Summary: A sermon for closing out the old year by realizing that "the end of a thing is better than it’s beginning." (Ecc. 7:8)
As I reflected on the end of the year and what to say to you in this last Sunday morning sermon of 2001, I thought of Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 7:8 “The end of a thing is better than its beginning;” Now I know some brethren would like to say that a proper translation of that verse is that the end of a sermon is better than its beginning and while I am not sure that is sound translation, I would agree with the point. You see, as much as you struggle to get the point in some of my sermons, I also struggle to make the point. I have slaved over introductions and bodies, but invitations are usually pretty easy. The gospel call is relatively simple to make and the end of a sermon is usually better for me than the beginning. I have also preached a few sermons in which I was simply glad to make it to the end. But even more than in sermons, this point can be seen in life.
Maybe you traveled over the Christmas holidays. If so, you know that the end of a trip is infinitely better than the beginning. It always feels so good to come back home and know that all the hours in the car are behind me. Imagine a ship that leaves for a far port. When it returns with all its cargo, the captain knows just what storms they weathered in the trip. He remembers nearly running aground or being swamped. He recalls the three nights they spent without ever seeing the stars and three days without the sun. For him, the end of the voyage is clearly better than the beginning. Or perhaps, we should think of a soldier, going off to war. Is not the end of a thing better than the beginning for that soldier? How he longs to complete his tour and be safely home!
This point is obviously true in so many instances in life but it is not absolutely true. It must be taken with a grain of salt. There are exceptions to the rule which we will look at later. I would like however, to examine some points from this simple text in Ecclesiastes that I believe will help us here at the end of the year.
First, this verse can soothe your regrets. In another 36 hours or so the year 2001 will become a part of history. Perhaps you are mindful of opportunities that you have missed or mistakes that you have made. Regrets sting. Many people question whether or not the end is really better than the beginning was. This verse can help take the sting out of your regrets of the past. So many people say, “My, how time flies! I wish I had this year over! I would love to fix this or that.” Yet if you will seriously think about this statement, you probably don’t mean it. Ecclesiastes 7:10 says, “Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?” For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.” It is not wise to wish to go back in time. Be like that ship’s captain for a moment. Would you really like to relive the storms of 2001? Maybe you have undergone some physical storms, would you really like to hear the doctor give you the bad news again? Or perhaps your struggles were spiritual. Think of it. The arrows that Satan has slung at your faith this year are gone! They can never be used against you again! To be sure, he will sling more, but you have outlasted these. Would you really like to go back and struggle with those temptations again? 2001 is gone and you are older and wiser for having lived through it. James says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” God has used the events of 2001, even our failures, to help us grow. If you think about it, the end of 2001 is better than it’s beginning and we truly wouldn’t like to go back and live it all over again. We are freed from our past.
Second, this verse can calm your fears of the future. Some people look at the beginning and ask, will the end really be any better? Maybe you know the storms of 2001 and you are afraid of what the storms of 2002 will bring. Will I be able to bear up under it? Remember that no matter how bad the beginning is, the end is always better. Many Christians have more trials early in their Christian walk rather than late. And all of us are growing in our Christian walk. Lamentations 3:27 says “It is good for a man to bear The yoke in his youth.” If you wake up in the morning and the sun is behind the clouds, you don’t assume that the sun will never shine again. It’s like a girl who saw an eclipse of the sun. She asked her daddy, “Why did the sun go out?” That’s understandable for a child, but an adult knows that the sun will shine again. If you are in a dark period of your life, don’t despair, the sun will shine again. Take this verse as a prophecy to give you hope and dispel your fears. The end of the matter will be better than the beginning. God is still in charge. He promised Israel through the prophet Jeremiah “For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” God has a plan for you, even in this dark time. Think about the story of Joseph. He is sold into slavery by his own brothers, falsely accused and thrown in prison. It was his darkest moment. Yet he could never have risen to his high position of power in Egypt if he had not gone to prison. We must stoop to conquer and like gold we must be refined in the fire before we can truly shine. If you are in a dark moment and dreading the future, take heart from this verse for the end of a thing is better than its beginning.