Shelby G. Floyd
Good morning church. It is good to be here, and we just had a great song service. It is very good that we can share the word of God each other. I am very thankful that God has been so good to me and that I can still do some work in his kingdom.
Today, the subject that I am going to speak on is “laughter.” I had been preaching for 45 years before I ever spoke on the subject of laughter. And when I started doing research, I was amazed at how much the Bible has to say about laughter. When we started this congregation, we decided that we wanted a congregation where people are happy, where they have a smile on their face, and where they can enjoy each other’s company. I am sure all of us realize that we have been around some congregations where the people do not seem to be very happy. Many of these people are very grumpy and sour. And that dampens the spirit of anybody when you are around people like that. And those sour and grumpy people seem to attract sour and grumpy people to them. And that is not a good thing. Whereas people who are joyful like to be with people of like mind. And now I have been preaching 61 years and speak to you again on the subject of laughter.
How many of you like to laugh?(Almost everybody in the audience raised their hand). I know you do! If you do not believe that, just stay around here 15 minutes after we dismiss and you will see how much people enjoy each other’s company, they are in a joyful spirit and many people have smiles on their faces while laughing.
I heard about a woman that was married to four different men. When she was 20, she married a banker. He had a lot of money so they could do about anything they wanted to do. And he died. When she was 40, she married a circus director. And that was a big change in in her life, for they would travel all over the country with the circus. And so she learned to enjoy circus life. But then her circus husband also died. And when she was 60 she married a preacher. And the preacher taught her the plan of salvation and she obeyed the gospel, and became a Christian. She was so glad that she had married a man of God who had taught her how to live a better life. And then he died. And when she was 80, she married a funeral director. The funeral director told her how to be kind to everybody, especially when they would lose someone they really loved. She learned how to have that kind of a spirit. And then he died. Someone then asked her why she had married four different men with such different backgrounds. And she said that it was very simple: “One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go!” (The whole congregation had a big laugh!). I do not know about you but that is really funny and will make you laugh. I had a lot of fun with that story. I do not usually tell very many jokes in the pulpit, but that is a classic.
We need to learn to laugh. Solomon said, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). And in verse four he added these words, “There is a time to mourn and a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). All that some people want to do is just weep, wail, and mourn all the time. And we also have people that all they want to do is laugh all the time. The way that some people deal with different situations is just start laughing. But you do not answer any arguments by just laughing. Therefore somewhere between never laughing and laughing at everything, is where we ought to be.
“A laugh is a smile that burst out.” “Laughter is the spark of the soul.” “Laughter is an instant vacation.” My daughters and I just took a vacation to South Dakota. And we laughed a lot. But you do not have to go to South Dakota to have a good vacation. So just start laughing when something is really funny, and you will have an instant vacation. Laughter is an instant vacation! And it will be good for you.
God wants us to be joyful and glad. Know that God has a sense of humor, believe it or not! Someone has said, “It is not a sin to grin.” Someone else said “It is better to grin than to worry yourself to death!” Therefore all of us would like to see more people with a grin on their face rather than a scowl. Some people always appear like they were weaned on a dill pickle or a sour persimmon! We do not want to be like that. It is not a sin to grin. It is better to grin than to worry yourself to death.
Laughter is mentioned about 38 times in the Bible. This indicates that God wants us to have joy and happiness in our hearts. “Laugh often, dream big, and reach for the stars.” And if you read your Bible every day, you will be surprised how often God wants us to dream big and that is a good recommendation from God to have joy, happiness, and laughter in our hearts.
LAUGHTER IS A GIFT FROM GOD
In the first place this morning, I want to emphasize to you that laughter is a gift from God. God gave us the gift of laughter. I have two little great grandsons. You likely were born with the desire to laugh. If you play around with them, they will start laughing. It is like they were born with the gift of laughter. So God created us with the gift of laughter, and you can see that in the case with a little six-month-old child. They have a heart to laugh.
Solomon wrote “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:13). So God wants us to have a happy heart that will exude a cheerful spirit of joy and laughter. Solomon also said, “All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15).
Just cultivate your heart and be cheerful. And that will be a wonderful thing. Did you know that laughter is good medicine? The cost of medicine is going up all the time. Healthcare is one of our biggest cost and it is going up almost every day. And yet we all want to live as long as we possibly can. We want to take care of our health when we have issues, so laughter is good medicine. And you do not have to pay a lot of money for it. So just cultivate a cheerful heart with lots of laughter and that will be good medicine for your health. Solomon said, “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones” (Proverbs 15:30). And then he tells us that laughter and a cheerful spirit are good medicine. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). Therefore we learn from Solomon that a lot of our health originates in the marrow of our bones. Therefore a crushed spirit dries up the bones and affects our health. Therefore if you want to lose your health just be grouchy, grumpy, and dry up your bones instead of taking the good medicine of a cheerful heart. Therefore, laughter is a gift of God and the question is, are you going to accept it? Are you going to use it and apply it to your life? Are you going to have a cheerful spirit, or will you have a grouchy, grumpy spirit that will cause people to walk away from you? Therefore it is not good to have a negative grouchy spirit all the time.
THE LAUGHTER OF UNBELIEF AND SKEPTICISM
In the next place, I want to talk to you about the laughter of unbelief, doubt, skepticism, and cynicism. In the book of Genesis we read about the unbelief of Abraham and Sarah. These two individuals were very large figures in the Old Testament writings concerning the ultimate scheme of redemption that would come through Jesus Christ. God loved Abraham because he was a man that believed what God said. He had great faith in what God said.
At this particular stage of his life, Abraham was now 100 years old. Then God sent an angel to Abraham who showed up in the form of a person. And the angel said to Abraham, that about this same time next year you will be the father of a son. And Abraham started laughing. Today we do not hear of any 100-year-old men fathering any children. A few years ago I googled who was the oldest man and woman to bring a child into this world. And I can tell you that no man 100 years old and no woman 90 years old brought any children into this world. At those ages no one today brings children into our world.
Sarah was 90 years old while Abraham was 100 years old. When the angel told Abraham that he would bear a son about the same time next year, Sarah was in the tent, and she heard what the angel said. They lived, like the Native American Indians lived—in a tent! Sarah was in the tent, and she was listening. And when she heard what the angel told Abraham she laughed to herself. Men of the congregation, women are listening when you think they are not paying any attention at all. They hear everything that is going on. So when she heard what the angel said to her husband Abraham, she laughed. Then God appeared to her and told her that she would bear a son about the same time next year. The angel asked her, “why did you laugh?” She replied, I did not laugh. But the angel said yes you did laugh and that was the end of the matter. Therefore God always knows what is going on even when we think nobody knows what is going on. The bottom line is that both Abraham and Sarah laughed at the promise that they would bear a son about the same time next year.
As time went on, Abraham and Sarah brought a son into the world and named him Isaac. In Bible times names carried meanings. Even today when you are trying to figure out what you are going to name your new baby, there are books that will tell you the meaning of many of the names. And the name Isaac means laughter. So I want you to picture in your mind that little Isaac is running around like little Paul here on the front row. In your mind see Abraham and Sarah watching little Isaac running around and they are laughing to each other, we named him Isaac because we laughed at the promise that God would give him to us. We laughed because we did not believe God’s promise. Now we know that God’s promises always come true. Now we are not laughing at God, but we are laughing with God!
And having little children come into our lives is one of the best gifts that God ever gave mankind. And grandchildren and great grandchildren are right up there at the top of the list. And I have six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, and they have made me laugh and are even now continuing to make me laugh. I have two great grandsons that are less than a year old. And I cannot wait for them to start making me laugh again. But I had a lot of laughter with my grandkids as they were growing up. I will just give you a few examples.
My oldest granddaughter Brittany when she was a little girl we had watched the video of Pinocchio several times. And I always told her that if you tell lies according to Pinocchio your nose will grow longer. We had watched that video probably half a dozen times. One day she was visiting with us, and she told me some big tale that was full of yarn. I said, remember Brittany, when you tell a lie your nose might get longer like Pinocchio. And she was so sharp that she turned it back on me. She said, grandpa is my nose really getting longer. And I said, no. She answered and said, “Now that is a lie and people should not tell a lie.” I had to laugh because she had turned it back on me and I was being a liar. Kids are very sharp.
Then I was visiting down in Florida where my daughter is a schoolteacher. Cheryl had to go and teach school the next day. She said you and Jacqueline can go to McDonald’s for lunch tomorrow. I said that sounds like a good idea. The next day I said to Jacqueline, are we ready to go to McDonald’s? She said I will ride my bicycle, but you must push the little baby buggy with my doll in it to McDonald’s. Therefore I pushed a little baby buggy 2 miles to McDonald’s while she rode her little bicycle. Everybody laughed because they could not believe that I would do such a thing. But it was fun, and grandparents will do just about anything for their grandchildren.
I will relate to you another incident at our house in Greenwood. Several members of the family were visiting and that included my grandson Evan. We were visiting in the family room, and I was enjoying a big cup of coffee. I noticed somebody was playing around at my feet, but I didn’t pay any attention. When I had finished about half of my coffee I decided to get a refill. But as I stood up to go I nearly fell on my face, and I set my coffee down on a table without spilling a drop. My mother-in-law with her Tennessee accent said, “Well Shelby, I’ll be!” And then suddenly it appeared to me what had been going on around my feet. Evan had tied my shoelaces together. Everyone had a good laugh and I have been laughing about that every time I relate it to someone.
Jacob, my oldest grandson, was visiting a few years ago and he said to me, “Grandpa, I have a confession to make.” “When I was a young boy I was standing in front of your pine tree, and it was about 6 feet tall. I imagined that it was a soldier, and I took his head off.” Well thank you for telling me that because I always wondered why one of my pine trees did not have a top on it. Boys will be boys, but they bring us a lot of laughter and enjoyment in life.
Another funny thing happened one time when Trent one of my youngest grandsons was visiting. Most of the family was sharing time together on our porch. My mother was still living at this time but was somewhat losing her memory. When Trent came by her she asked how old are you and he replied I am five. In a few minutes he came by again and she asked him how old are you? And he said I am five. In a little while he came by again and she asked him for the third time how old are you? And he said, “I am still five!” We still laugh every time we think about that conversation.
Abraham and Sarah had a lot of good laughs as little Isaac was growing up to become a great man of God. We should all enjoy our children as they are growing up and giving us a lot of good memories and laughter.
THE LAUGHTER OF SCORN
You can laugh and make fun of people, but that is not a good kind of laughter. As Jesus approached this town there was a man that met him by the name of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue. He informed Jesus that he needed to come to his house right away because his little daughter was sick even to the very point of death. A lot of people were following along, and Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He then said, “who touched me?” The disciples said to him, do you see all these people that are following? How then could you say, “who touched me?” There was a woman who had touched Jesus and she was immediately healed. She then realized that she could not hide herself from Jesus. So she confessed to him that she was the one that had touched him. Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” (Mark 8:34).
Jesus then traveled on to the house of Jairus. And when they arrived the people said there is no need for Jesus to go into the house for she is already dead. Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” Then Jesus went into see the little girl along with Peter, James, and John the brother of James. The people were weeping and wailing loudly. Then Jesus said, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.” They reacted by laughing and ridiculing him (Mark 5:40). Jesus put all the people out of the house and brought in the father and the mother of the child and said to the little girl, “Talitha, cumi,” which translated is, “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (Mark 5:41).
Therefore, in this case we have a different kind of laughter. It is what I would call “the laughter of scorn and ridicule.” But after he brought this little girl back to life, they did not laugh any longer. So Jesus had the last laugh. And so it will be at the judgment concerning all those who reject the Son of God and his offer of eternal salvation. We will all be raised from the dead and stand before Almighty God at the last day. We can count on it.
THE LAUGHTER OF SINFUL MERRIMENT
In the next place I want to talk to you about the laughter of sinful merriment. This is not a good kind of laughter. We live in a world today where most of the laughter is based on sinful conduct and attitudes. Solomon wrote in his Proverbs, “Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?” (Ecclesiastes 2:2).
The people who live an ungodly lifestyle enjoy laughing about it. To them it is funny. When the people of the world are impious and immoral, they laugh at what they are doing. But their laughter will be against them at the last day when all of us are judged by what we have done in the body. Again, the wise man Solomon said, “Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:3). When we are living a sinful life, it is time for repentance, confession and a change in our lifestyle. This should bring about a sad face and sorrow for sin. And a sad face of repentance is good for the heart. Have you noticed that much of the laughter on the TV sitcoms is “canned laughter!” Sometimes I will say to myself, that is immoral, and the producers will hit a button and we have “canned laughter” designed to cultivate the laughter of sinful merriment. And Solomon said that sinful laughter is “Like the crackling of thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of fools. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 7:6).
THE LAUGHTER OF GOD’S CONDEMNATION
In the fifth place I want to talk to you about the laughter of God’s condemnation. God is not going to save everybody. He has made it possible for everyone to be saved, but in fact he will not save everyone. And God is going to laugh at everyone who did not accept his offer of eternal salvation through Christ Jesus the Son of his love. This will be the laughter of eternal condemnation. Someone said, “He who laughs last, laughs best.” And I can say emphatically right here that God is going to have the last laugh! “The one on his throne in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them” (Psalms 2:4). So God is on his throne in heaven, and he is going to laugh at those who have scoffed at his beloved Son.
In the book of Proverbs Solomon describes the last laugh of Almighty God.
Because I have called and you refused,
I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,
25 Because you disdained all my counsel,
And would have none of my rebuke,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your terror comes,
27 When your terror comes like a storm,
And your destruction comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.
28 “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.
God’s telephone number is Proverbs 1:28. Sinners will try to call that number at the last day, but he will not answer. If we live a sinful life and then on the last day we try to call on the Lord, it will be too late, and he will not answer our call.
And David, a man after God’s own heart wrote in one of his Psalms, “But the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming” (Psalms 37:13). And David said in another Psalm, “But you, O Lord, laugh at them; you scoff at all those nations” (Psalms 59:8). In the last day God will laugh at the wicked people and the wicked nations. There are wicked nations and righteous nations who try to do the right thing concerning the ruler of the universe. And God is going to laugh at them at the last day because they did not submit themselves unto the ruler of the universe.
THE LAUGHTER OF ETERNAL TRIUMPH!
Finally, I want to speak to you about the laughter of eternal triumph. It is going to be a wonderful day when all of God’s people stand before the great white throne. And the Old Testament books and the New Testament books will be opened. And everyone who has lived on the earth will be judged according to the things that are written in the books. It will be a very serious day.
King David wrote in the Psalms, “When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them. The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. (Psalms 126:2-3).
We see the joy of the people under the Lord when Nehemiah brought some of God’s people back from Babylon to Jerusalem and started rebuilding the walls of Zion. As the walls were completed Nehemiah said to the people, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Therefore when the walls of Jerusalem were completed Nehemiah urged people to be filled with joy and laughter because the Lord had been with them and had blessed them greatly.
No one will enjoy the laughter of eternal triumph if they have chosen to live a sinful lifestyle to the point of death. When that is the case, it is time to grieve, mourn and wail with gloom. That person should change his laughter to humble mourning for their sin. James described what should be done: “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up” (James 4:9-10). And Jesus, the good shepherd of the sheep said to the people of his day, “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (Luke 6:21). Therefore if we want to enjoy the laughter of eternal triumph we must do what our Lord and his inspired instructors have taught us to do in the New Testament.
We pray that all of us will live in such a way that we will enjoy the eternal triumph of laughter and joy. King David expressed this kind of laughter, love and the joy of eternal triumph in one of his great Psalms:
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
3 Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
5 For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.
Let us all cultivate a spirit of wholesome joy and laughter in the Lord and make the world a better place to live our brief life. Therefore, as Ainsley Earnhardt has said:
“People are so sensitive; people are so defensive. I agree with you. We have to learn to loosen up, lighten up, and learn to laugh a little bit.”
Copyright © 2022 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd preached this sermon September 18, 2022 at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142