Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Seasons of Life



Part 4 of a series on the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes.

Text: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

Let’s begin with a music trivia question. Question: What #1 pop hit has the oldest lyrics? Answer: The Byrds' version of Turn! Turn! Turn! (released on October 1, 1965). The lyrics are from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. If the traditional view on the authorship of Ecclesiastes is true, then Solomon should be given him lyrical credit for a number one hit.

In this passage, the Preacher gives us three conclusions about the seasons of life:
  1. God is in control; we are not. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven (v. 1). Some people live in the past or the future and don’t enjoy the present. (Stores are always one season ahead.) “Making the best use of time” (Ephesians 5:16). Life is a vapor (“vanity”). It goes by so quickly. Don’t miss opportunities. We can’t determine the number of days, but we can determine if our life will be full or empty. How do we have full lives? (1) Enjoy God’s good gifts in the present (vv. 12-13). (2) Serve God and others, which has eternal significance. We see God’s control (sovereignty) in His perfectly-time plan of salvation: "When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son" (Galatians 4:4). "Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel'" (Mark 1:14-15). "They were seeking to arrest [Jesus], but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come" (John 7:30). "Before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father…" (John 13:1). "[Jesus] said, 'Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, "The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples"'" (Matthew 26:18). "While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6). "[Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again" (Mark 8:31). "…the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:14-15). "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only" (Matthew 24:36). "So when they came together, they asked him, 'Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?' He said to them, 'It is not for you to now the times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority'" (Acts 1:6-7). Not only was God in control of the plan of salvation, but right now He is in control of my life. "My times are in your hand" (Psalm 31:15).
  2. God sees the big picture; we do not. Life is like a jigsaw puzzle: (a) Each piece has its proper place. He has made everything beautiful [fitting] in its time (v. 11a). (b) We know there is a big picture. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart (v. 11b). C. S. Lewis wrote, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." (c) We get frustrated by our inability to see the big picture. Yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end (v. 11c). Only God can see time from beginning to end. We can see only a few pieces of God’s puzzle. We don’t see "the picture on the box."
  3. Let God be God, and stand in awe of Him. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him (v. 14). “Let us offer God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29). Fire should not be taken lightly. “If you play with fire, you will get burned.” We must approach God (“a consuming fire”) with respect. He is our friend, but He is also the Sovereign Lord. Knowing that God is in control does not necessarily mean we always understand or appreciate His timing. Maybe you are going through a difficult season of life. It’s been said, “When you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart.” We cannot see the “big picture,” but we know that God loves us and that, in the end, His plan for us is good.