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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Beginning Well
Text:Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-11-17
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Ecclesiastes 11:6-12:8

Text: Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:1

 

BEGINNING WELL

  1. Use Your Youth to Rejoice

  2. Use Your Youth to Remember

 

  1. Psalm 27: 1, 2, 6

  2. Psalm 119: 4-6

  3. Psalm 71: 3, 5, 9

  4. Hymn 79: 1, 4, 5

  5. Psalm 20: 2, 4

  6. Hymn 74: 1-4

 

Words to Listen For: chew, black, gravel, giggles, lamp

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What was the most tragic thing John Piper had ever seen?  How is he right?  How is he wrong?

  2. How is this text consistent with the text from last week about the value of mourning?

  3. Explain The Preacher’s instruction to “follow your heart.”  How is this okay?

  4. What does it mean to remember?

  5. Why does The Preacher call God “Creator” ?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Young people in Christ,

Children,

 

Listen up!

This is a sermon about you.

This is a sermon for you.

 

It’s right there in the first verse of our text: Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes.

Rejoice O young man - and the word also includes the ladies, so Rejoice O young men and young women.

And then again in the last verse of our text: Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth.

This is a text directly ABOUT, and directly FOR, the young people.

These are the words of an old man speaking to young men and women.  The Preacher is looking back on his life, looking back on his youth, and pleading: don’t waste your youth!  Don’t waste it!  Don’t be like me!  Please learn from my mistakes so that you don’t have to learn from your own.”  A wasted youth, a wasted LIFE is one of the great tragedies.

Pastor John Piper writes a wonderful book about this very thing.  It’s called Don’t Waste Your Life and every young person should read this book.

The inspiration for writing came to John Piper, at least partially, from an experience he had as a pastor that shocked him to his core.

There was an old gentleman who, one Sunday after the preaching, came up to John, telling him he wanted to give his life to the Lord.  He had lived a life far from God, and now, finally now, in his twilight years, he believed.  As he knelt beside John, as John prayed over him, tears began to stream from his eyes, and these 3 words kept tumbling out of his mouth: I’ve wasted it.  I’ve wasted it.  I’ve wasted it!  “The most tragic words,” John Piper said.

This man saw so clearly that he had wasted his life, choosing to live far from God.  Now, of course we know that the gift of God is eternal life.  We know that when we reach our twilight years here on this earth, these years aren’t even a drop in the bucket compared to the ocean of life we have waiting for us on the other side of glory, and yet, the words of this man were true.  The heartache of this man was proper.

And though these 3 words are not found in the text of Ecclesiastes, we can see this theme clearly across every page.

The Preacher is saying: I WASTED IT!  I WASTED IT!  Do not follow my example.  Do as I SAY, not as I DO!  Not as I DID!

The Preacher wants all the youth, young boys and girls, young men and women to

BEGIN (NING) WELL.  He instructs each one of us: 

  1. Use Your Youth to Rejoice, and 

  2. Use Your Youth to Remember

 

Beginning Well: Use Your Youth to Rejoice

Now, let me say for those who do not feel that “youth” is an accurate description of themselves anymore, maybe there’s too much gray hair now, or not enough hair left…this might still be a sermon for you.

Because what the Preacher does to define youth, is he gives a description of its opposite.

That’s what we heard in our reading.

Ecclesiastes 12:3-6 is The Preacher’s description of, shall we say, “not youth.”

In the day when the keepers of the house tremble,

And the strong men are bent,

And the grinders cease because they are few,

And those who look through the windows are dimmed

And the doors on the street are shut

When the sound of the grinding is low

This is the Preacher comparing old age to a house falling apart.  This is what the metaphor means:

When your body trembles

When your back is stooped

When you cannot chew your food anymore

When you have nearly lost your eyesight

When you have nearly lost your hearing altogether

And the descriptions of old age continue.

And so, if these words do NOT describe you, then you are young still.  You are a youth.  This sermon is addressed to you.

And if they do describe you, this sermon is still for you, for I would have to slightly disagree with John Piper’s statement in the introduction.  That nothing is sadder, nothing is more tragic than an old man crying “I’ve wasted it!  I’ve wasted it!” … for there is one thing sadder.  There is one thing more tragic.  And that is the same old man, if he had never stepped foot in John Piper’s church that morning, and these words would be saved for when he appears before the judgement seat of God.  For then all the tears are too late.

And so, even if you are not a youth, even if your time left on this earth is relatively short, even if you HAVE wasted your youth…do not waste any of the days you have left.

  • If your body already trembles, let it tremble in fear and reverence of God Almighty.

  • If your back is already stooped, bend it further (if you can) in prayer.

  • If your vision is nearly gone, find someone to read you Scripture and bask in it.

And so, now that we all know that the sermon is for us, let’s really get into our text.

 

Ecclesiastes 11:9 - Rejoice O young man in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.

For those who heard the previous sermon in the series, this may sound a little contradictory.  After all, last time we heard of the value of SADNESS.  Of the value of MOURNING.  The value of WEEPING.

And now we are being told to rejoice?

To…“eat and drink, for tomorrow we die?”

No, not at all.  This text is not the Preacher contradicting himself, speaking out of two sides of his mouth.  This text is not an apology for last week’s sermon, a response to a hypothetical complaint that I came down too hard on happiness (I received no such complaint by the way).

Instead, this is fully consistent with what both the Preacher and I myself said last time.

The Preacher, I said, The Preacher, elsewhere in Ecclesiastes (places like our text this morning) praises the pleasures of this life when they are used properly, for the glory of God.

But, as he and I warned you last time, when we see the trinkets of this earth as TREASURES rather than TOOLS, then we go wrong.

And yet we are told, we are instructed, even COMMANDED to REJOICE in our youth.

Now, grammatically, the phrase “rejoice in your youth” could have two different meanings.

It could mean “rejoice in the fact that you are young.”  Rejoice because of your good eyesight, rejoice because of your strong legs, rejoice because you can run for so long and not be tired.  Rejoice because of the strength of your body and the strength of your mind.

It COULD mean this.

But in the context, we see that it has the other meaning.  Rejoice DURING your youth.  Use all of those wonderful things, strong legs, good eyesight, a good memory…use all of them to explore God’s creation.  To revel in the joy of being alive!

Because this is the blessing of youth!  Not being focused inwards at your aching joints, not concerned about your poor memory…the young do not have to worry about themselves.  You could even say that especially for those starting off in their youth, they aren’t all that self-aware.  Their entire life is focused on OUT THERE.  What is OUTSIDE of their body.  What their eyes see.

They see a mountain and they say - WOW!!  I WANT TO EXPLORE THAT!

     With a few more years, age and experience, seeing a mountain is still

     exciting, but very quickly you think about if your knees can take it. 

     You think about how much snow there is up on the top and if you can

     get through it.  You think about how heavy the pack you’d carry on

     your back would be.  And maybe you still do it, huffing and puffing,

     knowing the discomfort is all worth it…but something has been lost. 

     That innocence and joy of early youth.

 

Or they see a sunset and they say - WOW!! That’s beautiful!  Why is it like that?

    When you get older, you see the sunset and you think, oh that sunset

     is beautiful, but…I had more I wanted to do today.  The morning is

     going to come all too early, I better start preparing for bed.

 

You see the difference?

 

Young people, especially young young people…don’t rush to grow up too quickly.  This world is filled with more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than can ever be done.  So ENJOY IT!  REJOICE IN IT!!

Because, believe it or not, this is a commandment.  This is a RULE.  Not a Pastor-Segstro rule, but a GOD RULE.

Rejoice in your youth!  God says this in the exact same way that He tells you to obey your parents.

     Obey your parents.

     Take joy in your youth.

EQUAL COMMANDMENTS.

And we might wonder about this.  Is this actually true?  God COMMANDS joy and happiness and delight?  Yes!  It’s here in black and white.

These are not optional extras for the Christian youth.  Christian living at any age before old age.  Enjoyment is a COMMANDMENT.

Surely not!  One of you will say!  God COMMANDS us to be holy, and He HOPES we are happy…but that second one, it’s like an optional add-on.

It’s like a car.  Holiness is the gas tank, happiness is the heated seats.  But NO!  Not at all.  This might be consistent with YOUR CURRENT PHILOSOPHY, but it’s not consistent with GOD’S WORD!

REJOICE.  It’s not optional.

God has given you so much in this world, and what fools we are to blind ourselves to the goodness and beauty and glory of creation!  What FOOLS!  What REBELS to purposely waste what God has given us, and go our own way instead!

Skipping ahead, very briefly, to the end of verse 9 - but know that for all these things, God will bring you into judgement.

This is clearly about when we IMPROPERLY use our freedom - use it, but be careful, don’t be like the Preacher who used his freedom as a coverup for sin!  But it is also about this.

For ALL THESE THINGS, God will bring you into judgement.

God has given you a command, young people.  He has commanded you to REJOICE.  To REALLY USE YOUR LIFE.

If this was any other commandment at the beginning of verse 9, this meaning would jump out at us.  If verse 9 began - Be holy, O young man, in your youth.  Know that for these things God will bring you into judgement…we would have no doubt that this refers to God judging us for our disobedience when we act in UNHOLY WAYS.

And it is the same here.  Enjoyment is not only PERMITTED for believers - "may we laugh?  Please?"  It’s not only PERMITTED, it is REQUIRED for believers.  This isn’t a suggestion from God, it is a commandment.

And think of this, really think of this commandment - this is the LEAST BURDENSOME commandment that God could ever give.  Rest, rejoice, enjoy what I have given you!

Stop rushing around, stop the rat race, just BREATHE!

Think of times when you have been stressed.  Maybe planning a wedding, maybe running a VBS, and someone comes up to you, grabs you by the shoulders and says - IT’S OK!  BREATHE!  SIT DOWN, I’VE GOT THIS.  Sit down, drink a coffee, eat a snack, it’s all going to be okay.  ENJOY this!

This is what God says.  But what He is telling us is so much better than just a chair and a coffee.  REJOICE…and rejoice…ultimately…IN ME!

Young men and women, let’s not miss out on how counter cultural this is! God’s command to you isn’t to stress out and worry about the future. To get in the rat-race early, to start fretting about your future now. His command is, to rejoice! Rejoice in the gifts that you have been given. And not just in the gifts, but in the Giver who has your whole life in His hands.  Rejoice!

_______________

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.  Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes.

Ok.  We have now come to this part.  This challenging confusing part.  Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes.

Is Solomon telling the youth to do exactly what he did?  This sounds suspiciously similar to the Preacher’s description of his own life.

Ecclesiastes 2:10 - Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.  I kept my heart from no pleasure.

In Ecclesiastes 2, the Preacher said, “I followed my heart, I followed my eyes.”

In Ecclesiastes 11, the Preacher says, “Follow your heart, follow your eyes.”

And this message hasn’t been lost to time, for a great philosopher of our age taught only a few years ago: I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it.  EXACTLY THE SAME MESSAGE.

So, what now?  In our text, is the Preacher saying that all young people should live as he lived?  Has NOTHING been learned in 9 whole chapters?  Are we back to the beginning once again?

No.  Not at all.  We will examine this in our second point in a few minutes, but we see in our text that the Preacher is setting young people free, out of the house, and as they start heading down the road, then, himself an old man, leaning against the door, calls out wise advice for how they should spend their freedom.

We rightly worry about the message follow your heart, because we know that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.  So telling young people to follow their heart…?

But we need not panic over these instructions.  And that’s true for two reasons.

First of all, being young is living in the workshop stage.  The building stage.  The stage where you can go out and make mistakes, and you know that you can return home a little wiser.

Being young is when you try 12 different things and fail at 9 of them.

AND THAT’S OKAY!  That’s what youth is for!

And secondly, when we send our children out the door, to their first day of school, to their first relationship, moving into their first apartment…we are sending them out, not as a blank slate, not as a sponge, not at someone who knows NOTHING, but as a covenant child!  As someone who has been raised in the truth of God since infancy!

As someone who has sat here week in and week out, hearing the difference between what is right and wrong, the difference between what is wise and foolish.  The difference between what is godly and what is worldly.  The kids are going to be all right.  These years of youth are meant for messing up and starting over again.  

They are meant to be filled with days of learning, days of curiosity, days of choice that make you who you are, opportunities to discover just who God created you to be.

 

Let me put it like this - do you know why God has made it that children have such a short recovery time for scrapes and bruises and even broken arms?

It’s because children are MEANT to have adventures that might end up with scrapes and bruises and broken arms.  It’s GOOD for a child to fearlessly climb a tree, even if she ends up falling out of it onto her arm.

It’s good for a child to run down a gravel road with wild abandon, even if it means that he will come back with scraped knees.

ADVENTURE is what youth is all about!  When you’re quite young, adventure looks like scraped knees and broken bones.  And that’s great!  Don’t seek out a cast, but go out exploring and adventuring through God’s creation, rejoice in it! And if you end up in a cast, rejoice in that too!

 

When you get a little older, still young…how might that look?  What does adventure look like in your late teens and early 20s?

Well…don’t be reckless, but stop always calculating, stalling, and triangulating every move of your life.  Think deeply, but don’t be paralyzed, waiting for a sign from heaven telling you to go out and live your life.  Ecclesiastes 11 is that message from God to you.  Looking for a sign?  THIS IS IT!

What, exactly does that look like for you? I can’t say. You’ve got to figure it out yourself.  So, prayerfully, go out and do it!  Maybe it’s moving out of the house - don’t stay too long depending on Mom and Dad.  Maybe it’s getting a new job. Maybe it’s going on a long-term mission trip. Maybe it’s going to Bible college, or seminary. Maybe it’s starting a prayer group. If there are no jobs, no opportunities, no romantic prospects…then maybe it looks like going somewhere else!  And If THAT doesn’t work, go somewhere else again!

 

And then a little older again still young…adventure means marrying a faithful woman.  Marrying a faithful man.  Don’t date each other for 15 years to make sure you’re soulmates who never fight and have no annoying qualities (because…you will fight, and you will annoy each other).  Accept this and enjoy God’s good gift of marriage.  Get married, have more children than you can afford, apply for a job that you’re not sure you’re qualified for.  Figure it out when you get it, with hard work and determination.

 

Go and live your life, young people!  Have the adventure that God has made you to have!  Experience that bliss, that utter joy of being alive.

Run, just a little faster

Jump, just a little higher

Try out something that is a little scary

Because this is what youth is all about!  Go and have fun!  But remember…remember as you head out of that door, as you start walking down that road…remember that there IS a curfew.  For all these things, God will bring you into judgement.  Enjoy your life, but do so, remembering God.  Our second point.

Young people…young people, you are so loved by your church family.  So loved by the elders, the deacons, the pastor, your parents, aunts and uncles…everyone in your life.  A smile from you can light up the room.

Just think of the Vacation Bible School held here this last week.  As the children were singing their hearts out to Jesus Makes a Way, as they were asking deep questions in the Bible Story time about the Trinity, about eternity, about the Bible and faith…it was impossible to be anything but joyful.

Or at summer camp.  Leading these young people in singing In Christ Alone, or in Cabin Pack Devotions…there is a joy there like no other.

And it’s not just because children are physically adorable.  They are, but it’s deeper than that.  There is this joy because we are seeing children do what children SHOULD DO.

The young should rejoice in their youth.  Using their curious mind and unlimited energy to explore this world.

And the young should also use their youth to REMEMBER.  Using their curious mind and unlimited energy to try to figure out God.

Ecclesiastes 12:1 - Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth.

Youth is for rejoicing and for remembering.

We saw in our first point that rejoicing is related to ADVENTURE.  Be ADVENTUROUS.  Be DARING.  Be WILLING TO FAIL.

But what exactly does it mean to REMEMBER?

 

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.

It’s more than OCCASIONALLY ACKNOWLEDGING that God exists.

The demons do this and they SHUDDER!

It’s more than looking outside, seeing a beautiful sunset and saying, “Yup, SOMEONE probably made this,” and thinking no more about it.

Instead, this is so much deeper.

To remember is to think on, and to keep ever before you.

To remember is to think on.

As you spend your youth rejoicing, taking adventure after adventure, the adventure of running and climbing, the adventure of independence, the adventure of marriage and family…take time out of your exciting day and THINK ON your God.

Think on the One who created you.  The One who loves you.  The One who gave Himself for you.

Don’t spend all of your time looking HORIZONTALLY that you neglect the VERTICAL.  All of this [move hands horizontally] can be joyful and exciting…IN ITS PROPER CONTEXT.  THIS [move hands vertically].

Why do we rejoice?

We rejoice because we were meant to.  We were created to.  God created this world as a perfect paradise for human beings to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  To enjoy God, to glorify God, means to enjoy and use the gifts He has given to us.  When you appreciate the beauty of a rose, you are meant to appreciate even more deeply and even more fully, the beauty of the One who created the rose.

We rejoice because our joy fills God with joy.  Just like the smiles and giggles of glee of children fill you with joy, so too our investigation into this world fills God with joy.  So too the proper use of our bodies and of our minds.

Remember your Creator.

Think on Him.  Think on what He created - everything!  Be like the girl this week who raised her hand in the middle of the Bible story in VBS and said, completely unrelated to our story “Umm, yeah…did you know that God created all the animals?”  And then she smiled and she laughed.

She was SO FILLED WITH JOY THINKING ABOUT GOD.  Youth of all ages, take a page from her book.

An easy way to do that, an easy way to think about all of this is to get rid of the word “NATURE” from your vocabulary.  It’s not a wrong word, it’s not a bad word…but it is an incomplete word.  When we go outside, when we go on a “nature walk” when we enjoy “nature” … what we are really doing, is we are going on a creation walk.  We are enjoying CREATION.  God made all of this.  Remember your Creator.  Think on Him.  Think on Him often.  Think on Him deeply.

And to remember is to KEEP EVER BEFORE YOU.

As you use your youth and your health, do so IN THE DIRECTION OF YOUR CREATOR.

When you go on adventures, do so in full knowledge that God is with you.  Do so in the full knowledge that you are made for both happiness AND holiness.

It is not only holiness, so exemplified by the Puritans, who dressed in dark colours, who kept their faces morose, who thought joy and laughter were unseemly.

But it is also not only in happiness, so exemplified by this age of wickedness and sin, where pleasure is worshipped for its own sake, where youth and freedom have come to mean that everything goes, viewing the 10 commandments as rules made to be broken, seeing virtue as nothing more than a challenge, nothing more than a stumbling block, on the way to vice.

And so, young people of all ages, BE HAPPY…in a holy way.  And BE HOLY…in a happy way.

Live life under the sun, with a constant remembrance, with a constant acknowledgement of JUST WHO IS ABOVE the sun.

 

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.

Live with God always before you.  You are living, you are adventuring, you are rejoicing…IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD!

From the time you open your eyes and breathe your first breath of the day, to the moment your eyes close on your pillow at night, you are living under His gaze.  We must be aware of this, you and I, bringing our youth and our strength adoringly before God, presenting them to Him, using them for His glory.

 

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.

There is one more aspect here that should be examined before we close.  God as CREATOR.  This is the only time in Ecclesiastes where the Preacher references God as CREATOR.  And this is notable.

Previously, the Preacher only refers to God with the general term “GOD.”  Throughout the book, it is always GOD, never YHWH, our covenant God, never REDEEMER, and never, until this verse, CREATOR.

So why is the Preacher using “Creator” here?

Well, he is doing so to make us THINK.  To make us REMEMBER exactly what our place is in relation to God.  To make us remember just who made all of these things.

Our doctrine of joy, our doctrine of youth, our doctrine of this life, must be rooted in our doctrine of creation.

Remembering our CREATOR, rather than simply our God, means remembering that He made a good world, not an evil one.

Remembering our CREATOR means acting within the created order.  Do not simply sit back and observe…creation is given to you - you are the pinnacle, the peak, the top of God’s creation!  You are meant to keep it and rule it!  But also…you are not the Creator yourself.  You are not the Almighty.  How you keep, how you rule, must be as an ambassador of God.  Keep it, rule it, care for it, as God Himself does.

Live this life, live in this world as it was MEANT TO BE, while you are young.  Before you see the corruption, before you see how deep the fall into sin has actually plunged this world.  Live in joy, soaking up the beauty, soaking up the goodness.

We all should be more like the young people - remembering that the fall has not removed all the goodness and beauty of this world.  Knowing also that it WILL come back one day.

Eden will be reborn.  The joy of Adam and Eve, the joy of a child, WILL BE YOURS AGAIN.

This is the promise of the Creator. 

For the one who created also RECREATED.

He didn’t leave us to age out of our joy.  He didn’t leave us to sort of “wise up” to the evils of this world and only have joy in our youth.  But in fact, all of those descriptions of old age?  They will be UNDONE because of the work of Jesus Christ.

The sun and the light and the moon and stars will be darkened?

     NO!  For the glory of God will be our light, and the Lamb will be our lamp.

 

The sound of grinding will be low?

    No, the songs of the saints will be deafening!

 

There will be fear at the sound of a bird, there will be fear of what is high up and what is coming down the road?

    NO!  There will be NO FEAR, for perfect love casts out fear

 

Our backs will be bent?

    No, our burdens will be gone. There will be no more mourning or crying or pain

 

Our bodies will deteriorate?

    NO!  We will be raised imperishable!  Incorruptible!
 

Our desires will fail?

    No, our desires will be stronger than ever. Our desire to know God.  To dwell with Him. To enjoy His good gifts, and to enjoy Him more

    because of them.

 

Our God, our Creator has set us apart, for our joy and His, so that we might live with him and enjoy him forever.  And the wonderful, amazing, life altering truth?  Forever starts NOW.

For the weakness of old age, the fear of death, the lack of joy…these are all the results of sin.  

But sin?  The source of all these things? 

SIN WAS DEFEATED.  SIN WAS MADE UTTERLY SINFUL AND DESTROYED.

FEAR?  FEAR NOW FEARS THE ONE WHO CONQUERED IT.

AND DEATH?  DEATH ITSELF DIED.

 

All of this was accomplished on that day when Jesus Christ, a man who would never grow old, but whose young body was broken and marred beyond recognition even while young, His back bent under the weight of the cross he was forced to carry, His legs trembling as they pushed against the nails so that He could struggle for breath, the world turning dark as He was abandoned…

A life that the Romans, the religious leaders, even the disciples in their ignorance, would have considered WASTED.

Such potential this Jesus had…but He WASTED HIS LIFE.

But they couldn’t be more wrong!

He did all of this for the joy set before Him.  He went through all of this suffering and misery, but He did so rejoicing in His God.  Remembering His God, and truly making the most of His life - giving it up for us, that we might spend an eternity in our bodies that will rise up on wings like eagles, bodies that will never faint, never weary, never age.  Bodies and minds in which we can rejoice in our Creator for eternity.

All praise and glory be to Him, forever.

AMEN.

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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