Obstacles to Joyful Work – 2
Hey good morning church. Good to be back with you guys. I want to take a moment if you don’t mind right here at the beginning and update you a little bit about Northwest. We had some things happen last week that probably many of you would like to know about. So, I was preaching here last week. We found out when our team arrived last week that we had some people vandalize our building. Yeah. They decided to go and crash out all of the windows on the backside of the building that go into our kids’ area. So, but here’s where I really like to honor God’s people. We had guys like Brian Hardyman, Monty McConnell, John Hatfield, Mandy Deming who runs kid’s stuff out there my wife Rebecca my boy Max kind of all jumped in like we had people on the way to Lowes before our service was even starting, had everything boarded up and cleaned up before first service began.
So, this morning when we were live streaming to Northwest I honored all of those people before you. Romans chapter 12 has a really powerful verse, Outdo one another in showing honor. Oh, it’s just such a fun way to make sure other people are seen so I wanted those people to be seen. So, we’re going through an insurance claim. Daren Rickard who’s over our facilities has walked that path this week. So, we’re looking at getting some new windows and we needed new carpet in that kidstuff area anyway so maybe this is the roundabout way to get it. And then I also gave a challenge to Northwest this morning that I think will help all of us when stuff like that happens. We had people who broke our stuff for no good reason, and my guess is these are probably just some dumb kids trying to figure out how to deal with their own anger. But Jesus’ words have been in my brain all this week. Love your enemies. Bless those who persecute you.
So, I challenged Northwest and first service as we think about even who did it, at the end of the day they’re windows. Right? It’s carpet. God’s been kind enough that we have insurance. We’ve got a guy in charge of it who knows what he’s doing. And so, I’d love for all of us to actually throughout the week as God brings it to your mind will you pray blessings on the people that broke our stuff. Maybe this is the way they come into the kingdom of God. To realize we we’re fine. We’re sorry you broke it, but we love you. God loves you.
I just have this, I don’t know if it’s from the spirit or not, I just have this image. Can you imagine someone standing before people yeah, the way I got into this church is I vandalized the building and then these people prayed for me. And the next thing I knew here I am. So, I really believe God could do something like that. Do you? Amen.
So we are going to pray for them. Let’s do that now shall we together. So, God it’s so great that we can I think of that passage in Hebrews where it says your people joyfully accepted the plundering of their property. Like windows and stuff at the end of the day you’ve met our need we prayed it a moment ago. So would you as just a kind good God would you bless people who broke our windows and ruined carpet and created work would you bless them with the truth of who you are with your love for them? And we really do as a people we ask that you would bring them to Northwest. Let them show up expecting anger. Expecting a different response. And all we have for them is love. So, we pray this as brothers and sisters. Amen.
So, how did everyone do this past week working your way through the obstacle course of life? That was the big image we used last week that going after believing that God made everything beautiful that rejoicing in our toil is like finishing an obstacle course. So, how’d you do?
Did believing that overflow into eating and drinking and doing good to people? Did it flow into really this week rejoicing in the toil that God gave you? I hope it did. But, if I’m transparent I have to tell you that my Monday morning was a really interesting one when it comes to rejoicing in toil. So, I woke up and my ritual as I wake up I go wake up the kids and then I go make my oatmeal. I was in the kitchen making my oatmeal and Rebecca came into the kitchen and for whatever reason I looked at her and said hey let’s skip work today. Without missing a beat my wife looked at me and went really? You just preached on work yesterday. So hopefully you remembered my sermon longer than I did from last week. But I quickly turned the corner at my wife’s very kind of reproof and realized I need to rejoice in the toil that I have.
So, I really believe this like my failure can quickly become a lesson for us because you know sometimes when faced with these obstacles of rejoicing of believing God made everything beautiful we’re going to fail. So, what do we do then?
Sometimes we fail, and we don’t rejoice in our toil. So, I was thinking about that Monday morning and I thought last week we used this American Ninja Warrior as a metaphor for this whole chapter 3 and 4 being able to finish the obstacle course and I remembered seeing those really fit athletic, energetic people who said that you know American Ninja Warrior the one guy I said has become a way of life. But I have good news for us. Even amazing athletes like them sometimes look like this. So, let’s watch.
So even amazing athletes who are in shape fail. So, I’m wondering if when we fail that actually isn’t the very moment that we need to remind ourselves that God made everything beautiful in its time. Even our failures God is making beautiful in their time.
I think we need to hear words like this over us. Psalm 143:8. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go for to you I lift up my soul. Remind me each morning of your faithful loyal never-failing love even on a Monday morning when the preacher forgets his own sermon. God tell me the way I should go. Tell me how to navigate this life of mine right now because I lift up my soul to you. The most valuable thing I have. I’m going to lift up to you and you tell me how to do this thing called life.
So even in the midst of our failures, friends God made everything beautiful in its time. So, let’s believe that he’s going to work through us and in us in all of those circumstances.
So last week we looked at two obstacles that come between us and believing that God made everything beautiful in its time and those obstacles can threaten our ability to rejoice in the toil that we have each day. The first obstacle we talked about was oppression without comfort. As we look at the world around us as we see oppression happening especially when there’s no one there to comfort or care about that oppression, we learned that it can be really difficult for us to believe God made everything beautiful in its time. The second obstacle was kind of a two-sided one envy and laziness. Envy is working out of a desire to have what other people have, and laziness is working out of absolutely nothing because you don’t do any work. And we saw that both of those extremes will never lead to true joy and contentment in our toil. This week we’re going to work our way through three more obstacles and finish up chapter 4, and in a sense all of the obstacles today have a common through line that connects to each one and that commonality is this idea of being alone solitary isolated or walled off.
So, let’s begin with obstacle number three. We’re going to call that the miser. Verses 7 and 8.
So, let’s listen to the preacher’s words from Ecclesiastes 4:7-8. Again, I saw a vanity under the sun. One person who has no other either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil and his eyes are never satisfied with his riches so that he never asks for whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?
This also is vanity and an unhappy business. So, let’s start this obstacle of the miser with a clarifying warning because I think most of the time as soon as we hear miser we think of someone who has a lot of money. But you can be a miser and not have a lot of money. This isn’t about your bank account balance. It’s about your view of work.
So, without doubt there’s no better illustration of the miser than Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol. The name Scrooge is synonymous with being a selfish work focused person. In fact, I can prove I think how popular this character is, so if you know his tagline that he always says, we’re going to say that all out loud together on the count of three. If you know what he always says. Ready one two three.
Bah humbug. The miser for sure. Bah humbug.
Listen to the way Dickens describes Ebenezer Scrooge in his novel. Oh, but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone Scrooge. I love these words. A squeezing wrenching grasping scraping clutching covetous old sinner.
Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say with gladsome looks my dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me? No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle. No children asked of him what it was o’clock which sounds so proper. No man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place of Scrooge. And my favorite even the blind mens’ dogs appeared to know him, and when they saw him coming on would tug their owners into doorways.
That’s, that’s the miser. The story of A Christmas Carol actually focuses on the redemption of a miser when Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his business partner and lifelong friend Jacob Marley. And here are the two talking about their miserly view of business.
But you were always a good man of business, Jacob, faltered Scrooge. Business cried the ghost wringing its ands again. Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business. Charity mercy forbearance and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business. Marley bemoans the reality that his business on earth was actually much larger than the business he owned.
Business is not a goal. It’s a gift to be used for greater ends. Scrooge could be the guy described in Ecclesiastes 4:7-8. They share similar characteristics. So here are five characteristics of the miser from Ecclesiastes 4:7-8.
Number one. The miser works for no one. Dickens describes Scrooge as solitary as an oyster. An oyster lives by itself on the bottom of the ocean.
The miser in Ecclesiastes is quite similar. There is no one else in the picture. The text is emphatic in more than one way. There is one person who has no other. That’s the miser. There’s no heir no family who will receive the benefits of his hard work. He works for no one. A guy named Tremper Longman wrote a commentary on Ecclesiastes. And by the way I think if you name your kid Tremper they are going to be smart. Like that’s just a guarantee.
He writes this about the miser. It is the sad story of a man who has absolutely no human relationships of any type. The Hebrew phrase “who was all alone” is a general one indicating that the man had no friend no business partner no wife. Furthermore, he had neither son nor brother, the two closest male relations across two generations and also the two relatives who might benefit from his toil through inheritance.
The preacher further pictures this individual as spending all of his time working hard to amass money and never deriving any pleasure from the wealth that is the result of his efforts. He works for no one. He is solitary. So, I want us to take one second and think about that because
I think the story is calling us to look at the mindset not the actual conditions. It’s not that you have to be alone all by yourself not married to be the miser. Because I think in our culture we have plenty of situations where there is someone who is married working to amass everything for their own, and really has no connection even with the people in their own house. As a pastor I’ve heard more than I would like to say when I’m sitting down with people who are married, and I hear the phrase, we’re just roommates. You can be with people and alone. You can choose to live that way.
That is the miser. Number two, the miser works all the time. There is no end to all his toil the text tells us. He begins early in the morning and works till late at night and even when he’s not at work his mind is working on work, figuring out ways to amass more. Philip Ryken quotes this article from the Minneapolis Tribune by Ellen Goodman. And in that article, she describes the death of a modern-day miser. So, this is what Goodman writes. Goodman told the tragic story of a man who worked as hard as the man in Ecclesiastes 4. When he died at the age of 51 his obituary said the cause of death was coronary thrombosis, but most people knew better.
At the office six days a week often until 8:00 or 9:00 at night, his friends and family said that he had simply worked himself to death. Yet on the day of his funeral when the company was already making inquiries about his replacement, the president looked around the office for candidates and said, well who’s been working the hardest? But the killer line was delivered by the dead man’s wife. When a friend said I know how much you will miss him she said, oh I already have. So, you can be married, with people and be a miser. The miser works all the time.
Number three, the miser works without contentment. Derek Kidner calls the miser the compulsive money maker. They always have to be making more money. Have you ever heard the phrase your eyes are bigger than your stomach? That someone you know they grab a hold of a plate they fill it with food. Someone sees that and comments your eyes are bigger than your stomach. There’s no way you’re going to be able to eat all of that food. That’s the miser except there’s no portion of money that’s big enough.
His eyes are never satisfied. Proverbs 27:20 graphically describes this trait in all of us. All of us share the mindset of the miser. Listen to this. Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man. Now don’t let those two weird words throw you there at the beginning. Sheol and Abaddon all that means is we could put a couple of things in there. The place of the dead, personification of death, or hell. So Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied. Death is never satisfied with the number of people who die.
Hell never puts up a no vacancy sign. They’re always open for business. They’ll always take more people. Just as that is so in the same way the eyes of man are never satisfied with what they have or see. Death wants more souls, humanity wants more of everything. We all share that mindset. Have you felt that tension in yourself, you just see things and want them? What I want more toys I want more stuff. Have you ever watched kids play with toys? It’s hilarious when you see the kids starting to collect them like two or three in this hand two or three in this hand and then they start kind of pulling them in with their arms and surround themselves with toys. They have so many toys they can’t actually play.
Because if they put those toys down now they’re threatened by all of the other evil toddlers around them who are going to swoop in, steal and go. That’s the miser. His hands are so full, never satisfied, never satisfied. Number four the miser works without self-awareness.
The text tells us that the miser never stops working long enough to actually ask himself the question why in the world am I doing this? Why am I working this way? Why am I not taking pleasure in what I have? He’s not self-aware enough to be a private investigator about his own life and the way he works, and the miser doesn’t know that he isn’t self-aware. He’s like the guy who goes to work with shaving cream behind his ear because he can’t see it in the mirror. He’s blind to his own image. He believes he’s fine but that’s only because he doesn’t know any better. And finally, the final characteristic, number five is he works without enjoyment.
The miser lives the exact opposite way that the preacher tells us to live in Ecclesiastes. Last week we touched on the phrase from Ecclesiastes 3:12 and 13 where if we believe that God made everything beautiful in its time, then the preacher concludes, I perceived that there is nothing better for them for man for humanity 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. This is God’s gift to man. When the toil of today isn’t a gift but an obsession, we miss out on the benefits of the gift. There are benefits to toil that God has given us that we’re supposed to enjoy. The miser doesn’t do that. He doesn’t stop long enough to take pleasure in what he owns. The only pleasure he has is work. But even that pleasure is more of an illusion than a reality. Because he doesn’t know what it’s like to stop and just be content with where he is with, what God has given him and to take real joy and pleasure in that moment because that’s God’s gift. He can’t do that because he can’t stop wanting more.
The preacher ends this obstacle with what I think is an ironic or even a really sarcastic comment about the miser. He says living like a miser is an unhappy business. So, the whole context is about this miser working really hard in business. And then the preacher ends with, that lifestyle is an unhappy business. He uses that phrase in chapter 1:13.
It’s of a business of little value. The miser thinks he’s working to build this wonderful business, and the preacher comes in and says no that’s of little worth. The way you’re living, that’s of little value, little importance. So, obstacle number four, isolation. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil.
For if they fall one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up. Again, if two lie together they can keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him a threefold cord is not quickly broken. So, there’s a lot of stuff happening in there. So, let’s make his argument really simple. All he’s saying in this section is two are better than one.
He’s going to pit two versus one and together versus alone throughout all of this section. He’s saying life in general is better lived in community than in isolation. And he provides us three situations where it’s better to be with someone than to be alone. So, if you if you really do want to believe that God made everything beautiful in its time, if you want to rejoice in the toil that God has put in your hand today and tomorrow and throughout this week.
the wisdom writer would look at you and say, then don’t go at it alone. And he gives us three situations to picture that, that we’re going to call work, warmth and war. So, let’s talk about work. Two people are better than one at completing a task, finishing a job. There’s better return.
The picture is someone is working and for whatever reason they’re exhausted, dehydrated, they trip and fall, they’re working outside. There’s someone there to pick him up and keep working. Two are better than one so I was trying to think of what are modern equivalents of that and I’ve come up with three in work. So, my background is in theater. Often when there is a person in the lead role, there’s someone who’s called an understudy. They know all of the lines everything that the lead player knows so that if they get sick or if they fall out of the picture, the show can go on and they step in. For those of you who like sports think of a backup quarterback. There’s a quarterback playing, he blows out a knee. They have a backup who can come in and keep the team moving. Think of in education a substitute teacher. If you have a teacher who gets sick the class doesn’t get to stay home.
A substitute teacher comes in and keeps the work going. Two are better than one. The work happens. I was also thinking even when you bring other people into work it can change the attitude of that work. I have been thinking about kids a lot this week. When you give a kid a job of cleaning his room it then takes him approximately one and a half years to walk from the living room to his room and no cleaning has yet started. It’s only the beginning of the journey. But if you jump in with your kid or if everyone is cleaning the kitchen and you’ve got some music going, and you’ve got some energy and you’re working together it changes the work. There’s a better attitude about the work. There’s a better return on the toil if you’re together. Two are better than one. What about this thing about warmth that he talks about.
So, for this illustration you’ve kind of got to use your imagination a little bit. You’ve got to jump back in time when there was no such thing as a motel, good sleeping bags, tents or hand warmers. This is a period where if you were working in the field, you were taking care of sheep and it took you all the way into the night and you weren’t going to be able to get back home and you had to stay out there in the middle of the night where in the desert temperatures would plummet, then at that point you want a buddy. You want a warming buddy while you’re out there, so you don’t freeze. This morning in first service I saw this and then I watched for it before I began preaching here. The air kicks on about halfway through the service each week. We have to monitor the temperature in here. Why? Because there are more people. A crowded church is warmer than an empty one. Two are better than one for warmth.
The final one is war, and I use the term war only to be annoying in my alliteration. It’s the only reason war is in there. So, the picture is this. Let’s say you’re going to go to downtown Greenville tonight. You’re going to go down a little bit late. It’s going to get dark, you’re going have dinner with some friends and hang out, and then you’re going to walk to your car. And to get to your car you have to go down an alley to get there or you’re going to be by yourself. What the preacher tells us is if you’re walking down that alley and someone attacks you, you’ve got a shot. You might be okay. Maybe you’re a really fast sprinter and you can outrun your would-be attacker.
Or maybe that attacker really isn’t as strong as they think they think they are, and you know karate and you destroy them. The author’s admitting, hey one on one you’ve got a shot to make it. But if two people are there, it’s almost guaranteed that you’re going to be able to make it.
So, if you’re in that situation tonight, you’re walking down. Would you rather be alone or with one of these guys? Those are three of the strongest men in the world. Two are better than one. They count as two each. That’s six.
He’s just trying to get us to see if you’re with people, it makes more sense. We can make the giants disappear. They’re scaring me. So, which is better? Alone or with people? Two or better than one, and the preacher ends this obstacle this two versus one, community versus isolation by even heightening the importance of it when he says a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Over the years church people have made some really crazy theories about this particular verse like all of a sudden, the author is talking about the Trinity or that the author’s talking about you, your friend and Jesus. I really think it’s a lot simpler than that. I think the author is just playing the numbers game. If two is better than one, three is better than two. So, if you have three individual pieces of rope, and you tie them to something and you begin pulling, they have a certain amount of strength. But if you braid all three of those, now it’s even more powerful.
Community is better than isolation. Two are better than one. So, here’s where I think this isolation hits real life. When you hit obstacles in life, no matter what they are, whether they’re the ones mentioned in Ecclesiastes 3 and 4 or not. Whatever comes into your life, the wisdom writer is looking at you and saying you are much better off to have people in your life because sometimes what you need when you hit an obstacle in life is someone to remind you what you already believe.
You don’t need to be taught something new. You just need to be reminded, God made everything beautiful in its time. Don’t give up. I know you don’t like your job right now. But it is God’s gift to you. Two are better than one. Obstacle number five. Stubbornness.
Listen to the story of Simon. Simon grew up in a really rough part of town. From his earliest memories he had to fight for everything he needed and wanted, food, clothing, basic necessities were never guaranteed. When Simon was 12 years old he made a really poor choice and decided to pick pocket a businessman in a store, and he was caught, and the businessman pressed charges, and Simon found himself in juvenile detention. Part of his required life in juvenile detention was to meet with a counselor, let’s call her Pam. Pam met with Simon every week and poured into that little kid. She gave Simon loads of advice and against all odds, Simon took the advice. He humbled himself and listened to what she had to say, and that began a small pattern of behavior in Simon. When Simon was released, he met a mentor through a local boys club, and that mentor took a special interest in young Simon and attempted to provide him with advice about real life, getting a job, handling money, communicating with other people, being on time, keeping your word and a list of other lessons that escaped Simon because of the way he grew up.
Simon took all of that input and focused on high school and he finished his degree.
He got some scholarships and decided that he was going to go to college and major in business. He went there, and he met professors who also told him how to succeed in college, and he ended up graduating with honors. Upon graduation he secured a job at a Fortune 500 company, and he spent months and years listening to people around him and ascended the ranks of that business until one day Simon was the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. But once a CEO something changed in Simon. He looked back on his life and subtly began to believe that he had actually done it all by himself.
He forgot the counselor, the mentor from the boys’ club, the teachers, the professors, his co-workers and countless others who actually had made him the man that he was. He was the leader of the company, the man in charge. The board of directors listened to him and yet no one was really happy with his leadership at all. They knew he wouldn’t listen to them. They knew that the CEO was self-sufficient neither needing nor desiring their input on anything. The young
poor kid from the streets who listened to people to become a success forgot about the value of input and advice. He couldn’t listen to anyone. He was stubborn. Who was better off – the poor kid who could listen or the CEO who couldn’t? Listen to the words of the preacher and Ecclesiastes 4:13-16. Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice.
For he went from the prison to the throne though in his kingdom he had been born poor. I saw all the living who move about under the sun. Along with that youth who was to stand in the king’s place. There was no end of all the people all of whom he led.
Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a striving after wind. A good way to destroy your belief that God made everything beautiful, a good way to limit your rejoicing and your toil is to not be able to take advice from people not be able to listen to anyone else.
In a way the preacher is highlighting the need for longevity in wise living. At one point this king when he was the poor kid knew how to take advice. At one-point Simon the CEO, he knew how to listen to people and change but they didn’t stay that way. Now for us when we hear the word advice in our culture, it’s a very passive term. And what I mean by that is this. We can say we’re open to advice. But what we mean by that is, you tell me what you think, I’m going to take that as your opinion, I’m then going to put it into a balance scale and I’ll choose whether or not it has value. That’s how we think of advice. But I think in Ecclesiastes it’s a little bit more serious. Advice here is to heed a warning. To be cautioned. The King no longer knew how to listen to a warning from someone else. Simon the CEO no longer knew how to listen to someone who would warn him about the way he was running his business. He was stubborn.
So, a few observations from this illustration. Number one, poverty and wisdom are not mutually exclusive. You can be this poor kid on the streets and exercise wisdom. You can be young and exercise wisdom. Have you ever noticed that a news crew never stops to interview the homeless about public policy? But if you’re a professional basketball player, you have a platform. And not only that more often than not you should be believed. Why? Because you’re successful and you have money. Riches do not a wise man make.
They’re not mutually exclusive. We’re going to see this later and Ecclesiastes 9:14 and 15. There was a little city with a few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it building great siege works against it, but there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. Second observation, in general taking advice yields success. If you want to rejoice in your toil, if you want to actually succeed in your toil the best thing you can do is listen to other people. This is all over the book of Proverbs this idea about receiving advice, counsel, input. Consider these thoughts. Proverbs 12:15, the way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. A wise man takes warnings. So, this proverb would look at you and say that if you live a life where you always have the answer, your way is “always” right, I put always there in a little bit of quotes, but the vast majority of your life is, yeah this is the right way to go.
Why? Because I say it is. And if your life doesn’t really have any characteristics of receiving warnings or input, the Proverbs would question the way you live. Proverbs 11:14, Where there is no guidance a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there’s safety. In abundance of warners of warning givers, there is safety. Proverbs 15:22, Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 20:18, plans are established by counsel, by wise guidance wage war. Proverbs 24:6, For by wise guidance you can wage war, and in an abundance of counselors there is victory. Abundance. Many counselors. Wise people listen to people.
Another observation. We’ll see how this one goes. Older age does not equal greater wisdom. You know it’s interesting. I’m now 45, kind of that midlife-ish. So, I thought about if I was preaching this text right when I came on staff a decade ago, and I made that comment and I didn’t have quite as much gray as I have now, it might go differently. But as we age we still have to be open to correction and wisdom. We don’t know at all.
And my younger years in a lot of different scenarios I received a lot of warnings. As a child I received many from my parents and teachers. When I started coming to this church I was not in a good place 23 years ago. I received warnings from a lot of people, many of which probably actually altered the course of my life, saved my marriage, gave me a love for God’s people and really sent me in the direction of shepherding God’s people. Am I still living that way at 45 like I’m wide open forewarnings? I hope I am and I hope you are.
Because believing God made everything beautiful in its time, that truth alone removes from us this desperate need to self-defend when somebody warns us about the way we’re living. Are you like me in that? As soon as someone steps in and wants to talk about my business, I’m already creating an outline in my head to destroy your arguments. I’m ready. You warn me all you want. I’m good to go. Let’s go. No. That’s not the way wise people live. It’s not the way wise older people live.
Phil Ryken writes this. This story stands as a warning to older Christians. We usually think that grey hair brings wisdom and often it does. But whether they are young or old the wisest Christians are the ones who listen to counsel and if necessary accept correction.
Final observation, the pattern of life keeps moving on. The pattern of life, it just keeps happening in this text that’s something that we’ve visited in Ecclesiastes multiple times. This rhythm of life, the monotony of life, stuff just keeps happening. You can’t stop it. My wife one time had to go in for surgery for an appendix, and one of the big revelations that she realized coming out of that is life keeps happening. I can be in this hospital, still have stuff for kids, education keeps happening, church keeps happening.
The rhythm of life goes on. Derek Kidner writes, This paragraph has its obscurities, but it portrays something familiar enough in public life. The short-lived popularity of the great. The president who is elected will be followed by another president who is elected. Simon the CEO will be replaced by Sydney the CEO. Life keeps moving on, and it seems like one of the ways that God made everything beautiful is the fact that life just happens. It’s not outside of his control. These changes in life are actually God working and making everything beautiful in its time.
So, this life that we live, as the author says under the sun, as we’re as we’re under the sun looking at life in this horizontal way, it can be complex. Obstacles get in front of us. We’ve spent two weeks looking at five of them. But there are others that the author didn’t mention that we can create in our own brains. Each obstacle attempting to get in between us and believing God made everything beautiful in its time. Every obstacle trying to rob you of your God given ability to rejoice in the toil that you have today.
So, let’s face them head on this week. So, what do we think about the miser? What do you think about you and the miser? How satisfied are you with what you have? Maybe this is a crass way to say it, but do you have the guts to ask yourself the question, Am I satisfied with what I have? Or even if what I have was removed and I had less, would I still be satisfied? Godliness with contentment is great gain. The miser would not be satisfied. How about isolation?
I think Proverbs 18:1 is one of the best commentaries on living an isolated life. It says, Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire. He breaks out against all sound judgment.
So, if you isolate yourself, you’re going to seek what you want. You’re going to be your own best counselor. In a moment where you’re isolated you will always believe your own advice about yourself. And then when somebody challenges that, that term is a violent one, you break out against all sound judgment. So right now, who are the people in your life that really know you? That know the real you. And I think I think church people do a bad job. When we say with the real you, that typically sounds really negative. Who knows all your bad junk?
I don’t mean that. I mean you as a whole. Who knows the things that you’re happy about? Who knows what you’re celebrating in life right now? Who knows where God’s really worked in your heart? And sure, who knows where your family is struggling? Who knows where you’re struggling? Who knows where you’re really trying to change some of the things in your life? Do you have anybody in your life that really knows you? I hope so. Because the wisdom writer is saying it’s better off to live in a community with people than being alone.
If you don’t have people in your life, that’s okay. There’s always an opportunity to change, and we try to help with that. We can’t create the best friends for you, but we try to offer structures that put you in a position to be with God’s people. One of those is Life Group. Go to men’s Bible study, go to women’s ministry. Find people who will be in your life. And if you don’t even know the first step to take – I got to meet with a guy after first who just moved here from Los Angeles who’s like, Bro when I walk in here and there’s all these people, I actually want what you’re saying about people. It’s just too much. Like how do I do that. Well we can do it we can help with that. I got his number. He and I are going to meet. We’ve got three or four things that we’re going to try. So, ask for some help. Don’t leave here with, Well this is such a big church I going to get lost anyway. No, we’ll help. Let us know.
What do we think about stubbornness? Here’s a question I’d love for all of us to answer with a real name in your brain, a real name, someone you really know. Who in your life right now would you automatically listen to if they warned you about your actions, money, work or spiritual life? The key emphasis being automatically. You’ve lived in such a way that there is someone in your life that you know, and they know if they came to you and said, Ryan listen. We hang out a lot. I see you the way you talk. I’m kind of concerned about you and Rebecca. Can I warn you the way you’re talking? Talk about that. What’s going on?
Ryan I’ve just kind of, I’m your friend. I’ve watched you, the way you’re interacting on this topic with your kids. I don’t know that’s wise. Can we be part of that? We talk about that? Could you by the end of the week pull out a name of someone that you automatically would listen to? When they come in and they’re about to warn you you’re actually on the edge of your seat.
Yeah, I’m ready because I can’t see my life the best. If you’re above 40, this question is for you. How are you living in such a way to show that you’re still open to warning, to taking advice? Are you putting yourself into scenarios where people know that you’re still open to correction at 40, 45, 50, 60, 70, 80? Not sure if we have 90-year olds in this one. We did in first.
What an amazing way to live. To still be a learner, to still be humble. I had a guy at northwest who has been married for one year and three months. I did their premarital, I did their wedding, and he came to me and he shared with me something that he was doing in his marriage. He was like hey Ryan I’m on this. This is what I’m doing. I think I think it’s going be really good. And it was brilliant. It was a passive warning. But I said, that’s really good. I’m totally ripping that off. All of us over 40 people can I just tell you experientially we have some really great wise young people here. Live a life being willing to be warned even when we’re old. We don’t have to know it all.
Proverbs 12:1 says this, Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. If you hate reproof, correction, warning, advice, I’m not saying this, and children I’m not authorizing the use of the word “stupid” in your homes. I’m merely saying the Bible says if you choose to live that way, I hate reproof, I don’t want to listen to what you have to say, no that’s wrong, the Proverbs writer would look at you and go, that’s a stupid way to live. Proverbs 27:6, Faithful are the wounds of a friend, profuse or the kisses of an enemy. I said this last week. I think one of the beauties of wisdom literature is it’s so brutally honest. It doesn’t play. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. Being corrected, warned, given advice can hurt.
But there’s a faithfulness to it. If I love you and I see that you’re about to be in trouble, I warn you. Why? Not because I’m better or I know it all. I actually love you. The direction you’re headed does not have good consequences.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, profuse or the kisses of an enemy, flattery just telling you what you want to hear. So, my hope is. I really believe Ecclesiastes 3 and 4 could change our church. Between here and Northwest we could literally be 1800 people who wake up tomorrow with a completely different mindset than our culture. That tomorrow whatever God has given you and me it’s his gift.
So, when I eat my lunch tomorrow with somebody, when I drink tomorrow, when I have an opportunity to do good to someone tomorrow, when I figure out what my schedule is going to be tomorrow and the work I have, all of that to me is joy and rejoicing. Why? Because Yahweh himself gave it to me as a present. That’s a game changer. And if we as God’s people live that way and recognize the obstacles that are there, the failures that happen on obstacles and when we succeed at an obstacle, that as we move forward together encouraging one another, building one another up, our culture is longing for this type of life. They’re desperate for it. So, let’s live it out for God’s glory. Amen.
Go in peace, and may God fill you with all rejoicing in your toil this week. Amen.