Dr. Ed Young - When Life is Unpredictable
Sir Winston Churchill was a master of the English language. If you've not read his history of the II World War, I encourage you to do so. It'll help us to understand, you and I, western civilization in a way that you will never have through any other vehicle, in my opinion. He was a master of the written word. He was a magnificent orator. He understood so many cultures, so many nations, but he never could understand Russia. He really couldn't. He understood Nazi Germany. He understood Mussolini and Italy. He understood the United States; remember his mother was an American. And he could look at all around the world and have great insight as to what was going on, the thinking of the people, but he said, "I don't get the Russians". He said the Russians and what they do, as far as Winston Churchill was concerned, was a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. That's pretty complex, isn't it?
Now, we could have helped Churchill understand Russia, because Russia was a thorough-going atheistic nation; and therefore so many times we do not understand what people do and how they think, or how they vote, or how they live. We have to understand if they are looking at life simply under the sun from a humanistic viewpoint, they can't think rationally. They can't think logically. They are blinded; and, therefore, Churchill somehow missed this fact about the USSR. And he kept saying, "You know, they're a riddle wrapped up in a mystery, encased in an enigma". And as we have studied Ecclesiastes, we could say, you know, as I read the book, that's sort of where I come down, because there's a lot of mysteries in our study, and there's a lot of mystery all around us.
Look up. Look all the way into the starry heavens. I picked up one of Hugh Ross' books this week, and I'll tell you, you don't have to go far until you realize this brilliant astrophysicist is taking us into areas where we need a dictionary close by and somebody to help us understand what he's saying about the solar system, about the cosmos. Above us, there is mystery. They measure distances by the speed of light. Think about that, and they measure it in thousands of years. So above us there's a mystery of size and distance, and what about when we look, not only through a telescope, we see that, but look at a microscope? Look at all these little things that are everywhere. My hand under a microscope you say look at all of that. My goodness have you washed your hands in a month?
You see, there's a mystery close to us that's small. We would say teenitsy when we were children. That's very, very small, and very close; whereas, the mystery here is very large and far apart. There are mysteries everywhere. Look up, look down, look within. Mystery, mystery, mystery. Riddles, enigmas, all a part of life. A lot of deep things, the Bible is full of mysteries. And certainly, as we've studied the book of Ecclesiastes, I've said in all probability, it's the autobiography of Solomon; but as I have studied it, I'm almost changing that. I think, it's almost like his memoirs. It's almost like his daily quiet-time book, because here's a brilliant philosopher, theologian who's sharing a wide view of life, and he sees all the mysteries that are there. And he causes us to confront things and to ask questions about things that we perhaps would never do in any other book of the Bible.
Remember it's the first book we should read because it asks the big questions that the rest of God's word answers. And so, we come all the way here to the middle of the eight chapter, and once again we are encountering a riddle wrapped up in a mystery, put inside an enigma. He starts off, and his thesis is very simple. Life is crammed full of mystery. Does anybody want to debate that? And then he just recites the mysteries here. He says, "So then I have seen". This is eight verse 10. So then I have seen the wicked buried, those who use to go in and out from the holy place, and they soon are forgotten, and the city where they did this that too is futility. That too is silly. That too is a mystery what's he saying? There's the mystery of hypocrisy.
By the way, somebody a few months ago says, "You know, I don't go to church. Well, there's so many hypocrites up there". I said, "Well, come on and join us. You'll fit right in". There's the mystery of hypocrisy that we see here. What's he saying? Here's somebody who's very wicked, who goes in and out of the holy place, and they may have an extravagant burial, and they've gone in and out of the holy place, but they are godless in their life. I thought about John Gotti. Remember him the Dapper Don, the mafioso, the vicious head of the mafia there in New York City. They had an extravagant funeral with hundreds and hundreds of people there honoring him, all the Christian symbolism you could buy at that time, and he was buried in Queens in a cemetery that's called God's Holy Acre.
Do you see this verse? The mystery of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is everywhere Solomon is saying. And then he talks about the next mystery in this, a whole list of them that he gives us here. He says. He says, "But it is not. It will not be well for evil man, for he will not lengthen his days like a shadow because he does not fear God". And he says, "There is a futility which is done on earth; that is there are righteous men to whom it happens, according to the deeds of the wicked. On the other hand, there are evil men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I say this too, is a mystery, it's futility".
He's talking about here the mystery of injustice. The mystery we've got plenty of hypocrisy. We've got plenty of injustice. There's a mystery about it. You were born, let us say, in the 4th ward. Your mother had several sexually transmitted diseases. She was addicted to crack cocaine. She was a third-generation recipient of welfare. Never held a job in her life. Had no idea really who your father happened to be. She dropped out of the 4th grade. Could sign her name. Could really not read. She had several other siblings, and you're born into that family. You get to be 21 years old. You look back on your life. Do you think there's any injustice there, hmm? Do you find any injustice?
That's what Solomon is talking about. Here's someone who is wicked, and they're rewarded as if they're good. Here's somebody who's good. They're rewarded as if they're wicked. Here is somebody who is innocent as a child, and they're brought up in a situation that is virtually impossible to come out of. Do you see any injustice there? Here's a fine Christian family. They're in an SUV, and they're going on a family outing. They're on the interstate, mother, father, four children, having a big time. But a drunk who lives in Tanglewood, has a lot of money, but he's drunk, and he crosses over the line, and he meets this family head-on, and they're all killed, the children and the mother except the father, and he is permanently disabled. Do you see any injustice there? There is the mystery of hypocrisy. There is the mystery of injustice, Solomon says.
And also, he goes on. He says there's a mystery of pleasure. You see, he doesn't leave anything out. Isn't he pretty a thorough-going thinker? I mean, Solomon just keeps sweeping us up in all these mysteries and all these enigmas, and all of these deep, deep questions that we don't like to face. And here's the mystery of pleasure. He says, look at verse 15: So I commended pleasure. For there is nothing good for a man to do under the sun except to eat, and to drink, and be merry. This will stand by him in the toils throughout the days of his life, which God has given under the sun. In other words, he says, "Hey, go and have a good time". But there's a problem with pleasure, because you're engaged in pleasure, pleasure, pleasure. Suddenly, you become jaded, and pleasure no longer is pleasure. A permanent vacation leads to a life that really does not have meaning, purpose, or significance, and so there is the mystery of pleasure. It doesn't satisfy.
Then he talked about the mystery of theology. Theology is everywhere, verse 16. He said, "When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task which has been done on the earth, even though one that should never sleep day or night, and I saw every work of God. I concluded that men and women cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though mankind should seriously consider it, he will not discover, and though the wise man should say, I know he cannot discover it". You know what he's saying? He's saying through natural revelation, just what you get under the sun in nature, you're not gonna discover God. That's like the ole' boy who says, "You know, when I play golf every Sunday morning, I'm closer to the Lord than when I go to church".
Well, the problem with that, in nature makes no requirements. You can live like hell, live your own life, and so he says, "I have sought everything about theology". You can't find out much about God from natural revelation. You see that God is capricious. You see that might makes right. You see the survival of the fittest. That's what you get in natural revelation, and he is saying, "I have looked theologically for God in all of this," and he said, "Some people say they've found him". But he's saying, "He's not there. You can't really find his true nature and character". So, there's the mystery of theology. And then he talks about the mystery of death. He keeps bringing up death, doesn't he? I wish he'd leave that behind, but there is a mystery in it.
And look what he says. Verse two of chapter nine: It is all the same. There is one fate for the righteous and for the wicked, for the good, for the clean, for the unclean, the man who offered sacrifice, and the one who does not sacrifice. As the good man is, so is the sinner, so is the swearer, so is the one who is afraid to swear. He's saying we're all gonna die, and it's all gonna be the same. There's a mystery about that. There's a total mystery in death. And so, he's gone through all these mysteries. There's a mystery in hypocrisy. There's plenty of that. There's a mystery in death. Boy, there's a 100% recommendation, a 100% chance of that. He said there's a mystery in looking for God under the sun. He said there's a mystery, mystery, mystery, mystery. He's talking about a riddle. He's talking about an enigma, and, finally, he comes to the conclusion. And he says, "Look, in light of all these mysteries that are inscrutable, you can't unwrap them. You can't find any meaning for life, any significance". He said, "You know what out of all the choices, let the good times roll".
Let's party, party, party. Let's just let it all hang out. And then that's the next verses. He said, "Cram your life full of pleasure". Verse seven he says, "Go then eat your bread in happiness. Drink your wine with a cheerful heart. For God already approves your works. Let your clothes be white all the time". Dress up as fancy as you can. "Let not oil be like on your head," Man, makeup all you can. Look as good as you can. "Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life..." Didn't he mention this a chapter or two before? Here's a man with a thousand women. He says just pick out one. Spend your life with that one. Man, it's kinda weird, isn't it?
Remember Solomon talks about life and love and marriage. You better listen to him. He's had a lot of experience there. Life is crammed full of mysteries. He lists some of them. Therefore, in the light of meaninglessness of life, futility of life, all the question marks about life we can't understand, he said, "Well, just cram your life full of pleasure," and then he presents in one verse the deepest mystery of all. Listen to this in verse eleven chapter nine of Ecclesiastes. Again, I saw under the sun. Now remember, he is reasoning and figuring out things only in a secular, humanistic, agnostic, atheistic way you got that? You have to understand that's how he is using all these rationalizations here. So, he's accurate, by the way, if you look at things from an atheistic viewpoint. He's accurate, he really is. But then he comes to this one little verse. It's the deepest of all. He said, "And I again saw under the sun".
Verse 11 chapter nine: That the race is not to the swift. Solomon, have you lost it? I've seen a lot of races, and races are won usually by the fastest person, right? To say the race is not to the swift, that doesn't make any sense. Well, once in a while, but usually the fastest runner wins. What are you saying, Solomon? And then look at the next thing he says. He says, "The battle is not to the warriors". I've not experienced that. You wanna have a little cage fight. You jump in there with one of those cage fighters. If you're not a warrior, I can tell you you're gonna lose. The battle is to those who are prepared, those who are fit, those who are warriors. He says, "The battle is not won by warriors". Solomon, have you lost it? What in the world are you saying? This is a mystery. He says, "Neither is bread to the wise".
Now that's really. Have you ever known anybody who was wise, who was hungry for bread? I've never known of that. Solomon, Solomon, this is deep. This is crazy. And then he says nor wealth to the discerning. Now that is crazy. If you have discernment, I mean, you have discern you're going to have means. You're not gonna be hungry. You're gonna have means. He said wealth doesn't go to the discerning person. That is absolutely wild, ridiculous. I'd debate with him on that all day long. What are you talking about? And then he compounds it. He says the discerning and favor to men of ability. Men who have ability and talent, men and women who are gifted, they have the favor of God, the favor of mankind. I mean, Solomon, this is all backwards. It's, a riddle wrapped up in a mystery that's put inside an enigma. This particular verse it's the deepest, most confusing thing of all, until you read the last of it.
Look what he says. For time and chance overtake them all. What is he saying? He's saying the fast lose the race. The wealthy are hungry. The discerning don't make it. He goes down all these things that are contrary to anything we know, any kind of rational thinking. He said the decisive thing is time and chance. Right place. Right time. Bang. I drove home last night from church, and on the way home, I had my radio tuned, and somebody who was talking about the stock market, which I know zip about this guy said, "You can make a lot of money on the stock market if your timing is right". Well, you should write that down. How smart is that? This guy is a wonderful stock analysis, hello. Time and chance consume everything else, does it not? You can be the fastest and lose if the timing and the chance is there.
You can be wise and not make it. You can have discerning and you can fail. It's time and chance, time and chance. What's Solomon saying? Somebody would say he's playing craps. Come on, come here. It's just all luck, time and chance. But he says this overtakes them all. And then I looked at this verse, and I said, "Who is in control of chance? Who runs time"? I said I wonder if Solomon, somewhere in his secular, humanistic, godless understanding of life, did he have a little light peep in once again from him who is above the sun, even God? Has he given us any insight? And I saw two little slivers of light right in this section that just clear this up so beautifully for us all.
Look at verse 12 of chapter eight. Solomon says, "I know that it will be well for those who fear God and fear him openly". He says time and chance will work out for you if you fear God, worship God, and you worship God openly. What's he saying? Go to church. That's what he's saying. Worship privately, worship corporately. What you do is go to church. In the light of all the mysteries of life, the confusions of life, the questions of life, he says go to church. A man was going to speak in a church in upper state New York. He was late, and he was walking up the steps, and they were already singing inside. And as he was going up the steps, three little boys on the street looked up at him and said, "Mister, what's going on in there"?
That's a good question, isn't it? Go to church. What's going on in there? What's going on in here? I'll tell you what's going on. We are coming to an understanding of the true and living God. This is where so many times he, in Biblical terminology, tabernacles among us. This is when he deals with us. But when you go to church, you have to go to church prepared. How many of us came to church today, and we prayed, Lord, as I go to church, I want you to speak to me, to visit with me, to deal with me, to touch my life in whatever area I need to be touched.
Did you come prepared? We need to come prepared, expectancy. We talked about that. Come to church on your tiptoe, ready for God to breakthrough in a beautiful way in your life. Preparation for church. Then there's participation. Participate in church. I look out there and we sing a song like, Deep in the Heart of Texas. Some of you men just belt it out. We sing Blessed Assurance, and I'll tell you something, guys you'd better learn how to sing Blessed Assurance with more resoundingness than you do Deep in the Heart of Texas.
You see, in church we have to participate. You have to move your lips at least, if you can't make a joyful noise, or you don't have tune, and you're just flat in your singing like Keith. So just say words. You have to be prepared for God to meet you in church. You have to participate in prayer and worship and music, and all that happens that points us to the Almighty, so he can deal with us. You see, and then when you walk out of church, you have to practice. We don't just get biblical stuff. Boy, I learned today that, no, no, no. We say, Lord, is that speaking to me in my heart, in my need, in my expectation? Are you doing something? You see, we have to practice it. And then, that's what happens in church. We meet the living God, and in church we come out with a purpose.
Now, the next question is what is the result of this? And we find that also. Here is chance, here is probability. Look at chapter nine of Ecclesiastes. Solomon says for I have taken all of this to my heart and explain it with righteous men and wise women, and their deeds are in the hand of God. What is he saying? All this mystery, everything that's going on in life, when we become worshipers, private and corporately, then all of our life, we end up where? In the hand of God, isn't that tremendous? To be in the hand of God. The word hand and arm is mentioned 200 times in the Bible, and he is saying look when we learn how to worship privately and worship corporately, we get a purpose in life, and all of a sudden. He who is above the sun comes down and meets with us who are under the sun. And then we realize that all of our deeds and all of our life, we're in the hand of our Heavenly Father.