Life Principles - Ecclesiastes 7:7-15

Ecclesiastes  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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Life Principles Ecclesiastes 7:7-14 (c)Copyright June 28, 2020 by Rv. Bruce Goettsche Last week we began in Ecclesiastes 7. Solomon talked to us about living life with an awareness of our own mortality. Then he shared some simple proverbs and we continue with those today. It is important to clarify two things before we jump in. First, we need to ask, "Why is Solomon giving these to us?" It seems like Solomon has taken a step away from the philosophical to focus on the practical. In chapter 6:12 Solomon calls us to consider God's Sovereignty. He asked the question: "Who knows how our days can best be spent?" Solomon seems to be answering that question out of the wisdom given to him by God. And this very wisdom points to some of the same truths our Lord gave us. Secondly we have to preface these words with a caution. Anytime we look at practical words such as these there is a strong tendency to think the doing of these things will save us. We are forever looking for some kind of formula that will get us into Heaven. Living according to these principles will definitely enrich our lives and our relationships, but they cannot, and do not, save us. Only trust in Christ as our substitute can save us. I would go so far as to even suggest that before we can truly begin to truly obey any of this wisdom we first must have a change of heart that comes through a saving relationship with Jesus. With these two observations in hand, let's look at some of these practical words of counsel. I am going to attempt to state them as life principles. 7 Extortion turns wise people into fools, and bribes corrupt the heart. Stand on Your Principles I'm sure you have heard the saying, "every person has their price." Solomon urges us to take our character "off the market." If we want to live in such a way that we will have nothing of which to be ashamed when we die . . . we must be people who cannot be bought. Perhaps Solomon discovered what the price tag was for the character of many people. Solomon had lots of money. As we have observed many times already in Ecclesiastes, money turns people's heads. We have witnessed it often. * Congressman are bribed with expensive trips * Contractors pay off inspectors * People give false testimony in order to save their own skin * Women give up their purity to "keep" or "get" the guy * Officials get paid to look the other way * People promote a bad product because they were given a great deal of money to do so. * Even churches are sometimes willing to be held hostage by their biggest givers Once you have sold your integrity, it is difficult, if not impossible, to get it back. When you give up your integrity in one area, you lose it in every area . . . including your Christian witness. People lose respect for you and that respect is even more difficult to win back. Finish What You Start 8 Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride. You probably know someone who is always starting something but never seems to finish anything. Solomon urges us to see things through to the end. The satisfaction of finishing is far superior to the joy of starting something. * It is exciting to start building a house (for those of you who know what you are doing) but it is more satisfying to complete the building and be able to move in or turn the keys over to the new owners. * It is exciting to head off to college, but it is far better to be handed a diploma. * It is fun to come up with ideas for a new book, but it doesn't compare to opening that first box of finished books from the publisher. * It is fantastic to bring that new baby home from the hospital but it is even better to see them in adulthood as they begin their own families * It is great to think about going on a trip . . . it is far better to actually go. There are two other things that are better at the finish that at the start: our trials, and our salvation. Rick talked about it two weeks ago, we are promised that God is working for the good in all circumstances. We may never give God thanks for what happened, but we will thank Him for what God does with those hard times if we are patient and don't start thinking we know better than God does. Life is not always easy, sometimes it is downright brutal! But if you have lived long enough, you know that the greatest lessons of your life often come out of the hardships of life. Then there is salvation. Many people have started out making great declarations of devotion to the Lord and then they fizzle out. They got bored or impatient and just walked away. For many, Christianity is a "faze" they go through. That first moment of fully realizing the greatness of God's love and the incredible mercy of His forgiveness is staggering. But the idea that someday we are going stand before Him face to face is a blessing so wonderful it is hard to even take in. The Bible however warns us that only those who persevere to the end will be saved. True faith perseveres. True faith follows Jesus wherever He leads us. It is being so confident of His kindness and mercy that we will follow Him anywhere. Growth in Christ takes patience and endurance. * It is great to resolve to spend more time with God in prayer and Scripture reading, but following through is better. * It is great to think about witnessing to others . . . it is better to actually witness God change a human heart. * It is great to talk about ministering to others but the satisfaction of actually doing so is far superior. Remain Under Control 9 Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool. In the course of life there will be many frustrations. We need to keep the perspective from going to a funeral . . . most things are not worth getting angry about. The person who is always angry is the one others can dismiss as a "hot-head". The angry person also undermines their testimony. One angry blast can destroy months of patient work. Brant Hansen writes about Solomon's words as they relate to the idea that "everyone gets angry, that's the way God made us, The writer recognized that, yes, anger may visit us, but when it finds a residence, it's "in the lap of fools" (Eccl. 7:9). Let that sink in. When anger lives, that's where it lives: in the lap of a fool. Thinking we're entitled to keep anger in our laps-whether toward the sin of a political figure, a news network, your dumb neighbor, your lying spouse, your deceased father, whomever-is perfectly natural, and perfectly foolish. Make no mistake. Foolishness destroys. Being offended is a tiring business. Letting things go gives you energy. (Unoffendable p. 12) Ed Stetzer in his book, CHRISTIANS IN THE AGE OF OUTRAGE writes People who cannot resist responding to every poke or slight reveal through their lack of self-control that their anger is outrage rather than righteous anger. At this point in history, when everyone seems to be yelling all the time, the words of people who speak rarely and with intention carry the most weight. Watch for those who recognize the power in reserving their anger for truly important causes. Often these voices are the ones pointing us in the right direction. There is an ocean of wrongness and offense on the Internet; trying to correct it all is like trying to empty the ocean with a thimble. It is impossible and not what God has called us to. (86) Do you see how different this is from the contemporary mindset? Anger seems to be a badge of honor. Even many Christians are often proud of their anger. They brag about not letting anyone push them around. They love the idea of intimidating others. They take pride in the fact that they don't take nothing from nobody. Unfortunately, that sounds a great deal like you think Jesus was a wimp. Surely there was no one stronger than He was. Jesus got angry but it was to the glory of God . . . rather than defending his own glory. When He was attacked, He remained silent. We have gotten it backwards. We become angry at person offense and shrug at things that diminish the glory of God. Stop Looking Backwards and Keep looking Forward 10 Don't long for "the good old days." This is not wise. If you go back to the book of Exodus- Deuteronomy we see this Proverb illustrated. God rescued the people out of slavery in Egypt. And what did the people do? They complained. "Oh to be back in Egypt where the food was varied and life was good!" Do you remember what happened to these complainers? They died in the wilderness. When we look back and talk about the good old days there are some things we must remember 1. We have selective memory...we remember the good and block out the bad. 2. We are assuming we see all the blessings that reside in today; that we are making a fair comparison. 3. Someday, today is going to be the 'good old days.' do you think God is no longer in control? Do you think he hasn't brought you to the point where you are now and that he no longer loves you or has plans or purposes for you? To ask the question in verse 10 is unwise, because it forgets about God. Often when we ask this, it's because we are blind to the good things of the present and ignorant of the evil of the past. (living Backwards 1455) As believers we have to ask ourselves a question: "Why am I looking back when I have such an incredible inheritance in front of me? Why am I longing for the past when it is THE PAST? Once again, we touch on the element of contentment . . . the belief that God has me where I am right now for a reason and that reason is good . . . even if (or when) the circumstances are not good. And that leads us to verse 11-14 11 Wisdom is even better when you have money. Both are a benefit as you go through life. 12 Wisdom and money can get you almost anything, but only wisdom can save your life. 13 Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked? 14 Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life. Solomon was rich . . . very rich. He knew the value of prosperity. There is a measure of security that comes with a nice bank account. It can help sustain your through hard times . . . which is why all financial advisors tell you to try to save several months living expenses . . . just in case something happens. Riches can buy you lots of things but only wisdom can save your life! Wisdom is still there if the money runs out. Money and possessions can make your life more comfortable. And if you add wisdom to this you can do a lot of really good things in your life if you use your money wisely. I'm not talking about vacations and big houses. You can use money to alleviate problems, minister to needs, and underwrite ministries. But the bottom line is this: all the money in the world cannot and will not change the plan and purpose of God. He is on the throne. He is calling the shots. The Lord does not make everything happen (some things certainly happen as a result of our own sinful choices . . . but God allows these things for His good purpose.) Our freedom will never destroy or derail God's purpose. Solomon's advice is simple: enjoy the good times, but when the tough times come your way understand that everything comes through the nail-scarred hands of the Lord. God does not send bad things . . . but He chooses not to stop them. And there is a good reason behind that choice. I know this because God is good. A great Biblical example of this, of course, is Joseph. His life was one bad thing after another. He was hated by his brothers, he was sold into slavery, he was falsely accused of a crime, he was thrown into jail . . . and yet he continued to serve the Lord. When he was a servant, he was the best servant in the household. When he went to jail, he became the prison chaplain. When he was called up to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh, he gave all the glory to God. When he finally confront his brothers, he forgave them. How was he able to keep going? Joseph told his brothers, "Don't be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. 21 No, don't be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children." So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them. (Genesis 50:19 After Job lost everything in wave after wave of tragedies, Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. 21 He said, "I came naked from my mother's womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!" (Job 1:20-21) When Job's wife told him to curse God and die said, "You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?" (Job 2:10) This is what it means to trust God: looking past the hardships and focusing on the goodness of the Lord. This life is not all there is. We have not finished the story. Our confidence is this: no matter what happens in life, we count on the promise of the Lord that it will (for the believer) always result in a happy ending . . . but not necessarily in this life. In the new Heaven and the New Earth. We will sing His praises. We will bow before Him. We will, I believe, weep for joy as we see His plan and purpose in the things we once cursed. This truth is the foundation to everything else we said today. We work to be people of integrity because we are living to please the Lord and not men. We choose grace and forgiveness instead of anger and wrath because that's what we have been given in Christ. We don't look on the past wistfully because we are moving forever forward to that time when we shall see the glorified Lord and experience His love and redemption in its fullest. We should be different from the world not so we can somehow earn our salvation. We live differently because we have been transformed by His grace. Our world is desperate right now for Christians to live as if they believed God is big, in control, and eager to save all who come to Him. And the world will never believe what we say until they see that WE actually believe it. 1
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