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“Right Place Right Time”

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Bob Cartwright was disappointed when he was unable to accept an invitation to fly to New York with his friend Tyler Stanger and the professional baseball player Cory Lidle for a playoff game between the Yankees and the Tigers. He felt differently when he saw the news that Stanger and Lidle had crashed into an apartment building and perished. “I was supposed to be on that plane,” Cartwright said. Yet just one month later Cartwright died in another plane crash, near his mountain home in California.
Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes—Why Everything Matters Chapter 21: Man Knows Not His Time (Ecclesiastes 9:11–18)

Here is another example. Bob Cartwright was disappointed when he was unable to accept an invitation to fly to New York with his friend Tyler Stanger and the professional baseball player Cory Lidle for a playoff game between the Yankees and the Tigers. He felt differently when he saw the news that Stanger and Lidle had crashed into an apartment building and perished. “I was supposed to be on that plane,” Cartwright said. Yet just one month later Cartwright died in another plane crash, near his mountain home in California.

Then there is Donald Peters, who bought two Connecticut lottery tickets on November 1, 2008—just as he had for the previous twenty years. As it turned out, one of his tickets was worth $10 million. But Peters was not as lucky as one might think, because he died of a heart attack later on the very day that he bought the winning ticket.

None of these unfortunate, unexpected events would have surprised the Preacher who wrote Ecclesiastes. “Time and chance happen to them all,” he would have said. “Man knows not his time.”

Here is another example. Bob Cartwright was disappointed when he was unable to accept an invitation to fly to New York with his friend Tyler Stanger and the professional baseball player Cory Lidle for a playoff game between the Yankees and the Tigers. He felt differently when he saw the news that Stanger and Lidle had crashed into an apartment building and perished. “I was supposed to be on that plane,” Cartwright said. Yet just one month later Cartwright died in another plane crash, near his mountain home in California.
Donald Peters, who bought two Connecticut lottery tickets on November 1, 2008—just as he had for the previous twenty years. As it turned out, one of his tickets was worth $10 million. But Peters was not as lucky as one might think, because he died of a heart attack later on the very day that he bought the winning ticket.
Traffic jams when your already late. 10000 spoons when all you need is a knife. Its like rain on your wedding day, a free ride when you already paid, good advice that you just didn't take. Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you. None of these unfortunate, unexpected events would have surprised the Preacher who wrote Ecclesiastes. Again Solomon discusses the continued frustrations of life in a fallen world. The last time we saw how the same things happen to people whether good or evil. Today we see that the same principle is in effect even for those of various gifting and talents. Ordinarily we would expect things to go well for people with strong abilities. Often they do, but having speed or strength or smarts does not guarantee success. What will guarantee success? We will find out.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (pp. 221–222). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Ecclesiastes 9:11–18 NLT
I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time. People can never predict when hard times might come. Like fish in a net or birds in a trap, people are caught by sudden tragedy. Here is another bit of wisdom that has impressed me as I have watched the way our world works. There was a small town with only a few people, and a great king came with his army and besieged it. A poor, wise man knew how to save the town, and so it was rescued. But afterward no one thought to thank him. So even though wisdom is better than strength, those who are wise will be despised if they are poor. What they say will not be appreciated for long. Better to hear the quiet words of a wise person than the shouts of a foolish king. Better to have wisdom than weapons of war, but one sinner can destroy much that is good.
Ordinarily we would expect things to go well for people with strong abilities. Often they do, but having speed or strength or smarts does not guarantee success.
The grass withers the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 222). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Futility of Ability
Wisdom Saves
The Wisdom of God
The first thing we will explore is how our talents and abilities do not guarantee success in life. The second point we will approach is how no matter what wisdom will always be better than the alternative. Finally, we will see how the wisdom of God saves not just the city, but the whole world.
Thesis: Though sin and the pattern of this world cause us to despair over the way things go under the sun, it is the wisdom of God that will cause us to not find hope in the wisdom of men under the sun, but the wisdom under the Son of God.
I. Futility of Ability
- Isn’t it Ironic.
A. Again, ordinarily we would expect things to go well for people with strong abilities. Often they do, but having speed or strength or smarts does not guarantee success.
Ecclesiastes 9:11 NLT
I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 222). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
B.
B. What we see here are three different kinds of people who we would all assume to be winners, but in the end they turn out to be losers. Uh oh. Solomon are you trying to say that all the work we put in to be winners, in the end, it might not work out?
C. Number 1. The fastest runner is supposed to win the race but not always. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. Or Lolo Jones in the Beijing Olympics… she was like 2 feet ahead, but just caught the hurdle and came in second to the last. We all know that Lolo was the fastest.
D. Number 2. How about when it comes to battles? Usually the strongest man wins the fight, but sometimes the weaker man wins. When Buster Douglass beat Mike Tyson. When Holly Holm beat Ronda Rousey. When the Denver Broncos beat the Green Bay Packers. The miracle on Ice when USA beat Russia. When Obi Wan Kenobi beat Darth Maul. When the Spartans defeated the Persians and the most famous example, of course, is David and Goliath—the story that gives hope to every underdog. But the race is not always won by the swift, nor the battle always by the strong.
How about when it comes to battles? Usually the strongest man wins the fight, but sometimes the weaker man wins. The most famous example, of course, is David and Goliath—the story that gives hope to every underdog. The Olympic slogan says citius, altius, fortius—swifter, higher, stronger! But the race is not always won by the swift, nor the battle always by the strong.
E. Number 3. Check this one out. We would expect someone with a superior mind to be worth a fortune, or at least to make a good living. But when the markets crash, even the sharpest financial adviser suddenly realizes that he is not as smart as he thought he was. At the same time, some of the people living at a homeless shelter are smarter than average. I worked with a homeless ministry before and some of them have PhD’s, high IQ’s and great skills. Like numchuck skills, bow hunting skill, computer hacking skills. What the Preacher says is true: the wise do not always have bread, intelligence does not guarantee a good income, and having a lot of knowledge will not necessarily do us any favors.
F. All in all, human ability is no guarantee of success in life. Disaster, tragedy, unfortunate circumstances can overtake any one of us. Solomon says it, “time and chance” happen to us all. Now we should not understand “Karah” or chance in the way we do today. This phrase does not deny the providence of God.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (pp. 222–223). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 222). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 223). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
As the Preacher says, “time and chance” happen to us all. This
This phrase does not deny the sovereignty of God.
Ephesians 1:11 NLT
Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.
G. Everything is under his wise providence and sovereign control. What happens in life is not arbitrary, but is subject to God’s authority. The aim of scripture is to communicate thats how we should understand chance. Maybe better understood “time and the seemingly random events in life.” Nevertheless, there is still a problem: we do not necessarily know what God is doing. No matter how strong we are, or how smart, many bad things happen to us in life, and there is no way for us to predict when they will happen. The preacher illustrates this vividly...
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 223). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 223). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
From our perspective, however, there is still a problem: we do not necessarily know what God is doing. No matter how strong we are, or how smart, many bad things happen to us in life, and there is no way for us to predict when they will happen.
H.
Ecclesiastes 9:12 NLT
People can never predict when hard times might come. Like fish in a net or birds in a trap, people are caught by sudden tragedy.
Everything is under his wise providence and sovereign control. What happens in life is not arbitrary, therefore, but is subject to God’s authority.
H. What does the imagery show? The fish and the birds get caught before they know it. If they had realized they were swimming into a net or flying into a trap, they would have gone the opposite direction. But by the time they were trapped, it was too late to escape. This is what life is under the sun.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 223). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 223). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
I. Life shows us that in time the events in life will overtake us. Before we know it, we will get trapped in a bad situation at work, or afflicted with a fatal disease, or caught in a financial disaster, or struggle in horrible relationships, of suffer the pain of a broken heart. At the very end, of course, the time will come for us to die and go to judgment—a time that God knows, but we do not.
The fish and the birds get caught before they know it. If they had realized they were swimming into a net or flying into a snare, they would have gone the opposite direction. But by the time they were trapped, it was too late to escape.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 223). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Either way, the time will come when events overtake us. Before we know it, we will get trapped in a bad situation at work, or afflicted with a fatal disease, or caught in a financial tsunami. At the very end, of course, the time will come for us to die and go to judgment—a time that God knows, but we do not.
J. And a point that is difficult to deal with. In a fallen world, many unhappy things happen every day, from natural disasters and environmental catastrophes to military conflicts and economic downturns.
In a fallen world, many unhappy things happen every day, from natural disasters and environmental catastrophes to military conflicts and economic downturns.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 223). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
K. Life is unpredictable; its misfortunes are inevitable and often inescapable. In his mercy God tells us to expect the unexpected. When hardship comes, even when it comes very suddenly, we should not be surprised. Nor, when life is good, should we think that our own natural abilities will spare us from having hard times. No matter how gifted we are or how well prepared or how many advantages we have in life, we too may suffer an evil day.
L. So how should we respond when the evil day comes? And how should we live with the uncertainty of knowing that something bad could happen at any time?
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 223). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Life is unpredictable; its misfortunes are inevitable and often inescapable. In his mercy God tells us to expect the unexpected. When hardship comes, even when it comes very suddenly, we should not be surprised. Nor, when life is good, should we think that our own natural abilities will spare us from having hard times. No matter how gifted we are or how well prepared or how many advantages we have in life, we too may suffer an evil day.
How should we respond when the evil day comes? And how should we live with the uncertainty of knowing that something bad could happen at any time?
II. Wisdom Saves
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (pp. 223–224). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 224). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
- Fatalism is not the only option.
A. Come on Shane… If the race does not go to the swift, then why run at all? If the battle is not won by the strong, then why prepare for war? If getting smart will not get you more money, then why bother to develop your mind? Since it all comes down to chance anyway, fatalism might appear to be the only honest option. The answer is wisdom.
Ecclesiastes 9:13–15 NLT
Here is another bit of wisdom that has impressed me as I have watched the way our world works. There was a small town with only a few people, and a great king came with his army and besieged it. A poor, wise man knew how to save the town, and so it was rescued. But afterward no one thought to thank him.
If the race does not go to the swift, then why run at all? If the battle is not won by the strong, then why prepare for war? If getting smart will not get you more money, then why bother to develop your mind? Since it all comes down to chance anyway, fatalism might appear to be the only honest option.
B.
B. The wisdom of one man is wise enough to save a whole city. In this particular case the Preacher does not tell us how he did it. Nor are we likely to figure it out because according to verse 15, “no one remembered that poor man.” He never became famous for saving the wold like James Bond. Yet the fact remains that his wisdom saved a city.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 224). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
C. The Preacher saw the city’s deliverance as something “great,” in the sense that it was significant or that it taught an important lesson. The city had almost no chance to survive. Its defenders were totally outnumbered. Their enemies were led by a powerful king who had the latest military technology. Humanly speaking, the city didn’t have a prayer. But the battle is not always to the strong. Praise God! In this particular case, one man knew exactly what to do. For the Preacher, this was an example of what wisdom can do. Happy is the city that has even one person who is wise enough to rescue its citizens.
Sometimes one man is wise enough to save a metropolis. In this particular case the Preacher does not tell us how he did it. Nor are we likely to figure it out because according to verse 15, “no one remembered that poor man.” He never became famous like Archimedes. Yet the fact remains that his wisdom saved a city.
D. Admittedly, the man who saved this particular city was soon forgotten. Here again we see the realism—not to say, pessimism—of Ecclesiastes. Despite the good deed that he had done, “no one remembered that poor man.” People are fickle, and fame is fleeting.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (pp. 224–225). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 225). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
E. There are examples of this in the Bible as well. Think of Joseph, who helped Pharaoh’s butler when both men were in prison. Joseph had good reason to hope that the butler would help him get out of jail, too, but as soon as he was set free, the butler forgot all about him (). Or consider Mordecai, who uncovered a plot against King Ahasuerus but at the time did not receive any reward (; ). People are like that. Life is like that too: even life-saving wisdom is soon forgotten.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 225). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
F. Yet wisdom still has its advantages. Yes, human wisdom has its limitations. It may not make us famous, any more than it will guarantee us a fortune. But it is relatively valuable nonetheless. People may forget who gave them wise counsel. They may even refuse to listen to the wise counsel we give. But wisdom is still better than the alternative!
III. The Wisdom of God
- How should we then live? By Faith.
A. Life is so uncertain. We may suffer loss or hardship at any moment. Even if we are swift, we may lose the race. Even if we are strong, we may get defeated in battle. Even if we are smart, we may suffer poverty. Nor do we know how much time we have left.
How then should we live, especially in a world where “time and chance” happen to us all? Life is so uncertain. We may suffer loss or hardship at any moment. Even if we are swift, we may lose the race. Even if we are strong, we may get defeated in battle. Even if we are smart, we may suffer poverty. Nor do we know how much time we have left.
B. We have to trust in wisdom. Say Again, we have to trust in wisdom. But scripture progresses. The wisdom of God. Ecclesiastes mainly looks at things from the perspective of human wisdom, which is valuable as far as it goes. But there is also a divine wisdom, which alone can save us.
Ecclesiastes mainly looks at things from the perspective of human wisdom, which is valuable as far as it goes. But there is also a divine wisdom, which alone can save us.
C. The primary way that God answers our prayer for wisdom is by giving us his Son, Jesus Christ, whom the Bible identifies as the very wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:30 NLT
God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 227). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
D. Let us not forget that Jesus was also a poor man. He was homeless and destitute, and therefore he was totally dependent on God the Father for his daily bread.
- Also, Jesus was also wiser than anyone, as we know from all the wise things he said. And by his wisdom, Jesus delivered the lost city of fallen humanity. The devil was coming against that city with all the powers of Hell.
- But Jesus delivered us, all by himself. How did he do it? He did it through something that seemed foolish at the time but actually turned out to be wise for salvation. Jesus saved our city by dying on the cross and then rising again.
E. Yes, family. This is the good news of the Gospel. Jesus died for our sins according to the scriptures and he was buried. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance… The wisdom of God brought to us salvation. Brought life and life more abundant. The wisdom of God saved the city.
He was homeless and destitute, and therefore he was totally dependent on God the Father for his daily bread. Jesus was also wiser than anyone, as we know from all the wise things he said. By his wisdom Jesus delivered the lost city of fallen humanity. The devil was coming against that city with all the powers of Hell. But Jesus delivered us, all by himself. How did he do it? He did it through something that seemed foolish at the time but actually turned out to be wise for salvation. Jesus saved our city by dying on the cross and then rising again.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 227). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
F. The wonderful promises continue… all who call upon the name of the Lord… If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord...
G. So you see we do not have to despair. Christ the wisdom of God is our hope. We do not trust in our behavior and we do not trust our speed. We do not trust our strengths and talents. We do not trust our wisdom or knowledge. We do not trust our skills or our intellect. We trust in the blood of Christ. We trust the wisdom of God. Not just a savior of a city but of the whole world. It is on Christ the solid rock we stand...
H. Do not despair over life under the sun, and rejoice that we have life under the Son of God. We will win the race, we will win the battle, we will never go hungry, we inherit a kingdom, we will be successful because of the wisdom of God. We do not have to be worried about the future, for we have the secret to be content in any and every situation… I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. His grace will always and forever be sufficient for us.
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