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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:Remember your Creator in the Days of your Youth
Text:Ecclesiastes 12:1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Giving your heart to God

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 103:1,2                              

Ps 25:3,4

Reading – Ecclesiastes 11:7 - 12:14

Ps 71:1,3,5,9,10

Sermon – Ecclesiastes 12:1a

Hy 77:1,2,3

Hy 66:1,2,3

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Loved ones in Christ, being young is a special time (I remember it well…!). When you’re young, you stand at the beginning of something exciting. It’s a time for finding your way, a time for putting into practice all those good things you’ve learned.

And if there’s one book in the Bible that speaks to the youth, it’s Ecclesiastes. You could even say that this entire book is dedicated to the young people in God’s church. This book was written by a wise old man, someone near the end of his days. He had lived to the fullest, even led a luxurious and privileged life. About so many experiences and places, He could say, “I’ve been there, and done that.”

But the writer isn’t looking to boast, but to teach. For this teacher hasn’t been perfect. Along the way, he’s made some bad choices. Writing with the wisdom that comes with age, his one wish is that the next generation would do things differently. “Learn from my mistakes,” he pleads. “Don’t follow the same path that I took. No, my brothers and sisters,” he says, “Here’s what is important, some truths you don’t need to figure out for yourself—just take it from me.”

So today, we sit down and listen to the teacher. Try to imagine a scene in your living room at home. You invited the teacher of Ecclesiastes over for a cup of coffee, and he’s ended up staying for quite a while. There he is in the chair opposite you, and full of the Holy Spirit he is speaking his carefully chosen words. And here’s what he tells us:

Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth:

  1. remembering
  2. your God
  3. today


1) remembering: As he has told you his life story for the last couple hours—these last eleven chapters—sometimes this old teacher has been leaning forward in his armchair, gazing at you intently. Sometimes he’s been staring out the window, a far-away look on his face. Other times his voice has become quiet as he has reflected: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…” (Ecc 3:1-2).

But now he has that fire in his eyes again. He looks at you very directly, for he’s got something to say, and with urgency: “Remember your Creator,” he says. “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (12:1).

Remember,” exhorts the teacher. “And don’t tune me out at that word ‘remember,’” he says. “Don’t think I’m going to go on and on about the good ol’ days and how much better things were back then.” For the truth is, we don’t always like the word “remember.” If grandpa or grandma—or even Mom and Dad—begins a story by saying, “When I was your age...” or, “Back in my day…”, the kids start to switch off. Because remembering isn’t about life today, it’s about yesterday—and yesterday is long gone. What’s the value in remembering?

But the teacher means this word in another way. “Remembering” in the Bible isn’t nostalgia. It’s not just wishing for things that have long disappeared, like rotary telephones and typewriters and VCRs. The Bible’s kind of “remembering” is far more dynamic and meaningful. It’s recalling the deeds of the Lord. It’s bringing to your mind what God has accomplished. As Psalm 105:5 says, “Remember the wonders [God] has done, his miracles, and the judgments He pronounced.”

And this kind of remembering has a purpose. Remembering God’s works builds a bridge from the past into the present—even brings the past back into the present. Remembering God’s previous mercies gives a motive for today’s worship, lays a basis for today’s trust, provides a reason for today’s thanksgiving.

“Remember,” the teacher exhorts. “Remember: What has God done for you? How has God shown you his grace? How has He granted you his blessing? Think about it for a minute. See if you can recall the mighty works of the Lord.”

He wants us to say it: What has God done for us? Think back and try to remember God’s works. Remember how long ago, God started a relationship with you, and He sealed his covenant with you by the waters of baptism. Remember this too, how God kept all his promises to you, from day one, even unto today. Remember how the Father provided for you. The Son has cleansed and interceded for you. The Holy Spirit has started to renew and revive you.

Remember that God has always been with you. Maybe you haven’t lived that long—but has God ever forsaken you? No, He’s been there, without fail. “Remember this,” the teacher says. “Remember God’s power, so you always stand in awe of him. Remember God’s faithfulness, so you’ll always trust him. Remember his covenant love, so that you’ll know why He claims your life as his very own. Remember the great deeds of God, so that you’ll always be thankful.”

Remembering with an eye for what God has done turns remembrance into worship, turns remembrance into a life of service. For if God has given so much, what will you give to God in return? If God has loved you so fully in Jesus his Son, how can you ever withhold love from him? These are the questions the teacher asks every one of us: “What’s your answer to the God of all grace?” And in case we missed the obvious answer, he tells us the fitting response in 12:13, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man’s all”—it’s our whole duty!

“So, keep remembering your Creator,” the teacher says. “Remember him when you’ve got a big decision to make—and make that decision for him. Remember God when you’re having one of those days when everything goes right—know that it’s all from him. Remember God in those moments when life seems dark and pointless—know that He’s still with you. Remember God always, during all the changes and disappointments and blessings and losses that you’ll surely face in the coming years. Because your loving God will be there to help and to show the way.”

“Remember him,” urges the teacher, “so that you don’t forget. Because I know how it goes. I was young once, too. At one time I was your age, and there was a world of reasons to forget God. It was certainly more convenient to forget God and carry on without him! For back then, whatever my heart desired and whatever gave me delight, that was all mine. In those days, I lived apart from God. Sure, I was his child—I had his mark on my skin, just like you do—but I forgot. I let my holy knowledge get pushed aside by so many nice things, so many fun things, so many shiny things crying out for my attention. Until after a while,” the Teacher says, “I didn’t remember anymore who God really was.”

And let’s face it, we’re all inclined to forget. For our time is full of pressures and expectations. We forget, not because our memory is so poor, but because we want to enjoy life, try different things and reach our goals. We forget, because we have no time to really pause and remember. With so many distractions, any of us might forget our Creator.

But don’t. Even if your life is full of wonderful and even wholesome activity; even if you think that you’ve got things figured out—remember your God. For you need him, more than anything. You need to listen to his voice in the Word every day, and you need to enter his presence in prayer. You need to be in his house.

“Take it from me,” the teacher says again, “I learned the hard way. I lived my life the way that I pleased, and for many years I forgot God. He wasn’t far from me, but I was far from him. And along the way, what did I find? I was never more occupied, but found my life was meaningless. I never had more stuff, but my life was empty. I never had more pleasure, but zero satisfaction.”

“For years I fooled myself, thinking I could make it on my own. I was headed straight for Sheol, because I was too proud to ask for God’s help. I was too busy to pray. I was too focused inward to look to heaven. So, brothers and sisters, remember your Creator. Remember him, because He promises never to forget you. Remember him, because He is…”


2) your God: What do you think about God? That is really one of the most revealing things about the state of a person’s faith: What do they think about God? How do you conceive of him? And through the Holy Spirit the teacher of Ecclesiastes tells us that God is greater, and holier, more majestic and awesome, than anything you can imagine. He puts it very simply for us: He is your Creator.

It’s God who created this life in all its complexity. It’s God who made this beautiful earth. He made the expanse of the heavens and the ocean depths. It’s God who formed us from the dust of the ground, and God who assigned us our place. It’s God who planned this entire existence before the beginning. He knows where all things came from, and where all things are going.

We all know that, but let it sink in for a moment, that God is our Creator. What does that mean for your life? What consequence does that have for how you think and for how you act? It means that God owns us! God made you, at his time, for his reasons. Without God, you wouldn’t be here. And that means God has every right to your life, and all that is in it.

God put you together, and the consequence of that is that you’re on this earth to do his will. This life isn’t actually about us and our happiness. It’s not about having a good time, becoming rich and famous or successful. It’s about serving the God who made us, and who then saved us in his grace.

God created you, and that means He’s in charge of all your days. He decided when you’d be born. He’s already decided when you’ll die—it might even be tomorrow that the Creator has set as the day. “No man knows when his hour will come” (Ecc 9:12).

“And once you die,” the teacher says, “you have to answer to your Maker. You’ll appear before him, and you’ll give an account. Because God is your Creator, that means He’s also your Judge.” This is what the teacher told us in the previous chapter, when he said, ‘Walk in the ways of your heart and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these God will bring you into judgment’ (11:9). God the Creator has the right to sit in judgment on everything we’ve done in this life, whether good or evil. And He will judge us, sure as God is God.

“But I’m saying this not to worry you,” the teacher insists. “God being our Creator does mean we’re totally accountable to him, that we’ll have to answer to him for every deed, ‘including every secret thing’” (12:14), even the things you did when you thought no one was watching, your innermost thoughts.

Yet that He’s our Creator is at the same time a reassuring truth. Remember: He didn’t have to create us in his image, but He did. He didn’t have to spare us when we sinned, but He did. He didn’t have to give us today to enjoy, but He has. And He’s done so with purpose. There’s meaning to this life! For somehow the glorious God—the Maker of heaven and earth—somehow this God finds pleasure in us.

God the Creator finds pleasure in us, when we put our trust in him. He finds pleasure, when we serve him gladly. The Almighty God is even glorified through the imperfect worship that we give him. He’s honoured by us when we serve him in the humble ways that we can. God delights in us when we remember him.

How can this be? Why should the Almighty Creator ever care what weak and sinful people like us thought about God, or said, or did for God? God doesn’t need anyone or anything—least of all us! But this is who God is. He wants a relationship with you and me.

For “He is your Creator” (12:1). He is yours. Here’s the marvelous truth of his covenant of love, that God says to us in Christ, ‘I will be your God, and you will be my people.’ God is ours, to believe in, to depend on, to serve, to obey, to love. He is ours, and we are his. We are his people, to protect, to guide, to bless, even to save us.

“And that’s something you understand a whole lot better than I do,” says the teacher of Ecclesiastes. “I’m from the Old Testament age. I’m from the days of shadows and symbols, when we just had a faint outline of salvation, when most of it was behind the curtain. We always knew God wasn’t only a Creator and Judge, that He was also a Saviour—for God said that He’d save, way back in the Garden already. But we never knew how it’d come about. How was God going to deliver us from sin’s dominion and Satan’s power?”

“We never knew,” says our Old Testament teacher, “but you do. You’ve met the Christ. You’re blessed to live in the New Testament age like you do. To know Jesus and his redemption. You know the whole story, that you can call God not only Creator and Judge and Saviour, but also Father. You know how in Christ, God saves us from a meaningless life.”

“Realize what you have,” says our old teacher from across the centuries. “You’re young, yet already you know so much more than I do. To quote Jesus: ‘Many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it’ (Matt 13:17). The gospel is a gift. So embrace it with all your might. Treasure it, more than earthly riches. Enjoy it, more than the pleasures of this world.”

Yes, God is your God. So live that way. Don’t be distant from God or indifferent to God. But walk with this God. Talk with this God. Call on him as your Father, because you can. Depend on him as Saviour, because you can. Serve him as your Lord, because He is. And do so…


3) today: “There was a time,” the old teacher confesses, “when I thought I was almost invincible. Nothing could get me down. I was young, wild, and free. Now, I won’t recount everything that happened along the way. But things did happen—things that began to convince me I was wasting my life. I’ve told you already what I found, that absolutely everything became meaningless, wearisome, a chasing after the wind. Work, wealth, pleasure, position, planning—life itself—all was useless and empty.”

“Now I’m old. I’m going the way of all flesh. For my body is breaking down. The eyes are starting to grow dim. The hearing is starting to fade. You see these hands are starting to shake. My teeth are falling out, one by one. Even my bodily desires are beginning to subside. I know the days of trouble have come.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” the teacher insists, “I’m not a grumpy old man. Today I know the peace that passes all understanding. But I want you to learn from me. Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before those days of trouble come and the years approach when you’ll say, ‘I find no pleasure in them’ (12:1). Love and trust and serve God today, in the present, already now, in this moment.”

Being young is a special time. It’s a time of enthusiasm and energy and adventure. In fact, some say that your youth is the time to live it up. For you’re only young once, and you can always get serious later. Later, once the kids start coming, or once your name comes up for elder or deacon, or when you have big decisions to make. And maybe that’s how it’ll go for some of God’s children. They go through a wild time, then they settle down and they become the most devoted of believers.

But why choose the winding path? Why put your soul in danger by forgetting God for a season? Why would you risk everything for a bit of fun, for human approval, for pleasure that passes with the moment? It doesn’t make sense. It’s not worth it, because you might lose sight of what is truly important.

So remember God in the present. Do it now, because this life is fragile and momentary. You might think you’re strong and healthy and in control, but life is like a pitcher that can be shattered at the fountain (12:6). That’s an old-fashioned image, but it’s easy to understand. Say you’ve got a ceramic jug or a clay pitcher that you’re filling at a well, but it’s heavy, or your hands are wet, or you lose your balance, and all of a sudden the pitcher hits the ground. In a split-second, it’s broken into a hundred pieces, and it can’t be fixed. It can happen so quickly—your life can end, like that, on the highway or at work, or at the ocean. And the question is: Will you have remembered God?

Remember God in the present. Do it now, because the choices you make today will last a long time. No, there is forgiveness for the sins of youth. And God might give the time for making a U-turn. But the nature of sin is that it captivates. It can wrap its chains around us when we’re young, and it can keep us enslaved. Sin always takes us farther than we thought.

What’s more, it could be tomorrow that Christ returns. You know that He came once, so He’ll also come again. And what will He find? Will He find faith on the earth? So remember God in the days of your youth.

In these days, God has given us great and precious gifts. He’s given us life in Christ. He’s given us promises in his Word. He’s given us his Spirit. These aren’t things to waste, things to leave unloved and unused. For they tell us that we’re precious in God’s sight. He created us to love him, to honour him, and to enjoy him forever.

We praise God our Father today, because we know that He’s working among us by his Spirit. For there is faith, there’s a desire to listen to the Word and to be part of his people. There’s a knowledge of the truth, and a confidence that it’s real.

All very good, and now we must also remember. Remember who you are: God’s precious child. Remember who God is: your Maker, your Saviour, your Lord. And keep remembering, every day! Remember him when you’re young. Remember him when you’re middle-aged. Remember him even when you’re old. Remember, and believe!  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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