and be still and know that your situation goes beyond your understanding.  Just be in his presence—in the presence of God, knowing that he is God.  Accept his peace and take the promise that sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

Maybe we can’t always exude that cheerful spirit, but we must know that it is the correct medicine.

Our struggles and trials and pains are real, but joy—I am talking about joy in the Lord—is real medicine.

Joy treats the worst of the human conditions that we may know—sorrow and depression and just living without hope.

Joy, real joy, is available to all through Christ.  The world that lives without Christ only knows a little joy—that which comes from daily events and circumstances.

Some eastern religious look at the purpose of life as an effort to reduce suffering, a noble goal, but it falls far short of knowing the joy of the Lord.

If we would go back to some of our Presbyterian roots in the Westminster Catechism, we would find that the purpose of humankind—the chief end of man if you will—is to bring glory to God and to enjoy him forever.

We are to bring glory to God and enjoy him very much.  How can you enjoy God?

By taking our joy directly from our relationship with him.  Our joy is in the Lord!

But, but…

The world is a messy place.  People lose jobs, take pay cuts, get transferred, lose loved ones, lose all of their worldly possessions in a house fire, face illness and disease, fail tests and courses, get cut from teams, sometimes just have bad hair days.

Life is messy.

But for those who know God, especially those who know God through Christ Jesus, there is medicine for our messy lives that we live in this messy world.

It is a cheerful heart.  It is joy.  It is to rejoice in the Lord.

It is a choice.

We take our medicine every day or we subsidize the illness.
Sometimes it isn’t easy to take our medicine.  Sometimes it takes a little effort to choose joy.  Sometimes like the medicine that we get from the pharmacy, it sort of tastes bad or funny at first.

Sometimes it is tough to live in the words of Jesus when he told us that we would have trouble in the world but then said, “Take heart—be of good cheer—for I have overcome the world.”

We need to be people of joy and good cheer.  We need to live with cheerful hearts.  For some that comes easier than others; but for all, it is still good medicine.

We need to take our medicine.

A cheerful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22  NIV

Let’s take our medicine.

It’s good medicine.


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