One of the sad realities of preaching is the preacher’s knowledge that much of what he says is so quickly forgotten. That is just one of the challenges any communicator faces in this day of technological and information overload.
Therefore as this series of messages on the Book of Ecclesiastes comes to a close I have a desire as your pastor to try and help you remember the truths that the Preacher of Ecclesiastes has taught us in the past four or five months. Obviously I can’t speak for you but I can speak for myself and I can tell you that this study has been one of my most enjoyable while at the same time one of the most personally challenging. Week after week I have been challenged to examine how I’m living my life in light of what God the Father is saying through the Preacher.
Time and again I have been personally challenged to examine my life to see if I was enjoying life, if I was enjoying God’s gifts to me. I was challenged and had to ask myself what kind of risk was I taking for the Kingdom of God and the glory of God? What kind of risk was I willing to lead the church to take? Part of the problem was as I contemplated the current question the Preacher would raise another one and then another one.
The wrong thing to do would be to leave the questions he raises un-answered. The wrong thing to do would be to move on to the next series of messages and leave the questions of risk taking and enjoying life behind. Let me tell you I really don’t want to do that!
I want to deal with these questions and I want to wrestle with them and come to some kind of resolution. And as your Pastor that’s what I want for you as well. I want you to wrestle with these questions until you resolve them. I want to stir your intellect and lead you to think about life and how you can live successfully.
After all don’t we all want to be successful in life? Who doesn’t want to find the answers to the questions of meaning and purpose?
In order to help us remember what the Preacher has taught us I’m going to summarize his main points and hopefully I’ve done it in such a way that it will be remembered and referenced frequently.
Lesson #1: Don’t dismiss or discount the evangelistic power of Ecclesiastes.
Ecclesiastes directly addresses the questions that every human being asks privately or publicly. We all want to know why we are here. We all want to know if there is any meaning or any purpose to life. We want to somehow make sense of the suffering, the injustice that we both experience and witness. Ecclesiastes answers those questions by pointing us to our Creator. The Preacher of Ecclesiastes boldly asks the important questions about life, but he doesn’t stop with asking the questions he strives to provide some answers. When he doesn’t have the answers he still has wise counsel for us and invariably points to the One who does have the answers. He points us to our Creator; he points us to our wise and sovereign God who is in control of the times and the seasons of life.
When people ask these life and death questions you can take them to Ecclesiastes and help them understand what the meaning of life is and you can help them understand that we are not living in a world of randomness, but rather we are living in a world that is under the watchful care of its Creator. You can help them understand that the meaning and purpose of life can only be found through Jesus Christ.
Lesson #2: The Preacher teaches us that life lived apart from God is a wasted and useless life.
Early in the book we encountered the often repeated phrase “under the sun”. The Preacher uses that exact phrase 28 times and he uses it to describe life that is lived apart from God. When the Preacher uses the phrase “under the sun” he refers to living in this world and never taking God into account. Under the sun means observing life purely on the horizontal plane and never taking the time to look up; it means our observations and the conclusions we draw from those observations are made purely on the horizontal plane. It means we live as if there is not a God to whom we are accountable or never consider that he has something to contribute to enhance the quality of our lives.
Therefore the message to all who never factor God into life is that they are destined and doomed to waste their most valuable possession – their life. They will have missed the very essence of their existence.
The Preacher uses another word, another phrase to describe the lives of those who never consider their Creator. He describes their lives as being vain, meaning that it’s not really life at all, that there is no substance in that kind of life. A life of vanity is in reality a life that has no meaning.
Lesson #3: The Preacher teaches that the only legitimate way to live a life of meaning and purpose is by remembering our Creator.
When the Preacher commands us to remember our Creator he means much more than just thinking pleasant thoughts about God, or simply thinking about God once in a while. When we properly remember our Creator that will lead us to live our whole lives for him, to be mindful of our Creator in every circumstance, to include God in all of our plans and praising him for all of his blessings and praying to him in our times of trouble.
To remember our Creator means we submit to his Lordship we submit to his authority we obey him and we factor him into each and every decision that we make. To remember our Creator is to center our lives on Him.
Remember that Jesus Christ is our Creator.
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16, ESV)
“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:3, ESV)
“He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” (John 1:10, ESV)
The only way to escape the vanity of life is by centering your life on Jesus Christ and on him alone. Not on your wife, not on your husband, not on your children, not on your school and not on your career.
Lesson #4: The Preacher teaches us how God’s sovereignty orchestrates our lives.
Gods’ sovereignty is one of the key themes in the book of Ecclesiastes. The Preacher teaches us about God’s sovereignty not by definition but by demonstration. In Ecclesiastes 3 we read the Preacher’s poem about time.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, ESV)
The Preacher teaches us that it is God who controls the times and the seasons of our lives. He controls the day of our birth and the day of our death. He controls the days of prosperity and the days of adversity. The Preacher teaches us that because God is sovereign everything comes from his hand.
The Preacher uses the sovereignty of God to teach us that we should stand in awe of God. To help us reverence and respect God. To humble us before our transcendent Creator.
The sovereignty of God not only creates in us the awe of God it is also the source of contentment in our lives. When I understand that my life is not a collection of random events but rather is a predesigned sequence that God has set in motion and that he has designed that sequence for my good (See Romans 8:28). When I come to terms with that knowledge it create a sense of contentment in my life.
As I said in one of the earlier messages this has nothing to do with fatalism. It does have to do with our humbling ourselves in light of God’s wisdom. The Preacher also taught us that contentment is not the same as inactivity. He encourages us to seize the opportunities that God provides for us.
Lesson #5: The Preacher teaches us how to worship
In chapter five the Preacher admonishes us to “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.”
The Preacher wants us to know that there is a right way and a wrong way to come to God’s house. You can’t help but notice the serious tone the Preacher takes. He says, guard your steps, pay attention, and be careful when you go to God’s house. He then tells us how we must conduct ourselves when we are in the Lord’s house.
Philip Ryken writes: “Understand that whenever we go to worship, we enter the presence of a holy God who has gathered his holy people to hear his Holy Word. If we take this for granted, not listening to what God says, then the Bible says that we are guilty of great evil, for we have despised the gospel of the cross and the empty tomb.”
If there was only one lesson from the Preacher that sticks with you I hope this is the one. Take your coming to church – take your worship of God seriously. If you can get this right you will miles ahead of so many other professing Christians. There is a right way to worship God! Learn it and practice it!
Lesson #6: The Preacher teaches us to live life with a sense of urgency.
“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7, ESV)
The sense of urgency comes from his use of the word “Go”. The Preacher says Go Know! Don’t hesitate, don’t procrastinate, and don’t put it off.
Why this sense of urgency? I hesitate to bring it up – some have remarked how much I’ve mentioned this subject in these messages – but it’s the 800 pound gorilla in the room. The Preachers’ urgency comes from what none of us can avoid and that is death!
Repeatedly the Preacher has shown us that regardless of who we are, or what we have we are all going to die. The wise die, and the foolish die. The young die, and the old die. The righteous die and the wicked die. Death bats a thousand!
The problem is our ignorance of knowing when our ticket will be punched! We don’t know the day, the moment, the second Jesus turns our hearts off. In light of our ignorance we should, we must live our lives with a sense of urgency. Go! Do all you can for God while you can!
The New Testament teaches us to “redeem the time”.
Lesson #7: The Preacher teaches us to enjoy life.
It’s funny as I was preparing this message I combines all 17 of my messages into one large word doc. When I searched for the word “enjoy” Word came back with the message “That shows up a lot!” In fact I made reference to it over 180 times.
Why did I emphasize it so much? Because the Preacher did! He time and again teaches us that we must enjoy life that we must enjoy the good gifts that God has given to us.
“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,” (Ecclesiastes 2:24, ESV)
“And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 8:15, ESV)
“Behold, what I have 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.” (Ecclesiastes 5:18, ESV)
The Teacher, encourages all of us to enjoy God’s daily gifts such as food and drink and work. Instead of pursuing riches, we should pursue daily enjoyment. When we do this, we will discover that even our joy is a gift from God.
The Preacher tells you to stop your worrying and enjoy life. The Preacher reminds you that anxiety kills joyful living. The key to overcoming your anxiety is by resting in the greatest certainly of life – that can only be found in Jesus Christ.
Lesson #8: The Preacher teaches us that it’s right to take God honoring risks.
The Preacher encourages us cast our bread upon the waters. The Preacher encourages us to take a risk that seems so risky that a return seems impossible. The Preacher wants you to embrace the uncomfortable world of risk taking. The Preacher wants the major investment of your life to be in the kingdom of God. He wants you to step out in faith. He wants you to be bold for the Kingdom of God and the glory of God. The Preacher does not want us to let uncertainty paralyze us.
Since this message was preached a few weeks ago have you thought about it? Have you thought about and prayed about what risk you not only could take but should take? Or are you continuing to let uncertainty or even apathy paralyze you? Have you stepped out in faith? What have you risked for the glory of God in the past week?
If you haven’t why not? If not now when? What risk can you take? Remember a risk isn’t a risk until the possibility of loss exists. Most of what we do as Christians is pretty safe. We give some but not enough to crimp our standard of living. We come to church but we don’t serve because it may cut into our free time, our leisure time or our study time. We hang out with our Christian friends instead of befriending a lost person who needs to hear the gospel. We are far too comfortable in our Christianity.
Lesson #9: The Preacher teaches us to fear God.
“To fear God is not to be terrified of God but to stand in awe of him. To fear God is to take God seriously, to acknowledge him in our lives as the highest good, to revere him, to honor him, and worship him, to center our lives on him.”
Why should we fear God? Simply because it is the whole of man. In the original the word duty is not there it is implied and supplied in the English to aid our understanding. We should fear God because that is why we exist; this is why we were created. It is the duty of everyone to fear God and to keep his commandments. It’s not only our duty, it’s our essence. God created us to stand in awe of him and keep his commandments. This is where we find the meaning of life – this is our essence!
Second we should we fear God because God will bring every word and every action into judgment.
“For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:14, ESV)
We must fear God because not only is he the Creator he is the Judge. Suffice it to say that the reason everything we do matters is because of the judgment of God. God doesn’t overlook any of our actions. Nothing falls through the cracks with God.
Every deed, every word, every action, has significance. Think about all of your actions, all of the words that you’ve spoken today, think of everything you have done today, everything you’ve done in the last week. Each and every one of them will come under the judgment of God unless and until you come to Christ!
The meaning of life can only be experienced as we are rightly related to our Creator. God – our Creator has made it possible for us to escape the judgment our sin demands. How so? God took the punishment that you and I deserved. Jesus Christ God in the flesh came to earth and lived a life of perfect obedience. He lived a life that demonstrated each and every day the wisdom of God and how that wisdom must be used to live life in a God pleasing way. Therefore for all who come to Christ, willing to turn away from their sin, their wisdom, their false sense of self sufficiency then they will not experience the judgment the Preacher talks about. Rather they will find grace and mercy, forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life.
Until you come to Christ you are under the judgment of God both now and in the future. If you never come to Christ you will have not only wasted your life you will have wasted your eternal existence.
“The final message of Ecclesiastes is not that nothing matters but that everything matters.”
There Eight key words and phrases to help you remember the message of the Preacher. The Preacher commands you to live life with:
Urgency – in enjoying life and seizing opportunity
Integrity – in worship and work
Remembering Him – while we can