TEXT: Ecclesiastes 11:1-10
TOPIC: Living Life to the Max
Pastor Bobby Earls, First Baptist Church, Center Point, Alabama
May 3, 2009
Ecclesiastes 11:1-10 (NKJV)
1 Cast your bread upon the waters, For you will find it after many days. 2 Give a serving to seven, and also to eight, For you do not know what evil will be on the earth. 3 If the clouds are full of rain, They empty themselves upon the earth; And if a tree falls to the south or the north, In the place where the tree falls, there it shall lie. 4 He who observes the wind will not sow, And he who regards the clouds will not reap. 5 As you do not know what is the way of the wind, Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, So you do not know the works of God who makes everything. 6 In the morning sow your seed, And in the evening do not withhold your hand; For you do not know which will prosper, Either this or that, Or whether both alike will be good. 7 Truly the light is sweet, And it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun; 8 But if a man lives many years And rejoices in them all, Yet let him remember the days of darkness, For they will be many. All that is coming is vanity. 9 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 in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. 10 Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, And put away evil from your flesh, For childhood and youth are vanity.
The book known as Ecclesiastes is one of the most fascinating, while at the same time, one of the most frustrating books of the bible. We understand its author to be Solomon, whom the bible describes as the wisest man who ever lived. The Holy Spirit used Solomon to write three inspired works.
In his youth, he wrote of the love of his life and it came to be known as the Song of Solomon. It is his love story.
In his middle years he wrote many of the Proverbs found in the book with the same name. It was his rule book.
Finally, in his old age, his twilight years, he wrote Ecclesiastes. It is his personal diary of introspection.
I took time last evening to look that word up to make sure it means what I want it to say. Introspection refers to an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings.
That’s exactly what Ecclesiastes is all about. They are Solomon’s memoirs, his summary of life as he understood it, at the end of his days.
In Ecclesiastes 11:1-11 we are given His subject, “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.” Sounds rather depressing doesn’t it?
Beginning with verse 12, of chapter 1 and going through chapter 10 we are given his sermon. He is called the preacher, and every preacher needs a sermon. For the most part, the entire book of Ecclesiastes is one long sermon. Is there any other kind?
Then Ecclesiastes 11-12 we find the summary of his sermon, we might entitle, “All is Vanity.”
When Solomon speaks of vanity, he is not talking of vanity as we often use the word in describing someone as a vain individual, like in the song, “You’re so vain.”
The Hebrew word for vanity has a descriptive meaning. It’s the picture of someone chasing the wind, of someone trying desperately to grasp the wind in their hand. It’s hopeless. It’s meaningless. It’s vanity.
But is that all there is to life lived here on earth? You need to remember, this is the reflections of a man, although described as wise, nevertheless, a man, fallen, depraved and sinful. Twenty-nine times he describes life as he saw it as a “man under the sun.”
If we focus only on what this world has to offer, then all is surely vanity. But let me ask again, is life lived here on earth meaningless? SLIDE 2
Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life and that they might have it, more abundantly.”
Our commercial media encourages us today to live life to the max. I examined all my junk e-mails to see what it is that I might be missing out on in order to live life to the max. Here’s what I found.
I need the Electric Scooter, only $99 and guaranteed to arrive before Christmas.
I need herbal sensations. Then I can say goodbye to unwanted hair. Don’t worry about shaving this summer. Just click here.
Then there’s the one where I can have a fabulous vacation beginning at just $18, plus. It’s the plus that scares me!
And everybody in America needs the world’s smallest webcam and digital camera.
There’s an offer for 12 free burgers. Someone owes me $320. Why don’t they just send it to me? And Sally Summers, whoever she is, wants to send me a free Martha Stewart Cookie.
The fact is, we are bombarded with infomercials that promise their product will greatly aid us in finding complete fulfillment.
Listen, if products alone could create maximum living we would all be maxed out! The problem is we are emotionally maxed out trying to discover maximum living in this world alone.
I’m convinced that was Solomon’s problem most of his life. He tried the world of thought that is education and intellect. He went on to the world of thrills, wine, women and song. That didn’t satisfy. He toyed with the world of things. He had everything the world had to offer, but his conclusion as the end of days ….vanity.
The problem with many still today is that they are so emotionally maxed out trying to discover maximum living in the things of this world. They will not satisfy.
Living life to the max is not a matter of the products we buy, but the Spirit we possess. There are those who have little but are living life to the max. Then there are those who have everything money can buy but are miserable. It is the inner spirit of a man or woman that determines what he or she gets out of life.
Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 11, shares with us some invaluable principles for living life to the maximum.
I. INVEST YOUR LIFE, Ecclesiastes 11:1-2
Cast your bread upon the waters, For you will find it after many days. Give a serving to seven, and also to eight, For you do not know what evil will be on the earth.
The terminology of verse one is a little confusing. One Bible translator put it this way, “Send your grain across the sea, and in time you will receive a return.”
Solomon understood this principle well. In I Kings 10 we are told he possessed a powerful commercial fleet. He made many large investments in life.
He is encouraging us to invest our lives in that which really counts. Jesus again said, “What would it profit a man if he gained the whole world and lost his soul?”
Then, in verse 2 he encourages us to diversify. Boy, those of us who have much or most of our investments in stocks today understand the importance of diversifying, right?
Did you know that you can diversify your life as a believer? We can make investments through the various areas of our lives.
Your life is like a pie. Each slice represents a responsibility or a role you play. We make investments in each area everyday.
One modern time management system utilizes this principle. It stresses the principle of investing time and energy in the most important areas of our life first, allowing priorities rather than crisis to dictate the day.
II. DON’T WAIT FOR IDEAL CIRCUMSTANCES, Ecclesiastes 11:3-6.
3 If the clouds are full of rain, They empty themselves upon the earth; And if a tree falls to the south or the north, In the place where the tree falls, there it shall lie. 4 He who observes the wind will not sow, And he who regards the clouds will not reap. 5 As you do not know what is the way of the wind, Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, So you do not know the works of God who makes everything. 6 In the morning sow your seed, And in the evening do not withhold your hand; For you do not know which will prosper, Either this or that, Or whether both alike will be good.
In Ecclesiastes 11:3-4 Solomon uses the illustration of a farmer. He says if the farmer watches the sky waiting for the ideal time to plant that time will never come.
For those of us who are so idealistic and such perfectionists who expect everything to be just right before we accomplish anything, we need to get over it.
We keep waiting on the right time. I meet people who say they are going to get involved and start serving the Lord after they have kids. Then they have kids, and they say, after the kids are a little older. Then when the kids are older, they tell me, after the kids finish school, (sports, band, chorus, clubs, cheerleading, and on and on). Then they say after the kids are finished school, after they are married and moved out. Then they marry and move out and they say, after we have a little time for ourselves. Then they buy a boat or a vacation house or a camper and they say, after we retire. Then they retire and the grandkids come along. You see, it’s a vicious cycle. Something will always be wrong. There will always be something else to do, other things. But we have to decide what things are eternally important.
The point is, don’t allow unexpected circumstances to paralyze you from focusing on that which is really important. Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 Then in Ecclesiastes 11:5-6, he tells us not to miss out on life just because you don’t fully understand some things.
Salvation is a perfect example. Don’t wait until you are perfect. That won’t happen. Don’t wait for the ideal service. That’s won’t happen either. Don’t wait until you understand everything. That’s impossible.
I know people who are miserable because they don’t understand certain things about the Bible or God. We all know people who have dropped out of church and walked out on God because they got hung up on one thing. The amazing thing is that many times the things we want to fuss and argue over really are not that important.
I see others who cannot enjoy their Christian life because they are hyper-critical of the church or other believers. They jump from place to place trying to find the ideal situation. Solomon was right on this one. They won’t find it.
*III. SEIZE THE MOMENT, Ecclesiastes 11:7-8 Latin “Carpe Diem”
*7 Truly the light is sweet, And it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun; 8 But if a man lives many years And rejoices in them all, Yet let him remember the days of darkness, For they will be many. All that is coming is vanity.
The NLT says it this way, 7 Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning. 8 When people live to be very old, let them rejoice in every day of life. But let them also remember there will be many dark days. Basically Solomon is saying in verse 7, enjoy your life. Enjoy each new day God gives you, especially the bright, beautiful, sun shiny days! Because we all know there will be dark, stormy days also, verse 8.
You know, there are two ways to go through life, miserable or happy. Someone said, “Problems are inevitable, but misery is optional.” God may choose the events that come into our lives but we choose how we will respond to them.
He’s saying take full advantage of where you are now, because tough times will come.
It can be the trials of getting older. We’re all getting older. I’m getting older. The longer we live the more difficulties we face. I recall buying a book when I turned 40. It was entitled, “Staying Fit After 40.” I never have read that book.
Anyway, do you know how you know when you are getting older?
1. Every thing hurts, and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work.
2. You sit in a rocking chair and you can’t get it going.
3. Your knees buckle, but you can’t buckle your belt.
4. You sink your teeth into a steak and they stay there.
But even in trials we can rebound through the grace and the power of God!
IV. DEVELOP A VALUE SYSTEM TO LIVE BY, Ecclesiastes 11:9
9 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 in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment.
Solomon speaks here of the heart and of the walk. The heart represents the inner person, who we really, really are. The walk represents how we live our life.
To live life to the max we must live by something greater than ourselves, something greater than our own fleshly desires. We must establish values, beliefs and principles or convictions that shape us into the people of character we should be.
Every thing must pass the values test. Our values in life serve as a compass. They point the right direction in which we should go. Especially valuable is this compass of unwavering values when we are tempted to turn in the wrong direction or when we begin to drift with the winds and waves of the times.
May I suggest the most valuable value of all? If you are looking for guidance; seeking the truth, or searching something that will always be reliable, I suggest the word of God. The Bible is God’s moral compass for our lives. What it says or teaches is always, always true. The compass will always point north. SLIDE 7
V. RELEASE SOME THINGS, Ecclesiastes 11:1010 Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, And put away evil from your flesh, For childhood and youth are vanity.
Solomon says remove sorrow from your heart. Sorrow refers to anger and resentment.
As we move into adulthood we often carry some baggage from our past. There are some things for which we are responsible and there are some things for which we are not responsible.
We cannot allow either to ruin our lives or control us if we are to live life to the max.
Sometimes there are some physical things we need to release, things that can destroy us and those around us if we do not distance ourselves from them. These are fleshly temptations that will rob us of maximum potential.
Years ago I read an article in the Sports Illustrated on alcohol and athletic competition. The writer of the article, a doctor, surmised that alcohol of any amount and sports do not mix. He said, “Alcohol robs a person of their maximum potential.” He was appalled that alcohol commercials and sporting events often go hand in hand.
Then there are often some emotional things that we need to let go of as well. Hurts of the past; unforgiven words; actions or events that forever like a scar seem to be permanently fixed in our memories; all of these emotional scars we need to chose to release. Let them be where they are, in the past.
The best way to a bright future, life without regret, is to make right choices today.
Are you living up to your fullest potential? Are you living life to the max?
Another school year is coming to a close. Students are graduating. It’s a wonderful time of life that signals both completion and commencement of a new direction in life.
Now is the time to reinvest your life in spiritual and eternal values. Don’t wait for perfect conditions. Seize the moment. Let go of the things you know that rob you of being the best you can be and take hold of God.