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Celebrate Life! (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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February 1, 2024 3:00 am

Celebrate Life! (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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February 1, 2024 3:00 am

How do you face uncertainty? Are you paralyzed by fear, unable to proceed in any direction? Or do you embrace the unknown as an occasion for adventure? Learn how to make the most of every opportunity when you join us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!

Truth for Life
Alistair Begg

What do you do in the face of uncertainty? Are you like a deer in the headlights, paralyzed by fear, unable to proceed in any direction?

Or do you embrace the unknown as an occasion for adventure? Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg offers biblical and practical help for how we can make the most out of every opportunity. Now we're going to read from Ecclesiastes chapter 11 and verse 1, "'Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.

Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land. If clouds are full of water, they pour rain upon the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls there it will lie. Whoever watches the wind will not plant, whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. As you do not know the path of the wind or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God the Maker of all things. Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle.

For you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well. Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun. However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all. But let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. Everything to come is meaningless. Be happy, young man, while you're young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.

So then banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless. Now, if you keep your Bibles open on your lap, Father, we pray now that with the help of your Spirit we may be able to study the Bible in a way that is true to its teaching and challenging and helpful to our lives. We seek your help. In Jesus' name.

Amen. As I read these verses again and again, I found myself scribbling down on my pad beside my Bible, Be bold, be happy, be warned, be godly. These staccato exhortations emerge from the text.

At least I think they do. And you're sensible people, you're going to have to study along with me to see whether this is accurate. He's about to remind his readers that too much study wearies the body.

There are too many books and not enough time. He understands that. And so it is imperative that you seize the moment. You've got to give a little, take a little, let your old heart break a little. That's the story of—that's the glory of love, and it's also the story and the glory of life itself. If you want a heading for the whole chapter in two words with an exclamation mark, it is this, celebrate life. Celebrate life. And what I'd like to try and do is work through these verses in a way that provides a summary which is not pressed down upon the text but which I hope you will see emerges clearly from the text.

The structure is as follows. I'm going to give you three statements, followed by a qualifying statement, followed by three more statements, followed by three more statements, followed by a qualifying statement. Well, I'm not impressed with it either. There's no reason for you to grin back at me. I'm only telling you what I'm doing. Verse 1 and the first of the three. Go for it.

Go for it. Now, this is not a phrase that I brought across the Atlantic Ocean. This is a phrase that I've learned since I arrived here. It's an American phrase that has been given to the world, but it's a good phrase.

And of all peoples on the nations of the nations on the earth, Americans know how to go for it. And that is what we find in this rather curious piece of advice with which chapter 11 begins. Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. Charles Bridges, commenting on this in an earlier day, suggests that we ought not to think of it in terms of bread as a finished product but rather in terms of the grain or the seed which, when thrown into the loamy bed of the river, apparently going away never to be seen again, actually emerges later on in a luxurious harvest. And he suggests that we ought to think of it in those terms.

I'm not so sure that that's right. Because the idea of throwing bread on water only to find it again is clearly a most unlikely circumstance. Every so often you see parents and grandparents down with their children by the river in Chagrin, and they're throwing bread on the water. Of all the things that they may have as expectations, the one expectation they do not have is what is described here in verse 1, namely of finding it again. The ducks are going to come and gobble it up, or it's going to disintegrate, it's eventually going to absorb so much water that it sinks and goes away, but they do not have a plan for finding the bread again, either somewhere downstream or of it ever coming back to them. Therefore, it's a striking and a curious statement, isn't it?

Throw your bread upon the waters, and after many days you will find it again. Well, it is the very unlikely nature of it which makes it so powerful. It is a reminder of what God is able to do. Then we are prepared to take whatever he has entrusted to us—of life, of talent, of resource, of time—and throw it out onto the water of life.

The promise of God's Word is that it will return to us as per God's design. Now, in very ordinary terms, verse 1 is saying, you will never see a return from an investment until first there is an investment. You only get out of life what you put into it. If there are risks in everything, it's better to fail in launching out than in simply hugging resources to ourselves.

That's what he's saying. Far better to make a go of it, far better to go for it and to see what will return. Now, we can't delay on this verse, although we could spend the morning on it. It's a call to Christian resourcefulness. It's a call to generosity.

It's not a unique call to the Old Testament. Indeed, Jesus himself had a great deal to say along these lines. Remember, on one occasion he says to his disciples, Launch out into the deep. What are you paddling around here for in the shadows?

Go out into the deep. He told the story of the master who left resources with his servants, and when he came back, one had multiplied it in one way and one in another, but the one who received his rebuke was the individual who said, I was afraid, and I hid it in the ground. And Jesus says, You don't want to be doing that. So, for example, we take money and we give it to the poor. Do we expect ever to see it again?

No. But what does Solomon tell us in Proverbs 19 17? The man who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done. In other words, there is actually an investment factor in taking what is ours, casting it out on the water, in the sowing of the Word of God, in telling others about the nature of faith.

We may find ourselves on a journey, speaking to a companion, and it becomes very obvious to us very quickly that the individual whom we've just met has very little interest in what we're saying. They put their head down into their magazine, they're trying to be polite, but they're really dismissive of our explanations of the difference that the incarnation has made—the wonder of Christmas, the joy of knowing Jesus, and so on. And we cast our bread upon the water, and we say, What a futile exercise that was! Well, it may well be that one day, in a different realm, we will meet the same individual who, having left us, got on the second leg of their journey, flying to the west coast, and sat down next to another weird person just like us, who started on the exact same psalm. And before this individual knew it, they were being confronted by a story that they'd never heard.

They were being introduced to a gift that they had never received, and the bread cast out on the waters was going to come back. It's the same in teaching the Bible. Those of you who teach in any circumstance, whether large or small, you sow the seed. The sower went forth to sow, and when he sowed, some seed fell on stony ground, and other seed fell among thorns, and some of the seed was snatched away, and a little bit of the seed found good soil.

That's the experience. Sunday after Sunday after Sunday after Sunday after Sunday, it never quits. You throw your bread upon the waters, reminding yourself from Isaiah 55 that God's Word never returns to him empty but always accomplishes its purpose.

It's a reminder here in this verse. Some of you, when you go home today, will take bread out of the freezer. How weird is that? Frozen bread. Frozen bread. We go to great lengths to get to the baker at the right time, when it's just emerging from the oven, so that we can stand there and enjoy all of our senses being drawn to these marvelous loaves.

Then we hasten to put them into our cars, rush home, and jam them in a freezer, so that we can chip them apart with mallets of destruction sometime later. Well, you say, but if we don't freeze the bread, we'll have moldy bread. That's because you hoard your bread. If you eat your bread or share your bread, you don't have to freeze it, and it doesn't get moldy. Scattered bread. That's what he's talking about.

Go for it. Scatter it. You're scattering your resources, the finances that God has given you. You prepare to throw them up on the waters. Scattering your life, the gifts that God has given you, casting them out on the waters.

Buried treasure brings strong condemnation. Verse 2, diversify. Verse 1, go for it. Verse 2, diversify. That's the significance of this statement here. Give portions to seven, yes to eight. You don't know which one is going to work.

You don't know which one will bomb. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Spread your investments around. Seize with enthusiasm the variety of opportunities.

Be creative. Now again, we can apply it on every level. Let's just think of it in terms of the wonderful opportunities of sharing our faith. Paul is a terrific example, isn't he, in 1 Corinthians 9? He says, in order that I might share my faith as widely as possible, in order that I might win as many as possible, I determined that to the Jew I would become a Jew, to the gentle I would become a Gentile, to those who were under the law I would become under the law, to those who had no law I would be like one who had no law. And the reason I would do all of this, he says, was in order that I might diversify my opportunities.

And think about it in relationship to our church life, how we do what we do with what we've been given. Going for it, diversifying. Jump down to verse 6. Stick with it.

Stick with it. So you'll see it in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle. There are different stages in life. In the morning of our lives, there are opportunities that we can fulfill in the noontide of our lives the same, and in the evening of our lives our hands ought not to be idle. Launch out in new directions.

You're told that you're old, and so you conform to sensible expectations. Come along now, Dad, put the blanket over your knees. Take your bath chair and sit in it. Let me wheel you around the mall. No! I want to jump out of airplanes. No, but you can't jump out of airplanes.

You're an old one. You can't even jump off your garden wall. What are you talking about? It doesn't matter. You never know when you'll make a breakthrough.

You never know when your project will succeed. Some of you are getting ready to go fossilize in Florida with the rest of them. Down there with the newlywed and the nearly dead.

One of the most dangerous places in America in which to drive a car. Now, don't feel bad because you have a home there. It's just probably jealousy on my part that provokes this in me. But you know what I mean. Of course, you may relocate, and that would be fine. But make sure that when you do, that you don't let your hands become idle in the evening of your days. Make sure that you are prepared to keep going, to keep looking, to keep taking initiative, to think imaginatively and creatively. And indeed, the kind of person we will be in our old age is largely determined by the kind of person that we are now.

Some are waiting for their retirement when they will take up basket weaving, when they will then go to their art class, when they will take the various opportunities that are before them. But at the moment, they just go straight down this same track. I've got news for you. You're going to keep going down your track. Go for it. Diversify. And then stick with it. That's the three.

Here comes the one. The qualifying line is this. Do not wait for ideal conditions.

Do not wait for ideal conditions. Now, that seems to me what's being said in verses 3, 4, and 5. In verse 3, we have a story of inevitability. When the clouds are full of water, you get rain.

When a tree falls, whether it falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie. Don't allow the inevitability of things in life to thwart initiative or endeavor. Don't stay inside just because it's raining.

Get an umbrella and go outside. Don't miss the adventures. Don't miss the adventures. Are you adventuresome? Is your life at all an adventure? Do your children believe that they're on an adventure with their mom and dad? Do your friends say, This is fantastic!

I love going places with him! The ordinary becomes extraordinary. The routine takes on significance.

This guy can make a coffee and a newspaper appear as if we were drinking the most amazing potion while reading the finest poetry. And in fact, look at what we're reading. Inevitability marks many lives. Oh, well, looks like it's going to rain. Oh, look, the tree fell. Hmm. Oh, I'll be there for a while, won't it?

Yes. Yeah, well, I think I'll just sit here. Watch the rain. Watch the logs.

Become a log. 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. Think of the many opportunities that have been lost on account of diffidence.

How many opportunities have been lost? Because we've failed to take the tide at the flood, as Brutus says to Cassius, or one says to the other in Julius Caesar. There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to greatness. But if you miss the tide, you're gonna be paddling out there for a long time, waiting for the next wave. And in my experience, there aren't a lot of waves come along—not the kind that will rush you off into a whole new opportunity.

And if you constantly sit, waiting, watching, wondering, analyzing, doing all of the pros and the cons and the ups and the downs, you'll be sitting there on the day you die, still with your lists—left-hand side, maybe, right-hand side possibility, the dos, the don'ts, the pluses, the minuses—of course it's good to do that, but you can't allow that to paralyze you. As a small boy, for the first five years of my life, I spent all of my time essentially in the company of my mother. She stayed home to look after me, to instruct me.

I'm thankful for that. And in the washing pursuits, I was around. And especially in the west of Scotland, where it rained so much, as soon as the washing was done, there's a very short window of opportunity to hang it out, dry it, and get it back in.

And it was like a lottery along the backyards of the neighborhood. As you see Mrs. Macdonald, oh, she's already ventured. She's got hers out.

Wow! I was looking at the clouds. I thought it was going to rain. I think I'll wait till ten o'clock. And some days all you had left was a big pile of laundry that never made it out to the breeze, and it never rained.

What happened? We were watching the clouds. 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 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 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.

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 bodies 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! You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life as he encourages us to persevere in the face of an uncertain future. We'll hear more from Alistair tomorrow. While we're thinking together about perseverance, let me encourage you to share a story of perseverance with a child you know. There's a children's biography we're recommending to you called Helen Roseveare, the doctor who kept going no matter what. If you're not familiar with the name Helen Roseveare, she dedicated her life to medical missionary work in the Congo during a time of political conflict. Her story is inspiring, even for adults. Helen helped build hospitals.

She trained new doctors and nurses. In the process, she read the Bible with many people, explaining to them what it means to trust in Jesus. Her biography teaches children the importance of persistence and unwavering faith in God, even when facing serious trials. One of her longtime friends said, Helen speaks to us today through her inspirational life poured out in worship, love, and selfless service to her great master. This book about Helen's life is a hardcover picture book. It's perfect for reading to young children, grandchildren, a Sunday school class. If you visit slash Helen, you'll find some printable activity pages that can go along with the book.

Ask for your copy of the book Helen Roseveare, the doctor who kept going no matter what. When you donate to support the teaching ministry of Truth for Life, you can do that on our mobile app or online at slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. And if you'd prefer to mail your donation along with your request for the book, write to us at Truth for Life, post office box 398000, Cleveland, Ohio 44139. I'm Bob Lapine, so glad you've joined us today. Do you live out your faith in a way that makes the invisible God visible to the watching world? Tomorrow we'll learn how that's possible. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-10 08:37:08 / 2024-02-10 08:46:00 / 9

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