Enjoy Life While You Can
Sermon Text: Ecclesiastes 11:1-12:8
Sermon Theme: Work hard and enjoy life while you still can.
Solomon presses the rich to do good to others. Give freely, though it may seem thrown away and lost. Give to many. Excuse not yourself with the good you have done, from the good you have further to do. It is not lost, but well laid out. We have reason to expect evil, for we are born to trouble; it is wisdom to do good in the day of prosperity. Riches cannot profit us, if we do not benefit others. Every man must labor to be a blessing to that place where the providence of God casts him. Wherever we are, we may find good work to do, if we have but hearts to do it. If we magnify every little difficulty, start objections, and fancy hardships, we shall never go on, much less go through with our work. Winds and clouds of tribulation are, in God’s hands, designed to try us. God’s work shall agree with his word, whether we see it or not. And we may well trust God to provide for us, without our anxious, disquieting cares. Be not weary in well-doing, for in due season, in God’s time, you shall reap, Galatians 6:9.
Life is sweet to bad men, because they have their portion in this life; it is sweet to good men, because it is the time of preparation for a better; it is sweet to all. Here is a caution to think of death, even when life is most sweet. Solomon makes an effecting address to young persons. They would desire opportunity to pursue every pleasure. Then follow your desires, but be assured that God will call you into judgment. How many give loose to every appetite, and rush into every vicious pleasure! But God registers every one of their sinful thoughts and desires, their idle words and wicked words… This is not the language of one grudging youthful pleasures, because he can no longer partake of them; but of one who has, by a miracle of mercy, been brought back in safety. He would persuade the young from trying a course whence so few return. If the young would live a life of true happiness, if they would secure happiness hereafter, let them remember their Creator in the days of their youth.
We should remember our sins against our Creator, repent, and seek forgiveness. We should remember our duties, and set about them, looking to him for grace and strength. This should be done early, while the body is strong, and the spirits active. When a man has the pain of reviewing a misspent life, his not having given up sin and worldly vanities till he is forced to say, I have no pleasure in them, renders his sincerity very questionable… If sin had not entered into the world, these infirmities [of the aged] would not have been known. Surely then the aged should reflect on the evil of sin.
(From “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible”)
- Do we place too much hope in the things humans create? Are these things vain because, ultimately, they have no useful end? Therefore, should we be diligent to seek truth and love God, in whom there is no vanity?
- Is one’s life of indifference causing discouragement? If we are never sure which endeavors will prove fruitful, the right approach to life is to give ourselves to the responsibilities at hand, and await the course of events. The life of faith which leads to joy and contentment does not give infallible knowledge of the future. The Preacher has a doctrine of providence, but it is not “calm and tensionless constant.” The believer finds motivation in knowing that life is supervised by God — God’s plan is relentless.
- Why is there a rise of suicide and depression among young people? Bitterness, grief, and anger ought not to be part of a young person’s heart. It is imperative that young people use these years to develop a spiritual stability that comes from walking faithfully with God during the youthful years. This will help a person weather future challenges that will come with the passing of years. God intends for us not only a life of faith but also one of joy. Focusing on things above the sun in serving God and serving others will take the focus from serving ourselves under the sun.
- How do we guard the youth from the gradual progress in self-indulgence? The young is especially prone to this—they see the roses, but do not discover the thorns, until pierced by them. For true religion will cost self-denial, but the want of it infinitely more (Luke 14:28-30).
- Many people think young people should “sow their wild oats,” then later they can begin to serve God. How would you respond to this idea? How is this in conflict with the following: “Remember” that you are not your own, but God’s property; for He has created you (Psalms 100:3). Therefore serve Him with your “all” (Mark 12:30), and with your best days, not with the dregs of them (Proverbs 8:17; 22:6; Jeremiah 3:4; Lamentations 3:27).
- Is youth the best time to make the connection with God? For it is not propitious to establish a relationship with God in old age—God’s judgment may have already happened on a hardened heart. An ambivalent attitude toward God is hard to overcome.
- While in your youth are you studying the ways of Jesus? Remember that youth is best seen ultimately from the perspective of old age, from the threshold of death—so study the Scriptures with deliberation for youth and vitality are transient.
- Do you make judgments as to who is promising or unpromising when sowing the seed of the gospel? Can we understand the future of who may bear good fruit? Sometimes it seems very difficult to sow charity in faith, without hesitancy or speculation as to results, because they may not seem promising.
- Are you waiting for the “right” time to get involved in the church? Are you paralyzed by concern for the “right” time? The danger is that if one remains always on the watch for the perfect moment, one will never act. One has to get on with an enthusiastic committal to living and give up the luxury of being “certain.” One cannot remain inactive under the pretext of waiting for the “right” time.
- Does it cause you concern that certain aspects of God’s working on earth defy explanation? The mystery which shrouds our very origin underlies the whole of reality (Isaiah 44:24-28; Psalms 104:29-30; Job 33:4; 34:14-15). The life of faith does not remove the problem of our ignorance; rather, it enables us to live with it. Faith flourishes in the mystery of providence; it does not abolish the mystery of life. Take life as from the hand of God and enjoy it despite its trials and perplexities—never throw up your hands and quit.
- What attitude should a person create such that they do not become bitter and angry over the challenges and limitations that come with the aging process? Since aging is inevitable and often brutal, it is ridiculous to live for this world. So take heart, even though one can no longer serve God, as in youth, pleasure in God continues to the godly old (Isaiah 46:4).
1) Two words describe the joyfulness of life, sweet (mātôq) and good (ṭōb). The latter is a general word, as widely used as the English word “good;” the former, more precise, is used of the sweetness of honey (Judges 14:14), the opposite of “bitter” (Isaiah 5:20). The twofold description implies that life is not only good in itself but that it is to be savored with enthusiasm, as one might enjoy honey. For when the light of life becomes darkness (death), no more opportunities will be available to live a life of faith. Life does not yield up its joys easily. All that lies ahead in the earthly realm is fundamentally unreliable. For this reason passivity cannot lead to a life of joy. The vanity of life involves delay, uncertainty, perplexity and difficulty, ignorance and disappointment. It is this that makes effort on the part of man so necessary.
2) “Keep in view three things and thou wilt not come into the power of sin. Know whence you comest and whither thou goest and before whom thou art to give strict account. Whence thou comest—from a fetid drop. Whither thou goest—to the place of dust worms and maggots: and before whom thou art, to give strict account—before the King of kings, the Holy one blessed be He” (By R. T. Herford, 1930)
3) The following is from “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture” 29 Vols
GIVE GENEROUSLY. (By Isaac of Nineveh): When you give, give generously, with a joyous countenance, and give more than you are asked for, since it is said: “Send forth thy morsel of bread toward the face of the poor man, and soon you will find your recompense.” Do not separate the rich from the poor, nor try to discriminate the worthy from the unworthy, but let all persons be equal in your eyes for a good deed.
SHAMEFUL BOLDNESS. (By Augustine): Therefore, if anger has held out with most shameful boldness in the heart of any one of you until these holy days, now at least let it depart. [Thus] your prayer may proceed in peace and … may not stumble, tremble, or become mute under the pricking of conscience when it has come to that passage where it must say, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive also our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
PUT SORROW AWAY. (By Ephrem the Syrian): Put sorrow far from your flesh and sadness from your thoughts, except only that for your sins you should be constant in sadness. Cease not from labor, not even though you are rich, for the slothful person gains manifold guilt by his idleness.
ANGER MUST NOT BECOME A PERMANENT CONDITION OF THE HEART. (By Didymus the Blind): In Scripture the spirit is continuously called “heart.”: The passage therefore means: Even if we sometimes are caught up in anger, this “anger” should not be allowed into the “heart,” so that the anger does not become a permanent condition. And when suddenly a desire comes up in the part of the soul which deals with desire, this desire should not be transferred to the spirit and to the part of the soul that deals with reason. Otherwise it becomes a permanent condition and not just an affect or a precondition for this affect, but simply evil.… If “anger is banished from your heart,” you will not do evil through the members of your body. Whoever is caught by anger often fights and may even decide to kill. Thus, if you “banish anger from your heart,” then evil, which comes about through deeds, will vanish as well.
SOLOMON KNEW VANITY AND ITS CONSEQUENCES. (By Chrysostom): Hear what Solomon says, who knew the present world by actual experience. “I built houses, I planted vineyards, I made gardens, and orchards and pools of water. I gathered also silver and gold. I got men singers and women singers, and flocks and herds.” There was no one who lived in greater luxury or higher glory. There was no one so wise or so powerful, no one who saw all things so succeeding to his heart’s desire. What then? He had no enjoyment from all these things. What after all does he say of it himself? “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Vanity not simply but superlatively. Let us believe him and lay hold on that in which there is no vanity, in which there is truth and what is based upon a solid rock, where there is no old age or decline, but all things bloom and flourish, without decay or waxing old, or approaching dissolution. Let us, I beseech you, love God with genuine affection, not from fear of hell but from desire of the kingdom. For what is comparable to seeing Christ?
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