"A Time to Weep, and a Time to Laugh"
The word "laugh," in its various forms, is given thirty-eight times in the Bible.
Sometimes laughter is right and sometime it's wrong.
Sometimes it is a fool who is laughing.
Sometimes it is God Himself.
This sermon is based on one by W. Herschel Ford, in which he said,
"Without claiming any originality for these thoughts I want to call to your attention
to four kinds of laughter mentioned in the Bible, and I shall back each type of laughter up
with the Scripture."
(W. Herschel Ford, Simple Sermons for a Sinful Age, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972, p. 119).
I. First, there is the laughter of unbelief.
The Bible tells us, "Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age;
and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
Therefore Sarah laughed within herself
Then Sarah denied, saying,
I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh." (Genesis 18:11,12,15)
Here is what happened.
Abraham and Sarah were old and they didn't have any children.
One day God told Abraham that he would have a son. Abraham was a hundred years old
and Sarah was ninety. When Sarah heard that God had told Abraham she would have a child,
she laughed in unbelief. God said, "Wherefore [why] did Sarah laugh?
Is any thing too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:13-14)
Sarah was then afraid. She said, "I laughed not." (Genesis 18:15)
God said, "Nay, but thou didst laugh."
Sarah's unbelief in the power of God has been seen in the hearts of people throughout history.
Many men and women are like Sarah today.
There are young people here this morning who laugh at the power of God.
When we tell you that Christ can save your soul and give you a better life in this local church,
you laugh. When we tell you that there is a Heaven you can go to if you get saved,
and a Hell that you should avoid going to, you laugh in scorn and unbelief.
And when we tell you that Jesus Christ has the power to convert you and make you
into a real Christian in this church, you make it into a joke, and laugh about it.
You laugh in unbelief, just as Sarah did.
One day a man named Jairus came to Jesus.
He fell down at the feet of Jesus and begged Him to come to his house and heal
his little daughter who was twelve years old, and lay in her bed dying.
When Jesus got to the house, there was a crowd of people weeping and wailing outside
because the girl was already dead.
But Jesus said, "Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth." (Luke 8:52)
Then the Bible says, "They laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead."
They knew that the girl was dead. They laughed at the Son of God when He told them
she would live. They were filled with unbelief - and their lack of faith made them laugh
at Jesus - just as Sarah laughed at the power of God. And then Jesus
put them all out [of the room], and took her by the hand, and called, saying,
Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway:
and he commanded to give her meat. And her parents were astonished
Young person, you are as dead in your heart toward God as that girl was.
The Bible says that you are "dead in trespasses and sins." (Ephesians 2:1)
The Bible speaks of "the blindness of [your] heart." (Ephesians 4:18)
You are blind concerning God. And you are spiritually dead.
But Jesus could give you life, if you will fully believe in Him.
Jesus can convert you and make you into a real Christian.
What would happen if you became converted, and wanted to be here in church
every single Sunday? What would happen?
I know that your parents and your friends don't expect you to be saved
and love to come here to church. They don't expect that to happen.
If I said to your parents and friends, "That young person will rise up from
being dead spiritually.
That young person will become a real Christian. That young person will love coming
to this church every single Sunday." If I said that to your friends and your parents,
they would laugh at me just as much as those people laughed at Jesus
when He said the girl would rise up and live. But when the girl actually rose up
from her death bed, "Her parents were astonished." (Luke 8:56)
Your parents would be astonished too if you were converted and became
a real Christian through the power of Christ.
Most of you have parents and friends who would try their very best to keep you
from coming back to this church if they thought you were going to get converted here
and become a real Christian.
They would laugh in unbelief now, but if you really got converted,
they would be astonished and try to keep you from coming back here.
Go ahead and astonish them!
Come to Christ.
Pay no attention if they laugh at you in unbelief!
Come to Christ anyway!
Only Christ can save you, and forgive your sins, and give you a home in Heaven.
Go ahead and astonish your friends and your parents!
Come to Christ and get converted.
Have your sins washed away in Christ's Blood.
Why be lonely?
Come home - to church!
Go ahead and astonish your lost parents and friends!
Blow them away!
Become a real Christian!
Come back here next Sunday - just do it! It's your life!
Don't let them decide for you!
Decide for yourself to become a real Christian!
Let them laugh! It won't hurt you!
Yes, there is the laughter of unbelief.
II. But, second, there is the laughter of a fool.
The Bible says, "For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
so is the laughter of the fool."
This verse pictures a pot hanging over a fire, with thorns burning under it,
making a crackling noise. The thorns crackle as they burn, then they are consumed,
and there is nothing left but cold, grey embers and silence.
The laughter of a fool is like that.
He is miserable even while he's laughing. After his fun and laughter is over,
he is empty and dead.
Something is missing in your life.
Many young people go to raves, get drunk, or snort cocaine to try to be happy.
But the Bible says, "Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end
of that mirth [or joy] is heaviness." (Proverbs 14:13)
The loneliest person in the world is the one who doesn't know Jesus.
When your friends leave, there is no one to talk to you and comfort you.
When problems happen, there is no one to help you.
When death strikes suddenly there is no one to go with you through the chilly waters.
When judgment falls there is no one to stand up for you and defend you.
The laughter of a fool does not last.
Depression, despair, and loneliness haunt such people throughout life.
One evening a skinny, grey, sad-faced man entered the office of Dr. James Hamilton
in Manchester, England. The doctor noticed the depressed look on the man's face.
He said, "Are you sick?"
"Yes, doctor, I am sick with a deadly disease."
"I am depressed by life. I can't find happiness anywhere. Nothing makes me laugh.
I have nothing to live for. Doctor, if you can't help me, I will kill myself."
The doctor said,
"The sickness won't kill you. You only need a change of pace.
You need to laugh, and get some pleasure."
"What shall I do?" said the man.
"Go to the circus tonight to see Grimaldi, the clown.
Grimaldi is the funniest man alive.
I saw him a couple of nights ago, and I'm still laughing.
Go and see Grimaldi the clown. He will cure you."
A flash of pain crossed the man's face, and he said,
"Doctor, don't joke with me. I am Grimaldi the clown!"
(Paul Lee Tan, Th.D., Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations,
Rockville, Maryland: Assurance Publishers, 1979, pp. 754-755).
Young person, that's the way it is in life.
You can be laughing today, and filled with depression tomorrow.
"For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool." (Ecclesiastes 7:6)
"Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness."
III. Thirdly, the Bible tells us about the laughter of God.
Here is a strange verse of Scripture:
"He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision." (Psalm 2:4)
Why does God laugh?
We have to read the first three verses of the Psalm to understand that.
"Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord,
and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away
their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh:
the Lord shall have them in derision." (Psalm 2:1-4)
Matthew Henry comments, "Sinners' follies are just the sport of God's infinite wisdom
and power; and those attempts of the kingdom of Satan, which in our eyes are formidable,
in his are despicable."
(quoted in Spurgeon, C. H., The Treasury of David, Pasadena, Texas:
Pilgrim Publications, n.d., volume 1, p. 16)
"He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh." (Psalm 2:4)
Let me illustrate God's laughter with a simple story.
A few years ago, the Soviet Union disintegrated and Communism fell.
For over 70 years the Communists had persecuted and murdered Christians.
The greatest enemy of Christianity in the entire world was the atheistic communism
of that "Evil Empire," as President Reagan called it.
And then one day it all fell apart - quite suddenly.
I picked up a copy of Newsweek magazine.
On the cover was a photograph of a huge statue of Lenin, the father of Communism in Russia.
Ropes had been tied around Lenin's statue, and it was toppled, laying on its side
with a big crack in the great statue.
When I first saw that picture, I laughed - "Ha! Ha!"
A short laugh of triumph over the enemy!
I think that's very close to the way God will laugh when His enemies stumble and fall.
"He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision." (Psalm 2:4)
God loves people.
He wants them to be saved.
In His great love He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the Cross so our sins could be paid for.
But people reject the love of Jesus and the love of God.
People say, "I can get along without God.
I don't need to go to that old church every Sunday!
What do I need that for? I don't need God in my life."
Each person who does that is like a little version of the Soviet Union, a little picture
of that mighty statue of the atheistic, God-denying Lenin.
Then calamity strikes that person.
Their statue is pulled suddenly down.
Judgment falls on that proud person who said he didn't need this church
or this God of the Bible.
And when that sudden judgment falls, God says, "Ha! Ha!",
just like I did when I saw that broken, fallen statue of Lenin.
Listen to these words from God,
"Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand,
and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:
I also will laugh at your calamity." (Proverbs 1:24-26)
My young friend, don't defy God!
He is greater than you are.
Submit to God. Come back to this church.
Come to Christ and get saved.
After all - why be lonely?
Come home - to church!
And come fully to Jesus Christ and be washed from your sins by His Blood!
IV. Fourthly, the Bible tells us about the laughter of salvation.
Jesus said, "Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh." (Luke 6:21)
Heaven is the happiest place in the Universe.
"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning"
It will be a laughter of congratulation.
You will meet a friend here who has had an operation or been seriously ill,
you congratulate him on his recovery.
When we meet our friends in heaven, we shall laugh and congratulate each other.
We will say to one, "The last time I saw you, cancer was eating away your body.
Now you have a new body and you'll never be sick again. Congratulations."
To another we'll say, "The last time I saw you, arthritis had crippled you.
Now you can run as a messenger of the king. Congratulations."
To another we'll say, "The last time I saw you, you were wasting away with tuberculosis.
Now you have an eternal bloom on your cheek. Congratulations."
To another we'll say, "The last time I saw you, you were grappling with sin.
Now you have overcome it forever. Congratulations."
To another we'll say, "The last time I saw you, you were burdened with sorrow.
Now you have peace and comfort. Congratulations."
It will be a laughter of reunion.
Have you ever been to a family reunion?
People who have not seen each other for a year laugh as they shake hands
A loved ones will throw their arms around another one.
Remember the sad wail of a sick mother as her baby was wheeled away to be buried.
She cried out, "Good-by, my darling. I'll never see you again."
There will be no such cry in heaven.
Mother is gone, but we'll see her again.
Father and brother and sister and child, husband and wife, they are gone, but not forever.
But you shall see them again in that blessed, better land.
It will be a laughter of forgetfulness.
We have our difficulties and our differences down here. Up there we'll forget all of these.
Up there we shall all love one another.
It will be a laughter of sweet memories.
We'll will talk about the good times we had down here and these memories will flood over us,
to make heaven ever richer and sweeter.
Here we remember the touch of a vanished hand, there we'll feel its touch again.
Here we remember a voice that is stilled, there we'll hear that voice again.
It will be a laughter of victory and triumph.
Satan often [gives us trouble] here, but at last we'll gain the victory over him.
He'll be in hell where he belongs and he can never tempt us again.
Wellington returned in triumph from Waterloo.
Roosevelt returned in triumph from Cuba.
Pershing returned in triumph from France.
Eisenhower returned in triumph from Germany.
They had won some great victories and they marched home in glory,
leading a triumphant procession.
Oh, but how much more triumphant, how much greater will be the heavenly triumphant
procession! Jesus will head the procession and we'll be with Him laughing and rejoicing,
all sin and sorrow behind us, and a glorious eternity before us.
As a Christian lay dying he said, "I see the letter 'W' written all over the skies."
What do you think it means?", someone asked.
And he replied, "I think it means welcome, welcome to heaven."
Yes, soon life's little day will end and we'll be going home.
Welcome will be written over the gate, over the door of our mansion,
over the throne and all over heaven.
So, let us trust Christ and love Him and serve Him well.
Then up there all our sorrow and sighing will be turned into blessed eternal laughter.
(W. Herschel Ford, ibid., pp. 127-128).
( "My Saviour First of All" by Fanny J. Crosby, 1820-1915).
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