SERIES: BE SATISFIED
(part of this message adapted from a message by Dave Stone)
It’s great to be back with you this morning following a two-week vacation. We had a great time at the North American Christian Convention and bring you greetings from Tom and Beth Weaver and from Bob Larson. We also had a great visit with my dad. Thanks for allowing us the time off.
I want to share a story with you that I heard Max Lucado tell at the final main session of the NACC. It’s about three preachers who love to play golf. These three preachers die and go to heaven. An angel greets them and welcomes them to their eternal home. He shares some of the splendors of heaven. He tell them they can eat whatever they like – there are no bad calories in heaven. And if they like to golf, the golf courses in heaven are spectacular. They can play all they want. The angel then told them that the only thing they could not do was to hit any of the ducks on the water hazards. If they hit a duck, there were severe penalties.
The three preachers talked it over. They decided that they’d never hit any ducks while playing golf on earth and probably wouldn’t hit any in heaven, either. Besides that, what kind of penalty could there be in heaven?
These three preachers spent the next several thousand years playing golf. One day, one of them tees off and hits a duck right in the head. The duck falls over dead. The preachers look around to see if anyone saw what happened and sure enough, Saint Peter comes down the hill with the ugliest woman they had ever seen. He leg shackles the woman to the preacher who hit the duck. Saint Peter tell them that this is the penalty for hitting a duck. The first preacher is devastated. Not only is he leg-shackled to the ugliest woman he’s ever seen, he can’t play golf anymore so he leaves the group.
The other two preachers continue to play. After several thousand more years, another one hits a line drive on his approach shot and hits a duck. It keels over dead. Sure enough, they see Saint Peter coming down the hill leading an even uglier woman than before. He leg shackles the woman to the preacher and heads off back over the hill. The preacher knows his golfing days are over so he leaves the course.
The third preacher is disappointed but keeps right on playing golf. He plays for another thousand years and everything going great. He starts to hit a chip shot onto the green when out of the corner of his eye he sees movement. He looks up and Saint Peter is coming down the hill with the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. She is stunning. He is awe-struck.
Saint Peter leg-shackles the woman to the preacher. He just stands and stares for a few minutes. Finally, he gets the nerve to say something. He tells her, “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. I cannot think of one single thing I’ve done to be leg-shackled to you for eternity.” She says, “I have no idea, either. All I know is that I hit a duck!”
We’re going to complete our study through Ecclesiastes this morning. American novelist Thomas Wolfe said, “Ecclesiastes is the greatest single piece of writing I have ever known, and the wisdom expressed in it is the most lasting and profound.” Solomon has discussed a variety of important things in Ecclesiastes. Let’s look at a quick summary of those important things.
First, Solomon says that we are all on a spiritual search. We’re trying to find meaning in our lives in the things of this world. But Solomon says that these worldly things are “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!”
Second, the thrills and accomplishments of this life are incapable of satisfying our spiritual search. And Solomon shares his attempts in this area. He tried every avenue to find meaning in life: wealth, pleasure, education, prestige, and work. But nothing under the sun satisfies.
Third, Solomon points out that life presents some troubling mysteries. The more Solomon searched for the meaning of life, the more he discovered that life is unfair, that human wisdom is insufficient for the task, and that death awaits everyone.
Fourth, despite the mysteries of life and the reality of death, Solomon says that we have to resolve to enjoy life and live it to the fullest. Eccl. 9:10a – “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…”
Finally, Solomon says that we should live life in a way that pleases God. Eccl. 11:9b – “Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.”
In the final chapter, Solomon is saying, “Out of all I’ve had to say, here are the things I want to remind you about because I want you to remember them.”
REMINDERS ABOUT AGING
A little girl was talking to her grandfather. She asked, “Grampa, is it true that no one lived through the Flood except for Noah and his immediate family? Grampa replied, “That what the Bible tells us honey so it’s true.” The little girl said, “How did you and Grandma make it?”
Eccl. 12:1-7 – Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”- before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim;
when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets. Remember him—before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!”
Solomon warns: dedicate youR life to God while you still have a vitality of life to give. The fact of the matter is that we’re all getting older. And some of us are older than the rest of us. Solomon points out that getting older brings some things that aren’t very enjoyable. He talks about a time when we will no longer enjoy our years.
In vs. 2, he talks about the time when “the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after rain.” He’s talking about how our minds don’t work the way they used to when we get older. Our minds diminish in capacity.
In vs. 3, he mentions “when the keepers of the house tremble.” He’s referring to when our hands start to shake. He also mentions when “the strong men stoop.” He’s pointing to the time when our powerful legs don’t have the power they once had.
He talks about “when the grinders cease because they are few.” It doesn’t take much of a Hebrew scholar to know that Solomon is talking about our teeth.
He next mentions “and those looking through the windows grow dim.” He’s talking about our eyesight as we grow older.
In vs. 4, he says, “when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades.” Our hearing is starting to go.
Then he talks about the time “when men rise up at the sound of birds.” This is a reference to the fact that many of us as we get older do not sleep well. Sometimes our aches and pains keep us up at night. And we have difficulty sleeping in. We’re up with the birds.
Then he says, “but all their songs grow faint.” Our once strong and clear voice is no longer able to sing or speak the way it once did.
Vs. 5 – “when men are afraid of heights ad dangers in the street.” Things that used to never bother us have now become things that produce anxiety and fear in our lives.
The phrase “when the almond tree blossoms” refers to the color of our hair as we age. The almond tree has pink blossoms when it first blossoms and they turn a snowy white before they fall off.
“The grasshopper drags himself along.” Again, we don’t have the vitality and energy we once had. “The desire is no longer stirred.” The passion and romance has faded. The desire to reproduce/sexual desire is no longer strong.
Solomon is reminding us that there is coming a day when it will be too late to recognize God in your life. He repeats what he has said earlier in Ecclesiastes in vss. 6-7: Death comes to everybody. It is inescapable. When death comes, it is too late. Then life truly becomes what Solomon describes in vs. 8 – “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” That very statement is made several times in every chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes except for two.
Dave Stone tells about a man that he baptized years back when he was youth minister at the Shively Christian Church in Louisville back in the early 1980’s. The man was 84 years of age. He had a hard time getting around. Dave had to help him every step – up and down, in and out – of the baptistery. As they walked into the baptistery, the man opened up and shared about all the years he had spent living for himself and foing things he shouldn’t have done.
When Dave immersed him and then brought him up, he quoted 2 Cor. 5:17 – “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
Dave helped him back out of the baptistery down the stairway. The old man sat down and began to dry off. He also began to cry. He seemed happy and relieved but Dave could tell these were not tears of joy.
Dave asked, “Is anything wrong?” The old man replied, “I just wish I would have done it a whole lot sooner.” Dave answered, “But that doesn’t matter now. You did it. That’s the important thing, and I’m so proud of you.” And still the old man replied, “Yes – but I wish I would have done it sooner.”
REMINDERS ABOUT WISDOM
Let’s recognize something this morning: teachers are important. Our parents have served as our teachers. We’ve all had excellent teachers in the public school system and in college. Some of us have even had excellent teachers on our jobs.
If you were to hire a teacher, what would you want in a teacher? I think first of all you would want someone interesting – someone who could maintain your interest. Some who could keep you engaged in what they are teaching.
Second, you would want someone wise. It wouldn’t matter if they were interesting is they didn’t know what they were talking about. You would want someone not only smart but experienced in what they teach.
Third, you would want someone relevant. You would want someone who can address real issues we face in life and give us some practicalities in living out the teaching. You would want someone who could live out what they’re teaching and lead you into leaving out what they teach.
Solomon is described as that kind of teacher. Eccl. 12:9-12 – Not only was the Teacher wise, but also he
imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher
searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true. The words of the wise are like
goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd. Be warned, my son, of
anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.
Coming off of a repeat of the meaninglessness of life lived under the sun Solomon again encourages us in the direction of godly wisdom. Let’s not live life as viewed under the sun but rather as viewed under heaven.
Solomon first says that the words of the wise are like goads. Goads are pointy sticks that force large animals to travel in the direction they are being led to go. Like goads, sometimes the words of the wise hurt, but like the instruments used to guide livestock, wisdom directs us along the right path.
Next Solomon describes the words of the wise as being like embedded nails. Just like nails hold a house together, so too, godly wisdom holds our lives together.
A man was on a practice green when he saw the golf pro bring a student out to the driving range for a lesson. The pro watched the student swing several times and started making suggestions for improvement. Each time the student interrupted with his own ideas.
After several minutes of listening to the students ideas, the pro began just nodding his head. At the end of the lesson, the student paid the pro and thanked him for being such a wonderful teacher.
The man watching went to the pro and asked him why he quit teaching and just started agreeing with the pompous student. The pro said, “I learned a long time ago that it’s a waste of time to sell answers to a man who wants to buy echoes.” Are you listening to echoes or seeking after true wisdom?
REMINDERS ABOUT JUDGMENT
Eccl. 12:13-14 – “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including
every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”
The title of this series through Ecclesiastes is “Be Satisfied”. Solomon says if you want to be satisfied, you have to live your life with the knowledge that when life is over, God will be our judge. If we live with this view of judgment, then life here will be satisfying and life hereafter will be eternally satisfying.
First, satisfaction comes when you live for the right person. You have to live for God. Solomon had spent the majority of his life living for someone other than God. And coincidentally, it’s the same person for whom many of us find ourselves living. I won’t tell you the individual’s name, but you can find out by grabbing the closest mirror and looking into it!!
The more Solomon lived for himself, the more empty he felt. Sometimes we live for others’ approval. Listen to some of the wording scattered throughout Ecclesiastes that Solomon chooses. He says, “I devoted,” “I tried,” “I thought,” “I undertook,” “I denied myself,” “I become,” “I built,” “I acquired,” and yet “when I surveyed all that I had done…everything was meaningless.” Well Solomon, it’s not about you and it’s not about me!
Sometimes this concept of fearing God is confusing to Christians. Is this saying that we should be terrified of Him? How do you balance this with the concept that we are to love God? While this comparison falls far short, you might think of a godly, earthly father. He is firm, but fair. At times he is feared yet he’s still loved. His children have a healthy fear and an acknowledgement of who he is and what he has the authority and power to do. At times I feared my dad because of his discipline when I disobeyed but I love him.
C. S. Lewis had the right understanding of how to fear God. In his Chronicles of Narnia series of children’s books, Aslan, the lion, is the hero of the books. Aslan represents Jesus Christ, and the children are quite drawn to him. But at the same time they’re rather frightened of him. After all, he is a lion. And if he wanted to, he could tear them limb from limb. Early on in the story, one of the children inquires about this King Aslan and asks someone, “Is he safe?” And I love the response, “Oh no, he’s not safe…but He’s good.” Live for the right person and fear God.
Second, satisfaction comes when you live by the right standards. Solomon has found that fulfillment in this life comes when we obey God and live by His standards. Most people wouldn’t say that sounds fulfilling. Living by established standards sounds so restraining and restrictive. We think that fulfillment is found by doing whatever we want, whenever we want. But Solomon discovers that’s not true.
Child psychologists discovered an interesting truth several years ago. Contemporary thought assumed that fences on playgrounds made the children feel restricted in their recreation. A consensus was then reached to remove the fences so children wouldn’t feel confined. But, get this, the opposite effect occurred. Researchers found that the children became more inhibited with their activities. They tended to huddle toward the middle of the playground and exhibited signs of insecurity. When the fences were replaced, the children played with greater enthusiasm and freedom. You see, it’s true—life is more fulfilling with boundaries.
That’s why the most sexually-fulfilled people are those who are faithful in a marriage relationship. Every survey has always shown that and will continue to show that. They realize the value of boundaries.
Chuck Swindoll said, “The grass may indeed look greener on the other side of the fence, but it is poison. A loving God put the fence there in order to protect us.”
Solomon was taught the truth when he was young, but he thought he knew better. He thought he was missing out, but in time he realized that it only led to emptiness. Solomon says that you don’t have to go all the way down this road to find out it doesn’t lead anywhere. He puts up a sign that says “dead end” to save you the time and pain.
Solomon discovers that God’s way really is the best way to find fulfillment. The reason we find fulfillment in keeping God’s commandments is because God created us and knows what’s best for us. Because He is the Designer and Creator we can have confidence in His word. It’s a reliable instruction manual and so we live for the right person and with the right standards.
Finally, satisfaction comes when you live with the right focus. This is the backdrop for every choice you make each and every day of your life. I love that phrase that you see sometimes. Sometimes it’s even used as an epitaph on a tombstone. It says: “Only one life will soon be passed. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” This life is to be lived with eternity in mind.
People say, “What’s the world coming to?” The world is coming to a day when a trumpet will sound, the sky will split and Jesus returns, but the first time He came in love and the second time He will come in power to judge the living and the dead. He will assign everyone to either Heaven or Hell based on whether they have put their trust in Him.
What’s the world coming to? The world is coming to a day when every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. So the choice is yours. You can bow now because if you wait to bow on that day it will be too late.
There was a young boy during the late 1800’s walking across the street when a runaway stagecoach came tearing down the street. A young man watching what was happening jumped into the street, grabbed the boy and dragged him to safety.
The young boy grew up to be a hated and feared outlaw. He was finally captured and appeared before the judge. The outlaw recognized the judge as the man who had rescued him years before. At his sentencing, the outlaw reminded the judge of the incident and asked for leniency.
The judge replied, “Sir, that day I was your savior. Today I am your judge and you are sentenced to be hanged for your heinous crimes.”
Jesus came the first time as Savior. He’s coming again as judge. Are you ready for His return?