These advances in technology are from a fascinating field of study called cybernetics. In short, cybernetics is the merging of man with machine. If you read about this stuff it will either scare you to death or amaze you at how close we are to existing in a sci-fi movie.
One of the side effects of cybernetics is that it is making us take a hard look at what it means to be human. What is it that makes us different than machines?
For instance, as amazing as it is to have a robotic arm that is connected to your thoughts, aren’t you thankful that you don’t do everything you think? Some people would say that they are a lover, not a fighter. I’m afraid that I’m a fighter, not a lover. I’d rather argue than give a hug. That being the case, I’m afraid that if I had a cybernetic arm that responded to my thoughts; there may be some people who get throat punched!
The Difference in Man and Machine
One of the big differences in man and machine is that computers simply carry out commands. Humans have the ability to make an extra decision between emotion and action that keeps unreasonable, annoying people from getting constantly throat punched by maniacs like me.
While there may be something in me thinking “throat punch,” to date I have throat punched exactly zero people (so give me a sticker). This act of self-control comes from the ability you and I have to realize that even though delivering a throat punch is tempting, that doing so would probably make a bad situation even worse. Somewhere between emotion and action comes a correction that results in a much better decision.
It looks like this for computers. COMMAND ———> ACTION.
It looks like this for humans. EMOTION ——> CORRECTION ——> ACTION. That correction is significant! When you omit that middle thought, someone gets throat punched.
While it is one thing to use restraint and refrain from throat punching someone, it is quite another to carry out the 4 correcting commands Jesus offers us in Luke 6:27-28.
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Let’s break these four commands down from the standpoint of pure emotional first response.
4 People I’d Like to Throat Punch
Enemy. An enemy is someone with whom there is no peace. This is anyone in your life that you would like to throat punch.
Hater. Don’t be a hater! (throat punch)
Curser. You curse me. I cuss you back. (throat punch)
Abuser. There is nothing to say here. All that is necessary is a well-placed Chuck Norris throat punch.
There are some people I’d like to throat punch. But Jesus won’t let me.
Restraint is one thing, but what Jesus is saying seems ridiculous. He wants me to love my enemy? Why would I do good for my haters? What blessing could I possibly have for someone dog cussing me? What could possibly be left within me that would motivate me to pray for someone who abused me?
I understand that I can’t go around throat punching people, but Jesus is not just telling me to use restraint, but to respond with radical redemptive action toward the worst possible people.
Why Restraint isn’t Enough
Why would Jesus ask us to not just use restraint, but to respond in a radically redemptive way? I think there are two reasons.
Action releases emotion. Just because I refrained from throat punching my hateful, cursing, abusive enemy doesn’t mean I have dealt with the destructive emotion. If you emotionally bottle up, you eventually blow up. Typically we blow up on the very people who don’t deserve a throat punch. We take out our frustrations on family and friends because we feel it is “safe.” We direct our aggravation and frustration at them, all the while they are wondering what is wrong with us. Conversations are filled with slander and gossip about your enemy. True, you didn’t throat punch someone, but are you any better off being toxic at home? We need a redemptive release of emotion.
Redemption is better than revenge. If you hate your haters, cuss your cursers, and abuse your abusers all you’ve done is double the problem. If you simply return destructive action in response to destructive action, what makes you any different than your enemy? I can tell you something Jesus desires of you. He doesn’t want you to be like your enemy. He wants you to be like him.
Now that we understand what Jesus would have us do and why, the next logical question is who? Who can possibly do something like this? Has anyone ever responded to a cursing, abusive, hateful enemy with radical redemptive action. The answer is, YES!
The Bible’s Book of Genesis tells the story of one such person. His name is Joseph and he finds himself in each of the horrible situations Jesus articulates. Amazingly, he also displays each of Jesus’ radical redemptive responses. Joseph had every reason in the world to deliver a cybernetic throat punch to his brothers, but instead, he took action to redeem them.
We will begin to explore this story and how it corresponds to Jesus’ corrective commands for us in the next post.
Catch up on last week’s series of posts – The Bible Says to Give All, But How Can Anyone Afford All?
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How would you define resurrection? In simple terms, I think most people would say that resurrection is a dead person coming back to life with a much better body. By better body, I mean one that is no longer susceptible to disease or death. But have you ever really thought about what that better body might be like? The Bible entertains this question.
“But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?'”
1 Corinthians 15:35
I would think that any conversation we may have about a better body would interest us. We are infatuated with our bodies. From daytime television to wellness magazines, from Dr. Oz to Men’s Health we tune in to things that promise to help us live longer, happier, healthier lives.
We have great concerns about body image. Hollywood dictates to us what is attractive and what is not. As a result, our nation is home to over 18,000 tanning salons. Shows like The Biggest Loser and America’s Next Top model get high ratings.
It seems the younger we are the greater the struggle with body image. According to an article at badgerherald.com, in 2003 more than 223,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients 18 or younger. 90% of college students say they are unhappy with their body.
Why We Hate our Bodies
Why is it that we pay so much attention to our bodies, work so hard on our bodies, have so much information about our bodies, but still seem to be so unhappy with our bodies?
I think it is because we live as if this body is all we’ve got. When you make your body ultimate, you are bound to be miserable. Eventually, you come to grips with the reality that you are fighting a losing battle.
If you play the comparison game with well-figured people, you may follow their workout or drink their drink for a time. But at some point, you realize there is one key ingredient missing from the equation. Their body is not your body. You can drink seaweed with every meal, but you can’t be them.
While healthier choices are helpful, it is futile to try to preserve a body that is bound to decay and destined to die.
Resurrection is radical body transformation! But it will not come through keto or liposuction. If you will grab on to what the Bible says about your body in light of the resurrection, you will think about your body in a much healthier and happier way.
The Bible says that if you really want to understand resurrection, you need to think of yourself as a seed.
And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.
1 Corinthians 15:37-38
If we are to think of our bodies as a seed, then the real concern we should have of our bodies is not what they look like, but what is in them. If what is in you is resurrected to its fullest potential what does that mean you become forever?
Let’s take this idea of thinking about the resurrection and our bodies like a seed and unpack this idea in 1 Corinthians 15:35-58.
A Seed Must be PLANTED
“You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or some other grain.”
1 Corinthians 15:36-37
When a seed is planted in the soil, that is the end of it as it is, but that is not the end of it.
Death is not the end of you.
They say, “You only live once.” The Bible says that is not true. The Bible teaches that you will live forever. After you die, you will be resurrected as an eternal version of yourself.
The Bible also teaches that there are only two versions of forever. One is the forever blessedness of those Christ has redeemed in a new Heaven and a new Earth (Rev. 21). This version of forever will be the world as God intended it to be in the beginning. It will be good and life-giving.
The other version of forever is one of punishment as those who were not redeemed by Christ are separated from Him in an eternal lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15). This is a horrible and painful end of unimaginable suffering.
Good Looking, Healthy People Die
If we think of our bodies as a seed to be planted, then we surely can’t think of them as an end. For one, death is an inescapable reality. No matter what you do, you are going to die. No one survives life. Very good looking, extremely healthy people die.
The world’s greatest athletes all die. Robert Atkins, the inventor of the wildly popular low-carb Atkins diet, is dead.
Have you ever done Pilates? Joseph Pilates died of emphysema from smoking cigars at the age of 83. He was very flexible when he died.
Being healthy helps, but it is not going to save you. At some point, we have to realize that the question is not how we look or even how we feel. The question we should be asking is what is within us? That’s always the question of a seed – not its color, its size, or its texture. The question of a seed is of what is inside of it?
Perhaps instead of so much working out, we need to spend some time working in.
If what is inside of you is resurrected forever, what is your forever going to be?
It is not true that you only live once. What is true is that you only get one shot to make sure what is in the seed is what needs to be in the seed. And this is not a question of fitness, but of nature. This we will discuss in tomorrow’s post.
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.”
There is a word in that explanation that I think needs definition. What is 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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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When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools.
Getting to church on Sunday morning can be such a hassle that we get very little out of the experience and begin to wonder, “what’s the point?” This week I am showing you from Ecclesiastes, how we can get to church, get over the hassle, and get to something great! Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s dissertation on how to avoid a meaningless life. In Ecclesiastes 5 Solomon shows us how to avoid meaningless worship. To see the introduction to this week’s series of posts, see Worship Mindset #1, Careful.
In Ecclesiastes 5:4-7, Solomon says that God takes no pleasure in a fool who makes a vow but never follows through. He then makes a curious statement. “Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake (v. 6).” What does that mean? Who is the messenger?
The messenger is someone who holds you accountable. This could be any number of people in your church. It could be your pastor, a teacher, a ministry leader, a member of a study group. The messenger is anyone to whom you make a commitment or to whom you have an obligation.
To go before the messenger and say “that it was a mistake” describes the actions of a person who apologizes, but really never does what they committed to do. They hate that they missed, but they had a good excuse. You can’t count on them. They lack faithfulness.
The Washington Post reported that according to CareerBuilder.com, Americans are great at making excuses. In explaining why workers were late to work, 51% of late arrivals blame traffic, 31% say they overslept, and 28% blame the weather. Some of the most ridiculous excuses include, “I was here, but I fell asleep in the parking lot.” “My fake eyelashes were stuck together.” And here is a great excuse, “I had morning sickness.” Morning sickness sounds like a reasonable excuse. The problem, that excuse was made by a male employee!
College students are killing off family members with their excuses. A professor noted that there seemed to be a rash of family deaths amongst students when papers were due and then just before final exams. The relative most likely to die during exams; grandma!
According to this professor’s investigation, grandmas were 10x more likely to die at midterm and 19x more likely to die during final exams. Students who were failing were 50x more likely to lose their grandmas! It seems that the key indicator of mortality amongst senior citizens who have grandchildren in college is GPA! It seems that if you have grandchildren in college, you may want to invest in a tutor.
Sometimes when it comes to getting to church, it’s a lot easier to just make excuses. That is especially true if you have positions of service or leadership. Sometimes a long week, coupled with that Sunday morning hassle makes it much harder to get there and much easier to make excuses.
So how do you get there and get over it? Try motivating out of an attitude of gratitude rather than guilt. Instead of thinking, “I’ve got to do this” have the mentality that “I get to do this.” I don’t have to get to church. I get to go to church. I don’t have to listen to a sermon. I get to listen to God’s Word faithfully preached. I don’t have to go to worship. I get to go to worship!
As sinners there should be a sense of guilt as we realize we stand condemned before a holy God. But if we know Christ as Savior, there should be an overwhelming sense of gratitude. How do you get to church and get over it? Be faithful. Fuel your faithfulness with gratitude. You don’t have to go. You get to go.
to draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools
Getting to church on Sunday morning can be such a hassle that we get very little out of the experience and begin to wonder, “what’s the point?” This week I am showing you from Ecclesiastes 5 how we can get to church, get over the hassle and get to something great! Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s dissertation on how to avoid a meaningless life. In Ecclesiastes 5 Solomon shows us how to avoid meaningless worship. To see the introduction to this week’s series of posts, see Worship Mindset #1, Careful.
After he tells us to guard our steps, Solomon goes on to say, “To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil (Ecc. 5:1b).” To listen is to stay focused. It is to tune in. In the context of worship, “listen” relates to one’s readiness to receive the words being spoken. Worship is not a brainless, mindless activity. Those who truly worship God are attentive, engaged, mindful.
The Bible teaches that listening is critical to faith.
Romans 10:17 – Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
James tells us that we need to be more ready to hear than we are to speak. He goes on to say in James 1:21, “Remove all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.“
Jesus told a parable about a sower, seed, and soils. In the parable the seed represents the Word of God and the soils represent how it is received. Some soils are hardened to the point that the seed is never received. Other soils are shallowed out and the seed finds no depth. Some soil is filled with weeds that later choke out any fruit the good seed sought to produce. It is only when the seed is received deeply, singularly, does it find good soil and bears the fruits of salvation.
Listening is essential to salvation, therefore it is critical to worship.
Worship is not singing. Worship does not end when preaching begins. Singing is great. Giving is good. Prayer is essential, but preaching the Bible is central to worship. In 2 Timothy 4:2, the apostle Paul told pastor Timothy to, “Preach the Word. Be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” Unfortunately, this statement preceeds a warning of a coming day in which people would turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (4:4).
God has ordained preaching to be the main delivery system of the Word of God in worship. Is it any wonder that we are dealing with so much distraction and that our attention span is quickly eroding?
There is no need to share a statistic or clever illustration to prove that our listening skills are fading. In this age of information, we all feel it. Our minds are quickly changing channels on media and content. Have we left sufficient bandwidth for being mindful of the Word of God in worship?
To get to church and get over it, you don’t need a shorter sermon. Instead of wondering what it is going to take to “get this sermon over with” why don’t you instead find a way to get into it?
How can we lengthen our listening? May I suggest the following:
Biblical meditation and memorization – Long periods of concentrated time in the Word of God will help train our minds to better receive the Word of God. With social media, we consume thousands of images and words per day. It is a meaningless scroll through an otherwise colorful world. We are being shallowed out. Scripture memorization helps us think deeply about God’s Word. The more we work on memorization, we begin to move into meditation, being filled up by the Word of God. As we dwell more and more on the text, the Holy Spirit begins to bring its meaning to light.
Use a paper Bible. While using a digital version of God’s Word can be helpful and convenient, it is that matter of a sudden notification that it’s your turn on Words with Friends that may bring an end to your mindfulness in worship. Your pastor was just about to turn the corner on a life-changing truth when your aunt Becky hits you up on Messenger. The Word of God was just about to help your marriage, but aunt Becky couldn’t wait to show you her #mostamazing baked spaghetti. Aunt Becky’s baked spaghetti may be spectacular, but it is not eternally life-altering. I don’t know about you, but I know me. I can’t concentrate when little red notifications start popping up on my phone. One thing I do know. My paper copy of the Bible is not connected to Instagram. That helps me. It may help you listen. Go paper!
Add sermon podcasts to your listening. The best way to learn how to listen to sermons is to listen to sermons. One of the benefits of our digi-devices is that there are countless podcasts of preaching available to us. I have several podcasts from churches and seminaries to which I subscribe and listen regularly. Yes, preachers listen to preachers!
Be physically prepared to listen. It is really hard to listen to preaching if you are not physically prepared. Staying up until 2 a.m. watching Netflix and hitting a Monster on the way into life groups isn’t what Paul meant by being Sprit-filled. Your body and mind need rest. Perhaps the reason you got nothing out of last week’s sermon is that you had nothing left. You got nothing out of it because you brought nothing to it. How much better might that otherwise boring sermon be if you brought something to it such as a curious mind, a rested body, and a ready spirit? You might be amazed at how much better your preacher can be if you would get some rest.
As a preacher, my job is to work hard to make a sermon seem like 20 minutes. It should be interesting, passionate, and beneficial. This is the Word of God! If it is boring, that’s my fault! But if I am working hard to make a sermon seem like 20 minutes, I am trusting that God’s people value preaching enough to give me at least 20 minutes. I’m going to try to bring you something great. You bring you!
Ultimately, what’s the motivation for being mindful of the Word we are receiving in worship? Solomon explains that “To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.” He is attentive to the Word in worship because he doesn’t want to make a mistake. He wants to be informed of what pleases God. It terrifies him to think that something he believes to be right is wrong. How often does this happen in our modern worship contexts? People are emotionally hyped and mindlessly entertained. As appealing as the experience may be, this is not worship. Worship is not for us, it is from us. Mindless worship is the self-serving sacrifice of a fool who is uninformed by God’s Word. For us to get to church and get over it, we have to bring an awakened curiosity; a mindfulness toward the Word of God that we receive in worship.
Have you ever been scrolling Netflix and come across something that looks so dumb ———————– that you had to watch it! I wasted 20 minutes of my life on the documentary, Behind the Curve. Behind the Curve is about people who believe that the earth is flat. Despite all of the data we have from satellites in orbit, the eyewitness accounts of astronauts in orbit, the evidence of physics, or our mapping of the globe, there are some who insist that it is all nothing more than a conspiracy to convince us that our planet is round rather than flat.
The film begins with a guy walking on a beach somewhere near Seattle explaining that you and I live in something like a giant sound stage, something more akin to the Truman Show, rather than on a round rock in a solar system. It is 95 minutes of total ridiculous! My advice is to watch the first 20 minutes for the comedy of it. When your head feels like it is about to explode from the insanity, move on to something more productive like clipping your nails, grating cheese, or learning how toast is made.
As ridiculous as it is to believe that the Earth is flat, so it is to believe that your life should be perfect. As ridiculous as it is to believe that you and I are living in a Truman-esque sound stage, so it is to believe that you can do it all, fix it all, know it all, and control it all.
Many are living beneath the crushing weight of unrealistic expectations and missing the beauty of an eternal God working in our everyday.
Our unrealistic expectations come from the overreach of an otherwise healthy desire. In Ecclesiastes 3:11 Solomon says about God, “He put eternity into man’s heart.” That’s an amazing statement. What does it mean?
“He put eternity into man’s heart” is an important statement about our nature. God has created us as eternal creatures. You and I know we are going to die, but isn’t there also a sense in you that life is never going to end? Weird isn’t it!
“He put eternity in man’s heart” also explains our desire for that “paradise lost” where everything is complete, where things are fixed, where we do understand, and where everything is under control. The eternity he put into our hearts is like a fading memory of a place we have never been, but of a place we desperately want to go.
Our return to paradise lost is a healthy desire, but it is an unrealistic expectation if we do not accept the statement that follows in Ecclesiastes 3:11,“He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.“
A perfect world may be our desire, but it cannot be our expectation – at least not now. The fall of man into sin has ruined our world and clouded our judgment (Gen. 3). We may be eternal, but because we are sinful we need to know our limitations. Some things we can’t “find out” or figure out. Unfortunately, it means that some questions God doesn’t answer. Some mysteries will remain hidden. “Yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” also means that God is perfectly fine with you – like this – for now.
The earth is not flat. Your life is not perfect. It is what it is. And that’s good theology!
Take a deep breath, there is hope! The liberating piece of the passage comes in the statement that precedes our frustration with unrealistic expectation. “He has made everything beautiful in its time (Ecc. 3:11a).” We are not left alone. The eternal God is working in our everyday.
“HE” makes everything beautiful in its time brings us to the most freeing, stress relieving, joyous of conclusions – IT’S NOT ABOUT ME! In its time means that if I can learn to deal with life as it is, as it comes – if I could learn the value of dealing the immediate and not trying to be or do or determine the ultimate – it’s a beautiful thing!
How did Solomon arrive at this most liberating conclusion? He explains in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
I Can’t Do It All – Know My Season
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 articulates an inescapable truth of life; nothing remains the same. “For EVERYTHING there is a season and a time for EVERY matter under heaven.”
This is most unfortunate for the mother of a 15 year old who still parents like the child is 5. This is a difficult truth for those who can’t move on after something or someone is gone.
It also explains why it is frustrating for the guy who is conflicted between being the perfect dad while also attempting to be a highly profitable entrepreneur. This is why Instagram comparisons are so debilitating and horribly misleading. It is not that you are failing, it may simply be that you are out of season. Knowing WHEN you are is as important as knowing WHO you are.
Observing the principle of seasons will help you enjoy what is truly beautiful in its time.
Seasons come naturally, not selectively. You don’t choose seasons, they just happen. We all have our favorite seasons, but we can’t extend them or choose them to the exclusion of others. You can’t deny winter simply because it is cold. You may love summer, but you look strange in the dead of winter wearing shorts. Wearing shorts in the winter is not only bad fashion, but it is a bad strategy. But think of how many decisions we make, in our feeble attempt to do it all, that are like wearing a winter coat in the middle of July. So many things that fill us with frustration are simply the right thing at the wrong time.
Certain things only happen in certain seasons. I talked about this in my book The Walk (now only $14.99 on Amazon! Shameless plug!). The grocery store is deceptive. Those strawberries you bought for your cake at Christmas, those weren’t picked in Georgia. Those berries are from Argentina, not Ellijay! For those of us trying to rush it along, grow them up way too fast, get more out of it – long before it’s in season – all you are going to do is crush it. As a matter of creation, God put in us a desire to be fruitful. If you follow Christ, the desire to be fruitful is also a matter of mission. But realize that fruitfulness is not a matter of constancy (as in it can happen all of the time). Fruitfulness is a matter of consistency. Fruitfulness comes after ripening. Before ripening there was trimming. Before trimming there was fertilizing – and planting, and working and so on and so forth. And oh yes, let’s not forget that in bearing fruit there is also a season of dormancy. It is very difficult for a perfectionist to simply leave soemthing alone. But we all know that sometimes the most important part of maturing is not what is happening to you as much as it is what is happening in you. How many matters of life would be so much less frustrating if we were not out there holding bushel baskets ready to pick off of leafless trees during the dormant season? There is an important season in which you may just need to leave it alone!
All God expects is for you to steward the season. If you observe the season you will know best how to work it and what to expect from it. In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 there are times to plant but also times to pluck. There are times to save and times to spend. That’s incredibly frustrating if you’re trying to save money but can’t understand you’re always having to pay for repairs. Saving money is essential, but you can’t neglect what you have along the way. Maybe that business was booming, but now, not so much. Maybe instead of getting depressed its time to dig down deep, restructure, re-strategize, reorganize. Work this season and enjoy it! Perhaps the next one will be even more fruitful than before.
“It’s not about me” is the realization that life changes. It is understanding that sometimes it is less about talent and more about timing. It is about realizing that in the current season I need to do THIS and not all of THAT. If “it’s not about me” I can do THIS for NOW and I can do it with JOY. The rest of it will have to wait for a season of its own. Everything is beautiful in its time.
I Can’t Fix It All – Know My Situation
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 reveals another important principle of seasons. In every season there is good and bad. Every season has its problems.
On March 13, 2019, Facebook went down for about 4 hours. So for about 4 hours on a Wednesday afternoon, most of the world did not know what to do.
At the time of the outage, I was trying to post some information about our upcoming Bible study at Liberty. Like a billion other people, I got frustrated by the outage. Trying to figure out what was going on I began to scan media outlets to see if they were reporting on any FB outages. The headlines were telling. Major news sources were using the word “panic” in the leads to the story. Some sources were even reporting on the possibility of terrorists hacking into servers in Europe. My favorite headline read, “Facebook Outage: Tell Your Grandma Not to Panic.”
I wonder how many people sat in front of a computer or made a million pointless attempts on their phone to refresh Facebook and solve the problem? There is no doubt that there was a lot of wasted time and mounting frustration. But the real problem was not that Facebook was down. The real problem was in the countless millions of us who could not understand the situation – you don’t solve a global social media outage with your refresh button :). There is no magic “refresh” button that can fix people or fix all of your problems. Know the situation – it’s not about you – move on to something else.
In every season there will be situations – both good and bad. Knowing the situation can bring sweet release to those who feel the incessant need for perfection. Here are three critical principles of situations:
Not every situation is your fault. When things go wrong we often wonder what we did wrong. We wonder “why?” Why does God hate me? Why is God out to get me? What did I do to deserve this? The answer may very well be – nothing! Life is unfair. There are victims. People make choices that may cause you problems. Some of these choices will be made today. Some of them may have been made long before you were even born. Where there are people, there will be problems. What “they” do may negatively affect you, but remember, it’s not about you!
Some situations are your fault. And then there are times when we need to admit, “I am the problem.” When we are willing to admit that we are the problem, we want the problem solved quickly. That may or may not happen. Look at Ecc. 3:1-8. There is a time to build up, but it may be time to tear down. Just because you are still suffering the consequences doesn’t mean you are doing the wrong thing, it just means you did a dumb thing. Deal with it. This situation may very well be your season. But remember; seasons pass.
Some people are not yours to fix. It is one thing to deal with your own incessant need for perfection, it is quite another to impose that need on others. Unrealistic expectations will crush you. Why invite someone else into the press? The perfectionist mentality is hard on a marriage. It is not healthy for parenting. Perfectionists are difficult to work with or work for. Remember the verse “HE has made everything beautiful in IT’S time.” God did not put you on the planet to fix it for Him.
The amazing thing about knowing Christ is the realization that problems become purposeful. Romans 8:28 turns a world filled with problems into something with incredible purpose.
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
“It’s not about me” is the realization that there will be problems and that I may not be the solution – or at least my incessant need of perfection is not the solution. Release and relief comes in realizing that there is good and bad in every season. Problems are natural, not vindictive. This is not God out to get me – it’s just me and a world full of people. “It’s not about me” is the acceptance that God’s grace is much better for the world than my incessant need of perfection.
I Can’t Understand/Control It All – Know The Sovereign
In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 there are listed a lot of things we would not choose, a lot of things we do not enjoy, and a lot of things we do not understand. We would not choose to die, to pluck, to kill, to break down, to weep, or to mourn. We had rather have life full of planting, healing, building up, laughing, and dancing. Unfortunately, we don’t always have a choice.
And when we don’t seem to have a choice – well – that is what we don’t understand.
As ugly as those “would not choose” items seem, even they are included in “He makes everything beautiful in its time.” That is beyond my ability to explain, but it has not been beyond my experience.
My father died the day before my 44th birthday. He was an active, athletic man. He was a great dad. The final five years of his life we spent watching his vigor and strength drain away. For five years we watched him die with the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease.
The week we realized he would not last much longer, it was like God hit the pause button. I am a pastor. There is no pause button. But for that week it was like God gave me a supernatural release. I went home to be with my parents. And as odd as this may sound, it was one of the most horrible and wonderful weeks of my life.
There was so much ugliness in watching my dad struggle to breathe. There was so much beauty in watching my mother fulfill the vows she had made to him 47 years ago. It was awful to watch him suffer. It was amazing to listen to my oldest daughter sit on the end of his bed and share with him all of her hopes, plans, and dreams. For thirty minutes she talked and for the only thirty minutes that week he opened his eyes, smiled, and stared at her. I am fully convinced he took in every word she said. Physically he was a horrible mess. That conversation was a beautiful thing.
Our eternal God was working in our everyday. We were nearing the hardest moment of a long difficult season, but it was a beautiful thing.
I’ll never forget. It was in the early morning hours. We were so tired and my mother and I had just tried to go to bed. It was not long before she opened my bedroom door and said softly, “He’s gone.”
Every day I replay the scene of my dad’s body being rolled away on a gurney out of his bedroom door. It was horrible. Ugly. Deflating.
But I serve a sovereign God who is good, and able, and in control. And because He is who He is, my dad’s death was not the end. It was just the end of a season.
Knowing Christ as Lord and Savior is the essence of seeing the beauty in every season. So many times you hear a person say in the loss of people and things – my life just ended. For those who follow Christ they realize it is not the end of life, it is just the end of a season. Knowing Jesus means there is always more ahead for me. It may not all be good, but it will not all be bad. He has a plan and a purpose in every season.
To know my dad now has life after life. To know my dad can walk. To know my dad is healed. To know my sovereign God is a savior and a giver of life – He makes everything beautiful in its time. It was my dad’s time. That’s beautiful. Amazing. Encouraging.
“It’s not about me” means that I don’t have to like everything. It means that I may not even agree with the choices or experiences. It’s not about me means that I probably won’t understand most of it, but I can release it because I know that a good God who is able is in control. That much, we understand and that is enough.
So the earth isn’t flat and your life is not perfect, but if you follow Christ, it will be – in time! Everything is beautiful in its time – your salvation – His return – our sanctification – and your sweet release of your incessant need to be perfect. It’s not about me is the simple realization that it is ALL about Him. It is realizing things are so much more beautiful in His time.
So how can you tell if it’s time?
The question of seasons – Ask yourself if what you are about to do will flourish or cause more frustration in this season. Will it be great for business but bad for family? Will it be great fun, but bring debt? Maybe it’s not the wrong thing. Maybe it’s just not the right time.
The question of situation – What’s the good and the bad? Weigh it out. If this comes, what goes? Sometimes the question is not what you ARE going to do as much as it is what you are NOT going to do.
Questions for the Sovereign – You and I may not understand it all, but we are allowed to ask questions. What is God doing that I can join in with Him? What does the Bible say? Can God bless this decision? How is the Holy Spirit leading?