Summary: God is opposed to anything that diminishes our joy. What many think is a "good time" is actually self-abuse. Life is fleeting, so fear and obey God, for your own good.
Overcoming Futility—a sermon series on Ecclesiastes
“In the Days of Youth” 11:9-12:14 Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
We conclude our study of Ecclesiastes, a book written to people who are struggling to find meaning and purpose in life. Solomon ends on a cautionary note, with three cautions:
A. Enjoy life but know you’re accountable (11:9-10)
B. Life is fleeting (12:1-8)
C. The bottom line--fear & obey God (12:9-14)
A. Enjoy life, but…(11:9-10)
People (young, and old alike) live as though they’re never going to have to account for their actions! We answer to God. He wants us to enjoy life. We can’t enjoy life if we’re harming ourselves. Much of what people think is a “good time” is actually self-abuse. I was reading recently how alcoholics can’t really enjoy a glass of beer or wine. They’ve lost the capacity to savor. Their enjoyment is spoiled, and a fine wine is wasted on them. It’s simply a means to an end. Benjamin Franklin observed that, “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Proverbs 104:15 says that God made wine to “gladden our hearts.” When we abuse this gift, we only hurt ourselves, and others. Solomon is calling us to a life of personal responsibility for our own good.
Why do we say, “youth is wasted on the young”? Because, however wild the younger generation may be, those who have some years on them know how they could act if they could only turn back the clock. Verse 9 says “Follow the ways of your heart.” In other words, do what your heart desires. If we desire God, our hearts will desire holiness.
Enjoyment of life doesn’t have to mean lawlessness. When we’re caught in lust, we think of God as a disapproving interferer; when we’re consumed by material things, we think of money as our supreme need and God as a mere extra. God wants us to find true love, and He wants us to discover how to be prosperous, regardless of our income. He wants us to enjoy life, the moral and healthy way. God created a good world, and He doesn’t want us to spoil our joy, so He’s given us some “rules for the journey.” He provides wisdom, purpose, and direction beyond our experience.
Obedience means not slavishly obeying God’s law but seeking His will behind the law. God wants only what is best for us. A wise teenager figured this out; he said to his dad, “Everything they teach in church and Sunday School comes down to one thing; if I remember this, everything else will be okay…I should just always ask what God wants me to do and then do it. That’s all.”
We are fairly tolerant of strangers, but more demanding with those we love. We’re passionate about their well-being. This is how God loves us. He fervently wants us to do right because He cares about our happiness. He’s against anything that diminishes our joy. We can’t know joy outside of God’s will. Catholic author Peter Kreeft states, “the theme song of those who live for self is ‘I did it my way.’ People think that is Heaven, when in fact it’s the song people sing in Hell.” True joy comes from saying to God, “Thy will be done.” When we live with virtue, we live with joy.