First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ August 2, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
Ecclesiastes 3:11; Colossians 3:1-4
Today we continue working our way through the book of Ecclesiastes. Over the last few weeks, I’ve received several encouraging e-mails, text messages, phone calls, as well as in person comments from church members and those who follow the live streaming, each saying that Ecclesiastes is helping them to live well amidst the storm of this pandemic. I am grateful to God for that. As I have said before, Ecclesiastes has so much to say to the 21st century American Christians. Written almost three thousand years ago, Ecclesiastes is relevant today as it was back then.
We are in chapter three and last Sunday we had the chance to look at Ecclesiastes 3:1-8., one of the best-known passages in the entire book. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven,” says the Preacher in chapter 3:1. Ecclesiastes 3 challenges us to consider two important things: (1) to recognize the different seasons of life and to make the most out of every season; (2) to simply acknowledge our limitations. We said that we, humans, don’t control the seasons of life; God does.
I don’t want to wrap up our reflections on Ecclesiastes 3 without getting the chance to look at verse 11. It’s an important verse. It says, “God 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.” God has set eternity in the human heart. What a profound statement! We are made for eternity. This morning I would like to unfold this statement, then I will offer one suggestion that I think will help us keep eternity at the center of our lives.
First: What is at Stake?
What does the Preacher mean when he says that God “set eternity in the human heart”? It simply means that every human soul has a God-given awareness that there’s “something more” than this world. In His love, God gives a particular blessing to each person and that blessing is an awareness of eternity.
In other words, there is within every one of us a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill. People try to fill that space with so much stuff. Sometimes we try to fill it with good things like relationships, work, art, music, and so many other things. Sometimes we try to fill it with bad things like drugs or alcohol or other things that do us harm. The truth of the matter is that you will never going to fill that vacuum with something else, because it is a God-shaped vacuum and only God can fill that empty space within you.
Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430 AD), a remarkable 4th century North African theologian once said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” (Augustine, Confessions, Book 1, Chapter 1). He also said, “You have put salt in our mouths, O Lord, that we may thirst for you.”
This is the paradox of our humanity. We are creatures of time, we have a beginning and we have an end; we get born and one day we die. The paradox here is that death is not the end because God set eternity in our hearts. Yes, we are prone to wander off God’s way, but no matter how messy we get, God keeps calling to come back to Him and we keep wrestling with this calling until we surrender and make a room for Him in our lives.
God has set eternity in the human heart. Are you looking for something you just can’t find? If you’re not looking for it in God, then you are looking in all the wrong places. Only God can satisfy. This world in its present form is passing away. It’s temporary. It’s transitory. We know there must be more to this life. Why? Because God has put a longing for heaven within every human heart.
God has set eternity in the human heart, yet, we are told, “no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” In other words, in our fallen state, we sense there ought to be something more than this world but can’t discern what it is. So we wander and wander. But the good news is that our God is a God who has revealed Himself to us; and through that revelation, with the ultimate revelation being His coming to earth in the Person of Christ, we can understand what we need to understand regarding eternity. In other words, God has provided the way to enjoy this life eternal, and that leads me to my second and last thought for today.
Second: Set Your Heart on Things Above
God has planted the seed of eternity in our hearts, He put that awareness, and it is our responsibility to nourish it. In Colossians chapter 3 the Apostle Paul exhorts the Church in Colossae to set their hearts and minds on things above. It’s a deliberate and intentional decision we make. It doesn’t just happen by itself. By default, we are drawn toward the things of this world. This is why Colossians 3:2 says to “set” our minds on things above. We are so distracted by the things of this world and we need a lot of effort to stay on track.
Martin Luther, the 16th century German Protestant Reformer, once challenged one of his students by saying, “I’ll get you a new horse and carriage (wagon) if you can pray the Lord’s Prayer and concentrate on every phrase without losing your train of thought.” “No problem,” the young man said. After he had prayed the prayer, he, however, confessed to Martin Luther, “all I could think about was the horse and carriage (wagon).” As much as he tried to concentrate and focus on the Lord’s Prayer, his mind was drawn elsewhere. It’s not that easy to set our hearts on things above.
Setting our hearts and minds on things above doesn’t mean we detach ourselves from our responsibilities and obligations in this world. At the end of the day, we are still on earth and we have to take care of lots of business. Rather, it means to live with eternity in mind. It’s gaining a whole new perspective in life; to see our life as God sees it; to see what God sees vanity as vanity and what God sees enduring and trustworthy as enduring and trustworthy.
Friends, God has set eternity in our hearts. There is within every one of us a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill. And because heaven is our destination, we shouldn’t get comfortable here on earth. Enjoy God’s good gifts while you are here, but remember – you are a citizen of heaven, and heaven is your true home. This world in its present form is passing away. The longings we feel in this life, that unsatisfaction, all point to God. We are pilgrims on a journey. This place is like a rental. Yes you make yourself somewhat comfortable in a rental property, but you’re not going to invest everything you’ve in a place that is not yours. Earth is not our true home, so don’t get too comfortable here. Enjoy God’s good gifts, but invest in heaven. You’re made for eternity. Amen!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.