First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ July 26, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11; Ephesians 5:15-16
The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong dislike for Christians and churches. As he plowed his field on Sunday mornings, he would shake his fist at the church folk driving by on their way to worship. October came and went, and the farmer had his best crop ever. When the harvest was complete, he placed an advertisement in the local newspaper which belittled and made fun of the Christians for their faith in God. This was the message in the newspaper, “Faith in God must not mean much if someone like me can prosper.” The response from the Christians in the community was quiet and polite. In the same newspaper was this comment: “God doesn’t always settle His accounts in October.” For everything there is a season for sure.
As you may remember, this summer I am preaching through the book of Ecclesiastes. We are in the third chapter this morning. Ecclesiastes chapter three is probably the best-known passage in the entire book. It’s a poetic masterpiece. I think it has so much to teach us, so this morning we will ponder its wisdom as it relates to our lives. As we do so, let me offer two reminders from Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
First: Recognize the Seasons of Life
Ecclesiastes chapter 3 states its main point in verse 1: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” The Preacher then gives 14 examples in pairs that cover every area of life.
There was a time that you were born; there will also be a time that you will die. There are times that you plant a tree; there are times that you have to chop a tree down because it’s grown old and no longer bears fruit. There’s a time that soldiers are at war shooting each other; there’s a time when peace is declared, and former enemies stand together at the cenotaph in remembrance. There’s a time to build a building; there’s a time when you take down the building in order to make something new. There are times to weep, and times to laugh. To cry at the wrong time is just as bad as laughing at the wrong time. There’s a time to accumulate possessions; then there’s a time to give things away because they are no longer needed.
What the Preacher is saying in Ecclesiastes 3 is simple, yet profound: recognize the seasons of life. When we do so, we will evaluate, reorganize, and reorder our lives. You will allow some new things to be born in your life, and let other things die. You will be able to recognize whether this is a time to plant, labor under the scorching sun, or just a time to wait for the harvest. Is it a time to break down or a time to build up? Is it a time to keep silence or a time to speak up?
The process of reorganizing our lives is transformative. Most likely, you will have to give up some stuff in your life to make room for other things that are more valuable and beneficial. You will look at the things that your heart adore, and you will either love them more or stop loving them at all. You will have to reevaluate what you do, and you will come up with either yes, this is so central to my life, this what makes my life meaningful, or no, this is just time consuming but has no value to it. Life is to a great extent all about timing; it’s about doing the right thing in the right season.
Second: Acknowledge Your Limitation
Ecclesiastes chapter 3 offers another truth that is for some people may sound very uncomfortable one, but for me, it’s very comforting. This truth is that we humans don’t control the seasons of life; God does. You may notice that most of the things, of life activities, the Preacher has listed in Eccles9astes 3 are things we have no control over, but God does. As I said, this could be a troubling reality to a lot of people today, but for us, Christians, it should be a comforting one.
We believe in God’s providence. Nothing can happen to us by chance. This great truth ought to cause all of God's children to shout “Hallelujah!” We believe in a God who is wise, who sees the end from the beginning, who is never caught by surprise. We believe in a God who is powerful, who is Almighty, to cause all things to work together for the good of those who love Him.
We’re not in control, the Preacher says, but God is. He is the King of time, and He does everything just at the right time. God is always right on time; He’s never too early and He’s never too late. This is very good news for us, especially given the ever-changing circumstances of life. God is in control of the times, and he’s always on time.
Our work, our choices, our decisions, therefore, need to flow within the timing of God. We need to stop trying to force our will on life and instead, learn to live within the timing of God. In other words, we need to learn some humility. A lot of our stress comes from trying to get control of what is beyond our control. Once we know that it is God's timing that matters most, we can rest in this truth. Then we become more faithful, more gracious, more generous, and more responsive to the movement of God in our lives. That’s why Ecclesiastes 3:11 states, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
The peace of God comes to those who learn to live within the beauty of God's timing. Jesus lived and died with great sensitivity to what he called “His hour.” “My hour has not yet come,” ~ a phrase that Jesus repeated several times in the gospels to indicate His submission and obedience to God’s timing.
Friends, we are creatures of time who were made for eternity. Yes, we are mortal and trapped in time, yet, we know there’s more. We are made to ask the bigger questions of life. We want to understand and find the meaning, to discern God’s purpose for our lives, and wrestle with it to make it happen. That’s what the Preacher is saying in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
Life isn’t random. God is in control. This saves a lot of worry. Philip Melanchton (1497-1560 AD) was a dear friend with Martin Luther (1483-1546 AD). Melanchton would occasionally worry a bit too much about the situation in Germany. Luther chided him, saying, “Let Philip cease to rule the world. It is none of our work to steer the course of providence, or direct its motions, but to submit quietly to Him who does.” It’s liberating to know we’re not in control. There is a king who reigns, and we are to honor Him in all the seasons of life. So whatever season you are living right now, make the most out of it. “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16. Amen.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.