January 17, 2023

Topic: Celebration

Book: Ecclesiastes

Bible Passage: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

This morning we are going to continue our series called “Yearly Rhythms.” The first Sunday we talked about planning financially for the year.  Last Sunday we talked about the importance of planning relationally for the year.

Listen, I am sure that many of us still feel a fog about life or a general malaise about life.  I pulled up the top songs for January and three of the 10 are about checking out / numbness of life.

We have Escapism by Raye with lyrics like, “I don’t want to feel.  You’re asking me my symptoms doctor, and I don’t want to feel.”  We also have Lay Low by Tiesto with lyrics like, “Lay low with the sun.  I feel high, I get high, lay low with the sun.”

And everyone’s favorite, “I should not be left to my own devices, they come with prices and vices, I end up in crisis, I wake up screaming and dreaming.”  Taylor Swift.

It’s possible you might be focused and ready to chase after all your dreams in life but it seems like most people are struggling to find motivation, struggling to find optimism and when we find ourselves in that place we dream big, start small.

That’s the whole purpose behind Yearly Rhythms.  Every person in this room in Austin, TX has God given gifts, God given resources, God given abilities that we will never tap into unless we are intentionally putting ourselves in a place to submit our life to Him, hear from Him, dream big and start small, and that’s the whole purpose behind this Saturday, January 21st.

If you haven’t signed up, you need to sign up.  The deadline is January 18th.  This Wednesday at midnight!  Sign up on the QR Card.  Childcare is available.  Lunch is provided.

And I encourage you to start praying today that the Lord would put big dreams on our hearts, help us submit those dreams to the Lord, and then start small steps toward chasing after those dreams.

This morning we are talking about the importance of planning to celebrate.  I wish I could tell you to chase your dreams in life and Jesus is going to help you accomplish all your dreams in life but that isn’t true.

Life is hard.  Sometimes you can do all the right things and life is still hard.  Sometimes it’s difficult to hear from the Lord.  Sometimes our marriages are not easy.  Sometimes parenting is difficult.  Sometimes you want to quit.  Sometimes our physical bodies break down, which is why we need to take every chance we get to celebrate, which brings us to Ecclesiastes 3.  Let’s look at God’s Word.

During the pandemic I broke up the passage into three points to help us follow along but we need to be digging into God’s Word, so let’s start with Ecclesiastes 3:1-4:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— 2 A time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. 3 A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build up. 4 A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

Confetti falls from the ceiling!  This is God’s Word.  I think right now it might be hard to know what is true these days.  I think it might be hard to know what and who we can trust.

Politicians mislead us.  Science is constantly changing.  Sometimes the closest people in our life betray us but God’s Word is trustworthy.  Ecclesiastes is in the Old Testament.  Old Testament is broken into three sections; history, poetry and prophecy.  Ecclesiastes is the poetical part of Scripture, considered the wisdom part of Scripture, which means you are going to see a lot of metaphors and similes.

In addition, Ecclesiastes is written by Solomon, son of King David, at the height of Israel’s history, and Solomon is one of the wisest people in the world because in 1 Kings, in the Old Testament, Solomon was approached by the God of Scripture to make any request and it would be granted.  Can you imagine?

Solomon could have asked for money to get helicopters, vacation homes, and have Billie Eilish sing him a lullaby.  Solomon could have asked for the intelligence of Elon Musk, and rock out Jeopardy every day!  Solomon could have asked for all the power in the world, and do you know what Solomon asked for?

Solomon asks for wisdom, so that in the book of Ecclesiastes we see a gathering of Solomon’s wisdom and in Ecclesiastes 3, verses 1-8 we see the language, “A time to kill, heal, tear down, build up, war, peace, love, hate and you might be familiar with these words because of songs like “To everything (turn, turn, turn).  There is a season (turn, turn, turn).

But Solomon didn’t write these words as a fun song because in verses 1-8 Solomon is making the observation that life is exhausting.

People are born, but then they die.  You have peace, but then war is coming.  You fall in love, but then the relationship breaks up.  Stock market goes up, stock market comes down.  Have you noticed that pattern in life?

Have you noticed you have to keep working on life no matter what?  You can’t work out really hard for 3-months and think that will carry you through the year.  You have to work out every week the rest of your life.

You can’t get your house in Austin clean one day and think that will last.  No, you have to clean your house over and over and over and over.  Every day you take showers, eat food, do the dishes, wash the clothes, wash, rinse, repeat.  Good morning!  Look at verses 9-10:

Ecclesiastes 3:9-10, “9 What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils? 10 I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.”

In verse 9 Solomon asks, “What’s the profit?”  Solomon is asking, “What’s the point of life?” Teenagers are asking that question all the time, “What’s the point?”

In verse 10, “I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.”  Do you see that in verse 10?

The phrase “the task” is talking about the responsibilities we give ourselves in life like going to work, cleaning our room, taking a shower, changing diapers, doing laundry, making our bed and Solomon is asking the question, “Why?”  Why do we bother doing these things over and over, every day?  Why?

I have been thinking a lot about this as a pastor.  As a pastor I teach the bible, I talk to people about Jesus, I work with people and people are a squirrely bunch.

Sometimes people are really excited about God and sometimes we aren’t.  Sometimes people are really faithful and sometimes we aren’t.  Sometimes people want to hear God’s Word and sometimes we don’t, so that sometimes I find myself thinking, “Surely there is something else I could do with my life!”

When we are young we are convinced our career is going to give us meaning in life.  We are convinced are friends are going to be forever.  We are convinced that romantic relationship is going to give us goose bumps forever and then as you get to your 30’s, 40’s and 50’s you realize none of it was true, so that you are asking yourself the question, “What’s the point?”  Look at verse 11:

Ecclesiastes 3:11, “11 He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.”

In verse 11 we see the answer to the question, “What’s the profit?”  Look at God’s Word church family.  What’s the answer? In verse 11 we see the God of Scripture has “set eternity within the hearts of humanity” so that we have this weird tension of knowing life is hard and yet we keep trying, on some level, to make life better.  Have you noticed this?

We know romantic relationships could end but we still keep getting involved in romantic relationships.  That’s weird!  We know the house is going to get dirty but we keep cleaning.  That’s weird.  Why would we do that?

Verse 11, “the God of Scripture has set eternity in the hearts of humanity.”  This phrase “set eternity in their hearts” is a poetical language to being made in the image of God.

It is a poetical reference to God’s fingerprints being all over humanity so that we all experience hardship in life and yet we are all born with this innate sense of persevering through the hardness of life.  Isn’t that amazing?

The toddler falls down, and keeps walking.  The teenager gets made fun of at school and doesn’t quit.

And this pattern in humanity is consistent with every human in every culture. Throughout human history human beings don’t just build a shelter but instead we build a home.

We put up decorations.  We paint art on the walls.  We organize furniture.  We start with one room, then we add another room to make improvements.  Why is that?  It’s because the God of Scripture has set eternity in our hearts.

I know our schools in Austin teach us that humans descended from animals.  They say humans and chimpanzee’s genome sequence is 96% similar and we’re like, “Wow!”  But, that 4% make a big difference.

Can you imagine beavers getting together to critique one another’s dam, so that over time it turns into multi-level high rises?  Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Can you imagine birds working on tricks in the air to perfect their skill of flying?  They don’t.  It’s because humans and animals are not the same.  Genesis 1, humans are set apart from the rest of creation, made in the image of God, so that “He set eternity in our hearts.”  Look at verses 12-13:

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, “12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; 13 moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God.

Solomon’s conclusion?  Celebrate!  If we just stopped with verses 1-11 we would go home a little depressed, but Solomon draws the conclusion, “Life is hard, celebrate.”

In some ways, we make life hard because we don’t just crawl under a rock and die.  We have desires that we chase after.  We try to make things better.  We explore.  We love.  We build families, so that no matter where you live in the world, no matter where you live in history, life is going to be hard, therefore, celebrate!

Now it’s important to clarify this doesn’t mean drunkenness, gluttony, sexual immorality and numbing ourselves to the trials of life.

No, God’s Word is acknowledging the hardness of life and then God’s Word is teaching us, “Don’t lose sight of God’s good hand on our life.”

There’s oxygen in the air.  Rejoice.  We woke up this morning.  Rejoice.  We have relationships with others.  Rejoice.  Most of us sat in a car, drove 70mph and arrived here safely.  Rejoice!

This is what makes our event on January 21st so important because we don’t want to passively celebrate but instead we want to plan to celebrate!

If you are under 30 then you might not see the urgency, because our culture helps us celebrate till about the age of 30.  Throughout life our culture helps us celebrate graduating high school, college, first job, first house, first baby, and all along the way people are applauding and cheering you on, but around the age 40 the applause stops, the cultural celebrations come to an end, and if you’re not careful life can get really depressing, therefore, we need to plan to celebrate.

Listen to me, please don’t think this is a personality type.  I am not a naturally celebratory person.  I naturally like to feel sorry for myself but God’s Word teaches us to celebrate, so through the power of the Holy Spirit, obey God’s Word and celebrate.

In our life we have a senior finishing up high school, we want to celebrate.  We have a 15-year-old who is planning to get his license, we want to celebrate!  We have a foster son who will likely be reunified with his biological mother this year, and we will celebrate.  Why would we wait till the day before, the week before?

But it isn’t just our children.  My wife and I will celebrate 24-years of marriage in June.  We want to celebrate!  My wife will turn 26-years old in March.  We celebrate!

It doesn’t mean you have to rent a ballroom, confetti fall from the sky.  It can be something as simple as pausing before a meal and thanking the Lord for His provision and protection in life but God’s Word is teaching us to celebrate His goodness in life.

Did you know that’s why we pray before a meal?  Romans 1 teaches us to thank God for His provision, so before our meals we bow our heads to pray over the food, not because of tradition, but to say, “Thank you.”

Thank you for the farmers.  Thank for the sun and the rain.  Thank you for the truck drivers.  Thank you for HEB.  Thank you for the cashiers.  Thank you for those who prepared the meal.  It’s all celebration!

On Saturday we will take an account of how the year will unfold, Lord willing, and we will look for mile markers to celebrate along the way.

This year I am going to celebrate working out every week for 2 years.  I’ve never done that in my life!  Lord willing, I am going to celebrate 14 years as a church family.  Praise God!

Then throughout the year our family tries to put those mile marker events into the Memory Jar.  Some events are planned, some are spontaneous, and then we will read them out loud at the end of the year.

Men, will you take lead in this area in your home?  Sometimes I will hear our men say, “I can’t think of different ways to celebrate and I don’t want my wife to think I am just taking your examples.”

I didn’t make these up on my own.  I stole them from someone else.  They’re not my ideas.  Therefore, take these ideas and change them, or copy them, it doesn’t matter.  Just find ways to celebrate God’s grace in our life! Let’s close with a reminder of Jesus.

Ecclesiastes 3:14-15, “14 I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. 15 That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by.”

The end of verse 15 is a little hard to understand, but in another translation, it says:

“That which has been already and that which will be has already been, for God makes the same things happen over and over again.” 

Listen, it is possible we could read through Ecclesiastes 3 and think, “Why didn’t the God of Scripture just make everything easier?”  Why does life have to be hard?

He did make life easier.  It’s called Genesis 1 and 2.  Everything is perfect, nothing is hard, but humanity rejected it in our sin through Adam and Eve as our representatives for humanity.

Some will push back, “Why do we have to suffer because of Adam and Eve?”  If I was there I wouldn’t have rejected God’s goodness.  Yeah you would, because you do now.  The Lord pours out His goodness over and over and over every day throughout the day and we find the one thing He didn’t do and we focus on that.

We reject His goodness all the time but in God’s wisdom and grace, verse 15, He “makes the same things happen in life over and over again.”

Sit in that for a second.  He created life to be perfect.  We rejected Him and as a result, in His grace and wisdom, He makes life unfold in such a way that we would collapse under the fatigue of this world and reach out to Him.

It’s kind of hard to grasp, but it reminds of what life is like for a child.  As a parent, we create scenarios for our children to grow throughout life.

We teach them to crawl, we teach them to walk, ride a bike, and each stage we come alongside them to help them take that step of growth, so that under the fatigue of life they reach out to their parents for help.  Isn’t that amazing?

He could have made us fatalistic so that we quit under the hardness of life.  He could have made us euphoric so that we ignore the hardness of life.  We are all just really positive people who keep running our heads into brick walls.

But instead, He imbeds His image into humanity, so that under the fatigue of life we all, instinctively, inherently, reach out to Him.

We saw a snapshot of this when Damar Hamlin dropped to the ground in the middle of an NFL game.  Everyone can deny the existence of God all day but when the trials of life hit us in the face and then every one of us drops to our knees in an uncontrollable prayer to reach out to Him.

Listen to me, who were those people praying to in that moment?  Some distant power out in the cosmos?  God’s Word teaches us that in that moment all of humanity is crying out to Him and Him alone.

This is why Jesus is so important.  Jesus isn’t some distant power out in the cosmos.  Jesus is God in the flesh.  He lived a life so that we might know He is God in the flesh and He doesn’t wait for us to reach out to Him but instead He came near.

He stepped into our toil and frustration.  He takes our toil and frustration upon Himself at the cross.  He conquers our toil and frustration in the resurrection, so that all who call on His name might be reconciled to our Heavenly Father and take part in the greatest celebration we could ever imagine.

Listen to me, if you have never trust in Jesus, please know our hope in life is not to perfect the frustrations of our world, but our hope is to turn to the One who perfects all things for eternity.  That’s the ultimate reason we celebrate.