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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
Title:Live your life to the fullest with joy and discernment
Text:Ecclesiastes 11:9 -12:1 (View)
Occasion:Public Profession of faith
Topic:Enjoying Life

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 71: 3, 4
Psalm 119: 4, 5, 7
Psalm 148: 3, 4
Hymn 10: 9, 10
Psalm 134: 1, 3
Hymn 45: 1, 2, 3, 4

Read: Ecclesiastes 11: 1-12:1

Text: Ecclesiastes 11: 9 -12:1
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters, and especially today that includes you young people:

The text of this morning's worship service addresses the youth as a separate group. The Bible does not often do that. We are all members of God's covenant people and as such whatever we find in God's Word applies to all of us. Yet we do find on occasion that special groups are mentioned in the Bible. We encounter that here in this text. The Teacher deems it necessary to specifically address the young people. He knows what young people are like: they are strong, full of vigor. They are full of life, inquisitive. They're also adventuresome, for young people want to experience new things. They don't necessarily want to do things according to the tried and true way. So they tend to be impatient to get on with life. But they are also inexperienced in life and therefore run the risk of making big mistakes that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

So the Preacher has some wise words for them. It is good to apply these words today during a special worship service where we have eight young people in front of us who are about to declare before God and his people that they want to live their whole lives according to the glory of God.

This is an exciting and joyful day for everyone. It is first of all an exciting and joyful day for these young people themselves. But it is also a joyful and exciting day for their parents and their other believing relatives and friends. Indeed it's a joyful day for the whole church.

But we are not the only ones who are rejoicing. God in heaven and his angels rejoice as well. For today you are about to declare that you want nothing to do with the kingdom of Satan and that you want everything to do with the kingdom of God. God has graciously brought you to that point in your life.

Yet a day like this also brings with it some apprehension and trepidation. For we all know how attractive the kingdom of Satan is. We know that this world is under the control of the evil one and that he has many attractive things to offer. Satan will do everything in his power to draw these young people away from God and his people and his kingdom. But don't worry. The Lord God will never abandon you. The only way that your relationship with the Lord God can be broken is if you yourself totally turn your back on him.

It is also easy to remain close to God. For he does give you many things to enjoy. As a matter of fact the teacher tells you to let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth and to follow the ways of your heart. In other words, enjoy whatever you lay your eyes on. Employ all your senses as you discover the myriad of things you can enjoy. Don't hold back. There's a whole world to be discovered out there. There is so much to be enjoyed that you won't be able to discover it all even if you lived a thousand years.

But, and you knew that was coming, the Teacher also gives a warning. He has to, not in order to put a damper on it all, but in order to make sure that you do not go after things that will destroy you. He wants you to be able to strike a good balance.

It is so easy to be blinded and to think that you are doing the right thing when in reality you are doing the wrong thing. You fool yourself into thinking that you are allowed to enjoy certain things, which in reality you are not. Think about what happened in Paradise. Adam and Eve were fooled into thinking that it was okay to eat of that one tree in the garden that the Lord God had forbidden them to eat from. Somehow Satan was able to convince them that it would be all right. And they fell for it. What a disaster!

So you need to be trained. You need to know what to enjoy and how to enjoy it. The theme of today’s sermon is as follows:

Live your life to the fullest with joy and discernment.
1. Be happy;
2. Be at peace;
3. Be watchful.

1. Up to this point the Preacher has made quite a few observations about life under the sun. He has experienced it all. He's enjoyed good wine and women, beautiful dwellings and gardens, delicious food and drink, and the best entertainment imaginable. He also saw the other side of the coin. He saw the injustices in life. He saw the many things that go wrong. He noticed that people sometimes go to an early grave, even though they had lived godly lives, whereas the wicked live longer. He observed that those who live righteous lives nevertheless experienced many difficulties: illnesses, financial setbacks, oppression, physical and mental agony, yet for the wicked things go smoothly. But he noted that it is one lot that befalls them all, namely that everybody goes to the grave. That is the one refrain that he keeps on repeating. For example he says in Ecclesiastes 9:11, "The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all." It is for that reason that he calls life "meaningless", or as other translations have it "vanity."

The word “meaningless” has the connotation of brevity. When he says that life is meaningless he means that it is brief, transitory, short-lived. It's like a puff of wind. The one minute it's there; the next minute it's gone.

The preacher is typical of those who have most of their life behind them. They look back at it all, and wonder where the time has gone. “It was only yesterday that I was a young man or young woman. It was only a short time ago that I was able to do all kinds of things that I can’t do anymore. Time has slipped through my fingers.”

Even young people should be able to identify with that. Especially when things are going smoothly, then time flies. A week is gone just like that. You hardly remember what you have done in the past week. It's all a blur. You young people should speak to some of the elderly about this sometime. They will tell you that it seems like only yesterday when they were young like you. They will speak about their youth as if it were yesterday. Because that is how it is for them. To them it's not all that long ago.

It is from that perspective that the Preacher comes with this message to the young people. If life is this short, then make sure that you spend it wisely. Time and chance happen to us all, but make sure that while you are alive you can enjoy all the things that God gives you to enjoy. For life is short. Make the most of it. Be happy.

Note well that he says that you must be happy while you are young. He does not say that you must be happy because you are young. Oh sure, youth brings with it many pleasures. There are things you can enjoy in your youth that you'll never be able to enjoy in the same way again later in life. But don't think that life is over after 30. It's not over after 40 or 50 or 60 either. There is still a lot of good living to be done even when you are 50 or 60 or 70 or 80 or even 90 years old. Every stage of life brings its own joy and happiness. But the happiness you will experience in your later life will depend on how well you have learned to be happy when you are young. For it is when you are young that you have to learn what makes a person truly happy. What you learn in your youth will stay with you in adulthood. In our youthful years we set the pattern for the rest of our life. It says in Proverbs 22:6 "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." And so, if you have learned to be happy while you are young that will stay with you the rest of your life. You will have discovered the way to happy living.

Young people do not always have a joyful time in life. There are many things that can get them down. They have many responsibilities. They always have adults looking over their shoulder to make sure that they are doing what they're supposed to be doing. They have their parents and their teachers, and – if they have a job – their bosses, all telling them what to do and how to do it and when to do it. To top it all off they also have great peer pressure to contend with. They are pressured to fit in. There is pressure from all sources to look good and fashionable and successful. There is also the pressure of sexual tension. For a young person it is hard to find his or her way in life. All these things cause conflict and turmoil. Generally parents and teachers and others in authority have the best in mind for them. Nevertheless young people often do receive conflicting advice. And they're not always treated with love and understanding by others. Other people want to impose their tastes upon them and so the young people feel restricted, hemmed in.

These things can get you down. They can make your life difficult. Some young people have a more difficult time of it than others do. That is why these words of the teacher are so wonderful, so heart-warming, so encouraging. He says, "Be happy, young man, while you are 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." This, however, is difficult advice for us to follow. What does the preacher mean? It cannot be that he wants us to do whatever comes up in our minds; that we can do whatever we feel like whenever we feel like it. That's not realistic. And the Bible also gives different advice. It says in Numbers 15:39, "You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes."

So on the one hand we are told to follow the ways of our hearts, and on the other hand not to do so. Is there not a contradiction here? What are we to do with this? Well, that is what I want to deal with in the second point.

2. The Preacher wants you to find a good balance in life. He wants you to be at peace. You can only find peace if sin and the effects of sin are dealt with. For that reason he says in verse 10 that you must banish anxiety from your heart. Your heart and your eyes can lead you into sin. For your eyes are the instruments of the heart. The heart uses your eyes in order to fulfill the heart's desires.

When the Bible speaks about your heart it speaks about what lives within you. Your eyes go looking for what your heart wants. If your heart is set on the right things, then your eyes will also discover them because you will be looking for the right kinds of things. But if your heart is set on the wrong things, then your eyes also look for them. At one point David's eyes led to lust. He saw Bathsheba bathing on the roof. And he desired her. His eyes led him astray, because his heart was not right. David did not do what Job did. For Job said in his book in Chapter 31:1,“I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl." Job trained his heart and his eyes to look for that which God gives him to enjoy. Our hearts and eyes need to be trained.

That is why these young people who are about to profess their faith have received extensive instruction. For they have to know what is good and what is evil. Please understand that when the preacher says that you must follow the ways of your heart, he does not say that you must follow the sinful ways of your heart. No, you have been taught to put God's words into your heart. You have been taught to look for the right things. That is why you had to memorize the catechism over the years. That is why you hear the 10 Commandments being recited every week. And that is why you have to read God's Word every day. God's Word has to be ingrained in your heart. And if that is the case then it will also be easier for you to seek the right things in life.

Brothers and sisters, young people, boys and girls, it's not as if God’s Commandments put a damper on the enjoyment of things. It's not as if life is to be a great big bore. On the contrary, the Lord God gives you many things to enjoy. Don't ever forget that. There is also the danger that we limit ourselves to things to which we should not limit ourselves. That we do not enjoy life in the way that the Lord God intends for us to enjoy life. As reformed Christians we can sometimes be too restrictive and have an exaggerated sense of responsibility. As if it is sinful to enjoy the good things in life. As if it is sinful to indulge yourself in the wonderful things that God makes available to us. Some of us, for example, are afraid to have times of leisure, to take holidays and to take time out to enjoy nature. Some are afraid to spend money on themselves and their loved ones. Of course there is a danger. We can easily go over to the other side. We can easily overindulge ourselves. And that is why Paul also gives us a warning in Galatians 5:13 where he says, "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love."

But we can also run the danger of making life one great big chore. Some people walk around as if they have the weight of the whole world on their shoulders. Even some young people are like that. Even in their young age they look old. God does not want us to do that. God does not want that for you young people either. It's all vanity. In other words, life is fleeting. It is short. Enjoy your life. You will be old soon enough.

But, the preacher says, you can only have a peaceful existence if you banish anxiety from your heart. He uses an interesting Hebrew word here for "anxiety". The word has to do with both anger and resentment. All around us you see a lot of angry young people who are angry at all kinds of things. Where does that anger come from? Sometimes it comes from parents who have abused them or exploited them for their own ends. Or they're angry because of the hypocrisy they see all around them, at home and in society at large. There are many other reasons for the anger of some young people.

As adults we have quite a responsibility. We may not restrict our children according to our own tastes. Some parents bring their children up in order to live their own dreams through them. And so the parents pressure their children to be someone that they don't want to be. They also anger their children by being very critical of them for the things they do, whereas they themselves do the same things or even worse. Praise is hard to find in some households and that also leads to anger. Therefore Paul says in Ephesians 5 that we should not provoke our children to anger.

Some young people are angry because they choose to be. They are rebellious by nature. They do not want any restrictions. Even though they have been given all kinds of freedom and leeway, they are still angry. For they are not getting what they want. They're full of resentment.

Well, says the preacher, banish that kind of anxiety from your heart. Be happy and be at peace. Throw the anger away. Young people are idealistic and they have a keen sense of justice. They are able to see all the things that are wrong with the world, with the parents, with the teachers, with the office bearers in the church, and with their brothers and sisters in the Lord. They think they have all the answers.

The problem with such young people is that they are just as sinful as their parents and all those in authority over them, but they don't see it. And so they had better learn to be gracious and forgiving and understanding. They have to learn to bear with the weaknesses of all those whom God has placed in their path. They have to do that because they also have to learn to deal with their own weaknesses. The only way that you can learn how to be at peace is in humility.

With God there is an enormous amount of forgiveness. There is no end to it. Therefore it is no wonder that the Lord Jesus says that we must ask God to forgive us our sins, as we also forgive the sins of others.

Banish anxiety from your heart. Be joyful. Don't be angry. Learn to look at yourself first. If you want to be angry about something, be angry about the fact that you yourself sin all the time. Bring that before the Lord and ask him for forgiveness. And that will give you peace. Don't be resentful. Don't think about everything that's wrong with everybody and about all the wrong things that happen to you. Learn now already when you are young to put things into a proper perspective and learn to be happy in whatever circumstances God has placed you. Paul learned that lesson. At the end of his life he was in miserable circumstances. He was spending his days in jail and hardly had a coat to keep him warm. But what does he say? He says in Philippians 4:11, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." You could also say that he has learned to be happy whatever the circumstances.

The preacher also says that you must cast off the troubles of your body. The King James Version says that you must put evil away from your flesh, and the Revised Standard Version that you must put pain away from your body. Do you know what the preacher is saying here? He is talking about those things that will harm your body. There are many things that harm you. Loud music being piped into your ears, excessive alcohol, drugs, tobacco. These things may not cause you pain at the moment, but they will in the end. You won't live as long and you'll have health problems for the rest of your life. People who smoked heavily throughout their life often end up with oxygen tanks by the time they're in their 60s and 70s. Or they die at an early age of lung cancer. The excessive use of alcohol will give you cirrhosis of the liver. Drugs will even kill you sooner.

The preacher wants you to keep a lid on your sinful desires. Don't think that you are indestructible. Keep a lid on your desire to drive too fast. Keep a lid on your sexual desires. Learn to control your sinful desires while you are young. When you get older it becomes more and more difficult to break bad habits.

Wrong friends will also harm you. They will lead you away from God. Be especially careful not to choose an ungodly marriage partner. That will not only harm you throughout your life, but also your children and your grandchildren. You will regret it for the rest of your life. The Lord blesses us in the generations but he also curses in the generations. Be careful. Don't be wise in your own eyes. Allow your parents and your teachers and your office bearers to instruct you. Think about what God wants from you. Be watchful. We come to the third point.

3. The preacher makes a very important statement in this text. He says "know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment." The preacher uses the singular tense here. God will bring you into the judgment. That means that he is referring to the final judgment. He wants you to enjoy life to the fullest. But God will hold you accountable. And therefore he says in verse one of Chapter 12, remember your Creator in the days of your youth. In other words your joy must always be tempered by the knowledge of God's impending judgment of all men.

You all know what we refer to when we speak about 9/11. 9/11 refers to that fateful day when thousands of people were killed when two airplanes steered by terrorists plunged into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. Since that day a lot of things changed. Now if you visit Washington, the capital city of the United States, you will see security all around you. There are safety barriers all around. The reminder of 9/11 is all around us, also here in Canada. When you board a flight nowadays you are carefully checked to make sure that you are not carrying any weapons or bombs. The authorities want everybody to remember 9/11. They want to protect the innocent in society. For they know that there are many terrorists out there intent on destroying the free world. They want everybody to be vigilant.

Well, the preacher says, remember your Creator. He will destroy those who are intent on evil, but protect those who are innocent. He does not want God's covenant children to perish along with all those who are out to destroy God's kingdom. He does not want the terrible judgment that will fall upon them to fall upon you. And so, as you go through life, think about the coming judgment. The final judgment is going to be a lot worse than any terrorist attack here on earth. Conduct yourself in such a way that you will not experience the horrible fate of those who do not want to be part of God's kingdom.

Yes, you can enjoy yourself. Enjoy life to the fullest. There is so much to enjoy. But stay within the parameters of God's safety barriers. Remember your Creator as you make your choices in life. As you choose your friends. As you choose the manner in which you make a living. As you choose how to conduct yourself over against your loved ones. Remember your Creator as you make your choices in life.

But remember him as a loving God who wants to protect you. God gives you restrictions and safety barriers for your own good. He doesn't want you to be blown to smithereens. He wants you to be safe. Within God's safety boundaries there are so many things to enjoy. As a matter of fact only those things that God gives you to enjoy have lasting enjoyment.

Remember your Creator in your youth and you'll be happy no matter what life may bring you. Amen

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

(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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