************ Sermon on Ecclesiastes 12:1 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 31, 2003
"Seek Him When You Are Young"
What one thing should parents say to their children? What one piece of advice should they pass on? What should Ed & Jennifer teach their son, Edward Gerrit?
I Follow the Ways of Your Heart
A Everyone wants to be happy, young and old, male and female. And, I am sure that as baby Edward grows up he too wants to be happy. Everyone wants to be happy, but what do you do, where do you go, to be happy? Here is one solution:
Do whatever you want to do. Go wherever you want to go. Be whatever you want to be. Follow the desires of your heart. Chase after whatever your eyes see.Believe it or not, that is the advice of the Preacher to those who want to be happy when they are young. He says,
(Eccl 11:9) 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 ...
Wonderful! you might say. Absolutely marvellous! No more parental rules. No more religious do's and don'ts. No more school guidelines. No restraints. No restrictions. Nothing to hem me in. Nothing to constrict or hinder or impede my lifestyle. Freedom, independence, at last!
B When the Preacher was young he followed his own advice. To find happiness he first set his heart on pleasure. He tried wine. He tried song. He tried a harem of women – every night he took a different women and her charms to his bed (2:3,8). He soon tired of this purely hedonistic, self-centered approach to life.
Many today try to find happiness in the same place as the Preacher – in pleasure; in women, wine, and song. Ours is a hedonistic culture filled with people seeking their own pleasure above all else.
Title: Self-Destructive Freedom
A California psychiatrist recently complained that four out of every ten teenagers and young adults who visit his medical center have a psychological sickness he can do nothing about. They all demand that the world conform to their uncontrolled desires and passions. Society has provided them with so many escape routes and pleasure mechanisms that they never have had to grow up. He fears for the future because he sees a society of pleasure-driven people hopelessly insecure and immature.
In his search for happiness the Preacher next set his heart on wealth. He expended considerable effort on the building and accumulation of possessions and property. He says,
(Eccl 2:4-9) I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. (5) I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. (6) I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. (7) I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. (8) I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well--the delights of the heart of man. (9) I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me.Yet, in all of this too he found little pleasure and happiness.
Many today, like the Preacher, seek happiness in wealth and prosperity.
I spent some time in one of my churches working with a man, an 80+ year old Christian man, who had his mind filled with visions of wealth and riches. In my visits I noticed an unusual number and type of magazines scattered around his house: Time, Newsweek, Reader's Digest, Redbook, Car and Driver, Hot Rodder, Ladies' Home Journal, Biker Magazine, and so on. Magazines everywhere. Turns out he entered magazine contests and thought he increased his odds of winning by subscribing. He spent so much money on the magazines that he didn't have enough money left to pay for his rent and food. The last time I saw him he was on a suicide watch.Go to any of the grocery or variety stores in town and watch the number of people who purchase lottery tickets. Some, I suppose, do it purely for fun. But most do it only out of greed; and many of these spend money on lottery tickets that should instead be spent on food or clothing for their family.
To find happiness the Preacher also tried setting his heart on wisdom and knowledge and learning and books. Surely this is a worthwhile way to spend one's life. What can be more noble than following the life of a scholar, of discovering gems and pearls of wisdom to pass on to others? Grade school and high school and college and graduate school and post-graduate studies – surely this is the way to spend one's life. But the Preacher soon grew tired of this too (Eccl 2:12f).
What about finding happiness in work and labor? Surely planting and harvesting, tilling and pruning is a worthwhile way to spend life. What can be wrong with working in the factory or office all day and enjoying it? Unlike pleasure, this is not self-centered. Unlike wealth, this is not an expression of greed. Work and labor is practical and down-to-earth and produces a worthwhile product. But this too the Preacher found to be less than satisfactory (Eccl 2:17f).
Many today try to lose themselves in their work. This past week I came across the membership requirements of the Coronary Club.
Topic: LaborThis may sound ridiculous, yet this is the way far too many live today.
Title: How to Join the Coronary Club: Membership Requirements
1. Never say No to a request -- always say YES.
2. Your job comes first; personal considerations are secondary.
3. Accept all invitations to meetings, banquets, committees, etc.
4. Go to the office evenings, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
5. Golf, bowling and hobbies are a waste of time.
6. It is a poor policy to take all the vacation time which is provided to you.
7. Never delegate responsibility to others; carry the whole load at all times.
8. Do not eat a restful, relaxing meal -- always plan a conference for the dinner hour.
9. If your work calls for traveling -- work all day and drive all night to make your appointment for the next morning.
10. Fishing and hunting are a waste of time and money -- you never bring back enough fish or game to justify the expense.
11. Take the briefcase home on the evenings when you do not go to the office. This provides an opportunity to review completely all the troubles and worries of the day.
C If the Preacher were alive today I am sure he would advise the young to find happiness in sports, hobbies, and recreation. Or in muscles and body building and weight lifting and physical fitness. Or in clothes and the latest styles. Or in art, theater, and music. Or even in church and religion. We see people today – even Christians, sad to say – looking for happiness in each and everyone of these areas. Take something simple like sports. Did you know that this year's Super Bowl had the biggest audience of any TV event ever! Thirty seconds of advertisement during the game cost $2,000,000 – this works out to more than $66,000 a second! And, permit me to observe how many Christians get their noses bent out of shape about volleyball or football or some other sport's program at school.
D It should be clear by now that the Preacher is less than happy even when he follows his own advice. He doesn't find happiness in pleasure, wealth, wisdom, or work. And, he wouldn't find pleasure in sports, body building, and music either.
The Preacher knows something about the pursuit of pleasure, wealth, wisdom, work, and sports that many people today don't seem to realize. He says,
(Eccl 11:9) 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 ...And then he finds it necessary to add this footnote of warning:
but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. Trying to find happiness in pleasure, wealth, wisdom, work, sports, physical fitness, and clothing will cost you your soul. "For all these things God will bring you to judgment" (11:9).
The Preacher sums it all up by saying, "Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!" (12:8). Another translation uses the word "vanity." "Vanity! Vanity! Everything is vanity!" Vanity means emptiness, fluff, a fistful of wind, a pocketful of nothing. Vanity means there is no purpose, no meaning, no goal, to pleasure, wealth, wisdom, or work. Vanity means that in and of themselves sports, hobbies, body building, clothes, art, and religion lead nowhere.
Title: Where is Happiness?
Where, then, is happiness and meaning to be found?
Not in unbelief -- Voltaire was an infidel of the most pronounced type. He wrote: "I wish I had never been born."
Not in pleasure -- Lord Byron lived a life of pleasure, if anyone did. He wrote: "The worm, the canker, and the grief are mine alone."
Not in money -- Jay Gould, the American millionaire, had plenty of that. When dying he said: "I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth."
Not in position and fame -- Lord Beaconsfield enjoyed more than his share of both. He wrote: "Youth is a mistake; manhood, a struggle; old age, a regret."
Not in military glory -- Alexander the Great conquered the known world in his day. Having done so, he wept, because, he said, "There are no more worlds to conquer."
II Remember Your Creator
A The Preacher wants the young to be happy and he urges the young to be happy. He says,
(Eccl 11:9) Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.But where is happiness to be found? What can the young pursue that is not vanity, that is not meaningless, that is not a pocketful of nothing? The Preacher tells us in our text:
(Eccl 12:1) Remember your Creator in the days of your youth ...This is what parents should say to their children. This is the one piece of advice they should pass on. This is what Ed & Jennifer should teach their son.
To be happy, truly happy, "Remember your Creator." What does it mean to "remember your Creator"? First, the young (and old) are to believe that there is a God. Not only that, but they are to believe He is their Creator, that He made them and fashioned them, that He is the provider of every good thing they have, that from Him comes life and breath and everything else.
"Remember your Creator." To remember God is to also remind ourselves of what He has done, His acts of love and redemption and covenant faithfulness. As Jesus puts it, we are to remember and believe that His body and blood were given for the complete forgiveness of all our sin. We are to remember and believe that Jesus is our Savior from sin and Lord of our life.
"Remember your Creator." In the Bible it is never enough to simply believe in God. The Apostle James reminds us that even the demons believe – and shudder! (James 2:19). In the Bible to believe in God is to also obey Him. The Preacher speaks to that when He says,
(Eccl 12:13) Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
"Remember your Creator." Finally, to remember God is to also serve Him and love Him. We are to give Him our heart. We are to publicly dedicate our lives to Him. As the song puts it:
Take my life and let it beAll that we are and all that we have is to be in the service of God. Our hands, feet, voice, lips, wealth, mind, motives, will, heart, and love – all are to be dedicated to the service of God.
consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days;
let them flow in endless praise,
let them flow in endless praise.
B To be happy "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth." We are to seek Him when we are young. In other words, we are not to put this off. In other words, we are not to say "later, later, don't bother me now." In other words, right now, today, we are to dedicate our life to the Lord. Perhaps there are some here who have not yet been led to do this. I invite you to talk to me after the service about dedicating your life, by grace, to the Lord.
C Why are we to remember the Creator in the days of our youth? Why are we to seek the Lord when we are young? Why can't we wait until later? Why can't we postpone it a while? To put it simply, we can't wait because at a time we don't know we will die and face judgment.
Unless they have a life-threatening disease, the young never think they will die. Death is always the farthest thing from their minds. I'm sure that death was not on the mind of the victim killed at Jack in the Box this past week. I'm sure that death was not on the mind of the people killed on Highway 99 this past week. I'm sure that death was not on the mind of the U.N. delegation killed in Iraq a couple of weeks ago.
As the Preacher makes clear to us in an earlier chapter, the time of our birth and the time of our death is out of our control (Eccl 3:2). Not only that, but their timing is always unknown to us. Even when we expect death it always catches us by surprise.
"Remember your Creator in the days of your youth." You don't know when you are going to die. You don't know when you will stand before the Judgment throne. You don't know when you will meet your Maker. So get ready, be ready, by remembering Him now.
One of the tragedies of our time is that many people say "Later, not now," to the Lord. Sometimes, they wait until it is too late. Too late they learn that we can't put off God until later. Some of you, like me, have witnessed or experienced the sorrow at a funeral of someone who waited too long, someone who died and ended up in the fires of hell because they said "Later" to God.
"I tell you," says Paul, "now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2). Now, right now, is the time to fall on your knees before God and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior; now, right now, is the time to remember your Creator; now, right now, is the only time because it is too late if you die or if the Lord returns.
I want to ask every person here, do you remember your Creator? have you asked Jesus into your heart? I urge you to do this, and to do this now because "now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." Do it now because later may be too late.
"Remember your Creator in the days of your youth." That's the key to being happy. That's what parents should say to their children. That's the one piece of advice they should pass on. That's what Ed & Jennifer should teach their son.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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