First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ September 20, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
Ecclesiastes 9:11-12; 2 Timothy 4:6-8
A teenage boy was once asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Influenced by the threat of nuclear war, the reality of terrorist attacks around the world, and the most recent pandemic, the boy thought for a moment and then replied with just one word: “Alive.” I believe all of us today join this teenage boy in his wish. We want to be alive. From the dawn of time, the love of life lies deep in the human heart.
This morning we continue working our way through the book of Ecclesiastes and we get to chapter nine. It’s been a great journey teaching and preaching from Ecclesiastes and although we didn’t get to study the book verse by verse, I believe we covered all the major themes found in Ecclesiastes. In chapter nine, the Preacher continues to tackle the topic of wisdom and folly and our focus this morning will be Ecclesiastes 9:11-12. In today’s passage, the Preacher addresses the brokenness of our world and our response to such brokenness. So, what does the Preacher in Ecclesiastes nine have for us today? Two short observations:
First: Life is not Always Fair
Listen to the words of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:11-12 “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. 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.”
Life is not always fair. Many of us have had experiences that confirm the truth of the words of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes nine. All our carefully laid plans have fallen apart; all our dreams that we had what it took to succeed in some particular area of life crumbled, and we could not understand why. We had to learn, as this text says, the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong. We experience today the same exact thing the Preacher of Israel noticed three thousand years ago. It’s not always the fastest runner winning the race. It’s not always the best leader becoming CEO. It’s not always the strongest soldier winning battles. It’s not always the highest skilled worker getting the promotion. It just doesn’t always work out that way.
“Time and chance happen to them all,” says the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 9:11. In other words, there are elements of circumstance that have to fall together even before someone with great abilities can accomplish his or her goals. You have to be the right person, at the right place, at the right time.
The message that King Solomon wanted to share with us today is that life is not always under our control. The illusion that the secular media presses upon us all the time is that we can handle our life by our choices. It’s your life! You can live it the way you please.
But Ecclesiastes reminds us that it cannot be done that way. “Time and chance happen to them all.” Just when you think you have something under control, it can all fall apart. Disasters come when we least expect them. Our inability to see the future means we cannot anticipate or prevent all of the evil that might conspire against our labors. “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,” says the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 9:12. What is the wise response to the brokenness and unfairness of life?
Second: Trust in God’s Sovereignty
If this is the case, and if it’s true that no matter how carefully we plan or how hard we work, the swiftest might lose the race; the stronger army can be defeated; the smartest person does not always earn the most money; the most learned may not receive favor; and the wisest can go hungry, what is the wise response?
Scripture repeatedly commends wise planning and hard work, yet we need to remember that we live in a fallen and broken world. We also remain subject to two powerful forces: “time” and “chance.” One important observation here is that we need to know that in Ecclesiastes, the Preacher does not view chance as a force operating outside of God’s oversight. Ecclesiastes has a strong doctrine of divine providence that understands the Lord as having established a set time for every matter under heaven (3:1–8). Therefore, we know that our brokenness and failures happen for a reason.
The point of Ecclesiastes 9:11-12 is not to dissuade or to discourage us from planning or to make us cynical about what we can do to live successfully; rather, the Preacher’s aim is to keep us humble and to remind us of our proper place in creation. We are called to be diligent and wise, but events are never entirely under our control. God is sovereign, and we are not, and that truth should encourage us, as we plan, to trust finally and wholly in the Lord and not in our plans.
So, my friends, plan hard, work harder. Do your part! And then rest easy. God is in control of both our talent and our time. We know that the winds sometimes only blow in ways that ships don’t desire. Be ready for life’s detours.
The realities of the brokenness of our world, human inability, time and chance, should drive us to seek God’s mercy and grace. The randomness of life should drive us to God. No wonder that toward the end of his life, Paul was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” 2 Timothy 4:7. Paul didn’t mean that he never lost a battle, he never got discouraged running a race, he never struggled spiritually, but Paul says, looking at my spiritual journey since that day I met the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, I can say one thing: when faced with the randomness of life, trust in God’s sovereignty. Who wins the race of life, then? It’s those who trust in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.