BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVES/Advice to a young person
Wednesday, August 20, 2014 1:00 PM
In Ecclesiastes 11, the Preacher is beginning to wrap up his argument and has entered into his final exhortation. He's calling us into the life of faith: to reject the life of faithlessness, the life of unbelief, and the life of indifference to spiritual things. He's exhorting us and saying, "Choose this day whom you will serve." But the form of chapter 11 is almost like a letter to a young person; like a grandfather sitting his grandson or granddaughter down and saying, "Now let me tell you a little bit about life."
A Call to a Confident Living
In verses 1 and 2, he is asking you to meditate with him on what is the proper response of a person to twin truths which he has taught throughout this book: that life apart from God is empty and that God is providentially in control of everything? How do you respond to this life, in all its twists and turns, in light of these two truths?
He is calling us to a bold, confident approach of living life in light of the uncertainties in life because of the certainty of God. This is a call to an adventure of faith. He's calling you to live boldly and to trust God because life is uncertain, but God is in control. There are different ways that you could respond to the uncertainties of life and, especially, the heart-breaking uncertainties of life: you could curl up in a fetal position and just pull back, you could become cynical about everything, or you could just be paralyzed, fearing the next bad thing that's going to happen.
Now apart from pagan responses to the difficulties of life, there are, frankly, a variety of Christian responses. There are some Christians who take comfort in this life saying, "Well, my choices will determine my future. I'll make my future by my choices." Now, friends, think about it, some of the most significant events in your whole life are things that you had nothing to do with in choosing. They just happened. But, there is comfort in the fact that God knows how it's going to turn out. And there is comfort in the knowledge that He knows the future and that He holds the future.
And then there are other friends who say, "Well, here's how I get comfort: our actions determine the future. The future's not set; it's as yet uncertain. And our actions determine the future. And we take comfort, not because God knows the future, because God doesn't know the future. We take comfort because God has to take risks too, just like we do." Now these dear folk are utterly deluded. They're wrong on both counts. The Bible makes it clear that God does know the future. And so the idea that God doesn't know what's coming, from a biblical standpoint, is utter rubbish. And they take comfort that God has to go through the same processes of choices in the face of an uncertain future that we do, and so He can sort of guide us along the way because He's been at that game for a long time. And there's no comfort in that view of finding comfort in this uncertain life. No, the answer of Proverbs is very clear. Life is uncertain, but God is certain. And my work, my actions, my responses are the instruments of the Almighty God in bringing about the fulfillment of His purposes.
Human Inability to Alter the Crises of Life
In verses 1-6, he's asking you to think about what is the proper response to those un-anticipatable, unfixable uncertainties of life. The point of these verses is clear: we can't control the uncertainties of life. So, if we can't control the difficulties of life, what must our response be? Well, the response is clear from the context of verses 1-5. We are to trustingly contemplate the fact that we are not in control of the uncertainties of life, and, therefore, the way we get comfort is not gaining control (we're never going to gain control of those things), but realize God is in control. His providence is overarching and we must resign ourselves to trust in that providence.
Trust in God's Providence for Life's Uncertainties
In verse 4 he says, "He who watches the wind will not sow, and he who looks at the clouds will not reap." He's saying, "Sitting around and thinking about the uncertainties of life is not going to accomplish anything." He's saying, "Don't be paralyzed by the "what-if's" of life. Go for it! Sow! Reap! Providence will determine what you sow and what you reap, but go for it! Go ahead and do it!"
Do you remember Jesus' parable of the talents? Three guys get money: one - a lot, one - a little, and one - just one coin. The guy who gets one coin buries it. Why? Because he's afraid. Afraid the investment will go bad, and he'll get in trouble. When the master comes back, with whom is he angry? The guy who buried the talent. Why? Because he did not boldly trust in the providence of God. Faith flourishes in the mystery of providence. Faith doesn't solve the mystery of providence. It trusts and obeys and boldly believes and acts.
Rejoice in Life
How do you respond in the life of uncertainty? Bold, confident, believing living? What about happiness? In verses 7-10, the Preacher is very serious about your pursuit of happiness: and not a shallow happiness; not a happiness that is merely pleasure. But, he knows that God means for His children to experience joy in this life, and so he urges us to be serious about rejoicing in life: "Let him rejoice in all his years!" Verse 9: "Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes." Now don't misunderstand what he's saying. He's not saying, "Live it up while you're young." He's not saying, "Be young, be foolish, but be happy." He's saying this: "This life is meant by God to be savored with enthusiasm and joy, for two reasons: It's going to slip by very quickly and that joy is not found easily or automatically. Therefore, savor it with enthusiasm and joy.
But savor it knowing that the end will come. In the second half of verse 9, Solomon is saying, "Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things." He's saying, "I've got my eye on you in Oxford. I got my eye on you in Starkville. I got my eye on you in Madison, or wherever you are. Remember the judgment." So in the kind of joy you pursue, you make sure that it's the kind of joy that on the last day, when you're standing before God, He will say, "My son, My child, My daughter; I'm so delighted that you found this joy."