Summary: We are encouraged to trust in our sovereign God by looking for what is relatively good in times of adversity.
In his quest to find out how to live a meaningful life the writer of Ecclesiastes addresses the issue of how to handle adversity.
Let us read Ecclesiastes 6:10-7:14:
10 Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he. 11 The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man? 12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?
7:1 A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.
2 It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
5 It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise
than to hear the song of fools.
6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity.
7 Surely oppression drives the wise into madness,
and a bribe corrupts the heart.
8 Better is the end of a thing than its beginning,
and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
9 Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,
for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.
10 Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance,
an advantage to those who see the sun.
12 For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money,
and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
13 Consider the work of God:
who can make straight what he has made crooked?
14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him. (Ecclesiastes 6:10-7:14)
This past week the world watched the remarkable rescue of the thirty-three Chilean miners. The rescue was dramatic, tense, and powerfully moving.
You remember that “The 33” (as they have become known) were trapped in a gold and copper mine that collapsed on August 5, 2010. For about 6 hours there was dust everywhere. Eventually, the dust settled and they were able to survey the damage. They soon realized that they were in an extremely grave situation, wondering if they would ever be found. After a few days they could hear drilling through the rock, which they said sounded like helicopters. So, they knew that the people above ground were looking for them. But, would they manage to find them in time?
On the seventeenth day after the mine collapsed a drill bit broke through the rock into the tunnel where the men were located. Immediately, they fastened a note to the drill bit, which read: “We are well in the shelter, the 33.” And that is when the world heard that all 33 men were still alive, and preparations for the most dramatic rescue in mining history began.
It is hard for us to imagine the thoughts of the miners in those first 17 days. Surely, they wondered if they would ever be found alive. Would they ever see their loved ones alive again? Why did God allow the mine to collapse? And what possible good could come out of their adversity?
The writer of Ecclesiastes, also known as the Preacher, lived in a time of great national prosperity and economic boom. And yet people still encountered adversity periodically—as all people in all ages do. And apparently, people did not trust God sufficiently to see any good in times of adversity.
It is against this background that the Preacher encouraged suffering people to show their trust in the sovereign God by looking for what is relatively good in times of adversity.
And so in today’s lesson we are encouraged to trust in our sovereign God by looking for what is relatively good in times of adversity.
I. The Predicament (6:10-12)
The first point that the Preacher makes is about our predicament, which is that no one knows what is good for man.
The Preacher says in verse 10a: “Whatever has come to be has already been named.” He is thinking of God who names things. God named things at Creation: Day, Night, Sky, Earth, Sea, and so on. He gave names to things because he brought them into existence. And so the Preacher is affirming that whatever happens in the present has already been predetermined by God in the past.