First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ October 11, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
Ecclesiastes 11:1-6; Philippians 2:25-30
Today we continue our journey in the Book of Ecclesiastes and we get to Ecclesiastes chapter 11. As the Preacher, the Qoheleth, King Solomon, nears the end of his journey, his remarks are full of perspective and hope. He becomes more pragmatic and practical, and less philosophical.
In today’s Scripture, the Teacher invites us to be risk takers; something that most of us are not good at. Most people want to play it safe and as a result, we are missing lots of blessings. Someone said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Jimmy Carter said, “Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.” You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Risk takers change the world. Risk takers impact their communities and pave the road for others.
Some of us might say, “Wait a minute, godly people don’t take risks!” We are to be wise and always consider the cost. That’s true, but I see no contradiction between this and being a risk taker. In fact, the Bible is full of people who took risks and achieved so much for the glory of God and the good of others.
Following God is all about being a risk taker. Without the willingness to take risks … Abraham would not have left his land and his people to the land the Lord will show him; Moses would never have gone back to Egypt to lead the oppressed to the Promised land; Elijah would not have faced the prophets of Baal and call the nation back to worship the God of Israel; Esther would not have appealed to the King for the lives of her people; Daniel would not have prayed three times a day; David would not have stood before Goliath; Rahab would not have helped the Israelites; Peter would not have stepped out of the boat; Barnabus would not have embraced Saul of Tarsus; Paul would not have gone on his missionary journeys. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself was a risk taker.
Taking risks is part of living by faith. In Philippians 2:25-30, the apostle Paul introduces to us a Christian, a regular dude who took great risks for Christ. His name is Epaphroditus. We don’t know much about Epaphroditus, but we do know he took risks for Christ. Epaphroditus was sent by the Philippians to Rome to bring finances to Paul and to minister to Paul in any way. In Rome, Epaphroditus became dangerously ill. Paul says in Philippians 2:27, “He almost died” then in verse 30, he says, “He risked his life.” Through his sacrifice, Paul was ministered to and the letter to the Philippians got carried to the believers in Philippi. A good risk is one which is biblical, Spirit-filled, confirmed by the church and for God’s glory.
That’s what we’re looking at in our passage today from Ecclesiastes 11. Solomon would tell us today don’t play it safe; take risks. And he says two things:
First: Take Wise Risks
“Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days,” says the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 11:1. What does this mean? It obviously doesn’t mean getting soggy pieces of bread back that you’ve thrown into the waves. Some translations put it this way: “Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return.” When Ecclesiastes was written, Israel had been transformed from a small agricultural nation to one that was right on the trading route between Egypt in the west and Asia and Europe in the East and North.
In Ecclesiastes 11:1, the Preacher tells us to take a risk, to engage in a trade, to wait for the goods to sell, and the ships to return with fine goods from foreign lands. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. To “find it after many days” is to receive the reward that comes after risking a wise investment. Get out there and do something, the Preacher says.
Verse 2 continues “Divide your means seven ways, or even eight, for you do not know what disaster may happen on earth.” Here again we have the element of risk. Solomon says diversify your investments. Be creative. Be open to try and invest in seven or eight ventures. Don’t withdraw from investing, because then you’ll lose out on any potential gain. Invest boldly and wisely. Don’t be idle.
Second: Don’t Wait for Perfect Conditions
Here is what the preacher says in verses 4-6, “Whoever observes the wind will not sow; and whoever regards the clouds will not reap. 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. 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.”
Don’t wait for the perfect conditions because if you wait, you will not do anything. The picture here is for a farmer who is waiting for a day with minimal wind to scatter their seeds. That way you could scatter the seeds evenly over the field. But this perfect weather may never come, so at some point, you have to take the risk. Friends, if we wait until we are “less busy” or until we think it is the right moment, we will do nothing. At some point, you just have to scatter the seed trusting the sovereignty of God. We need to see that the results are in his hands. We are not in charge of results. We are in charge of being faithful with what God has given us. The rest is up to God.
This may be one of the easiest passages in Ecclesiastes to explain, but one of the hardest to apply because we are prone to play it safe. Life and ministry are risky. There is a risk in loving. There is a risk in commitment. There is a risk in sharing our faith. There’s a risk in giving financially to support ministries. There’s risk in going to the mission field. There’s risk in almost everything that we do.
Be a good steward. Be proactive. Be wise with your life. Cast your bread upon the water, for you will find it after many days. In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hands be idle. Do something. Don’t be idle. Invest in what is lasting and eternal. Sow the seeds of love and hope and trust God to cause them to grow. Recognize the providence of God. In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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