A theme that you constantly see in the teachings of Jesus is that, just like it says in James chapter 4
God resists the arrogant, but gives grace to the humble.
Tonight I want to talk a little bit aboΩut humility and how it relates to our beliefs and to our understanding of the world and how it works.
Ecclesiastes is an odd book.
I don't think it's a cynical book, but I think we are people who have had our ears shaped by pop music, so when you're used to chewing bubble gum all the time, - life is easy, everything is awesome, even when it's not - a book like Ecclesiastes can feel really jarring.
But I think in the perilous times that we live in, a book like Ecclesiastes has never been more relevant.
Whole lot of people both inside and outside the church who are smart enough to know - The Experts don't know as much as they think they do, or as much as they'd like us to think.
As odd as it sounds, Ecclesiastes to me in a lot of ways can be really comforting when it reminds us that the experts (including the teacher himself!) don't know as much as they think they do.
Like I said last week: You don't have to be educated to be 'positive' that you're right.
And now, b/c of social media, everybody has a microphone.
Lovely book of Ecclesiastes comes along and reminds us that we don't know as much as we think we do.
When you first start reading the book of Ecclesiastes, it doesn't seem to be a very humble book - the teacher is talking about all these experiences - he's had all the money, all the girls, all the food, all the prosperity.
But what's odd is that it seems like through all the teachers travels, his main souvenir is 'humility'.
He comes back and says "I've done all these things, I've achieved all these things, and let me tell you, we don't really control that much. Or KNOW that much.
I've told you this before, and it's a weird thing for a pastor to say, but I'm very suspicious of people who make complicated things overly simple.
Especially in the church. People (and they're often times young) like to pretend like they've got everything figured out.
Who's : In / out. / Healed. / Good / bad.
I just feel like people who make that all really black and white are often times, people who's theories have not been tested in the real world.
I think nuance is required to understand the world.
The realities of life, especially the Christian life requires a certain amount of 'unknowing' and without it, I just feel like people are being dishonest.
Nowhere is this more true for me than the Christian movement known as 'date setting'. So this is people who will look at the bible mostly as a code to be cracked that will reveal to us when the rapture will happen.
We'll there was an author and speaker who in the 80's was incredibly popular - wrote a book called '88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will be in 1988'
Sold 4.5 Million Copies
As a frame of reference - the best selling book of 2015 - "Go Set a Watchman" by Harper Lee, it's the follow up to 'To Kill a Mockingbird' sold 1.5 million.
So to say it was a big deal is an understatement.
This past week I actually read some of the book, you can read it online, needless to say, it's not that popular anymore.
The rapture did NOT come in 1988.
You might think "This poor man! His career must have been ruined" Well, not exactly.
Follow-up books - 1989, 1993, 1994.
He wrote follow-up books in 1989, 1993, and 1994 all predicting the rapture in different dates and times. The day would come and go, and so he'd write a new book. And what's REALLY scary, is people bought them.
I don't believe the bible is a code - where what we're supposed to do is go in and try and find our name - or Obama, or anything like that. I think that's all silliness.
'Donald Trump - trumpet.'
There's a huge sect of Christianity that loves this whole thing of seeing some crazy conspiracy theory that has no citation or anything to back up the claim. and then they post it on Facebook.
Ironically these are the people that have a fundamental distrust of the media, yet some 20 year old in his basement, you believe every word he types. It's just weird.
Of course we love it when someone comes and speaks with authority and tell us they know things that no one else knows. The most authoritatively people speak, the more enamored we become.
I think the reason is we like to feel more certainty than I think the bible gives us.
The thing I love about the teacher in Ecclesiastes - the more he learns, at the same time he's also learning how little he knows.
"The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know." (Albert Einstein)
This is totally the book of ecclesiastes.
This to me, more and more is becoming my test for people growing in wisdom. I'm so unimpressed by people speaking authoritative all the time.
But I AM impressed with people speaking in humility.
People who say "I don't know." - I'm instantly drawn to them and I'm more likely to listen to them.
B/C that's real life.
The teacher in Ecclesiastes is on a journey and he's learning, but he's also learning how much he doesn't know and how much he's not going to know.
For every matter has its time and way, although the troubles of mortals lie heavy upon them. (Ecclesiastes 8:6-8)
Indeed, they do not know what is to be, for who can tell them how it will be? (Ecclesiastes 8:7)
No one has power over the wind to restrain the wind, or power over the day of death; there is no discharge from the battle, nor does wickedness deliver those who practice it. (Ecclesiastes 8:8)
When I applied my mind to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how one’s eyes see sleep neither day nor night, (Ecclesiastes 8:16)
then I saw all the work of God, that no one can find out what is happening under the sun. However much they may toil in seeking, they will not find it out; even though those who are wise claim to know, they cannot find it out. (Ecclesiastes 8:17)
That verse really levels the playing field.
Even those who claim to have all the answers : Don't.
Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11)
For no one can anticipate the time of disaster. Like fish taken in a cruel net, and like birds caught in a snare, so mortals are snared at a time of calamity, when it suddenly falls upon them. (Ecclesiastes 9:12)
I know that can seem negative.
But I personally find it encouraging to hear the bible say what everybody on the planet already knows, that it's not the best and the brightest that succeed. But sometimes it seems really random.
Just as you do not know how the breath comes to the bones in the mother’s womb, so you do not know the work of God, who makes everything. (Ecclesiastes 11:5)
In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hands be idle; for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good. (Ecclesiastes 11:6)
So that's some practical wisdom. There's a lot about God that you're never going to understand.
Like Isaiah says "His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and his ways are higher than our ways." There's many things about God that we're never going to understand in this life.
Here's the practical advice: Keep sowing your seed, b/c you don't know what things are going to turn out good and which are going to turn out bad.
Anyone ever been there? Started something you were positive was going to be some huge success? And then you try it and it just feels like rolling a giant boulder up a hill? Yeah me too. And then it seems like God blesses the most random things in your life. You just always do the best you can and you don't always know how things are going to turn out.
And at the end he says 'It's all Hebel'. Hebel - is used 38 times.
Some: vanity / some "meaningless." Really, what the word means is 'breath. Vapor.'
But then he brings us to the simple pleasures in life
The idea of the book of Ecclesiastes is everything is 'hebel'. But then he brings us to the simple pleasures in life - a good meal, friendship, this very moment.
So we don't have to live our lives obsessed with understanding everything, b/c we're able to experience the grace of God that's at work in simple things.
Maybe favorite verse in the whole book
For they will scarcely brood over the days of their lives, because God keeps them occupied with the joy of their hearts. (Ecclesiastes 5:20)
In other words : There's so much that people don't know, but God keeps us occupied with joy in our hearts.
Loved Ecclesiastes and he said this verse is key to understanding the whole book.
His commentary :
The summary and aim of this book, then, is as follows: Solomon wants to put us at peace and to give us a quiet mind in the everyday affairs and business of this life, so that we live contentedly in the present without care and yearning about the future and are, as Paul says, without care and anxiety (Philippians 4:6). It is useless to plague oneself with anxiety about the future.
Commenting on 5:20:
This is the conclusion of this entire book or argument. This statement is the interpreter of the entire book. Solomon intends to forbid vain anxieties so that we may happily enjoy the future, lest we permit the present moment, our moment, to slip away.
Let us therefore be content with the things that are present and commit ourselves into the hand of God who alone knows and controls both the past and the future.
That's the whole ballgame. People say it's a negative book, it's only a negative book if we try to seek fulfillment in the things he says will not satisfy you.
You can also see how this section of Ecclesiastes brings us directly into the heart of the teachings of Jesus.
You can see in Ecclesiastes that while beautiful, you get a sense of God being slightly distant, but then Jesus comes and teaches the same principles, but in the teachings of Jesus, God is so much closer than we realized.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? (Matthew 6:25)
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26)
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 6:27)
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. (Matthew 6:28)
Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. (Matthew 6:29)
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? (Matthew 6:30)
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (Matthew 6:31)
For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (Matthew 6:32)
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)
The message of Jesus is 'Don't be afraid. God knows what you need.' And God is committed the giving you what you need when you need it.
When you really believe that, that's where it becomes possible to not spend so much time worrying about the future.
And I just want to say that spending TOO much time there, doesn't do anything good. I know that for many of you, there's parts of your story, that you don't understand. And I just want to say that spending TOO much time there, doesn't do anything good.
That doesn't mean you can't ask the tough questions, by all means ask them. But if your life become consumed with understanding stuff, you'll get stuck.
I promise you : There's a lot of things about your future that you're not going to understand.
Jesus's council for us is : Stop worrying so much. God knows what you need.
It's this same teaching that gives us the Lords prayer that really circles around this idea: Give us this day, our daily bread.
That's a humble prayer.
Most - don't need daily bread.
Most of don't need daily bread. Most of us came in nice cars, reasonable bank accounts. What business do I have asking God for daily bread? Well we remember that whatever we ate earlier today (what did I eat?), well that was a blessing from God. And that prayer reminds us that we're completely dependent on him.
For me personally, I've recently realized that I spend a lot of time worrying about things that are really too big for me.
As weird as it sounds, it's actually very liberating to realize how dumb you are, because it reminds you how much you need Jesus.
(Let's do a show of hands) :
Which bring us to the obvious point: We don't understand everything.
But we can't let that reality stop us from enjoying the life we've been given.
So the book of Ecclesiastes has one giant limitation. And it says it over and over.
The book of Ecclesiastes is only talking about what happens 'under the sun'. It says that over and over.
It's only talking about this life.
But Jesus comes and his message is way bigger. He tells us that there's WAY more to life than life under the son.
The solution to the problem of death is : RESURRECTION.
There are some of you that have been wounded so deeply in this life, that let's be honest, you'll always have those scars.
But at the same time we know that God promises in the life to come, that total healing comes to us all of us.
Christians blessed -- patience. Christians more than anybody else have been blessed with patience. To be able to persevere even when nothing around us seems to change because we really do believe that there's more to life than life under the son.
B/C we really do believe that there's not a single wound inflicted upon us (even self inflicted) that will not ultimately be healed in Jesus.
There's is a day coming for all in Christ, where every person will be healed, every tear will be wiped, every sorrow will be erased, every affliction will be made right.
We have to believe that
That's what gives us the hope and courage for those times when we DON'T see anything changing around us.
Just like Ecclesiastes, sometimes we don't always see a lot to be super excited about right now. But we know there's a life to come that makes all things beautiful.
Remember the beatitudes "Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted."
Just like we can't always understand the trouble that comes with this life, we can't understand the beauty that comes in the life to come.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
I'm all about doing a series on heaven. And let's all imagine what it will be like, but also keep in mind that the bible is totally clear that no mind can fathom it. We can't even begin to imagine what it will be like.
In those moments, when it feels like the pain is so unbearable you can't even get yourself out of bed, we go back to these promises.
By the way, I do know what I'm talking about. This job, as amazing as it is, does cause you to experience more pain and suffering than most people do.
I've experienced the pain and suffering of people in a way, that rips my heart out. But I return back to the promise of the life to come. That somehow God has a way of making up for all the pain.
We remember that this entire life is just a short season.
I know it's not always that easy, but I also know that focusing on the things above changes the way you experience the now.
Paul didn't say we won't mourn. Paul didn't say we won't weep. He just says we don't mourn like those who have no hope.
There's 2 kinds of people and they go through the same thing, and one is a huge pile of goo for the rest of their lives, and another one grieves and suffers and then heals.
It's the difference between mourning WITHOUT hope and mourning WITH hope.
Remembering that healing is always on the way.
Not a question of IF, it's a question of WHEN. And I'm not ONLY talking about the life to come, I'm also talking in this life. How God has a way of coming and healing.
As I close, it's not just that you're not alone, it's that you've NEVER been alone. And you will NEVER BE alone.
I really believe there's people here who have NEVER trusted God like that. It's always about you understanding.
As they pass…
In your heart - God I trust you. I know you love me, I know you know what's best for me, and I trust you.
Imagine yourself putting your life in his hands.
Lead you in a simple prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ
Today I remember
That you love me
And today I remember
That you've always loved me.
Thank you for never leaving me alone
Thank you that in my worst moment
You've been there with me
You've always known me
You've always loved me
So tonight, I give you control