Further explanation a blog post by Brian Branam

Further EXPLANATION of God’s Good Reason for Bad Things

God’s good reason for suffering gives us anticipation of a future day in which our tribulation will be brought to an end in glorification. Amazing! But what about now? We need further EXPLANATION of God’s good reason for bad things.

This further explanation is given to us in Romans 8:20-21.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it , in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

Romans 8:20-21

There is a word in that explanation that I think needs definition. What is futility?

Futility?

The word futility means that something seems pointless or purposeless. Futility means that there will be a lot of frustration. You can clearly see how something is supposed to work or what it is supposed to do, but you can’t seem to get it there. Futility means that you planted a garden and woke up to weeds. Futility means that just when you think you have it right, it all goes wrong.

So when? When was the creation subjected to futility and what is the result?

Romans 8:20-21 points us to the creation/fall story in Genesis. The Book of Genesis begins in a  pristine, life giving world and ends with the funeral of Joseph. It begins in a garden and ends in a cemetery. What happened? Man made a fateful choice to introduce evil into God’s good world. The end result is a world filled with relational dysfunction and natural destruction. Simply stated, the Bible says that we now live in a world in which there is decay, tragedy, injustice, disaster, accidents, evil intents, and horrible mistakes.

Two Futile Strategies for Futility

So how do we deal with a futile world? If this is all we have there are pretty much only two strategies.

  1. Avoidance – Avoid pain at all costs. You have a lot of options as to how you may go about this. Do you numb the pain chemically, do you numb it emotionally? Perhaps you quit on it, leave it, or ignore it. Maybe you have some fun and overcome the pain with pleasure. However, you approach it, get in line. A lot of people have tried every option and have found it to be – well – futile! At some point, you realize that avoidance just causes more destruction and pain. At best it kicks the can down the road. Avoidance is not a valid solution.
  2. Insurance – Minimize the losses. At least insurance embraces the reality of futility – it’s not IF something happens, but WHEN. Insurance helps us minimize the losses, but ironically the more we lose the more expensive it becomes. Insurance is smart, but it does not provide a valid solution to futility; it just makes it more affordable.

But notice an important word in the Bible’s explanation for the creation being subjected to futility. He does not say that God has done so arbitrarily. Nor does he say that God has done so ultimately. The wonderful news is that even this was done in hope!

Will We Ever “Get It?”

Notice the creation’s response to this. “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

The creation is realizes its brokenness and looks for a solution outside of itself. In its acknowledgment of futility it realizes there is no solution within itself. If only we could humans to acknowledge what the world already knows. We need intervention!

Tune in for the next post! 

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A good reason for bad things blog post

God’s Good Reason for Bad Things, Part 1 – Anticipation

An online poll of over 2,100 people asked what a person would be willing to do for $1,000,000. The answers ranged from funny to downright disturbing.

  • 38% said they would be willing to give up TV.
  • 186 people said they would be willing to never see their family again.
  • 58% would be willing to move to another country.
  • 21% would be willing to get a tattoo on their forehead.
  • 31% would swim in a tank with a shark.
  • 21% would lay in a bed with scorpions.
  • Almost 200 people were willing to have a limb amputated.
  • 37 people said they would be willing to have their tongue removed.

As they say, everyone has their price. As whacky as some of the responses to the poll sound, it does prove something about humans. We are willing to suffer as long as we know it will be worth it.

Everybody Hurts

As a person and as a pastor, I have both experienced and witnessed intense pain. There have been some things that have happened in all of our lives that cannot be quantified on a poll and for which there is no amount of money that would make it worth it.

When we suffer to that degree it can bring about a crisis of faith. It makes us wonder, what is God up to? What is the reason for all of this?

The Bible makes some head scratching statements, several of which I will attempt to cover over the next several weeks. The first one I want to tackle is not as much a direct statement as it is a divine theme. God has a good reason for bad things

Knowing that reason could be life changing!

Imagine gaining a perspective that begins to help you make sense of the worst of what you have experienced.

You may never be thankful for what happened, but imagine a future time in which you are thankful for what came from what happened.

Imagine how much it might help you to know that God has a good reason for bad things.

There are a lot of passages in the Bible that speak to the idea that God has a good reason for bad things, but one of the clearest is Romans 8. Romans 8 also contains one of the most popular verses in Scripture, Romans 8:28. 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28

The entire chapter is magnificent, but I want to focus on verses 18-30 as God’s good reason for bad things. God’s good reason:

  1. Creates in us ANTICIPATION
  2. Gives us an EXPLANATION
  3. Offers us Divine INTERVENTION

With this post, I want to talk about how God’s good reason for bad things creates anticipation.

The Creation of Anticipation

The Bible tells us not only that there is a good reason for our suffering, but that there is a plan for it. God has a desired outcome that he shares with us in Romans 8:17b.”

He says we are, “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

According to the Bible, the overarching reason we go through suffering is so that we can be glorified with Christ. Suffering is a necessary pathway. There are no alternate routes.

While the news of coming suffering is somewhat unsettling, knowing that at the end of it is our glorification should give us a sense of anticipation. As previously stated, we are much more willing to suffer so long as we know it will be worth it.

Romans 8:18 expresses such anticipation.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Romans 8:18

What is the Coming Glory?

What is that glory? While I would fail to be able to adequately capture all that “glory” entails I can point to three Biblical themes that make it quite amazing.

First and foremost this “glory” is the glory of Jesus Himself. He is the faithful Son of God who has pleased the Father. It is the glory of all things made by Him, for Him, and to Him. It is the glory of Him being preeminent in all things. It is the glory of Him being our resurrected Savior whose atoning death has brought to us new life. The glory of Jesus is that there will be people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and kindred that will have life on the other side of death. The glory is Jesus forever our conquering hero.

There is glory in our resurrected bodies. The Bible speaks more to this glory in 1 Corinthians 15, but in short, it is a body that is imperishable and incorruptible. It is a body that will no longer be susceptible to disease and death. Your skin will be fit for a sinless eternity. What is the glory? It is the glory of you becoming the way God always intended for you to be.

No doubt the New Heavens and the New Earth will be forever glorious. It will be the world as God intended, fruitful, vibrant, and clean. The cities will be righteous and good. There will be no injustice, prejudice, or divisiveness. There is no more famine, want, or hunger.

Pulling the Comps

As amazing as all of this sounds, even still, our minds cannot fully get there. And it is hard to anticipate something of which you have no concept. We need a comparison. The problem is that there is no comparison to the future glory that is to be revealed to us. To wrap your mind around future glory is like an attempt to get an appraisal on a mansion surrounded by slums. There are no comps. Therefore the Bible pulls its comp from a world we know too well. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared . . .”

A World of Wow

My daughters have some creative ways of engendering talk during our family meals. Recently, my oldest daughter called for everyone at the table to share 1) their high for the week 2) their low for the week and 3) their “WOW” for the week.

The “week” of which she was speaking was particularly hectic for me and so my mind began to try to process the week by replaying it. If recalling my high, low, and WOW moments were not enough, I had the added pressure of going first. All eyes were on me to kick off the family roundtable. So I said,

“My high was the bike ride I just finished about an hour ago. I felt strong and made good time. I feel pretty good about that.” “My low was our upstairs air conditioner giving up the ghost.” It was an air unit we had been propping up year after year. This year, it became scrap metal with a fan. “My WOW? The 5 grand we just dropped to replace that air unit.”

We live in a world filled with wow. All of it is memorable, not all of it is good. But this is our world and it is from here that we pull our comps. In this world, sometimes our “wows” are our worst.

Consider the Sufferings

So as a way of helping us build the anticipation due a glorious world, I think it is critical that we do what the first part of Romans 8:18 does, “consider the sufferings of this present time.”

The word suffering includes all of it – the loss, the tragedy, the mistakes, the injustice. Suffering in this world includes both our suffering for Christ as well as suffering without him.

We’ve all lost someone we loved. 

Many have lost love. 

There are those who have lost children. Some before birth and some soon after. There are some who die too young, but from what I have heard it does not matter how old. I have held too many mothers and fathers who tell me through the tears that there is nothing that hurts worse than losing a child.

Some have suffered with an addiction. Others have suffered with the addicted. 

Some have been through a horrible health crisis.

Some have survived tragedy but now hurt so badly that they wished the tragedy had taken them.

Consider the sufferings of this present time.

It Doesn’t Even Compare

With that pain in mind, now we can better identify with the monumental amount of anticipation the created by the rest of the statement. 

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Romans 8:18

Anticipate a future that Christ creates for us that is so glorious that it takes the worst moments that you’ve ever been through hardly even worth talking about.

Imagine the pain of the worst moments of your life eclipsed by the pleasure of an incomparable, glorious future secured for us in Christ.

Anticipate the joy of the pain of losing a child being eclipsed by the glory of spending eternity with him or her.

What about the “wow” of being forever free from addiction and hearing the story from heaven of how an all-knowing God rescued you and brought you to Himself.

There is coming a day in which that loved one you once watched lose health; you will lay eyes on them in glory forever healed!

Touch all of the pain, but realize as bad as it feels, it does not even compare to the glory that Christ will reveal to us! 

God’s good reason for bad things is so that you can be glorified with Christ. As bad as this world is, the suffering we endure in it will not even compare with the glory that is to come. We have something amazing that is coming that makes it worth it. Anticipation!

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Read last week’s posts, How to Live and Really Love It.

How to Live and really love it by Brian Branam

How to Live and Really Love It

If you’re going to waste your life, we’ve looked at the best and worst way to do it. As hopeless as those posts appear, it was very important to establish the dead ends so that you will look for another way. The good news is that there is another way. You can live and really love it!

In Ecclesiastes 2:17 Solomon led us down those dead ends of wasted lives and shared that he hated it. In response, he gave his heart up to despair (v. 20). He went through his daily routines with great success. He gained great wealth. We ruled with great power. He was the world’s most admired king, but he felt as if his life had no purpose.

Why Can’t I Enjoy Life Apart from God?

But then in Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 Solomon finds not only the way to enjoy life, but he points us toward eternal life.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, if from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and striving after wind.

Ecclesistes 2:24-26

You can enjoy life, but not apart from God. That seems like a limited option. So why can’t I just enjoy life in a way that has nothing to do with God?

There are plenty of people who think nothing of God who seem to be having a great time. While that is a fair observation, the answer to our objection brings us back to the first two posts in this thread, the best and worst ways to waste your life. At some point, those people who seem to be enjoying life apart from God will be able to peer down easy street and see that it comes to a dead end. It all comes to nothing. It all amounts to nothing.

Why Living for the Lord Works Best

When we live for the Lord we have a greater purpose in life and we have a hopeful end for life. Jesus explained it like this:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-20

Living for the Lord turns what is otherwise a dead end street into a never ending thoroughfare. What we do in this life impacts eternal life. When you surrender yourself to live according to God’s Word your heart is in a different, more enjoyable place. When you live for the Lord:

  1. You will have a better perspective on life. You may have plenty of stuff, but your stuff will not have you. All of the things Solomon found to be “chasing after the wind” find their proper place. It’s just stuff. It doesn’t define who I am. I enjoy it, but it is not my source of joy. I can have it or not have it and I am fine either way. My life is about something more. If you have to have it, but cannot release it, you can never enjoy it.
  2. You will see a greater purpose for your life. To “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” is a revolutionary concept. It is a link between now and later, between temporal and eternal, between now and forever. In the Lord, I can make decisions now that are truly lasting. I am no longer confined to a dead end street. Furthermore, my stuff is not so much about net worth as it is a tool of eternal value. I can leverage all I am and all I have for not just a great weekend, but for an eternal impact.
  3. You have a greater plan in life. When you live for the Lord the Bible becomes more than just another religious book amongst many, you realize it explains the reason for which the world was made and in turn, explains the way the world works. The Bible is not a religious suggestion, it is an eternal plan. It is not a religious devotional, it is a divine world-view.
  4. You will find hope despite the pain of life. In this life, we will all have pain. Atheists and theists, pagans and Christians, the godless and the godly can all agree on this – life hurts. In the Lord we find the reason pain was introduced in the world and we realize that in Christ there is a cure. My pain is not ultimate. Hurt simply fuels a greater longing in my soul, and for those who truly follow Christ, it causes a most unusual reaction. It motivates me to suffer! What? Yeah. It sounds crazy, but life is so different when you’re not on a dead end street (Romans 8:18-39).

How to be Happy – 101

In 2017 the most popular course offered at Yale was Psych 157, Psychology of the Good Life. 1/4 of all undergrads enrolled at the Ivy League school took the class. Psych 157 is basically the study of what makes us happy. The popularity of the course is indicative of a longing within each of us. We just want to be happy.

But outside of having eternal life in Jesus Christ, Psych 157 is merely another study and suggestion on the best way to waste your life. As I said in my previous post, wisdom for the sake of wisdom is a waste. As Solomon found, it is just another dead end road and winds up in the same place as the fool. We just die!

The Gospel is the Key to an Enjoyable, Eternal Life

The Bible reveals that man has made a fatal decision and introduced evil into the world (Genesis 1-3). The good news is that God has not given up on His creation, nor has he given up on humans, but has done something remarkable. God has become the ultimate victim of our horrible decision.

God has come to us as Jesus Christ. He lived a sinless life and showed us what it means to truly be human. Jesus pleased God. The Son of God obeyed the commands of God. He fulfilled all righteousness. And then, we killed him.

But in the crucifixion of Jesus something significant happened. He did not just die. He died sacrificially in our place (Isaiah 53:6). The condemnation for our bad decision was laid upon Jesus (Romans 8:3-4). In Jesus, a righteousness before God is offered to us that we could not attain for ourselves.

When Jesus arose from the dead our condemnation was conquered. All that is left for us is the proper response – repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of our lives (Acts 3:19).

The only way to truly enjoy life is to know you have eternal life.

Have you come to the morbid realization that every ounce of energy and every bit of money that you pour into this life is meaningless if it’s ultimate? It’s a horrible feeling and will make you hate life itself. It will grieve you. But you will never look for another way until you realize you’re on a dead end street.

Solomon realized that it is from the “hand of God” that we have been given a map to a dead end street. The Lord desires that you not only come to this realization but that you make a great decision. Turn to Christ. Enjoy life by gaining eternal life in Him. In Christ, you can live and truly love it.

Check out Back Porch Psalms – 153 episodes of devotional content from the Book of Psalms.

The Best Way to Waste Your Life

Now that we’ve discussed the worst way to waste your life, let’s talk about the best way to do it (check yesterday’s post). If your life is going to amount to nothing, adding the painful and destructive consequences of foolishness to the mix seems like a dumb way to do it. So Solomon points us to a better way. Instead of folly, let’s waste our lives wisely.

Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness.

Ecclesiastes 2:13-14a

While foolishness characterizes a thoughtless, reckless person; wisdom has foresight. He has eyes in his head. The lights are on. He’s intentional. The wise person is careful. And, it works well for him. There is more to be gained in the wise one’s approach. He’s more careful with his money, so he has more of it than the fool. He is more careful with his time, so he is more effective with it than the fool. The wise person is more thoughtful about people, so his relationships are more healthy than those of the fool.

Why QB Kirk Cousins Carries Rocks

Kirk Cousins is the quarterback for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. Just beside the front door of his home, he has a glass pillar filled with rocks. As of his 30th birthday, there were 720 stones in the pillar. Why 720 stones? Cousins says that in high school he had a Bible teacher who pointed him to Psalm 90:12, “So teach us to number our days so we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

The first day of each new month, Kirk Cousins takes a new stone out of the pillar and puts it in his pocket. Wanting to live until he’s at least 90, the 720 stones represent each month he has left of the final 60 years of his life. He says that the stone reminds him to make his life count. He realizes that when he empties his pocket of a stone at the end of a month that he can’t get it back. Each stone reminds him to make the most of every day.

That’s wise! Kirk Cousins is not walking in darkness. He has eyes in his head. He’s being thoughtful, intentional!

But why? What does it matter? What difference does it make? Solomon comes to a sobering realization.

The wise person has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart. This also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come, all will have long been forgotten.

Ecclesiastes 2:14-16

Although it lacks much of the self-inflicted pain of the fool, the path of the wise and the path of the fool end up in the same place; the grave. No matter how we do life, we die.

How Long Will People Remember When You’re Gone?

This is the thought that drove Solomon to a dark place. If you read the first couple of paragraphs of Ecclesiastes 2 you realize that Solomon was an accomplished man who was rewarded handsomely for his wise choices. But why? We just die. All that is accumulated is soon forgotten. It comes to nothing. “For of the wise as of the fool, there is no enduring remembrance.”

LeBron James has appeared in every NBA Finals since 2011. He is a 15x NBA All-Star and a 4x league MVP. He will at some point end his career as one of the top five players in NBA history if not the best player in NBA history. Lebron has won 3 NBA championships. But it was that first one that brought him to a “Solomon” type realization.

Lebron said after winning the first ring that the celebration only lasted about 48 hours. After 48 hours, no one really cared. Life moves on. Ring or no ring, we live and we die. Championships change nothing.

In an article entitled “How We Will Forget John Lennon?”, Cesar Hidalgo, Director of the Collective Learning Group at MIT Media Lab explains how quickly we forget songs, movies, and the cultural icons we once thought immortal. He says that the vast majority of popular songs, movies, and icons only remain in our collective, cultural memory for about 5 years. It doesn’t take long before we stop talking about them. It is as Solomon says, “there is no enduring remembrance.”

Off the top of your head. What was the #1 song from this week five years ago? What difference does it make? 5 years ago we couldn’t get enough of it. 5 minutes ago you weren’t even thinking about it. You may not even remember it.

Wisdom for the Sake of Wisdom, Is a Waste

How is it that we can do so much that really doesn’t matter? Why is it that even wise choices are quickly forgotten? Why is it that you can win a ring and in 48 hours no one cares?

It comes down to the nature of things. If “this” (rings, money, popularity, power, relevancy, efficiency, accomplishment, notoriety) is the reason you live, then “this” is all you will ever have. It will live with you. It will be forgotten without you.

What a waste of life!

I think it was Billy Graham who said, “I never saw a U-Haul hitched to a hearse.” No matter what you have, you can’t take it with you. Wisdom is a much better way to do it. There will be much more stuff to put into the trailer. But when you’re gone, it’s gone. At best you are a collector. You spent your entire life wisely accumulating things for the next guy to enjoy after you’re dead.

And if this is all you have – even making the best of it – you waste your life. If this is all you have, the realization that nothing comes of it will make you hate it. Solomon did.

So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving for the wind.

Ecclesiastes 2:17

Is There a Way Not To Waste It?

Wisdom is a better way to live. But wisdom for the sake of wisdom is a waste. Even for Kirk Cousins, if he lives every month in the most amazing way, all he has at the end of it is a pile of 700 rocks! What an encouraging post, right! There must be a bigger reason for living than just being wise.

Is there a way we can not waste our lives? How can we not waste wisdom? Is there a better way we can do life and not hate it? Is there a way to enjoy it? The good news is – yes there is! Solomon figured it out!

Let’s look at it tomorrow!

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the worst way to waste your life, blog post by Brian Branam

The Worst Way to Waste Your Life

Have you ever had one of those insomniac, hypochondriac nights were you laid awake all night afraid you were going to die? Perhaps it is some odd pain in your stomach that is the focal point of anxiety, but your mind won’t allow you to think logically. Did you have too much spaghetti for dinner? No! Your mind goes straight to basketball sized tumor in your abdomen.

I think it is freeing for all of us to realize – you’re not alone. We are all semi-crazy.

Ecclesiastes 2 is much like those late night contemplations of life and death where you think way too much and sleep very little. For Solomon though, he is not afraid he is going to die, he is afraid he has never really lived.

For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 2:16-17

Solomon realizes that he is going to die. We all die. But catch his true fear. He is not as afraid of dying as much as he is of living and it meaning nothing. Then comes the most startling reaction. “So I hated life.”

And then he goes back to thinking! In verse 24 the man who hates his life suddenly finds a way to enjoy it.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God.

Ecclesiastes 2:24

Love It or Hate It, Your Choice!

In summation, you can either hate life or enjoy it. Your choice! On a hopeful note, if you hate your life right now, you can find a way to enjoy it! If you want to find out how to enjoy it, hang with this week’s series of posts. I’m going to show you how.

The importance of this passage, aside from being the inspired Word of God, is that it comes from a man who had it all, tried it all and is now willing to share with you and I about the experience. We can either learn from him or repeat the same mistakes – but we will not come to another conclusion (Ecc. 2:12).

So according to Solomon, how do you live and really love it? This week I want to share from Ecclesiastes 2:12-17 and 2:24-26 two ways to waste your life and hate it; then I will show you how to truly enjoy life and have eternal life.

  • The worst way to waste your life.
  • The best way to waste your life.
  • The only way to enjoy life.
  • The only way to eternal life.

The Worst Way to Waste Your Life

Solomon compares two ways to waste your life. There is a foolish way and a wise way.

Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them.

Ecclesiastes 2:13-14

Fool or foolish, as used in the Bible, describes a person who does things with no thought of consequence. Foolishness doesn’t really speak about a lack of intelligence as much as it refers to a lack of foresight. A fool may have a decent IQ, but he or she is reckless.

The Keke Fool

A great example of foolish is a cultural meme known as the Keke Challenge. If you somehow missed this moment of viral idiocy, the “challenge” was to step out of the driver’s seat of a moving car and do a dance in the middle of the street to a popular song by Drake called “In My Feelings.” What could possibly go wrong?

Jimmy Kimmel deemed a Keke “fail” by Jaylen Norwood as the viral video of the year. If you haven’t seen it, allow me to share a shockingly, surprising spoiler of what could possibly happen to a guy dancing in traffic. He gets hit by a car.

The good news is that Jaylen is OK. What’s even more foolish is that the whole thing was staged. Yep, the fool planned it! The problem is that rather than “jumping” the oncoming car, Jaylen slipped on a greasy spot in the street. Dance and jump a car? Right? Again – what could possibly go wrong?

On his show, Jimmy Kimmel commented to Jaylen, “You risked your life for a meme.” Now get ready for this! And Jaylon’s brilliant response? “But I’m the most famous guy in Florida.” So Jaylen got hit by a car and became the most famous guy in Florida? I’m sure Tim Tebow is jealous.

Such is the fool. Reckless. Thoughtless. Un-phased by his last idiotic mistake. Headed full speed toward the next one. The Bible has a lot to say about a fool.

The Bible and the Fool

  • The fool says there is no God.
  • The fool can’t control his tongue and slanders others.
  • The fool despises his parent’s instruction.
  • The fool is self-centered and never takes ownership of his mistakes.
  • The fool is sexually impure and promiscuous.
  • The fool mocks the seriousness of sin.
  • The fool builds his life on his own opinion apart from the firm foundation of God’s Word.
  • The fool acts as if he will live forever and makes no preparation for eternity.

The fool does a lot of damage to himself and to others for one simple reason. He’s not thinking about the consequences of his actions.

A lot of people are just living and waiting to die. They are reckless and rebellious. It is ironic that a human created with such purpose can become so destructive with the life he or she has been given.

What if you end up like Solomon thinking that you are going to live it up, only to find out that you’ve never really lived? If you’re going to waste your life, being a thoughtless fool is the worst way to do it.

If you’re going to waste your life, there is actually a much better way. What’s the best way? Check back tomorrow . . .

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Check out videos from this sermon series, Finding Meaning or read last week’s series of posts, Don’t Push the Panic Button.

Blog post on how to react to change by Brian Branam.

Don’t Push the Panic Button on Change

Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.

With this series of posts, we are gleaning truth from Ecclesiastes 7 that will help us avoid those wild swings of emotion during turbulent times of life. It is easy in the ups and downs of it all to push the panic button. To see the introduction to the series, visit Don’t Push the Panic Button on Death.

Change

The Book of Ecclesiastes is included in a group of Old Testament books known as Wisdom Literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon). These books are often filled with short, smart, tightly packed riddles that have an inexhaustible depth of meaning. Also true of the genre is that these wise sayings can seem disorganized, which makes identifying the thought flow of the author difficult. Ecclesiastes 7:8-12 is a great example of this issue. If you read 10 different commentaries you will find 10 different ways of piecing these verses together.

The way these verses string together for me is in the ideas of attitudes and generations. Verse 8 speaks to the younger generation that is prone to think that a new thing is the best thing. Solomon reminds them that “the end of a thing is better than its beginning.” Don’t fail to pay attention to what has already been done. Investigate it. Learn from it. Figure out the “why” of an old thing before you scrap it and try to start a new thing.

Verse 10 speaks to the older generation that seems to romanticize the past. “Say not, why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”

There is always that temptation to think that the older days were much better than “these” present days. There is something about the human mind that puts a warm glow on the way we grew up. I grew up in the ’80s which everyone obviously understands to be the greatest decade in human history (I say this felicitously of course – but it was 🙂 – wasn’t it!)

We gave the world E.T., more Star Wars, Hacky Sack, and the original Rubik’s Cube. I have one word for you – Atari! Do you remember Beta-max, Walter Payton, Dominique Wilkins, Jordans, Reebok, Thriller, Dale Murphy (I grew up in Georgia), and Ronald Reagan. Was it not a perfect world?

Not quite! They also told us in the 80’s that your school desk would save you from a tornado and a Russian missile attack. Do you remember the Cold War? Inflation? AIDS epidemic? Do you remember the 80’s version of Climate Change – yes – Acid Rain! And perhaps the greatest crisis of the our generation – – – – – – – – New Coke!

Old is not bad.

New will not be the death of us.

Despite the good and bad of every generation there is something about human nature that is prone to think that the older generations have nothing left to offer and that the younger generations will be the end of the world.

The panic button is pressed in verse 9. Here comes the attitude – anger. “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.” Once anger takes up residence it colors the way we view every change or lack thereof. The resistance to change inherent in the older generation angers the younger one. The propensity to change in the younger generation angers the older one.

As with previous generations, we are once again in a day of divisive ideology, politics, and values. Once again, our culture seems to drive the wedge between the generations for the sake of personal gain. It is hard to ignore the cultural shifts that are taking place before us, and without doubt it is very difficult for us to wrap our minds around exactly what is happening.

But don’t push the panic button!

The gospel provides the greatest potential to create a harmonious, healthy, multi-generational community. Passages like Titus 2 more fully flesh out what is alluded to here in Ecclesiastes 7. Christ-centered, gospel community provides the richest of blessings across every generation.

For the younger generation, don’t push the panic button. You provide great energy and excitement. In our waning years we admire the vigor you still possess. At 45 your brain knows what to do, but your body lags behind. But take it from me as we watch you 20-somethings. Your body is fine, but your brain is desperately trying to catch up! Let’s work together on some stuff! We got the brains. You’ve got the not quite so tired, more flexible, less prone to acid reflux bodies. We need each other!

While it is true that each generation leaves some mess behind for the next to clean up, not everything needs “new.” Sometimes change for the sake of change simply brings turmoil. The end of a thing is MUCH better than its beginning. We fought the battles. We tried and failed. Just leave it be. Save yourself the headache and the hassle. Appreciate it. Improve on it? Yes! Implode it? No! Slow your roll!

Now let those of us who have less days ahead than behind gather around the fire and chat. While it is true skinny jeans and man buns are questionable, despite what Fox News says, millennials will not be the death of us. They carry with them some concerns we should not have allowed to go by the wayside. They are picking up with some things we said were important, but we failed to follow through. While it is true that the mills will eventually figure out how bad vinyl sounds and end this odd comeback of the record player, I am excited to see what NEXT looks like. The future days may indeed be much greater than the former ones. May it be the church that exemplifies this for the glory of God!

Change is never easy – whether you are trying to initiate it or stop it. Wherever you are in the midst of it, don’t push the panic button. Allowing anger to lodge within you can turn you into a bitter old fool at 20 as well as 70. Remember Ecclesiastes 7:14. God has made every day, each generation, and He has something for us in all of it.

Conclusion:

As we finish out the passage, Solomon leaves us with three thoughts to help us not push the panic button in any seemingly turbulent situation.

  1. Don’t take yourself too seriously (Ecc 7:15-18) Solomon brings us to balance. Some people will waste their lives thoughtlessly. Some will waste their lives with too much thinking. The world isn’t perfect and you aren’t either. Some people are trying to kill themselves trying to fix it all. You are not the standard of all things. Don’t push the panic button when the world doesn’t suit you.
  2. God has something for us even in the turbulence (Ecc. 7:14) God has made one day as well as the other. Consider it! Don’t push the panic button.
  3. Go straight to Jesus (Ecc. 7:13) I see verse 13 of this passage as the gospel according to Solomon. “Consider the work of God. Who can make straight what God has made crooked?” In Romans 8:13 Paul explains that the word was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it in hope. We have to understand the times and we have to acknowledge our nature. Both are fallen. Both are crooked. Both are incapable of saving or fixing themselves. Turbulence is going to be a part of our existence. In each instance, our tendency is to push the panic button. But consider it! Has not God ordained in the turbulence, not that you push the panic button, but that you reach out in desperation to Him with repentance and faith? Don’t push the panic button. Turn to Jesus as the Savior and Lord of your life.

Don’t Push the Panic Button on Rebuke

It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.

With this series of posts we are gleaning truth from Ecclesiastes 7 that will help us avoid those wild swings of emotion during turbulent times of life. It is easy in the ups and downs of it all to push the panic button. To see the introduction to the series, visit Don’t Push the Panic Button on Death.

Rebuke

I don’t know of anyone who enjoys being called out on their character, or on a critical error. We tend to surround ourselves with “yes men.” We like people who will celebrate us and tell us how amazing we are. But Solomon warns us. Surrounding yourself with “yes men” is as he says in Ecc. 7:5, “the song of fools.”

The songs of fools sound great, but amount to nothing. In Ecc. 7:6 these empty words are described as “crackling thorns under a pot.” There is a fast flame. It makes a lot of noise. All of the crackling makes it seems as if there is something really exciting happening, but it burns out with no real benefit. It is a flash fire at best, it produces no real productive heat. In Ecclesiastes 7:7 Solomon says much like a bribe corrupts the heart, so does surrounding yourself with people who will only tell you what you want to hear.

Ecclesiastes 7:5 contains a great line. If you want to be successful, mark it! If you want to make a difference in life, mark it! If you want to be a great father, great mother, great husband, great wife, great student . . . find someone who will love you enough to tell you what you may not want to hear, but what you need to hear – receive rebuke!

It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. -Ecc. 7:5

We live in a snowflake society that props us up on praise. We want celebrations of every post and pic. Everything is #themostamazing thing. When someone dares to bring rebuke, we push the panic button and absolutely melt.

Rebuke doesn’t feel good. Guess what, it’s not supposed to, but it benefits. Rebuke hurts, but it helps. We tend to avoid those people. We may even criticize those people. But if you look closely at the wisdom of the passage, those may be the people who care about you the most.

The person who brings rebuke sometimes hurts the worst but often cares the most.

In my first ministry gig, I became the youth pastor of my home church. It was a wonderful opportunity that set me up for success, but there were some subtle traps within it that could have easily been my downfall. For one, my parents were in the church. We were longtime members of the church. Most of the adults in that church raised me, coached me, taught me, encouraged me. I was surrounded by people who would celebrate everything I did as if it was the greatest thing that had ever been done. They were proud of me.

I truly appreciate their encouragement, because looking back, I realize those were some bad sermons and a lot of dumb decisions. Now at 45 and the father of two daughters, I realize what it must have been like for a parent to trust a 20-year-old to take their teenager to youth camp. Thank you New Liberty for your days of grace.

But there was one person in my life at that time who not only encouraged me, but he loved me enough to tell me the truth. Not everything I did was great. Not every sermon I preached was amazing. Not every decision was the best decision. When I did wrong, he would sit me down and call me out on it and correct it. He was my pastor.

His name was Wayne Hamrick. And I’ll be honest, I would leave his office so mad at times that I wanted to quit. But even at that time I had the good sense to know, maybe I didn’t like what he was saying; maybe I didn’t understand what he was saying; maybe I didn’t even agree with what he was saying; but 1) he was the pastor and 2) he had been doing this a whole lot longer than me. Intelligence means you have information. I was in school, I was learning a ton. Wisdom means you have information AND application. Bro. Wayne knew where certain decisions and actions would lead. He could see down the road, I could not.

The older I get, the more I appreciate him. And I will say this, the older I get, the more I realize he was right especially when I thought he was dead wrong. When I got mad, I should have been glad that he was a caring, wise, honest voice in my life.

I pushed the panic button a lot of times when he would rebuke me, but I wonder how much better I would be now if I had laid off the panic button and been more ready to receive what he was saying. Rebuke does not feel good, but it is good. Don’t push the panic button.

Be bold enough to invite some people into your life who are willing to rebuke you. Be vulnerable enough to listen and make correction. Be teachable. Wisdom does not come from what we want to hear. Wisdom is gained in what we need to hear.


As I was working on this post I came across some great material that relates in Paul Tripp’s Dangerous Calling. This book is cutting me to the core and will most likely be added to my “5 (now 6) books that rocked my world” list.

None of us is wired to live the Christian life along. None of us is safe living separated and unknown. Each of us, whether pastor or congregant, needs the eyes of others in order to see ourselves with clarity and accuracy. And what is this daily ministry of intervention protecting us from? The answer should sober every one of us: the grace of having our private conversations interrupted by the insight-giving ministry of others is protecting us from becoming spiritually blinded to the point of the hardening of our hearts. The author argues here (Heb. 3:12-13) that personal spiritual insight is the product of community. It’s very difficult to get it by yourself. Perhaps every pastor needs to humbly recognize that because of the blinding power of remaining sin, self-examination is a community project. Every pastor needs people in his life in order to see himself with biblical accuracy.

Dangerous Calling – Paul David Tripp (p. 73)