Learn to Laugh
Did you know that people who laugh live longer? It’s true. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A heart at peace gives life to the bones.” Humour is an amazing thing. It’s a tension dissolver. It’s an antidote to anxiety. It’s just like a tranquilizer, but without any of the troublesome side effects. What’s more, it’s free! You don’t even need a prescription. Laughter is life’s shock absorber. If you want to have less stress in your life, learn to laugh at your circumstances and at the things going on around you.
Someone once asked U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln how it was that managed to he handle all the stresses of the Civil War. His reply was quoted as, “If it hadn’t been for laughter, I could not have made it.” So learn to laugh. If you can laugh at it, it’s more likely that you will be able to live with it. And besides, if you learn to laugh at your troubles, you’ll never run out of anything to laugh at! Peter Harvey, a well-known Australian political analyst and commentator, once said, “I don’t know any good jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” We all need to develop a sense of humour.
One of my favourite verses in Scripture is Psalm 2:4, “The One enthroned in heaven laughs.” Isn’t that a great verse? God has a sense of humour. God laughs! Have you ever seen the face of an orang-utan? God thought that one up! That proves He has a sense of humour. Do you want to be more like God? Then learn to laugh because a sense of humour has a way of preserving your sanity.
I know what it is like at times for you…because it is the same at times for me. One irritation can sometimes follow another, and before you know it, your day is ruined. I read the following account from 1982 under the heading “Strange and Unusual Events.” It tells about a man named Brian Heise who had what you might call a “very irritating day”:
“Brian Heise had more than his share of luck in July of 1982, and most of it was bad. When his apartment became flooded from a broken pipe in the upstairs apartment, the manager told him to go out and rent a water vacuum. That’s when he discovered his car had a flat tyre. He changed it, then went inside again to phone a friend for help. The electric shock he got from the phone so startled him that he inadvertently ripped the phone and its connection right off the wall. Before he could leave the apartment a second time, a neighbour had to kick down the apartment door because water damage had jammed it tight. While all of this was going on, someone stole Heise’s car, but it was almost out of petrol. He found it a few blocks away but had to push it to the petrol station, where he filled up the tank. That evening Heise attended a military ceremony at Brigham Young University. He injured himself severely when he somehow sat on his bayonet, which had been tossed onto the front seat of his car. Doctors were able to stitch up the wound, but no one was able to resuscitate four of Heise’s canaries that were crushed to death by falling plaster in his apartment. After Heise had slipped on the wet carpet and badly injured his tailbone, he said he began to wonder if “God wanted me dead, but just kept missing.”
And you think you’ve had some bad or difficult days! Sometimes, all you can do is laugh! Take my advice: acquire a sense of humour. Learn to laugh – especially at yourself. It’s relaxing and healing and a buffer to all the stress the world throws your way.
Pray with me: “Lord, I thank You for the ability to laugh – in all its flavours, colours and shades. Help me to see the better and more pleasing things in the midst of the dark patches. Amen.”
After His resurrection, three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. And each time Peter answered ‘Yes!’ Then Jesus told Peter how he would die - apparently it was going to be by crucifixion. Peter wasn’t sure about this. He looked around him, perhaps not wanting to believe that this was how it was going to go. His eyes settled on John and he wondered how things would work out for John. So Peter asked Jesus, “What about this man?” Jesus brushed off the question and said, “What is that to you? You follow me!” You can read the full exchange between Jesus and Peter in John 21:18-22.
The interesting thing is that these words of Jesus to Peter - “What is that to you? You follow me” – are words that I actually find quite sweet. They are liberating from the discouragement of fatal comparisons. I get quite a few articles and emails that come from different Christian sources. And as I read them I am susceptible to a being discouraged. You see, book after book...conference after conference...blog after blog...all tell me how I can succeed in ministry. Without intending to, all of them are quietly delivering the message that I am just not making it. Worship could be better. Preaching could be better. Evangelism could be better. Pastoral care could be better. Missions could be better. Here is what actually works. Buy this…Go to this conference…Attend this seminar…Do it this way.
So, I do find myself refreshed by Jesus’ blunt words to all of us: “What is that to you? You follow me!” Peter had just heard a difficult word about the painful way in which he was going to die. His first thought was comparison. What about John? If I have to suffer, will he have to suffer? If my ministry ends like that, will his end like that? If I don’t get to live a long life of fruitful ministry, will he get to?
That’s the way we are wired. It’s all about Compare…Compare…Compare. We crave to know how we measure up in comparison to others. Somehow we think are doing OK if we can just find someone less effective than we are. Ouch. What we actually need to hear is, “What is that to you? Follow me.”
The beautiful thing in all of this is that Jesus will not judge you according to your superiority or inferiority over anyone. No preacher. No church. No ministry. No husband. No wife. No fellow worker. No one. Others are not the standard. Jesus has a work for you to do, and a different one for the person next to you. What’s more, there is grace and strength to do it. So, what it comes down to is will I trust God for that grace and do what He has given me to do? That’s the question. There is great liberty that comes when Jesus gets tough and says it like it is! There is even greater liberty in knowing that He has called you and graced you for the task He has for you and not for someone else.
I hope you find encouragement and freedom today when you hear Jesus say to all your comparisons: “What is that to you? You follow me!”
God Was Up All Night!
Have a read of Psalm 121. It’s only a short Psalm...just 8 verses long. Particularly note Psalm 121:2-3 which say: “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip - He who watches over you will not slumber.” Wow! The One who helps you never sleeps! He stays up all night!
Do you need help? I know I do. Where do you look for help? When the Psalmist lifted up his eyes and asked, “Where does my help come from?” he was also able to answer - “My help comes from the Lord” - not from anywhere else, but from the God who created everything. So, the psalmist takes a moment to remind himself of two great truths: one is that God is a mighty Creator over all the problems of life; and two, God never sleeps.
God is a tireless Worker, particularly in your life. But, if we are not careful we fall into the trap of thinking that we are the workers in God’s kingdom. No! The Bible wants us first to be amazed that God is a Worker in our lives: “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 64:4).
God is working for us around the clock. He does not take days off and He does not sleep. In fact, He is so eager to work for us that He goes around looking for more work to do for those who would trust Him: “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth, to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
God loves to show His tireless power and wisdom and goodness. And when we look at Jesus, we find the main One through whom the Father showed this: “The Son of man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus works for His followers. He serves them, and He keeps on doing this even now that He is risen and reigning in heaven. Paul speaks of this: “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has worked through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done...” (Romans 15:18). Christ worked for Paul all his life, and at the very end of his life, in his last letter, he said, “The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed...” (2 Timothy 4:17).
The eagerness of God to work for us is amazing. Not only is He “pursuing us with goodness and mercy all our days” (Psalm 23:6), but He is not just waiting for us to get His help. He is actively seeking ways to give us that help … and He is doing this with overflowing eagerness: “I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear Me, so that they will never turn away from Me. I will rejoice in doing them good... with all my heart and soul” (Jeremiah 32:40-41).
No wonder God stays up all night! With all His heart and all His soul He is working for those who wait for Him and trust Him. This is what we must believe - really believe - in order to “rejoice always” (Philippians 4:4) and “give thanks in everything” (Ephesians 5:20) and have the “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7) and “be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6) and “hate our lives in this world” (John 12:25) and “love our neighbor as we love ourselves” (Matthew 22:39).
What a wonderful truth this is! What a reality! God is active all night and all day to work for those who wait for Him.
Pray with me: “Lord, I thank You that You are ever with me: that Your strength, Your love, Your compassion, and Your grace are ever guiding me and drawing me to be the better person You would draw out of me. I sing Your praises. Amen."
Eternity in the Everyday
“And this is what He promised us - even eternal life” (1 John 2:25).
Most of us would read the words “eternal life” as though they only apply to heaven in the future. Yes, everlasting life is the life to come that never ends. But the thought that it is only ‘to come’ isn’t entirely inaccurate! While it is true to acknowledge that eternal life is life that never ends, the essential factor about eternal life is not quantity, but quality. What John is speaking about in 1 John 2 is not just something we are going to get in heaven someday, but it is actually something we can experience and enjoy right now! It is fullness of life - the full quality of divine life lived out in your situation, right now…and it increases in fullness of enjoyment forever. In other words, eternal life is the daily adventure of experiencing God's solution to every problem instead of seeking your own solution. It is the blessing of discovering God's desire for every opportunity.
Every time we are confronted with a problem, there are two things we can do:
I remember as a young Christian reading a great promise that is found in Ephesians – “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us...” (Ephesians 3:20). I remember looking at that verse and thinking, Is that really true? Does God really offer to do for me beyond anything I can ever ask or think at this moment? That's amazing because I know can ask a lot of life. I can dream and imagine a huge number of wonderful experiences that I would love to have and that, I am sure, would bring satisfaction to me. I even had, at one time, the program outlined in my mind as to how it was that God could do it. But as I look back across the years since I first read those words in Ephesians 3, I can see that even though God did not take my program and do it the way I thought it should be, yet He has abundantly fulfilled the promise. My life is far richer and more complete than I ever dreamed it would be when I was a young Christian.
If we are ready to give ourselves to the Word of God and to let truth possess us - to understand it, and to obey it - if that which you have heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. The experience of that here and now is eternal life!
Pray with me: “Father, grant to me, through all the feeble searchings of my heart, the discovery of eternal life in my everyday experience. Amen.”
Pastor Stephen writes weekly with his thoughts for MBC.