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A Timely Discussion

Ecclesiastes  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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If God is involved in your life, then life will have meaning and purpose.

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The musical group “Chicago” has a whole list of songs dealing with time. Saturday in the Park, Does Anybody Really Know What Time It is?, 25 or 6 to 4, referencing the fact that they were writing a song and the time was 25 or 26 minutes before 4 AM.
The Carpenters had a famous song, Rainy Days and Mondays.
Harry Chapin wrote a haunting song: Cat’s In the Cradle, showing the brevity and speed of life and what can so easily be missed.
Time In A Bottle was written by Jim Croce about his own son who was yet to be born and his desire to spend as much time as possible with him. Unfortunately, 3 years later, he was killed in a plane crash.
“Time In A Bottle” by Jim Croce
One author spoke of our need to accept that we are mortal and governed by time. Today, we talk about how we wish there were more hours in the day. We recognize that when we’re children, time took forever to grow up. Then we have children and suddenly they’re adults. Or how the same 3 1/2 hours is so different when you’re driving to Boston compared to watching a Boston Patriots football game. Or consider the difference between a 2-minute TV commercial break where you scurry off to the bathroom verses sitting at a stop light for 2 minutes.
Time drags on slowly for some; time flies by for others. Someone who lives to be 100 is said to have had a very long life. Yet we recognize that our life is just a blip on the radar of eternity. For Solomon, it has appeared that he thought life must be boring and without meaning. Here, in chapter 3, Solomon challenges those listening to reevaluate and consider several factors which might change his mind.
For us today, it comes down to this:
If God is involved in your life, then life will have meaning and purpose.

God Is In Charge of Today - 3:1-8

All of these observations are in the context of under heaven. As we look around and experience life, we understand the Spring comes before Summer which comes before Fall which comes before Winter, and the cycle continues with Spring again. Growing up, it was almost a given that if the sun were setting on a Friday evening while a cloud bank was rising in the west that we would have moisture by Monday. Another truism was that rarely did our winds come from the east, but when they did, there was the hope of moisture in the next day or so. As the time cycle when into the fall, we knew that when webs would go floating in the air, we knew that it was nearly planting time for the wheat.
That’s just our natural world. It’s even more obvious in our personal lives. God controls the outcome of everything according to His perfect will. We may not understand the temporary outcome, but God knows the final result. God has a divine purpose for us and will accomplish it for his glory. In fact, Solomon points out 14 specific contrasting events that are God’s doing and since He’s in charge, we can trust that the timing is good and perfect. Even those times, in which we have huge questions and confusion, we can trust that God has meaning and purpose in it.
Scholars state that in the majority of Hebrew manuscripts, verses 2-8 are written in side-by-side columns to enable the reader to see the contrast. Let’s look at birth and death. Humanity may try to speed up death through ungodly choices, but if we are living for God, then when it is the time He has chosen for our death, it will happen. It seems that we have forgotten God’s divine appointments. Humanity has tried to take over and think we have control. God is in charge.
Remember how I shared my love for planting and harvesting, along with plowing. Remember also how I stated that if God didn’t provide the right conditions and cause the grain to grow, we’d have nothing. We worked hard, while trusting God and working in cooperation with the weather and soil conditions, etc. The same is true spiritually; we are to work with God, knowing that there are biblical principles which must continually be applied.
We don’t understand why God chooses to bring healing to some and allows others to die. But it is a part of life. Even in some buildings, there comes a time that a structure must be taken down and a new one built.
Stones seemed to have multiple purposes in biblical times as well as now. We’ve seen in the Old Testament that when you wanted to mess with the enemy, you would fill his field with stones. With a field full of stones, there can’t be a lot of plowing and planting. We also have seen that stones were used to kill someone. Yet, stones were also used as fences and borders, along with building structures.
There is a time to say hello and welcome, as well as a time to say goodby. This can be seen in personal relationships as well as business dealings. It’s a wise person who knows when not to keep putting time, money, and resources into something which is a money pit. I get a kick out of verse 6b: it sounds like a Scriptural proof text for yard sales and decluttering.
Verse 7 seems to be speaking of the Jewish practice of tearing your clothes when going through sadness or repentance. But the encouragement is given that one must go on with life and begin to put things back together again.
There is also great wisdom in knowing when to talk and when to be quiet. The Bible is full of discussion on the blessing and curse of the tongue.
As we look back at this list, you can see that a focus on any one thing is not healthy. However, when dealt with in balance, understanding that God is in charge and sees the bigger picture, they can be good and provide meaning and purpose.
Now we get ready to see that Solomon is not looking at life only under the sun.

God Is In Charge of Eternity - 3:9-14

Here, it becomes obvious that God has definitely become part of the picture. There is no way Solomon could have penned these verses unless God were a part of his life. In verse 10, it becomes evident that he understands that everything humanity has in this life is a gift from God. We may not understand the good in it sometimes, but it is a gift from God. It reminds me of the story of the little girl who was celebrating her birthday and she stepped into some horse manure in their yard. Instead of being disgusted and upset, she became all excited. She was convinced that this was proof that there was a new pony somewhere to be found. That is probably more of the approach we should have when it feels as though we’ve just stepped in something that is less than pleasant. Accept it as a gift from God and we’ll more readily see the blessing that is there for us.
Looking at the totality of the Bible, we understand that we must work hard and diligently to accomplish what needs to be done. Yet, we must remember that were it not for God’s providential blessings our efforts would be meaningless. When I feel like I’m spinning my wheels, rather than get frustrated and discouraged, I must go to the Lord in prayer and ask for his enabling power and blessing upon the work for which He has called me.
Verse 11 makes a profound statement: He has also set eternity in their heart . . . You see, humanity is totally different and unique from all creation. We are in charge of all creation in that we are to have dominion over it. We’ve been made in God’s image. Humanity is why Jesus came to this earth and the ones for whom He died to provide salvation. Yet we’ll never understand or be able to explain everything that puzzles us. However, we can trust God to complete His purposes. In this we can also see the more eternal picture of what we are doing rather than just the temporary.
Then in verses 12-14, it is as if Solomon is saying that we have permission to enjoy our lives while living here on this planet. Really? You bet! It is the gift of God. Solomon is not telling us to go crazy and go after pleasure for pleasure’s sake. Instead, why not enjoy the benefits of hard work and the pleasant things of life since God made it possible?! Even though our lives are merely a footnote in the overall story, if God is in it, I’m convinced there are eternal ramifications. In other words, I can trust God and make the best of life, doing all I can for His glory. Again, we’re not to worry about the future.
Be Satisfied 2. Look within: Eternity Is in Your Heart (Ecc. 3:9–14)

When the well-known British Methodist preacher William Sangster learned that he had progressive muscular atrophy and could not get well, he made four resolutions and kept them to the end: (1) I will never complain; (2) I will keep the home bright; (3) I will count my blessings; (4) I will try to turn it to gain. This

The story is told of the British Methodist preacher, William Sangster who made four resolutions when he discovered that he had terminal progressive muscular atrophy. 1) I will never complain; 2) I will keep the home bright; 3) I will count my blessings; 4) I will try to turn it to gain. I believe Solomon would have given a hearty amen.
This outlook that Solomon is recommending is because of faith in God. God is in control. We cannot adjust a situation or change it by worry or concern or working harder. We are full of hope and confident in God’s plan and provisions. It is because God is intimately involved with our lives.

God Is In Charge of Death - 3:15-22

Verse 15 reminds us again that God is in control. Even though time seems to fly, God lets nothing slip by Him. There will be a time of judgment. God will accomplish His purposes, even through using the good and evil actions of humanity. This beginning portion seems to deal with the issue raised by so many as to why evil exists if God is truly in charge.
However, verse 18 lets us be reminded that God will not just judge eventually, but is even now judging. It’s interesting to look at the Bible and see what happens when humanity tries to ignore God and exclude God. We see that humanity begins to act like an animal. Sadly, he even dies like an animal. The difference being that humanity is made in God’s image. However, physically, both die. For the one who is born again, we will be resurrected and have glorified bodies which will be in heaven. Yet, physically, both will die. For humanity, there is the call to enjoy life. We don’t have any idea what the future on this earth contains, so why fret? But we do know that God is in charge and we can be at peace with that.
It may appear that corruption and evil are getting away with all kinds of stuff while the innocent are suffering. But that’s not the final score card. God’s decisions are the only ones that truly count. All the wrongs will be righted by the righteous Judge of the universe. Everything that has been upside down, God will turn right-side up. God can now use injustice to cause His own to learn perseverance and trust in God. If we just react in anger, then we are not much different than animals.
We recognize that there are a lot of things in this world which are completely contrary to God in which we cannot do anything to change it. We’re reminded once again by Solomon in verse 19 that death comes to all. No matter how great a person is, there is no escape from death. We know from earlier that God has placed eternity in our heart, so obviously, death is not the end for humanity.
Yet, it does not matter what we own or what we’ve accomplished, they are not eternal and should be enjoyed while on this earth. Hope for life after death or meaning of life is totally reliant upon the resurrection of Christ and our acceptance of the free gift of salvation. It is all of God.

Conclusion

We are not masters of our own destiny as Robin Williams sang in Popeye. We cannot control the weather, or any of nature. So, instead of wasting time wringing one’s hands about the fate of this planet, why not enjoy every day as a gift from God and do your best to live it for His glory. I don’t want to spend my time fretting about who is in political power. I can’t worry myself about how cold or how much snow we’re going to have this winter. Honestly, I don’t know the future of myself or anyone else on this planet, except for my eternal destiny, which cannot be changed.
My friends, you are not someone who is unimportant or insignificant. You have great value because God uniquely made you. You can put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and know for certain of your value. For those of us who have made that decision, we can attest that we know that God is making us into the person He wants us to be. We know our value as a child of God. The fear which Solomon speaks of earlier, is not of a frightened individual. Rather, it is that of a submissive, obedient child to a loving Father.
Accept life as a gift from God. Knowing eternity has been set in our hearts, make that decision to follow Jesus and truly enjoy every day knowing God is in charge. Be content with what God sets before you, knowing that His desire is that we grow in Christ and become godly in our characters, so that others will also want to have a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
If God is involved in your life, then life will have meaning and purpose.
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