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If I Could Put Time In A Bottle

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-22

October 10, 1993


Chuck Swindoll really got my attention concerning time.

"Let's play `Let's Pretend.'" Let's pretend that your

banker phoned you last Friday and said he had some very

good news. He told you that an anonymous donor who loves

you very much has decided to deposit 86,400 pennies into

you account each morning, starting the following Monday

morning. That's $864 a day, seven days a week, fifty-two

weeks a year.

He adds, `But there's one must spend all

the money that same day. No balance will be carried over to

the next day. Each evening the bank must cancel whatever

sum you failed to use.'

With a big smile, you thank your banker and hang up. Over

that weekend you have time to plan. You grab a pencil and

start figuring: $864 times seven equals over $6,000 a

week... times fifty-two. That's almost $315,000 a year that

you have available to you if you're diligent to spend it

all each day. Remember, whatever you don't spend is

forfeited. So much for `Let's Pretend.'

Now let's play `Let's Get Serious.' Every morning Someone

who loves you very much deposits into your bank of time

86,400 seconds of time - which represent 1,440 minutes -

which, of course, equal twenty-four hours each day.

Now you've got to remember the same stipulation applies,

because God gives you this amount of time for you to use

each day. Nothing is ever carried over on credit to the

next day. There is no such thing as a twenty-six hour day

(though some of us wish there were). From today's dawn

until tomorrow's dawn, you have a precisely determined

amount of time. As someone has put it, `Life is like a

coin. You can spend it any way you want to, but you can

spend it only once.'

One of the most fascinating (and, I might add, frustrating)

of all subjects is this four-letter word time. It's

amazing. We all have the same amount of time. Whether we

are penniless or whether we happen to be the richest person

on earth, whether we are young or old, single or married,

employed or without a job, an adolescent in school or the

President of the United States of America - we have exactly

the same amount of time.

Think of how much `time' is woven into the fabric of our

conversation every day. Here is a list of some familiar


- `What time does the meeting start?'

- `What time does the meeting end?'

- `I don't have time.'

- `How much time will it take?'

- `Don't waste your time on that.'

- `It's time to go.'

- `Time out.'

- `It's time we had a long talk.'

- `What time is supper?'

- `Take out a clean sheet of paper. It's time for a quiz.'"

Time has been defined as "a stretch of duration in which

things happen." This reminds me of the fact that we will

have all eternity to enjoy our victories, but only one life

in which to win them.

In our text Solomon saw something above man, a God who was

in control of time and who balanced life's experiences (v.

1-8), then he saw something within man that linked him to

God (eternity in his heart) v.9-14. Thirdly, Solomon saw

something ahead of man- the certainty of death (15-22).

Finally, he saw something around man, the problems and

burdens of life (4:1-5:9).

God seems to use four factors to keep our lives from

becoming monotonous and meaningless. They are: time,

eternity, death, and suffering. Michael Jordan retired from

the NBA this week. He said, "I have nothing left to prove."

What was he most proud of? That his father saw him play his

last NBA game. It is apparent that death got Michael

Jordan's attention.

This passage serves as a reminder that the plan of God

encompasses everything from our being born to the day of

our death. God appoints both our birthday and the day of

our funeral.

In v.28, Solomon turns to 14 pairs of opposites, using the

word "time" as he presses home the point of God's fore-

ordination and man's accountability.

Let me make one more statement of introduction while giving

a considerable conclusion of this text. God, Himself, wants

to be known and obeyed by man; accordingly, He has shut man

up to the riddle of life, yet given him an unquenchable

hunger to know how it all, from the simplest to the most

profound, fits with everything else.


v.1 Solomon tells us that not only are there times and

seasons in this world, but there is also an over-ruling

providence in our lives. From before our birth to the

moment of death, God is accomplishing His divine purposes,

even though we may not always understand what He is doing.

This defies the theory of fatalism and deism. The first

being the belief that all events are determined by fate and

hence inevitable. Deism - the belief that God exists and

created the world but thereafter did not control it.

Note 14 Comparisons:

1. "born - die": the entirety of human existence llustrates

the comprehensiveness of God.

Things like abortion, birth control, mercy killing, and

surrogate parent- hood make it look as though man is in

control of birth and death, but Solomon said otherwise.

Birth and death are divine appointments, for God is in


Ps. 139:16, "All the days ordained for me were written in

your book."

Depressed people have a tendency to ask "Why was I born?"

"Why can't I die?" It seems as though when life boils

itself down to the basics, we go back to birth and death.

2. "Plant - Pluck up":

A successful farmer knows that nature works for him only if

he works with nature. This is also the secret of a

successful life; learn God's principles and cooperate with


ILLUSTRATE PERSONAL LEVEL: There are times when you feel

you should move on, and you try to uproot yourself, but you

can't because things don't fall into place. And there are

other times when you are convinced that you'll be there

forever and, lo and behold, two months later you are 100

miles away. God has a way of uprooting us and planting us,

and He does it in His time.

3. "Kill - Heal": Refers, possibly, to sickness and plague.

God permits some to die while others are healed. Read our

papers and on one side there is an article on murder and on

the other side medicine - a miracle drug.

4. "Break-down - Build-up":

Relationship with nations; old walls; relationships 5.

"Weep - Laugh":

C.S. Lewis - "Pain is God's megaphone." He whispers to us

in our pleasure, but He shouts to us in our pain.

I love to laugh, but laughter does not teach me as much as

tears. Maybe that is why I can never remember a joke. I

remember a broken heart.

However, I do love to laugh. Many preachers don't know how

to laugh. Maybe it is because they are too serious about

straightening everybody out.

JOKE: I heard of a pastor who left the pastorate after 20

years to become a funeral director. Somebody asked, "Why

did you do that?" "Well, I spent about 12 years trying to

straighten out John. He never did straighten out. I spent

14 months trying to straighten out the marriage of the

Smith's, and it never got straightened out. I spent 3 years

trying to straighten out Susan, and she never did get

straightened out. Now when I straighten them out, they stay


I hope I am remembered as a fun- loving dad.

6. "Mourn - Dance":

Death, divorce, disappointment wedding

Jewish song: "Sunrise, sunset, swiftly fly the years. One

season following another. Laden with happiness and tears."

7. "Cast away stones - Gather stones"

8. "Embrace - Refrain from embracing"

They go together: times of affirmation times of


For life to stay balanced, both affirmation and

accountability are needed.

9. "To get - To lose"

(A time to search, and a time to give up to lost) ILL.

Johnny Riverbark on Miss. River

10. "To keep - to cast away" (to throw away):

God put this in the Bible for Cindy Alexander. This gives

Biblical authority for garage sales.

However, Janet has offended this principle; she wants to

keep everything. Some things you had rather die than part

with - like those things that find their way into the attic

or the bottom of a trunk in the basement.

11. "To tear - to sew"

May refer to the Jewish practice of tearing one's clothes

during time of grief or repentance.

12. "To keep silence - to speak" Someone said, "I never

felt sorry for the things I did not say." There are times

we need to say it and say it well.

13. "To love - to hate"

14. "War - Peace"

Together, we are reminded of acts of injustice, acts of

prejudice, and inequities ought to be hated and ought to be


EXAMPLE: Somolia


What's the profit? v.9a

What's the purpose? v.9b

A. Man's Profit Is That Life Is A Gift From God. v.10, 13

If we believingly accept life as a gift, and thank God for

it, we will have a better attitude toward the burdens that

come our way.

B. Man's Purpose Is Linked To Eternity. v. 11

God has not only put things into perspective by having a

timetable in which events run their course, He has put

within every human being's heart a curiosity about

tomorrow, an eternal capacity that prompts me to probe, to

be intrigued, tosearch.

Meaning what? Meaning you and I are not ready to handle

life until we are ready to face death. When we get eternity

securely in place, it's remarkable what it will do to time.

Thomas Watson said, "Eternity to the godly is a day that

has no sunset; eternity to the wicked is a night that has

no sunrise."

C. Men's Perspective Is Linked To Reverence. v.14

"fear" - not the cringing of a slave before a cruel master,

but the submission of an obedient child to a loving parent.


God will call the past to account. v.15 How can God be in

control when there is so much evil in our world, with the

wicked prospering in their sin and the righteous suffering

in their obedience?


1. God has a time for everything

2. God is working out His eternal purposes

James Johnson wrote 7 sermonsentitled, "God's Trombones"

Listen as he describes the after- life when "time shall be

no more." "In that great day, People, in that great day,

God's a-going to rain down fire. God's a-going to sit in

the middle of the air To judge the quick and the dead.

Early one of these mornings, God's a-going to call for

Gabriel, That tall, bright angel, Gabriel; And God's a-

going to say to him: "Gabriel, blow your silver trumpet,

And wake the living nations."

And Gabriel's going to ask him: "Lord, how loud must I blow

it?" And God's a-going to tell him: "Gabriel, blow it calm

and easy." Then putting one foot on the mountaintop, And

the other in the middle of the sea, Gabriel's going to

stand and blow his horn, To wake the living nations...

Oh-o-oh, sinner, Where will you stand, In that great day

when God's a-going to rain down fire? Oh, you gambling man

- where will you stand? You whore-mongering man - where

will you stand? Liars and backsliders - where will you

stand, In that great day when God's a-going to rain down


And God will divide the sheep from the goats, The one on

the right, the other on the left. And to them on the right

God's a-going to say: "Enter into My kingdom." And those

who've come through great tribulations, And washed their

robes in the blood of the Lamb, They will enter in -

Clothed in spotless white,...

And to them on the left God's a-going to say: "Depart from

Me into everlasting darkness, Down into the bottomless

pit." And the wicked like lumps of lead will start to fall,

Headlong for seven days and nights they'll fall, Plumb into

the big, black, and red-hot mouth of hell,...

Too late, sinner! Too late! Good-bye, sinner! Good-bye! In

hell, sinner! In hell! Beyond the reach of the love of God.

And I hear a voice, crying, crying: "Time shall be no more!

Time shall be no more! Time shall be no more!" And the sun

will go out like a candle in the wind, The moon will turn

to dripping blood, The stars will fall like cinders, And

the sea will burn like tar; And the earth shall melt away

and be dissolved, And the sky will roll up like a scroll.

With a wave of his hand, God will blot out time, And start

the wheel of eternity.

Sinner, oh, sinner, Where will you stand In that great day

when God's a-going to rain down fire?"

Time has begun for you and me, but it hasn't yet ended, by

His grace.


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