Do you live your life in a way that makes the invisible God visible? Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg explains why, as Christians, we should be the best at genuinely enjoying life and experiencing happiness. Alistair is teaching today from Ecclesiastes chapter 11.
If you want a heading for the whole chapter in two words with an exclamation mark, it is this. Celebrate life. Celebrate life. Verse 1 and the first of the three. Go for it. Verse 2. Diversify. Verse 1, go for it. Verse 2, diversify. And then stick with it.
The qualifying line is this. Do not wait for ideal conditions. Do not wait for ideal conditions. Don't allow inevitability to paralyze you. Secondly, verse 4, don't allow uncertainty to paralyze you.
Isn't that what he's saying? Whoever watches the wind will not plant. Whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. The farmer who sits saying, you know, I think it's tremendously windy, if I throw the seed up this morning, the chances are none of it will go on the ground.
I think it's all going to blow away. If he continues to think in that way, he will never have a harvest, because he will never plant. In the same way, whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. Are you making the most of every opportunity? Ephesians 5 16. Making the most of every opportunity. Making—sounds like endeavor—the most—sounds like extent. Opportunity sounds like things that come our way.
Making the most of every opportunity that is represented within the framework of this church here, in all that is represented for the chances of evangelism and edification, learning about the Bible, growing in Christ, and so on. Or have you gone through saying again, Well, you know, I think it's not an ideal time for me to get in that class. I think perhaps after the first quarter of the year, that'll be the time. It's not a good time for me to broach this subject with my boss. I mean, I think after the first six months, it's whatever it is.
And where are you? You're actually further behind than you were this time last year. You're waiting for ideal conditions. There are no ideal conditions. Don't allow inevitability to paralyze you. Don't allow uncertainty to paralyze you.
Few great enterprises have waited for ideal conditions. Don't get caught up in the maybes in the might of beans. Tackle what is. Grab what's in reach.
As Roosevelt—Theodore, that is—said, Do what you can, where you are, with what you have. Well, I can't do very much. And if I wasn't here, if I was there, and of course… So you do nothing. Verse 5. If verse 3 is about inevitability and verse 4 is about uncertainty, verse 5 is about mystery. You don't know the path of the wind or how the body's formed in a mother's womb. You can't understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.
Okay? Some things we will never fully comprehend, but we mustn't let them prevent us from getting on with life. Don't allow the unknown and the unknowable to paralyze you. You know enough to proceed.
Proceed! That's what you see. This is bad for some people's blood pressure, chapter 11. Some of you are sitting here already holding onto your chair.
You don't like this. Because it all seems so out there. And you have built your life in this structured little book that you keep with you.
And you've got all tickety-tickety-tickety-tickety-tickety. You're driving everybody nuts, including yourself. It's time to let it go.
That's what he's saying. Life is passing by. This is not a dress rehearsal. This is it. This is the journey.
You don't get a second go at this. So do not wait for ideal conditions to go. Of course, the correlative statements, you have them reverberating in your head, and they need to be there. But I loved when I discovered that Catherine Bramwell Booth, who was the wife of the founder of the Salvation Army, when she was interviewed on her birthday—her 103rd birthday—by the BBC, one of the interviewers said to her, you know, Mrs. Booth, haven't you discovered in the course of your life that there are a lot of things that you just don't understand and you can't explain? She replied, There are mysteries that we will never know the answer to, but even so, you can enjoy life.
A hundred and three years old! Well, yes, there are mysteries, but even so, you can enjoy life. Not endure life. Enjoy life. Do you enjoy life? Tell your face about it.
Do you enjoy life? You see, I'm not sure that the message is out there in any realistic way amongst our pagan friends and neighbors that remotely would convince them that belief in the living God and in Christ to me is sent, that belief in this Christ actually causes an individual to celebrate life. And the invisible God is made visible in the lives of his children. Therefore, what kind of God does our society see when we apparently are just managing to get through, just trying to get by, just endeavoring to get it over with? You say, Well, that's interesting. I thought that Jesus had said something about I am come that you might have life and that you might have it in all of his fullness. Well, yes, he did, but we haven't done that chapter yet. We're not there yet.
Now, do you think I'm fabricating? Three, one, here come three more. Verse 8, Enjoy. Now, I don't like it when people, and they bring me my salad, and they put it down, and they say, Enjoy. I'm not even sure that it is the right use of English, but I'm using it anyway just to try and be nice. Enjoy. It really should be enjoy it, I think, or enjoy yourself.
I'm not sure enjoy can stand by itself. I should have found it out. But anyway, doesn't matter.
Some English teacher will sort me out before the day is done. Enjoy verse 8. Verse 7, look at it. Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun. Light is sweet.
Of course it's sweet. You go to bed, and it's dark. It begins to get dark at five o'clock, quarter to five. How do you feel? You're like, Oh, man, you're already ticking it off for the change of the clock. You wish your life away.
Can you imagine if you lived in Alaska? But there's something about the light that is sweet that pleases the eyes to see the sun. Can you see the writer pouring himself a coffee and singing along? I see skies of blue, red roses too. I see them blue for me and you, and I think to myself, What a wonderful world!
The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky! I see friends greeting friends, saying, How do you do? They're really saying, I love you! And I think to myself, What a wonderful world! Now, that's what the writer is saying.
This is wonderful! Enjoy it! But enjoy it in such a way that you understand, that your enjoyment is not superficial.
It's realistic. Notice, it is not an unending enjoyment. That will be heaven. Because our days on the earth are limited. That's the significance of the opening phrase of verse 8, However many years a man may live.
By themselves, temporal things can never satisfy us fully, Because God has set eternity in our hearts. We need to be honest enough to admit, As verse 8b pronounces, That days of darkness still come o'er us, And sorrow's paths we oft may tread. That in the words of the hymn writer, I thank thee, too, That all my joy is touched with pain, One of my favorite verses out of a hymn. I thank thee, too, That all my joy is touched with pain, That shadows fall on brightest hours, And thorns remain, So that earth's bliss—and there is a bliss in earth— So that earth's bliss may be my guide and not my chain. See, we're not chained here.
Our citizenship is somewhere else. The anticipation of all of that shines, as it were, down onto our earthly pilgrimage. Therefore, enjoy.
Verse 9. Be happy. Be happy. Who? Young man.
When? While you're a young man. What should I do? Let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. And follow the ways of your heart, whatever your eyes see. What is he offering here? Well, he's offering a dimension of freedom that has a goal worth reaching, a freedom that has a well done for which to strive, a freedom that finds fulfillment within the framework of God's parameters.
Absent that, this kind of approach is swallowed up by triviality or, worse, by vice. And again, you have to read into chapter 12 to set in context an exhortation such as this. Be happy, young man, while you're young. Are you saying that to your sons?
Your grandsons? Son, I want you to be happy. And say, well, that sounds like Norman Vincent Peale. It doesn't sound like the Bible. What do you mean, be happy, don't worry?
No, this is the Bible. Be happy. Do you remember we used to say in the seventies, happiness is to know the Savior, live in a life that's in his favor? Happiness is whatever it is. Happiness is the Lord.
Be happy. Of all people on the face of the earth, the believer ought to lead the world in the enjoyment of life and in the experience of happiness. The believer ought to enjoy art more than any other individual. The believer ought to enjoy a sunset better than anybody, ought to be able to enjoy a trip to the Cleveland Orchestra at a level that is distinct from anything anyone else can know, because they have discovered that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, that there is the good, the bad, the new, the perfect. And here in this continuum of life, they are acknowledging the wonder of what God has provided. Again, in the hymn writer, heaven above is soft or blue, and the earth around is sweet or green, and there's something lives in every hue that Christless eyes have never seen. And birds with gladder songs o'erflow, and earth with deeper beauty shine, since I know, as now I know, that I am his and he is mine. So different, isn't it, from Hamlet, who stands and says, you know, what a stale, flat promontory is this, you know? What used to me this life? What's the point, he says?
The believer says, Oh, well, there's every point. You're supposed to enjoy. You're supposed to be happy.
Verse 10. Relax. Relax.
Banish anxiety from your heart. Look at who the advice is given to. To young people. You say, Oh, well, wait a minute, we don't need this one. I don't need to go home and tell my teenagers to relax. They have got—they already did a PhD in relaxing. We don't need to give them any more. Relax. We need to give them something else. Please, let's change your last point. It was pretty good up till now, but you've really lost it here.
Well, yeah, it's interesting, isn't it? It used to be that casual, when you were young, casual meant, well, let's take my jacket off, I'll take my tie off and roll my sleeves up. But casual now, it takes your daughter an hour and a half to get casual. She has to go up for a very long time to get casual. No, no, casual is this. Oh, no, no, Dad, that's not casual. That's like retro-casual. But casual is, you know, Hey, honey, relax, would you? Just relax.
Talk with teens. They're stressed. Relationships bedevil them. Family life forsakes them.
Rootlessness consumes them. And suicide attracts them. And the Bible calls out to them, Listen, I don't want you to be careless, but I want you to be carefree. I'm not calling you to indifference, I'm not calling you to irresponsibility, but I'm issuing a call when you're young. You won't always be young. So don't idolize being young. Don't dread not being young.
Just enjoy being young. If you dread its loss, it will spoil the experience. And if you try and perpetuate its experience, you will look like a clown. Therefore, leave your clown clothes at home. Get rid of the black leather vest.
You look weird in it. Enjoy, be happy, relax, in the final line. Don't forget you have finals.
Don't forget you have finals. Isn't that what we say to our children? Now, I know you're going out, and I hope you'll have a wonderful time. I want you to live within all the parameters that God has set. I want you to enjoy your friendships. I want you to enjoy your leisure time. I want you to enjoy your leisure time. I want you to experience all of the opportunities that are unique to this period of life. This period of life will never come around again in this exact way.
You will never have this freedom. The companionship appears in this way. It all changes. It doesn't necessarily get worse, but it definitely changes. You can no longer go out with the boys in the same way. You can never go out with a crowd of girls in the same way.
Eventually, everything takes on complexion. Therefore, I want you to go out, and I want you to have a fantastic time. But don't forget you've got finals. You've got finals. Verse 9. God will bring you to judgment.
A judgment that is absolutely factual, absolutely fair, absolutely final. So, cast off the troubles of your body. Verse 10. Cast off the troubles of your body. The authorized version translates it, put away evil from your flesh. Put away evil from your flesh. Sin is foolishness. It's disobedience to and rebellion against the one who has made us, who loves us, who sustains us, and who will finally assess us. Now, notice, in conclusion, that this positive approach to life is resting on something far more substantial than cheerfulness or courage or even sound morality.
We're gonna have to wait till our final study to get to the conclusion of the matter. Fear God and keep his commandments. But I tried to keep his commandments. I tried to fulfill my duty, and I realized that I have broken his commandments. Therefore, I have a predicament. How, then, am I to meet God on that final day of assessment? Well, the answer is that God has come and has met with us in the person of Christ, and that he has kept the law perfectly, and he has borne the punishment finally, so that we, then, may find in him the life that is really life. So much of this is addressed to youth, and the bridge is addressed to youth. We have, in the last decade, lost young people from our church.
One of them, some of you, will remember. From his journal, as a young man just in his late teens, he had written, I would rather die living than to live dying. And as you know, of course, he fell to his death in an amusement park owned by members of his family, his girlfriend surviving. When his friends at Hudson High decided to take a phrase that would summarize his life, they took it from the Dave Matthews Band. And their phrase for Ryan was, Life is short, but sweet for certain. For Ryan, life was short, real short, and real sweet. Why?
Because, actually, he took hold of the exhortations here. Are you enjoying yourself? Does anybody that knows you and cares about you think for a nanosecond that they're on an adventure with you? Does the watching world have any interest in finding out what makes me tick because of the vibrancy of life and reality and enjoyment and initiative and enterprise that pervades my existence?
Do I qualify to be alive, or is the limit of my senses so as only to survive? Hey, celebrate life! L'chaim!
Mazel tov! Slan shavah! This is the Bible. It's true we live in a broken, imperfect world, but we can still enjoy life now while we look forward to heaven. That's Alistair Begg with the conclusion of a message titled Celebrate Life.
You're listening to Truth for Life and Alistair will be back shortly to close today's program. Every day here on Truth for Life, we study the Bible. Having access to solid biblical teaching is important, particularly as Christian beliefs are increasingly considered countercultural and intolerant. So how should we respond to those accusations? Do we lash out defensively at others? Do we retreat and hide in the safety of fellow believers?
Do we bend a bit and compromise our beliefs in order to blend in? There's a book called Being the Bad Guys that addresses this. The subtitle is How to Live for Jesus in a World That Says You Shouldn't.
It looks at the current state of our world and gives us a roadmap for how we can respond. This is the last week we're offering the book Being the Bad Guys, so you can request your copy when you give a donation today. Visit us online at truthforlife.org slash donate. Or you can mail your donation along with your request for the book. Write to Truth for Life at P.O.
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To see what's currently available in the online store, visit truthforlife.org slash store. Now here is Alistair to close with prayer. Father, forgive us that we are such miserable representatives of the vitality that we proclaim in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our faces all buttoned up, our lives all sequestered away, all of our investments strangling us, reading the columns in the paper, worried that it won't be there, challenged left, right, and center, unwilling to launch out into the deep.
As a church, stereotypical, structured, controlled, everything understandable. And hear this great cry from your Word. Come on, go for it. Diversify. Stick with it. Enjoy. Be happy.
Relax. Don't allow inevitability to paralyze you, uncertainty to defeat you, mystery to preclude your involvement and your advance. Stir us up, O Lord, we pray, that we may lay hold upon life, the life that is really life, in the Lord Jesus Christ. And may his grace and mercy and peace shine upon our hearts and fill our homes and stir us, Lord, we pray, to the great adventure that you have set before us all the days of our lives, and then to see you in heaven and to enjoy you forever. We bless you and we praise you in Christ's name. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. We learned today how to celebrate life, but there's something we need to keep in the forefront of our minds as we enjoy the here and now. Be sure to join us tomorrow to find out what that is. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
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