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Author:Rev. A Veldman
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Southern River
 West Kelmscott
Title:The call to enjoy life to the honour of Him who created us.
Text:Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Calling

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading : Eccl. 11, 1-8
Text : Eccl. 11,9 - 12,1
Hy. 58 : 1,2
Hy. 7 : 9
Ps. 128 : 1,3
Ps. 119 : 4,13,16
Ps. 25 : 2,6
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. A Veldman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

The words chosen as text for this morning's sermon could be paraphrased as follows:
"Enjoy life when you are still young. After all, you are young only once. Before you know there will come a time which might be less pleasant and therefore enjoy your teenage years, and those years of young adolescence, when life as yet doesn't seem to have so many worries. Make the most of those years. Enjoy them!"

Beloved, what an encouragement for young people! Some may wonder is this really what the Preacher says here, this man who in our view often has such a pessimistic outlook on life.
There might also be members within the congregation who think: "Is it not dangerous to speak like this, especially to young people? Instead of encouraging our young people to enjoy life would it not be better to urge them to commit their life to the LORD?"
Of course, we should do so. Yet, beloved, this does not contradict the calling of the Preacher to enjoy life. Serving God and enjoying life are not two opposites. It's not so when asking our young people to serve the Lord that this should put a damper on their life, as if then there are no longer any pleasures to be enjoyed. Our young people may indeed enjoy life when they are still young. Let us allow them to do so, to do so as a child of God.

God, the Creator, who made us, was there at the beginning of our life and He wants to go with us also throughout our life to guide us and to bring us safely home in the New Jerusalem. That's our life story. To this life story belong also the pages of our youth. Well, the text chosen for this morning sermon now says, let these pages be filled with joy. Enjoy that period of your life, make the most of it, before the days will come of which you might say, "I have no pleasure in them."
So this morning we will listen to

This means a calling to enjoy life
1) as a gift of God
2) who therefore also wants to be thanked for it

I When reading the book Ecclesiastes, Br. & Sr., time and again we are confronted with that motto, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."
Vanity - many paraphrase this word as 'meaningless'. All is meaningless. Yet, there is also another element to this word vanity. It also highlights that the things we are confronted with in this world are all so transient, temporary and fleeting. It's all so short lived. A happy day, an enjoyable holiday, it's gone before you know it. It goes all so quick. Moreover, to-day you may feel really happy, but tomorrow this happiness might be overshadowed again by grief, sorrow, or hardship. Therefore isn't it all vanity? In the end what is the net profit of all our labour in which we have toiled under the sun? Life is full of disappointments. So many things we cannot explain. Also, there is so much injustice, crooked things we cannot straighten.

From previous sermons we learned that the Preacher also had seen that life receives meaning, perspective, only in and through faith. In Ch. 5 he had pointed to the house of God, which was in his day the temple, where God redeems life from its vanity, pointing people to Himself as the God of redemption. In fact, this revelation of God is the only secure anchorage in a world full of questions. It is because of this divine revelation that we as God's children not only may but are also able to enjoy life.

We live in a world full of misery. The apostle Paul speaks about a crea-tion groaning in travail. And we have only ourselves to blame for it. For in the beginning God created everything good and perfect. Due to wilful disobedience from man' side sin entered this world and caused life to be-come a vale of tears. Yet, in Christ, our Redeemer, life receives prospect again. He will dry our tears and put our life on the rails again. Thus in Christ all our toil and labour is not in vain. Life thus is still worth living. Yes, in Christ life can still be enjoyed.

Well, beloved, based on this conclusion the Preacher having come to the end of his book says, "Do then also enjoy life! Open your eyes of faith to see God's hand by which your life is guided. Let your joy not be damp-ened by the vanity of so many things, don't let it cause you to become cynical or depressed: a temptation very real, also for young people. In-stead, accept Christ as your Redeemer, who by His sacrifice on the cross has redeemed life from its vanity so that it is worth living again. Accept life as a precious gift of Him.

It is in this context, Br. & Sr., that also the words we read at the begin-ning of Ch. 11 receive meaning, "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days."
Cast your bread upon the waters - in itself this seems to be a meaningless exercise, foolish. Such bread is only good for fish and ducks. Useless! Well, isn't that what our toil and labour often seems to be. And yet God says, "Go to work! Even if that work in your eyes seems to be all vanity, grasping for winds, no net profit whatsoever. Leave to the outcome to Me, says God. For all your toil and labour > in Christ, it is not in vain. As it reads in Ch. 11, 1b, "You will find it after many days.""" We thus should do our work, leaving the outcome of it in the hands of God who is in control. That gives rest, peace of mind. It gives life fewer worries.

In the continuation of Ch. 11, we read a similar warning, when the Preacher says, "Don't give too much attention to the winds and the clouds, i.e. don't try to work out everything yourself. For in doing so it might also happen that you let the time slip by. Therefore simply do your task, not groaningly or sour-faced, but happily enjoying the good things which God gives you. After all, says the Preacher, vs. 7, "Truly the light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun."

God is the Creator also of the light. He causes this light to shine, when after the darkness of the night the sun starts rising again: a new day, which points to God's faithfulness, God's mercies which are new over our life every morning again. Be thankful for it, says the Preacher, and enjoy it as a gift of God, especially when you are still young. Yes, enjoy the years of your youth remembering that perhaps there will also come days of darkness, vs. 8, i.e., less pleasant days for the flesh.
Addressing in particular the young people in the church the Preacher is saying here, don't waste your life, make the most of it, make the most of it as a child of God. Don't worry about the darkness, which so often op-poses the light. Do not, because of this darkness, consider everything as vanity.
With respect to this darkness, one could think of death. Well, when think-ing about death at times life may indeed seem to be meaningless. Where does one ultimately live for? Moreover, if indeed death puts an end to everything why should one bother to serve God in his life? Isn't then all what you do in His service ultimately wasted effort? On top of it, how much criticism isn't there often in the church. Therefore, are you not bet-ter off to enjoy life a bit more elsewhere? Why should one plague himself with all those commandments, which say that you are not allowed to do this, and you had better to do that?

It is over against this attitude, beloved, that in our text the Preacher says: enjoy life as a gift of God, who will not cause our life to get bogged in the mud. Instead God has put the life of His children in a glorious perspec-tive; the perspective of a new heaven and a new earth. We are on our way to a kingdom of perfect joy and peace. This kingdom will come about against all human expectations, yet not against the expectations of those who know their life linked with this glorious future. A glorious future also for the youth of the church. Life does not run along the line of birth, life and then death. There is more to it, especially when in faith you look beyond the horizon of this life

In saying this, I do not mean our life in this world should be determined by a sickly desire for heaven. After all, God Himself has given us a place in this world. However, because of the future we are awaiting our life has a totally different perspective, which makes it also more enjoyable. For the one who doesn't know about this future could indeed ask himself the question: where do I live for if in the end death cuts off everything. Then one just as well tries to make the most of life hanging on to the fleeting and empty pleasures, which this world has to offer. Then you just as well try to get the most out of all these things. For you live only once, and life is short. Soon the darkness will come.

Beloved, how rich we are that in faith we may look at things in a different way, even when the darkness sets in and death in near. Yes, even then for us there is no need to despair, since from God's Word I have learned that here on earth we don't have a lasting city, instead we await the city, which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. It is because of this glorious future that we as God's children are able to really enjoy life.

Addressing in particular the young people now, as also the Preacher does in the verses chosen as text for this morning's sermon > then I hope young people that you understand what the Preacher has to say here. This morning you are indeed encouraged to enjoy life, to enjoy it as a gift of God. If you do so, faith in Jesus Christ will never become an isolated matter in your life. But then it will show up, also tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, that this is the rich perspective also of your life, that for you life is worth living.

True, then there are many around you who consider it foolishness to serve the LORD. Even many who still call themselves Christians but who meanwhile have conformed their life to the world, since among their un-believing mates they don't want to be the odd one out. Yet the Preacher says: it is proof of true wisdom when in this life you serve the LORD. Don't be so foolish to think that serving the LORD puts a damper on things, instead it gives real joy.

It's for this reason that in our text the Preacher urges in particular the youngsters in the church to buy their time. Work as long as it is light, which means use the energy, which God gives you in your youth. After all, the strength of your youth might be gone sooner than you expect it. Therefore, enjoy the time God gives you at present, enjoy it as a gift of Him. And then there is indeed a lot to enjoy.

You are young, but you are young only for a short time. Therefore, enjoy it to the full, so the Preacher says in our text. Yes, "let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart and in the sight of your eyes." These last words could also be translated more di-rectly as, "follow the impulses of your heart and as you see to be best."
One may think, this is quite something what the Preacher is saying here. And yet, he speaks inspired by the Holy Spirit. So, the LORD Himself says this to the young people in the church. A message of which we per-haps might say, is it not dangerous to encourage in particular our young people to enjoy life, knowing quite well how their heart longs for joy and pleasure? And yet it reads here black on white in the Bible, "Young peo-ple, dare to be happy, dare to be young and to enjoy life.

Young people, you are indeed allowed to do so, since the LORD doesn't want you, because you are a child of His, to find life boring or dull. The LORD has given you a place not only in the church, but also in the midst of His wonderful creation. And now this morning He says to you: enjoy it, especially when you are young. Enjoy it as a boy or as a girl, but also together, eg. when love starts dawning. This too is a gift of God you are allowed to enjoy. And so I could mention many more examples.

II Enjoy life, yet so the Preacher continues in the concluding part of vs. 9, "." Some of the young people may say, see, didn't I think so there is still a downside to this enjoyment of life. Finally, a sermon in which the minister says also some good things about life, but then in the end still that warning, "Don't forget that God will judge all that you do." Does a comment like this not bring us back to square one? I can well imagine that some of the young people listening to this sermon feel it like this. Point one > very nice to listen to, but in the end still that warning: be careful.

Yet, this is not what the Preacher means. For after having said, vs. 9b, "." he does not continue with a warning, "Therefore be careful what you do." No instead he continues, "Therefore be careful that you indeed do enjoy life. Remove sorrow from your heart. In other words: be happy and live healthy, remove evil from your flesh.
Summarizing, the Preacher does not use God's judgment as some kind of counter argument to be careful in enjoying life. Instead, he uses it as an additional encouragement to enjoy life. How are we to understand this?

The point is this, beloved, when the LORD comes to judge He will also ask us what we have done with our life. Did you really make the most of the opportunities I gave you? In vs. 7 we read, "." Well, did you really enjoy the sun when you were young? Did you thank God for that wonder-ful day at the beach, or that enjoyable holiday? After all, it was a gift of Him. The Lord gave it to you to be enjoyed. Did you indeed consider it like this? And so I could mention many more things.
See, beloved, when God comes to judge our life He will not condemn those days on which we really had fun and could enjoy life. For also these were gifts of Him. He gave also that evening of fun, that relaxing holiday, that period in your life, which you really enjoyed. Wonderful gifts of God indeed! God will only condemn it when you left Him out of all these things. When on that evening out with your friends no thought about God crossed your mind. Yes, then we are indeed on the wrong track, unpack-ing gifts without thanking the Giver of those gifts.

Do you realize, beloved, that properly speaking this is impossible for children of God: to enjoy life without thanking or recognizing God as the Giver of this enjoyment. That wild party with a lot of alcohol, really fun, but God was left out of it. To think about God between all those glasses of beer would perhaps been somewhat inconvenient. Yes, then you get this thought that without God it's much more fun.
But, beloved, this now exactly what sin is all about. The basic principle of sin is that you are better off without God. It denies that with God life gets a deeper meaning, also the enjoyment in life. God who has only our well-being, our joy at heart. Therefore we will only enjoy life when we enjoy it as a gift of Him and also thank Him for it.

Yes, young people, then our text indeed urges you to enjoy life, espe-cially when you are still young. Enjoy your youth. There is nothing wrong with it. It's pleasant in the eyes of God when young people really enjoy themselves. But then also: don't leave God out of the picture, for He is the One who gives you this enjoyment. Therefore, having been an evening out, having enjoyed some entertainment, at the end of such an evening you must be able to thank God for it. And of course, this applies equally to the older generation.

We may enjoy life, enjoy the good things which God has given us in this life. But we can only really enjoy it, when we can also thank God for it. No, don't think now that coming towards the end of the sermon I take back what I have said in the beginning about enjoying life. If you have that feeling then it might well be that the enjoyment which you seek is not pleasing the LORD, and perhaps you have to repent from enjoying life in a sinful way. Beloved, being a child of the LORD never means that we can enjoy life less, not even when we are young. It is just the other way around: God will deepen our joy, so that life becomes happier for us. Yes, then also as children of God we may enjoy life to the full.

Sometimes, especially young people in the church think that in the world > yes, there one can enjoy life. Yet, let me assure you, young people, when you think this way, you are deceiving yourself. More specifically, Satan tries to make you believe this. The world around us indulges itself in pleasures, which do not last. Scripture calls them fleeting, empty. Well, in Christ we have been redeemed from this emptiness. It is here that I would like to refer to a portion of Paul's letter to the Ephesians, where Paul says about the Gentiles, 4,17ff, "." where after he continues in vs. 20, "But you have not so learned Christ." This means in Christ our life has been redeemed from all these empty, vain pleasures.
Whoever has seen the riches of this will no longer say > as parents so of-ten hear out of the mouth of their children, "Why am I not allowed to do this, and why must I do that?" But then we thank God that we may live a life much richer than the people in the world. Yes, then thankful for the riches we have received in Christ it becomes our heartfelt joy to live ac-cording to the will of God in all good works. Not as a burden, but indeed as a matter of tremendous joy.

In the beginning verse of Ch. 12 the Preacher says, "to enjoy life as a gift of God we are to remember our Creator. This remembering involves more than allowing God just some place in our life. Instead it means that we want to live our whole life to the honour of Him who created this world and has given us a place in the midst of His wonderful creation. God even created us in His image in order that we may reflect this image of God in whatever we do.

See, beloved, that's how we ought to remember our Creator, who in and through Jesus Christ also re-created our life, with as result that our life is no longer subject to futility. Yes, whoever sees his life in this rich per-spective will no longer live simply for him- or herself, but then it be-comes our genuine desire to commit our whole life to the LORD.
No, this doesn't take anything away from the enjoyment of which I spoke earlier on in the sermon, especially when we read the text chosen for this morning's sermon in the context of the whole of Ecclesiastes. In the be-ginning of this book the Preacher had said that without God it is all in vain. It is only in Christ that life has been freed from its vanity and can bear fruit again, even imperishable fruits. Since in faith we have the as-surance that even when the days draw near of which we would say, "I have no pleasure in them," as the preacher refers to it in the continuation of Ch. 12, speaking about the frailty of life in old age, when the body looses lustre and strength > even then as children of God we still may view the future cheerfully, knowing that one day this imperishable nature will put on the imperishable, and what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.

It is in particular in view of this frailty of life that the Preacher encour-ages the young people in the church to make the most of their youth, to make the most of it in the service of the LORD. Yes, young people, use your strength and energy to contribute to church life. Don't put this off by saying I still have time to do so later, first I also like to have a bit of en-joyment for myself. Remember your Creator and think of the fact why He gave also you a place in the midst His creation. Not simply so that you could enjoy yourself, but that you may live to honour of God in all you do. Remember you are His child, a covenant child.
Remember how rich God has made you in Jesus Christ, the Saviour also of your life. When you realise all this, you will no longer waste the days of your youth with all kind of sinful entertainment, but then you will fight these sinful desires, asking God to help you to live according to His will and this with joy and delight.

See there how the Preacher calls us to live joyfully to the honour of Him who created us. And of course, then this call is directed not only to the young people in the church, but to all of us, young and old. All of us are called in the place where the LORD has set us to devote our life to His service, and to do so joyfully.

As parents we have the task to give our children an example of this joy, showing them that it is a feast that we may serve the LORD. Beloved, when with us as parents the fire of love for the LORD and His service is no longer burning, perhaps it still smoulders a bit, but it no longer radi-ates any warmth > never think, beloved, when this is the case that you are able to make your children enthusiastic for the service of the LORD. Therefore, speak with your children about these things. Take time for it when they bombard you with all kind of questions. Never wave them aside, but around an open Bible try to find answers, to learn the way in which God wants us to walk, us and our children. Let us indeed do our utmost to raise our children in such a way that they will never look upon the service of the LORD as something boring or burdensome, but instead may see it as a tremendous riches to be a covenant child, to have a Father in heaven who knows us in all things; who knows us in our sorrow and difficulties, but also in that hard battle against sin.

See there, beloved, how we as children of God may indeed enjoy life to the full. Not in a worldly way, but to the honour of Him who created us. After all, all what this world offers for pleasure is fleeting, vain and empty. Therefore, let us not set our heart on that, but instead, young and old alike, consider the real riches in life and also enjoy these riches. If you do so, beloved, then God says to you this morning: you will be blessed. Then you can indeed live joyfully all the days of your life.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. A Veldman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was:

(c) Copyright 2001, Rev. A Veldman

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