May 2, 2021

How To Embrace Life

Passage: Ecclesiastes 3:1-17

His name was John – a young man in his late twenties who attended Alcohol Anonymous meetings for a few months.  One of the people shared that it was Jesus Who helped him to conquer his drinking problem.   John wanted to know more about this Jesus and decided to attend a Baptist Church down the street.  He walked in the Sunday morning when the whole congregation was seated and just as the minister entered.  John was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt with holes in it.  He walked down the aisle and looked for a place.  There wasn’t a single empty seat and no one moved over to make room for him.  He went all the way to the steps in front of the pulpit and sat down.  As you can appreciate, John had all the people’s eyes on him.  There was dead silence and it was almost like the congregation waited for the minister to say something.  Then Bob, one of the elders in the church, got up and made his way to the steps.  He sat down next to John, so that he wasn’t sitting just by himself.  There were many wet eyes in the church that morning.  Bob passed on a few years later and when his eulogy was given by his son, he asked, “What was the one thing in dad’s life I will remember him for?”  He answered, “The day when he went to sit next to a young man who at the time didn’t know where his place in life was.”  What God wants you and me to consider is that we have to embrace each moment in life we have, just like Bob embraced the moment that day in a Baptist Church.  We have to live with what we have before us.

The wise Solomon considered the preciousness of life.  From our reading in Ecclesiastes 3 there are 3 keys he shares with us about How To Embrace Life: The first key is to
1 Accept God's Guidance In Every Aspect Of Your Life.
Ecclesiastes is seen by many as a book of inevitable contrasts.  There are the good things we want to embrace – birth, planting, building, laughing, to love, dancing and gathering.  When we see those things around us, we feel that we have purpose in life.  Who would not want to gather those they care about around them and love them?  But then come the times when things turn out the way we don’t want it to.  Death is the one reality we don’t like talking about.  We all can remember the times we had with loved ones, but now their places are empty.  Life can be over sooner than what we can ever anticipate.  Love is one aspect that can change so fast.  I once counseled a member whose husband left her for another woman.  She said to me, “What I will never comprehend is that my husband told me just 3 months ago that he will never love another woman the way he loved me.  How could it have changed so fast?”  Solomon brings the sweet and bitter of life to us – the good and the bad.  And he doesn’t even give us the option – “What do you want to hear first – the good news or the bad news?”  But is his wisdom he knew that God’s guidance would bring us to the other shore in life.  My friends, everything we go through in life, we have to surrender to God – He will make us conquer.  I will never forget the testimony a man named Gary Kieswetter gave at a Presbytery meeting in Potchefstroom, South Africa.  He felt called for ministry and did all the studies to have the right credentials.  But he never got called to a church.  He went to a hotel for a lunch with a friend and he told him, “I wasted years of my life studying to become a pastor.”  Just then he overheard a hotel executive say to someone as he walked by their table, “If there was only a pastor who would minister to businessmen in hotels.”  Kieswetter couldn't believe what he heard.  To make a long story short – he began a  ministry in that same hotel.  He then went on to establish more hotel ministries in other cities, as he trained people.  He shared at the Presbytery meeting – “God knew what I didn't know at the time I finished me studies.  He knew where He wanted me.”  Can you and I allow God to guide us through life, despite what the circumstance might be?  With Paul we can affirm the words in Romans 8: 28, “We know that all things work for the good, for those who love God.”                                               

The second key Solomon tells us about is:
2 Focus On Eternity.     We read in verse 11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men…”
CS Lewis once wrote "If I find in myself a desire that this world cannot fulfill, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."  As much as we appreciate the beauty of everything God made as Solomon wrote, God had something else in mind for us – He wants to gather us all in His heavenly realms.  This world has to pass – its foundation isn’t firm enough to last for eternity.
How should we think of eternity?  I think 99% of people who are asked this question will answer, “Well, it’s obvious.  Eternity is the life to come.”  But then my friends, commentaries on Ecclesiastes 3: 11 tell us that God had already planted eternity in our hearts.  We already are the heirs and we wait in anticipation for the time to come when we will be in heaven with God.
How can we embrace this life with what we see and hear every day?  There are too many negative things – a World Pandemic; famines in African countries; another plane crash; another earthquake; another innocent child who died from aids… the list is getting longer and longer.  But my friends, you and I have the hope God planted in our hearts – the hope for eternity!
We have to take note of how the King James Bible puts it – “…also He hath set the world in their heart…” It’s like God has placed the reality of the permanent from the beginning in people’s hearts.  All that people have to do is to surrender their lives to God in Jesus Christ so that they can spend eternity in His presence.
Already now those of us in Christ, can embrace the permanent.

The last key for Embracing Life is
3 Strive To Do Good.  Listen again to verse 12, "I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live."
My friends, our world wants to see something good for a change; people want to see Christians who follow in the footsteps of Jesus Who did just good when He walked the earth.  He started a movement of doing good when He inspired a group of fishermen to follow Him and to go and do good in the lives of other people.  And from them it had gone from generation to generation.  Can we only try to comprehend what we do when we do good to others?  We make God real to them.  A missionary to China learned upon his arrival that he wasn’t allowed to speak in the name of Jesus.  At first he was devastated and thought of going back to his home country, but then he decided to stay and help the poor.  He shared his food with them and did some repair work without accepting compensation for it.  He made sure that he visited every sick person.  After 2 years he returned to his home country.  When a new leader took over in China he was more lenient towards the Christian faith and another missionary went to proclaim the Gospel.  One day he read the passage of the Good Samaritan and one of the elderly men who came to the service jumped up and shouted with excitement, “I knew him; he was here!”  The new missionary tried to explain that what he read about was a story Jesus told, but the man insisted.  Then the missionary realized that the man referred to his predecessor.  The good he lived made an impact.
My friends, what good are we demonstrating at this stage of our lives?
What testimony can be given about what good we do in the lives of others?
In a world of self-centeredness we have to break through and show the good that flows from the heart of God.

In closing, let’s pause and complete the following phrase,
4 “Life is….”  How would you complete this phrase, “Life is…”?  Some would say, “…a waste”; others would say, “…unfair.”  There are those who would say, “…brutal.”  When we think of life as Christians, most of us will complete the phrase as, “Life is precious and to be embraced.”  It's our task to bring the sense of life to those who need the answer for their life situations, Jesus Christ.
Let’s live every day for what we have and let’s prepare ourselves for what is to come.

Amen.

Rev. Willem H. van de Wall