Quick Sunday morning survey to begin. I want to know of the pairs of things that I’m about to show you up on the screen which ones you think are better. So here we go.
School – summer vacation. Vegetables – donuts.
I was informed last week that I reference donuts in all of my sermons, so there’s my obligatory donut reference right there.
Exercise or a Sunday afternoon nap. Monday morning or Christmas morning. The final one, a doctor’s visit or meeting a friend for lunch.
Of those pairs, where did you end up choosing the most. Did you end up on one side more than the other?
All of those things in a sense are good. It’s trying to figure out which one is better. For instance school – summer vacation. Over the course of life, which one is better? Well probably school. Now in a given moment summer vacation is awesome. But if you go to school more than likely you’ll end up being able to afford a summer vacation. Which one is better? The author of Ecclesiastes, the preacher, he’s going to mess with our brains a little bit this morning and ask us surveys just like this to figure out which is better. And just like school and summer vacation can be a little hard to make that decision, some of his are even harder. The preacher ends chapter 6 with this question, for who knows what is good for a man while he lives the few days of his vain life he passes like a shadow, which sounds so downer. Who gets to live like that? But what he’s really doing is just being honest. Our lives are short. They move quickly. Even secular authors like Shakespeare – man’s life is but a walking shadow. It goes fast. Who knows what’s good for him? And in a sense I think chapter 7 is the preacher answering his own question.
I’ll tell you what’s good for a man while he lives on this earth. And that’s what he does for us as we find out what’s better. So we’re going to approach the text in that way. We’re going to look at these “better” statements and figure out what they mean. And then my hope is to take you forward in time to the life of Jesus and see how Jesus lived out these “better” statements from Ecclesiastes. How did Jesus live them out? And I think that will give us a great picture of how we can live them out. So let me give you all of them right up front, real fast and then we’re going to work our way through each one. Living with a good name is better.
Living with the end in mind is better. Living with eyes and ears open is better. Living with patience is better. Living with a healthy perspective about time is better. Then he will make a conclusion that we need to consider.
consider God. Living with a good name is better. A good name is better than precious ointment, the preacher says. Living with a good name is better than really expensive perfume. The idea of a good name isn’t lost on us today in our culture. A good name is just the metaphor for the totality of who we are and how we live. How we’re known is your good name. I think we would use the word most often, what is your reputation? Now living for a reputation does not have to be a bad thing. I think often in church world we immediately associate worrying about our reputation with kind of being afraid of what people think about us. And of course that’s true. But having a good name, living an honest life is also fearing God. Consider how Paul writes to Timothy about the qualification for leaders in the church. Leaders in the church should be thought well of by outsiders. They should be above reproach. You could say from Ecclesiastes is a leader in the church should have a good name. Having a good name doesn’t mean we have to fear man’s opinion. It reveals that we actually fear God. And so a good name is better than perfume, a good name is better than a whole lot of money is what he’s going after.
How did Jesus live with a good name?
Well let’s consider Jesus’s interaction with a guy named Pilate. Right before Jesus died, Jesus was taken before a governor. So a friend of Jesus named Luke recorded all of this for us based on witness interviews and Jesus is in front of this Governor named Pilate, and the crowd is pressuring Pilate to kill Jesus, and time after time after time in Luke Pilate comes back to the people and says I’ve examined the guy. I can find nothing wrong with him.
I find no evil in him. He hasn’t done what you said he’s done. They actually had to trump up false witnesses to make anything happen against Jesus. He lived with a good name before people. Jesus’s life portrayed a man with a good name a good name is better than precious ointment.
The preacher also tells us that living with the end in mind is better. And by end in mind all I mean is I’m trying to summarize everything he says in chapter 7:1-4, and I want you to hear them again. A good name is better the precious ointment, and the day of death better than the day of birth. It’s better to go to the house of morning than to go to the house of feasting for this is the end of all mankind and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter for my sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of morning with a heart of fools is in the House of Mercy. Now the preacher is not consumed here by death as a good thing. That’s not his point. What he’s doing is he’s making a point of what’s good for us while we live. It’s better for us to consider our mortality than to medicate our mortality. Think about your mortality. Don’t live life in such a way as to ignore your mortality. Don’t be afraid of death. So he does this. I drew up this short chart just to see these comparisons of better and not better because there are very striking. They’re hard to hear. The day of death is better than your day of birth. House of mourning, a house of weeping is better than a party, a house of feasting. Sorrow is better than laughter. A house of mourning is better than the house of mirth. Living with the end in mind is better. And again the preacher
isn’t saying that it’s good when someone dies or that it’s bad to have a great big party at your house and throw a feast. Rather he wants us to do a reality check about how we live in this world. And the preacher makes a couple of conclusions based on these better comparisons. His first conclusion is this, death makes the living think. The living will lay it to heart. Death is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.
You’ll bury it in your heart. No matter who you are, no matter your race, gender, political faction, family history, favorite sports team. No matter what, everybody in this room we all share one inescapable reality. We are all on common ground and one way. We are all going to die. It’s just the truth.
That truth leads us to live according to the preacher in two different ways. Either we consider the reality of death, and as the preacher says we lay it to heart. Death makes the living think. We ponder and consider our mortality and live in the light of our mortality or the more foolish path is to ignore death.
And hit the party, live in the feast, live in the laughter, live in the moment, all the while attempting to not come face to face with what’s really going to happen.
Isabel Shields is a blogger who I don’t believe is a Christian and she was writing an article on five reasons why people party. A different party than most of us would throw at our house, hitting the party, if you know what I mean. She says this and it is so insightful.
Every person goes to a party for the plain reason of having fun. It’s both acknowledged and practiced. In that particular moment in time. You forget who you’re supposed to be and the things you’re supposed to do and there’s no time but the present. There’s no mortality out here in front of me. There’s only right now, and you’re there to make the most of it.
Everyone desires to get away from the realities once in a while. However no matter how euphoric the moment, no matter how awesome the party, you have to acknowledge that it’s only as good as it lasts. The party ends. As said, the party is an escape, and you can’t escape forever, even though you’d love to believe you can.
We seem to be afraid to consider our mortality. Even me using the words death, die, died multiple times in the sermon. I can see how people out here react. They are hard words. I think it’s interesting culturally that we’ve moved away from even saying those words when someone actually dies. We have a whole bunch of different words and phrases we use, both serious and silly, to describe die, almost so that we don’t have to say it. People have passed on, went to a better place, kicked the bucket, passed away, met their maker, came to their end.
They’re pushing up daisies. But can we just say they died? Because that’s hard. The preacher would say, don’t medicate those feelings of mortality, don’t medicate and party over those thoughts.
I also find it interesting that in a few weeks. Our country celebrates a national holiday called Memorial Day. Memorial Day was originally called Decorating Day and it goes all the way back to the Civil War where people would go to the graveyards of fallen soldiers and decorate their graves in remembrance for what they had done in war.
My mom is in her early 70s. I talked to her about Memorial Day when she was young compared to now, and when she was young – she grew up in a small town in Ohio. There was a town parade, and then families went from the parade to the graveyard to take potted plants and put them on the graves of soldiers.
Do you know what I’m going to do on Memorial Day. I’m going to pack the cooler and head to the pool because that’s the day the pool opens, and we’re going to celebrate the beginning of summer. Now, please don’t e-mail me about my view of Memorial Day. I’m not making commentary on war, army, Trump, anything.
So don’t get lost. All I’m saying is in our language and even in a celebration day culturally we want to move away from the idea that we’re going to die. We don’t want to face it. Memorial Day, a day that is the house of mourning we’ve transitioned to the house of feasting. It still has the name Memorial Day. Let’s party. Really? The psalmist writes this. So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12, just as we have those calendars that start at the beginning of December. Counting down the days until Christmas. So here the psalmist is saying God will you help me count down my days and that counting down will lead to a wise heart. I only have so much time to live. God let me live in wisdom. Derek Kidner brilliantly summarizes the section when he writes this. The day of death has more to teach us than the day of birth. Its lessons are more factual and paradoxically more vital. At a birth the general mood is excited and expansive. It is no time for dwelling on life’s brevity or on human limitations. We let our fancies and our hopes run high and we should. We should celebrate birth. But at the house of mourning on the other hand the mood is thoughtful and the facts are plain. Every funeral is a reminder of our own end. If we shrug them off we shrug off the plain facts, it is our fault. We shall have no better chance of facing them. The preacher has a second conclusion about living with the end in mind and he says this, sorrow can oddly result in gladness. That part is tough to hear. Quite bluntly I think it’s hard for most of us to imagine gladness during sorrow. It just doesn’t compute. But what I think he is saying is that these moments of sorrow give us somber realizations. The house of mourning and the funeral make us think, so we can go to a funeral and then we come home and we hug our families really tight. Gladness comes out of sorrow.
I’ll return from a hospital visit for someone here in the church and I will weep with them and pray with them. But in my heart there is a thankfulness. God, thank you for what you’re doing in their life and thank you for your kindness to me and to others in our church. We read the newspaper with different stories that happen around the world, and there is a part of us that considers how fortunate we are. Sorrow can oddly result in gladness.
How did Jesus live his life with the end in mind. As he considered and thought about death and with him there are too many examples. Jesus was incarnated to die. From Jesus’s first thoughts, he knew his end. He knew why he was here. He knew what he was going to do for you and for me. He lived with the end in mind. The author of Hebrews says this, Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame. Jesus did not shy away from death. He taught on it, he spoke of it, and he lived it.
The preacher then tells us it’s better to live with ears and eyes open. Living with ears and eyes open is better. Ears that hear rebuke are good things. If your ears are quick to listen to correction, that’s wise. And if your eyes see the oppression of the world, that is better. It’s not the first time here in our study of Ecclesiastes – you may not have been with us the whole time. We’ve already talked on these topics so I’m not going to spend a ton of time here. I’m actually going to summarize this idea of rebuke. Phil Ryken says this, this is why the preacher says it is much better for us to hear the rebuke of the wise. Someone who cares enough to confront will tell us to get serious about life and death. Listening to the constructive criticism of a godly friend can save our soul. In short they will teach us not to live for today but for eternity.
Do you listen to people? I don’t think that’s a hard question to ask or answer. Do you live a life where your ears are open to people correcting?
Because if not, you’re living kind of a laughter-based lifestyle of the fool. If you don’t listen to correction then he has an image for you, and he says that the people who don’t listen to correction but only listen to fools are like thorns under a pot. So let’s see if we can make that a little more modern. I actually love fires. Have a firepit that we’ll set up. I love to have friends over and you get a fire going you can sit there for hours and talk. And when it gets really hot you can take those really small twigs by the handful and throw them on and they immediately burst up into flame, kind of that crackle and pop happens, really bright light and then they’re gone. That’s the lifestyle of a fool.
Like they are loud and abrasive and they’re there in a moment. But just like thorns that burn quickly and brightly but go away, they don’t provide any ongoing help. They give neither light nor warmth. That’s the same with the advice of a fool. You might get a moment of laughter that medicates your feelings but you’re not going to get any ongoing benefits.
Let your ears be open to rebuke. The preacher moves on. Let your eyes see oppression. Oppression around the world affects everyone, not just the oppressed. Open your eyes and see it. How did Jesus live a life regarding rebuke and oppression?
With rebuke, Jesus’s his ears being open. Now just reading through Luke, I’ve been amazed. If you look at the life of Jesus that he was actually criticized and corrected by people of all sorts. His own disciples, counsels, Pharisees, different rulers. And you know what is true about Jesus the whole way through? He listened. Get that in your our brains for a second. The creator of the world allowed people to correct him, and look at him and say false things about him. And then he left his ears open. His disciples asked ridiculous questions at times.
And his ears were always open. What a great example for us. What about oppression? One of my favorite verses now about Jesus is this, Luke 4:18. Jesus declares that his mission on earth was to “set at liberty those who are oppressed. Jesus clearly saw oppression, and Jesus died to destroy oppression on all levels. The oppression of us being sinners and the oppression of the world.
If you want to dig deeper into either of those topics, rebuke or oppression, jump on our website. Go back to March 11 and 18. We walk through what the preacher says about those in more detail. The preacher then states this, living with patience is better.
The preacher explains patience in two ways. First he says the end is better than the beginning. The end kind of describing that the persistence to keep going through something is better. There’s a persistent attitude about the end is better than the beginning.
I was thinking we actually live that reality out a lot, the end better. So here are a couple of examples. Which would you rather have? Would you rather wake up on Saturday morning and have that moment where you open the garage and see all of the lawn work that you have to do in front of you, or the moment when you close the garage and view your lawn all done? The end is better than the beginning.
How about you young people who are still in school. When you get home from school and you open up your planner, and you have all your homework assignments right in front of you, is that moment better or when you close the book an hour and a half later and you’re done with it.
Which is better? The end is better than the beginning in general. Persistence, working your way through, patience is better. And then he connects that idea of persistence to pride and anger and a quick spirit. The preacher says this, Do not be quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools. A patient spirit is better than a proud spirit. A spirit that is slow to anger is better than one that is quick to anger. Proverbs 14:17 says a man of quick temper acts foolishly. If you have a quick spirit towards anger you will more than likely act like an idiot. Proverbs 16:32 says whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
Very interesting comparisons, because he’s waging war against anger. If you can control anger you are better than an entire army that takes over a city.
It gives you a real clear picture of what it’s like to battle anger. It’s powerful and yet we can rule it. In most instances if you live a life slow to anger, then you’re stronger than an army. One of Jesus’s friends named Janes wrote this, know this my beloved brothers, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.
Now if you’re new to church world, you haven’t grown up with the Bible or coming to church, this might be your first time., that’s really great. We’re glad you’re here. But for those of us who have grown up in it like me, those are pretty familiar churchy words. That’s a part of the Bible that people quote a lot. Interestingly a lot of times they stop right after anger, slow to anger. But let’s read the whole thing, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
It’s good to live with your ears wide open your mouth mostly closed and your spirit in check. Why? Because your anger will not produce God’s righteousness. Let that sink into the real world. Your unrestrained anger in any situation will not produce results in line with God’s moral character. It won’t happen.
So when I parent my children, and I come at that through unrestrained unwise, unhealthy, sinful anger, I have no shot of producing righteousness in my kids no matter how much I tell myself that it’s good for them. If I am an angry jerk to my spouse because I am quick to anger, I will not produce righteous results in my spouse.
If I am flying down the road and I am angry at people that I don’t even know, I quickly fly to anger for no apparent reason, I will not produce righteous results in myself let alone someone in a car three car lengths away. Let everyone be swift here slow to speak slow to anger for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Our anger is really unreliable.
You can’t trust it. Every once in a while it lines up with God’s anger, and we get angry at the things that God gets angry at. But more often than not my anger lines up with my agenda and I get mad at the things that I want to get mad at.
And it’s in those moments that the results I produce are disastrous. The preacher tells us anger lodges in the heart of fools. The heart is the hotel of anger for the fool. Anger sits in the recliner of our hearts just waiting for the slightest provocation to leap up and take care of a situation. Live with a spirit that has a long fuse. It’s better to be patient. Where do we see that in Jesus? Once again, in general, all over the place. Jesus was patient and kind throughout his whole life. But one specific story has kind of blown me away.
And at a point where Jesus was faced with a circumstance that made the people that believed in him around him angry and ready to respond and violence Jesus responded differently, and Luke records this story for us as well. So Jesus had a friend and that friend was named Judas. Judas was one of these 12 guys that followed Jesus. We call them the disciples from the Scriptures. Judas actually betrays Jesus for cash. He takes the cash and he brings an armed rabble to a garden to arrest Jesus. So when Jesus his friends see that this is about to happen they’re ready to throw down. They actually look at Jesus and as they’re pulling swords saying, do you want us to fight our way out of this, to the point where one of them actually pulls the sword out and strikes a servant of one of the guys who’s coming to arrest Jesus, slices off his ear. These guys had concealed carry sword permits. They were ready to go. Do you know what Jesus’s response was? Jesus didn’t say anything to the rabble.
He looked at his followers and said, no more of this, and he walks over and he heals the servant. If I have an armed rabble coming at me, that could be a moment where my fuse could be short. But Jesus. Patience is better. Come on guys.
Put your swords away. The preacher gives us another opportunity to decide what is better. He says living with a healthy perspective on time is better.
Actually there are two topics in this section. We’re only going to cover one of them, and they both have to do with perspective. One is a perspective on money, but we had another sermon on money from Ecclesiastes several weeks ago. Peter preached it, so if you want to check that out on our website site that was on April the 8th. Peter did a great job of explaining that. So I’m not going to spend time in those verses about money. We’re going to deal with the one that talks about a healthy perspective about time. The preacher switches his style here actually with the way he decides what’s better and he actually tells us what we think is better. We think the past is better, and he does that by quoting a question that he’s heard asked. And so he says this, say not why were the former days better than these, for it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
So is the preacher anti good memories? No. Is he angry at families who sit around at Christmas and talk about stories from the good old days? Because I’m just telling you Clan Ferguson we are great at that. We get together at Christmas, we tell the same stupid stories every year and all of us still die laughing at them like it’s the first time. Is he saying, boy those Fergusons, they are not wise people looking at the past. No. I think what the preacher is describing. Is a narrow minded nostalgic view of time. According to Merriam Webster nostalgia is a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for a return to some past period. It’s an excessive sentimental yearning even in our culture. People look and say stop living in the past. Well why is that wise advice? Why is the author saying don’t look back here as if that’s better than today. Let me give you a couple of reasons. I think the first reason is that the preacher doesn’t think that’s wise because the preacher has argued the entire book that not much changes in the world. Not much changes. He says this Ecclesiastes 1:9-10, what has been is what will be and what has been done is what will be done. And there’s nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, see this is new it has already been in the ages before us. Little in the world has drastically changed. The past is not morally superior to the present. And I believe the preacher is concerned about that.
Concerned about statements like this. If we could only return to the values of the 50s, that would be better. If things could only be like they were when I was a kid then the world would be better or on a spiritual level if only I could be like I was when I first got saved then I would be better. Nostalgia.
The underlying belief is that the past is inherently better than the present. And I think that’s what the preacher is having an issue with, that it’s better. Why is that dangerous? So I wrote this little statement and then I get to tell you a story about myself that I think it illustrates this. When we look at the past as a better than the present we easily ignore the evils of the past in light of evils of the present.
When we look at the past as better than the present we easily ignore the evils of the past in light of the evils of the present. So I teach the Connections Class which is our new members class. I’ve been doing that for a long time now 13 years almost. And I started doing it before I was on staff. So let me begin with a little bit of a confession. God has worked in me over the years in my responses to people. Which over the course of my life could tend towards sarcasm, unkindness, abrupt, abrasive, blunt. And part of the story is one of those replies, but I still think it works. So I’m in Connections and I’m in my early 30s. There’s a gentleman significantly older than I. Let’s place him in the decade of the 60s.
He’s in his 60s and he is just going off on my generation and anybody younger and how we’re basically the cause of all the ills of the world, and if we could only get back to this then it would be better, if we could only get back to and he was kind of referencing this late 50s early 60s. For those of us who are old enough to remember the TV show “Leave It to Beaver,” that kind of mentality, if we could only get back to that. And so I listened to him and then I responded this way I looked at them and said, “That might be true for you. I’m not sure it’s true if you’re Black or a woman.”
They didn’t stay at North Hills. My bad on that. That one’s on me. But it’s, yeah, okay I get it. There are terrible things going on right now. But if we return to the 50s, then you have to look at someone who is Black, Asian, Latino and say, “You drink from that fountain.” And you want to tell me that’s better?
Really? You want to look at women and say your role in life culturally, not even in the Christian community. You can only do this. Why? Because you’re a woman. Really? That’s better?
And I think that’s what he’s going after. Don’t look back there and say why were those days better? Because you’re really just ignoring the evils of that age. Nostalgia always wears blinders. Nostalgia always has on rose colored glasses. I think nostalgia always looks at the past with appreciation, the present with criticism and the future with fear. The past is what is where it’s good, today is just trouble, who knows where we’re going to be in the future.
And I get it there’s a little through line of truth there, but don’t go back into the mindset of, it’s better. Where do we see Jesus reject a nostalgic view of life, of time, a view that longs for the past. I think there are two or three ways we can see this in Jesus. One is a fascinating moment that Jesus’s friend Luke records. So Jesus is ministering all over the place. But he’s gathered the disciples.
They’re going around to different cities. And in the book of Luke there’s this big transition in the latter part of chapter 9. And it’s Jesus who transitions. Jesus realizes that it’s about time for him to go to Jerusalem and die and endure the cross. He knows the direction of his life.
And Luke records that moment with these words. When the days drew near for him to be taken up, for him to die, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him who went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for him.
But the people did not receive him. Why? Because his face was set towards Jerusalem. There is this moment where in the present Jesus says this is where I’m headed. And his face even exemplified that. I’m going this direction.
Do we realize how many things Jesus could have looked back on as amazing things? Jesus loved his parents. Jesus probably has great stories that he and Joseph and Mary told just like I do with my parents. Silly things that he did when he was little, experiences that they had. You could have easily looked at just that as, if I could only get back to that and not Jerusalem Jesus could have looked back to perfect fellowship with humanity before sin. If only we could get back to that. And guess what.
He set his face to Jerusalem to get back to that. Righteous nostalgia. Recreation. Jesus could have looked back to perfect fellowship with God the Father and God the Spirit for eternity. And Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem. Right now, today. Jesus. I’m headed this direction.
The preacher concludes all of this section with a declaration about God that I think we need to wrestle with. The conclusion is, consider God. Consider God. Ecclesiastes 7:13-14.
Consider the work of God. Who can make straight what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful and in the day of adversity consider God has made the one as well as the other so that man may not find out anything that will be after him. Consider God. Be aware of God. He tells us to do that twice. That word consider is, you just look at something and you make judgments based upon what you see. Consider who God is, and I think there’s a lot of healthy medicine for us in those two little words.
Do we just take time out of a week to sit back and ponder God? Consider what he’s made. Look around. That idea of made he hits on twice. God made things crooked. God made days both of prosperity and adversity.
When we consider God’s work, what is that? I think first it’s just creation. What he literally made. We can look out among us and see what God gave and made for us and be stunned by it. God’s work is also in redemption. This perfect world he created rebelled against him. And God is working through Jesus to redeem and buy all of that back. Consider God. Consider what he has done. Consider who has the power to change what God has done.
The implied answer in there is no one. If God created a path up a mountain that goes like this, what God has made crooked no one can make straight. Why? Because that’s the path God designed. God is in charge of what he made. And how he made it is the way he made it.
This section gives us the opportunity to consider the very character of our God. It makes you think what do you really believe about this God? We come face to face with a declaration about God that can either humble us or forever frustrate us, that God made days of adversity and prosperity. That’s who God is and I think this connection between creation and adversity and prosperity is, in the diversity of creation, we see the diversity of our days. Not all of our days are going to work out the same. There will be days of prosperity. There will be days of adversity and the author tells us what to do on those days. So those of us who love to know what to do, take these ideas and give me something to put on my list to do. He tells us what to do with days. The day of prosperity, be joyful. That’s not new news from the preacher.
He’s not telling us something new to do here. The book of Ecclesiastes, if you just read it can be kind of dark in a sense, very somber. But there are also unbelievably aggressive, joyful statements in the book of Ecclesiastes is that if we miss, we miss the point of Ecclesiastes altogether. In the day of prosperity, be joyful. That’s a command. Listen to everything he says about those types of days in Ecclesiastes. This is about 3-4 different chapters. I’m going to read all of these words. Listen to what he tells us. There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in all his toil.
This also I saw is from the hand of God, for apart from him, God, for apart from God who can eat or have enjoyment? Ever thought about that one? Without God you don’t have a shot at really eating well or enjoying it. Without God how do you even find enjoyment?
Ecclesiastes 3, There’s nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live. Also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil. Why? This is God’s gift to man. Ecclesiastes 3:22 so I saw there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Ecclesiastes 5 behold what I’ve seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun. The few days of his life that God has given him for this is his lot. Everyone to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil. This is the gift of God.
Think about that. For he will not much remember the days of his life. Why? Because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart. Do you, do I look at my meal tomorrow at lunch and go, “Why can I enjoy my turkey?”
Because God gave it to me. And he gave me the power to rejoice in it. And he gave me the power to rejoice in the work that I have to do today. Why? Because he’s given me gifts. I can go up on Caesar’s Head on Easter with my family and look out over Caesar’s Head and in a moment realize I’ve just been given a gift. Why? Because God gave me a car and he gave me money to buy gas and the ability to comprehend how to drive a motor vehicle safely up Caesar’s Head and take my family up here. And I can rejoice in that. North Hills Church, we must enjoy what God has given us better than people who do not know God.
Who can eat or find enjoyment apart from God? The way we interact with all of our stuff is different, and I’m telling you this has been on my heart. I’ve told this to the Elders, and we preached on joy at Christmas several years ago. But I think in the conservative church world
this is just something we’ve got to trumpet a little bit. Love your life. Right now. I stand before God Almighty completely saved in Jesus, under no threat of God’s judgment ever again. And he’s placed me in a free culture in America where I have a car and a house. I have a motorcycle. And I love my motorcycle. And do you know what? I can love my motorcycle better than someone who doesn’t know Jesus. Why? Because I know where it comes from. I know why I can have my eyes and hands and feet all work at the same time to go through a turn. obeying all speed limits at all times. And I love that we laugh, but there’s a part of me wants to just go up to people and say, “Do you realize that?”
If God has given you if God has given you a boat, love it. Drive it well. Have fun. God did not send Jesus to die for us to be miserable. And I know that the pushback on that is often, well let’s be careful. We don’t want people to love the things more than God. And I’m all for that. I totally agree. That’s what the author here is going after.
If you rejoice in who God is, it gives you the lenses to see everything else out here. I’m in Jesus first, then I’m in this culture that God’s place placed me in to enjoy what’s before me. That changes everything. That’s the first lens, who I am in Jesus. That phrase, we could preach it all the time. I’m in Jesus Christ, so that changes the way I view everything.
If you have a good day, then God’s literal desire for you is joy. Be joyful. Phil Ryken helps us understand how to be joyful when he writes this. To be joyful is to find our fundamental satisfaction in God and then to receive every pleasure in life as a gift of his grace. Fundamental satisfaction, the two most important words in there. If we start there, if I am satisfied with God as my Father, Jesus as my Savior, Spirit as my comforter and guide, everything else pans out. But Ecclesiastes is nothing if not honest.
And it tells us there are also days of adversity. It tells us what to do in those days too. He uses that word again, consider. When you encounter a day of adversity, the preacher says to you, take a moment and think. Consider God made this day just like he did the day I spent at the lake with that family that invited us to be in their boat.
And this day where I find water under my house and I’m going to have to spend thousands of dollars to fix it. You know what God says? Ryan consider God made one as well as the other. Why did God do that?
The author tells us, so that man will not discover what comes after him. Our different days, adversity and prosperity revealed to us as we consider them, that we’re not fortunetellers. We’re not predictors of the future. And for people like me who love calendars and boxes and white boards and plans and schedules. In the back of our minds if people like me were honest, we have this little God-like idea, I actually do control my world and I do know what’s going to happen tomorrow almost down to the minute. Days of adversity and prosperity go, Ryan you don’t have a clue what’s going to happen tomorrow.
Ryan you don’t have a clue if you’re going to make it through this sermon. You don’t know what’s going to come after. So in the day of adversity, consider. God has made the one as well as the other. God is the one who is in charge.
So the preacher comes to us with a survey, trying to answer his question, what is good for a man in life? He gives us a whole bunch of these better ideas that we need to look at and that we see in the life of Jesus. My prayer is that just one of the these will lodge into your heart this week that you can wrestle with, and I’m going to pray that over you now. Let’s pray. So God as we asked at the beginning, I pray that you would do that. Would you take one of these ideas that the author gives us and plant it into the hearts of your people and the way you want because you just revealed to us you know what you’re doing.
So I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.