Today’s selected reading continues in and concludes the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes which was written by Solomon the son of David, the king of Israel, and that one who was called “The Preacher.” More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters seven through twelve of this Old Testament book. WHEN I APPLIED MY HEART! THE APPLICATION OF THE HEART! “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). “Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:3-4). “Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:6-8). “Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:22-23). “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth one the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, nor on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:19-23).
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9). “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:31-34). “…So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God…Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, What ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of y of with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall rink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall e added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that failed not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:21-34).
“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; while the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, and the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall e brought low; also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almost tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall e a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: or every the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7).
THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SON (ECCLESIASTES 1:4-11). THE PURSUIT OF WISDOM (ECCLESIASTES 1:12-18). THE PURSUIT OF PLEASURE AND POSSESSIONS (ECCLESIASTES 2:1-11). LEAVING IT ALL BEHIND NOT KNOWING WHO WILL FOLLOW (ECCLESIASTES 2:12-23). A TIME AND SEASON (ECCLESIASTES 3:1-9). THE LORD MAKES EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IN HIS TIME (ECCLESIASTES 3:10-15). THE FATE OF MEN (ECCLESIASTES 3:18-22). THE OPPRESSIONS AND TRAVAILS UNDER THE SUN (ECCLESIASTES 4:1-6). THE BLESSEDNESS OF UNITY (ECCLESIASTES 4:4-12). KEEP THY FOOT WHEN ENTERING THE HOUSE OF GOD (ECCLESIASTES 5:1-8). THE PROFIT OF THE EARTH IS FOR ALL (ECCLESIASTES 5:9-12). NAKED SHALL HE RETURN TO GO AS HE CAME (ECCLESIASTES 5:13-17). RICHES, WEALTH AND HONOUR (ECCLESIASTES 5:18-6-6). A GOOD NAME (ECCLESIASTES 7:1-6). CONSIDER THE WORK OF GOD (ECCLESIASTES 7:7-14). THE DAYS OF MY VANITY (ECCLESIASTES 7:15-22). THE WOMAN WHOSE HEART IS SNARES AND NETS (ECCLESIASTES 7:23-29). KEEP THE KING’S COMMANDMENT (ECCLESIASTES 8:1-5). TO EVERY PURPOSE THERE IS TIME AND JUDGMENT (ECCLESIASTES 8:6-10). IT SHALL BE WELL WITH THEM THAT FEAR GOD (ECCLESIASTES 8:11-13). WHEN I APPLIED MINE HEART TO KNOW WISDOM, AND TO SEE THE BUSINESS THAT IS DONE UPON THE EARTH (ECCLESIASTES 8:16-17). THE RIGHTEOUS, AND THE WISE, AND THEIR WORKS ARE IN THE HAND OF GOD (ECCLESIASTES 9:1-6). WHATSOEVER THY HAND FINDETH TO DO, DO IT WITH THY MIGHT (ECCLESIASTES 9:7-10). THE RACE IS NOT TO THE SWIFT, NOR THE BATTLE TO THE STRONG (ECCLESIASTES 9:11-12). WISDOM IS BETTER THAN STRENGTH (ECCLESIASTES 9:13-18).
I GAVE MY HEART TO SEEK AND SEARCH OUT BY WISDOM CONCERNING ALL THINGS THAT ARE DONE UNDER HEAVEN (ECCLESIASTES 1:12). I GAVE MY HEART TO KNOW WISDOM, AND TO KNOW MADNESS AND FOLLY (ECCLESIASTES 1:17). I SOUGHT IN MINE HEART TO GIVE MYSELF UNTO WINE, YET ACQUAINTING MINE HEART WITH WISDOM (ECCLESIASTES 2:3). I APPLIED MINE HEART TO KNOW, AND TO SEARCH, AND TO SEEK OUT WISDOM, AND THE REASON OF THINGS, AND TO KNOW THE WICKEDNESS OF FOLLY, EVEN OF FOOLISHNESS, AND MADNESS (ECCLESIASTES 7:25). ALL THIS HAVE I SEEN AND APPLIED MY HEART UNTO EVERY WORK THAT IS DONE UNDER THE SUN (ECCLESIASTES 8:9). WHEN I APPLIED MINE HEART TO KNOW WISDOM, AND TO SEE THE VUSINESS THAT IS DONE UPON THE EARTH (ECCLESIASTES 8:16).
COMING TO THE END AND ASKING IF IT WAS WORTH IT! REACHING THE END AND WONDERING IF IT WAS ALL NECESSARY! QUESTIONING YOUR PURSUITS! QUESTIONING YOUR ENDEAVORS! (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18-2:11). THE STRUGGLE TO FIND WORTH! THE STRUGGLE TO FIND VALUE! VALUE VERSUS VANITY! When you come to the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes you will find Solomon writing—not as a father unto his son, but writing as the preacher. The narrative that is found within the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes is one that centers around Solomon reaching a point within his life when he looked upon and examined everything he had acquired, everything he had amassed, and everything he had achieved, and essentially coming to the end of himself. The words which are found in this poetic book center upon Solomon looking over all this wealth, all his possessions, all the fame and honor he had among the nations of the earth, all that was found within his heart and life, and coming to the point within himself where he felt that everything was complete and utter vanity. You cannot read the words which are found within the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes and not come face to face with the reality that Solomon struggled with two very distinct realities that would classify everything he had, and everything he had become within his life. As you read the words found in this Old Testament poetic book you will find Solomon wrestling and grappling with whether or not what was present within his life had value, or whether or not that which was in his life was nothing more than vanity. In all reality, I can’t help but read the words found within this Old Testament book and look upon my own pursuits, look upon my own endeavors, look upon those things which I have sought after within and throughout the course of my life so far, and ask myself whether or not who and what I have become has real eternal value, or whether who and what I have become is nothing more than vanity because I am not walking in that which the LORD has for me. I read the words found within the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes and find myself looking over my life—looking over whatever things I feel I have accomplished, and looking over those things which I feel I have achieved—and seeing if there is any worth or value in any of it. You cannot read the words found within this book and not find Solomon truly wrestling with whether or not everything he had accumulated and amassed within his life had any eternal worth or value.
As I sit here today thinking about this reality I find myself reading the words of Solomon in this poetic book and coming face to face with a man who truly and completely wrestled with whether or not that which he had been living for truly had worth and truly had value in the sight of the living God. We know and understand that Solomon was chosen by the living and eternal God to build the Temple that was to be the sanctuary of the LORD in the midst of His people, and a house of worship unto all the nations of the earth, and yet beyond building the Temple of the LORD we find that everything else which describes the life of Solomon deals with riches, deals with possessions, deals with wealth, deals with honor, fame and glory in the midst of the nations of the earth. We must recognize and understand that it was the LORD Himself who declared that He would bestow upon Solomon riches, wealth, possessions, glory and honor, and yet when Solomon came to the latter years of his life he found himself looking upon it all and realizing that it had absolutely no eternal worth or value. Both the authors of the book of First Kings, as well as the book of Second Chronicles described the great wealth and possessions Solomon had, as well as the fact that people from all the nations of the earth came unto Solomon to hear the wisdom the LORD had given him. The author of the book of Second Chronicles wrote how the kings of the earth came unto Solomon to hear the wisdom the LORD had given him, and how he surpassed all the kings of the earth in wealth and wisdom. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this reality, for when you read the words which Solomon wrote in this particular book you will find him writing of the vanity of it all. What’s more, is that despite the fact the LORD would give Solomon wisdom, and despite the fact that the LORD would give unto Solomon all those things which he did not ask for—wealth, possessions, honor, fame, and the like—Solomon himself would give himself to pursuing those things during his lifetime. In fact, if you read the words which are found in the latter portion of the first chapter, as well as the words which are found in the opening portion of the second chapter you will find Solomon speaking of his pursuit of wisdom, and his pursuit within this life.
If you begin reading the words found in the first and second chapters you will find powerful descriptions of Solomon giving himself to the pursuit of those things under the sun which we read about in the books of First Kings and Second Chronicles. It’s interesting to note that the LORD declared unto Solomon that He would give him wealth, possessions, honor, fame, and those things which he didn’t ask for, and yet when you come to the opening chapters of the book of Ecclesiastes you will find Solomon speaking of his pursuit of those things within his life. Undoubtedly Solomon realized and understood that it was the LORD who gave him the power to accumulate wealth, and it was the LORD who gave him the ability to accumulate possessions in this life. Solomon realized and understood the LORD would give him the ability to seek after, to pursue, and to amass an abundance of wealth, an abundance of possessions, and fame and honor among the nations of the earth, and it was this pursuit which caused this internal struggle within the heart and soul of Solomon. Essentially the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes is a book that describes and details the struggle and conflict within the heart and soul of Solomon as he looked upon everything he had accumulated, everything he had amassed, everything he had achieved, everything he had sought after and pursued, and realized that it was all vanity. Stop for a moment and consider the fact that Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in wealth and in wisdom, and yet as he looked upon these two realities within his life he found himself seeing the vanity in those things rather than the value. It’s quite astounding and remarkable to think about the fact that one can look upon their life—look upon that which they have achieved, look upon that which they have accumulated, and look upon that which they have done—and see nothing more than vanity. It is possible to look over and upon one’s life, and instead of seeing any value or worth in who and what you’ve become, and what you’ve accumulated and amassed, you see nothing more than vanity. What’s more, is that it is possible to look upon one’s life and find absolutely no worth, no value, no purpose, no eternal significance in who and what you’ve become, and what you have. What about you? When you look upon your life do you see eternal worth and value—not in who you are as an individual, for you have always and will always have eternal worth and value in the sight of the living God—in what you’ve become, what you’ve done, and what you’ve acquired in this life? Have you struggled to find any eternal worth and value within your life and all you have achieved and accumulated in the sight of the living God?
It is with this thought in mind that I can’t help but think about and consider the words which are found in the opening chapters of this book. The words we find in the opening chapters of these books are words which help us understand the pursuit of Solomon—the pursuit beyond that which the LORD given unto and bestowed upon him. Perhaps the underlying question that must be asked is whether or not there is a difference between living a life with what the LORD has given us, and living our lives chasing after and pursuing those things which are based upon our own desires, our own delights, and what we determine has value and worth according to our own standards. Solomon himself was given wisdom and understanding from the LORD, and Solomon was given wealth, possessions, fame and honor, and yet when you read the words which are found within this Old Testament book you can’t help but get the strong sense that Solomon himself engaged in various pursuits and endeavors—perhaps to increase and enhance that which the LORD had given unto and blessed him with. Consider if you will the words which are found in the latter portion of the first chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes, as well as the words which are found in the first half of the second chapter:
“I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow” (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18).
“I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity. I said of laughter, It is made: and of mirth, What doeth it? I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life. I made me great works; I buildest me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the world that bringeth forth trees: I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I have great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruct ent s, and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes d desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour; and this was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11).
VANITY AND VEXATION OF SPIRIT! I GAVE MYSELF TO ALL THIS AND YET FOUND IT ALL VAINTY! I GAVE MYSELF TO ALL THIS, AND YET I FIND IT ALL MEANINGLESS! I GAVE MYSELF TO ALL THIS AND FOUND IT ALL WORTHLESS! WHERE IS THE ETERNAL WORTH IN WHAT I HAVE DONE? WHERE IS THE ETERNAL VALUE IN WHAT I HAVE DONE? The question I can’t help but ask when reading the poetic book of Ecclesiastes is what we do when we come to the end of our life and realize that everything we have pursued, everything we have chased after, everything we have sought after, everything we have striven for is nothing more than vanity and vexation of spirit. I can’t help but ask myself what we would do and how we would respond if we came to the end of our life and realized that we spent a considerable amount of time living only for ourselves and didn’t live with eternity in mind. Permit me to ask you a question right now—one that is very pointed and powerful and requires total and complete honesty. Have you been living your life with eternity in mind? Have you been living your life for that moment when you will cross over from the realm of time and space to eternity and find yourself standing before your Maker and standing before the King who is seated upon His throne? If you are truly honest with yourself, as well as with me as you read these words—have you been living your life with eternity in front of you? The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes is in all reality a book that is centered around Solomon coming to a point in his life when he looked over everything he had built, everything he had pursued, everything he had chased after, everything he had acquired, and realized it was all meaningless. The more I read this poetic book the more I can’t help but see it as a book about eternity, and a book about coming to a point within our lives when we are confronted with the truth of whether or not we have truly lived with eternal value and eternal worth in mind. Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers about laying up treasures on this earth and the tremendous dangers of living for treasures which we amassed upon the earth. Jesus compared and contrasted our heart being in heaven with the treasure we have stored up in heaven versus our heart being here on the earth and the treasures we have amassed here. Jesus was very clear and very specific concerning us pursuing those things which are above rather than those things which are beneath—those things which are of the earth, and those things which are of this world.
I sit here this morning and I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle John wrote in the first epistle which was sent unto the Ephesian congregation concerning our love for the world and the things contained therein. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which James the half-brother of Jesus also wrote concerning our love, our affection, our desire, and our passion for the things of this world. Both James and the apostle John warned against the love and affection of the things of this world, and James would go so far as to make a statement about having enmity with God—perhaps even being enemies of God because we have chosen to love the things of this world. The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes is essentially a book about tempered desires, tempered passions, tempered pursuits, and how we are to bring all our desires, all our passions, all our pursuits under the divine government of heaven. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truly astonishing reality, for to do so would be to completely miss the point of what the entire book is about. Even when you come to the final chapter of the book you will find Solomon emphatically and boldly declaring the chief end and chief command that was given unto the people of God. As you read the words which are found within this Old Testament book it is absolutely necessary and imperative that you consider the absolutely tremendous reality that we have been called—not to live our lives for the things of this world, nor for the things of this life, but rather for the things of eternity. If there is one thing this book brings us face to face with and confronts our hearts and minds with, it’s the tremendous dangers, snares and traps that are found within this world, and the giving of ourselves to the vain pursuits and vain desires of this world. Solomon was a man who surpassed all the kings of the earth in both wealth and wisdom, and yet when he came to the end of his life he found himself realizing that everything he had pursued and everything he had desired held no eternal worth, nor eternal value. The eleventh verse of the third chapter of this Old Testament is one which I would dare say is perhaps the heart and crux of the entire book, for it paints a very vivid picture of the heart which the LORD has placed within a man. With this in mind, I invite you to not only consider the words which are found within this third chapter, but also the words which are found within the New Testament epistles written by the apostle John and James. Consider if you will the following words which are found within these passages and the tremendous need to guard our hearts and our souls within this life:
“I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it. He hath made everything beautiful in His time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. I know hat there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God. I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-14).
“From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the LORD, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:1-10).
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth aw ay, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of Gods abideth forever. Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists; whereby we know that this is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things” (1 John 2:15-20).
It is quite clear and quite obvious when reading the words which are found within these passages of Scripture that the LORD has indeed and has in fact set eternity within our hearts, and has invited us to seek those things which are found to have eternal worth and eternal value. James, the half-brother of Jesus warned against friendship with the world, and declared that whosoever would be a friend of this world would be an enemy of God. Moreover, James would also go on to declare that friendship with the world is enmity with God. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we stop right here and consider this truly awesome and spectacular reality, for it is this reality that forces us to question whether or not we are friends of this world, or whether we are friends of the living God. James makes it perfectly and abundantly clear that we cannot be friends of the world and also at the same time be friends of God. James declared that we are either friends of the world, and therefore we are enemies of God, or we are friends with God, and therefore enemies of the world. It was Jesus Himself who declared that no man can serve two masters, for either they will hate the one and love the other, or they will love the one and hate the other. Jesus would boldly proclaim that we cannot serve both God and money, for thinking we can serve both can and will ultimately produced within us a divided heart, and can cause us to live for the things of this world. The apostle John went so far as to instruct and warn his readers and his audience that they not love the world, nor the things of the world, for if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in Him. Stop for a moment and think about this truly astonishing reality, for not only did the apostle John warn men and women not to love the world, nor to love the things that are in the world, but he also plainly and clearly declared unto them that if any man love the world, the love of the F Arther was not in them. The apostle John and James made it very clear that we cannot live for this world and at the same think—and even say—that we are living for God and for the things of heaven. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must ask ourselves is whether or not we have lived our lives for the treasures and pleasures which are within the earth, or for the treasures and pleasures which are found in heaven. Are we living our lives for the eternal pleasures which are in the presence of Almighty God, or are we living our lives for the temporary pleasures, the temporary delights, the temporary satisfaction that is found within this life. Oh with this in mind, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first and opening chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Ephesian congregation.
As you come to the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation you will find the apostle speaking directly unto this church and the members within it concerning the supernatural and eternal blessings which have been bestowed upon us—not here within, nor here upon the earth, but rather in heaven. The apostle Paul—when writing unto the Ephesian saints—emphatically declared unto them that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed us with all spiritual blessings. The blessings which the apostle Paul wrote and spoke about are not earthly, natural, physical, nor are they temporal blessings, but are spiritual blessings. What’s more, is these blessings are not found within the realm of time and space, nor are these blessings secured here on the earth, but these blessings are secured in heaven. The words which the apostle Paul wrote here are in direct alignment with a truly wonderful and powerful invitation he would give and present unto the saints which were at Colossae concerning heavenly things and heavenly realities. What’s more, is the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the epistle which was sent unto the Ephesian congregation is a powerful declaration and statement of an inventory that is found—not here within, nor here upon the earth, but rather in heaven. I feel the need to stop right here for a moment and ask when the last time was you took spiritual inventory of your life. When was the last time you looked at and examined your life, and truly took an inventory of what the eternal God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has given unto you. If you were to take the treasures of heaven within your life and the treasures of this world within your life and place them both on the balances, which would be the greater of the two? If you were to compare the treasures of heaven within your life with the treasures of the earth in your life, which would be greater, and which has a great pull within and upon your heart? Do the treasures of this world far outweighs the treasures of heaven within your life, or do the treasures of heaven outweighs the treasures of this world? Oh, I can’t help but think and consider that there are countless men and women who have been placed on the scales—much like Belshazzar son of Nebuchadnezzar in the Babylonian Empire—and have been found wanting. I can’t help but think that there are countless men and women who have assumed the same mindset which Nebuchadnezzar did when he walked upon the roof of his palace, and then was immediately called into reckoning before the throne of the living God. With this in mind, I invite you to consider the words which are found within the first and opening chapter of the epistle written unto the Ephesians, as well as the words which are found in the third chapter of the epistle written unto the Colossians:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predistinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasures which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in him also after that ye believe, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:3-14).
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4)
The apostle Paul—when writing unto the Ephesian saints and congregation—spoke unto them concerning God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ according as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. When writing unto the Colossian saints the apostle Paul instructed them to seek those things which are above where Christ is seated on the right hand of God. What’s more, the apostle Paul also invited and instructed his audience and readers to set their affection [or their mind] on things above, and not on the things of the earth. In all reality, that which the apostle Paul was seeking to accomplish within these epistles was to bring his readers and his audience face to face with eternity, and eternal values within this life. The apostle Paul warned against being lovers of this world, and against being lovers of the things of this world. The apostle Paul was one who lived with eternity in view and with eternity in mind, and even when you read the words which he wrote unto his spiritual son in the faith, Timothy, you will find him continuing to speak of eternity. Of course we know that the epistles which were written unto Timothy were the last epistles the apostle Paul would write, and that the second epistle written unto Timothy would be the last letter and epistle which the apostle Paul would write within this life. In fact, if you come to the fourth chapter of this second epistle which was written unto the apostle Paul you will find him speaking unto Timothy and charging him concerning his pursuits, his passion, and his work within this life. In the fourth and final chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul declaring unto Timothy that his time had come, and that he would soon meet his Maker, and that One who had encountered him on the road to Damascus and had apprehended him. In the fourth and final chapter of the second epistle written unto Timothy you will find the apostle Paul speaking directly unto him, and speaking very pointedly and candidly about eternity, and the tremendous and utmost importance of living with and fore eternity in mind. The apostle Paul diligently and faithfully sought to instruct Timothy to be a faithful minister of the Lord Jesus Christ within this life, and to not get caught up in the affairs, the snares, the entanglements and the entrapments of this world. The apostle Paul warned Timothy against allowing himself to become caught up in the things of this world, and declared unto him that to be a faithful minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, he needed to live with eternity and with eternal values in mind. With this in mind, consider the words which are found in the fourth and final chapter of this second epistle which was written unto Timothy, the spiritual son of the apostle Paul in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ:
“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. For I am not read to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:1-8).
In order to understand this good fight, this course which the apostle Paul had finished within this life, I feel it absolutely necessary to not only draw and call your attention to the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews, but also the words which the apostle Paul himself wrote in the third chapter of the epistle which he wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi. It is the words which we find within the epistle written unto the saints which are at Philippi that help us to further understand and recognize this pursuit of the apostle Paul within this life. What’s more, is that the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews paints an additional picture concerning this pursuit within our lives, as we set aside those things which so easily ensnare us. With this in mind, consider the following words which are found within both of these epistles—one written by the apostle Paul unto the Philippian saints, and the other written unto the Hebrews:
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is of God by faith: that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, where to we have already attend, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Philippians 3:7-21).
“Wherefore seeing we also are compasses about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
WHAT THINGS WERE GAIN TO ME, THOSE I COUNTED LOSS FOR CHRIST! I COUNT ALL THINGS BUT LOSS FOR THE EXCELLENCY OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST JUST ME LORD! I HAVE SUFFERED THE LOSS OF ALL THINGS, AND DO COUNT THEM BUT DUNG! THAT I MAY WIN CHRIST! I FOLLOW AFTER! IF THAT I MAY APPREHEND THAT FOR WHICH ALSO I AM APPREHENDED OF CHRIST JESUS! I COUNT NOT MYSELF TO HAVE APPREHENDED! THIS ONE THING I DO, FORGETTING THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE BEHIND! REACHING FORTH UNTO THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE BEFORE! I PRESS TOWARD THE MARK FOR THE PRIZE OF THE HIGH CALLING IN CHRIST JESUS! LET US THEREFORE, AS MANY AS BE PERFECT, BE THUS MINDED! LET US MIND THE SAME THING! MANY WALK! THE ENEMIES OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST! WHOS END IS DESTRUCTION! WHOSE GOD IS THEIR BELLY! WHOSE GLORY IS IN THEIR SHAME! WHO MIND EARLY THINGS! OUR CONVERSATION IS IN HEAVEN! WE LOOK FOR THE SAVIOUR, THE L ORD JESUS CHRIST!
Please pay close and careful attention to the words which are found written and recorded within the epistle the apostle wrote unto the Philippian saints, for three times in a matter of two verses we find him writing and speaking of loss. In the seventh verse we find the apostle Paul declaring that what things were gain to him in times past, those he counted loss for Christ. In the eighth verse the apostle Paul would go on to further declare that he counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, while also going on to declare that it was for Jesus the Christ his Lord whom he suffered the loss of all things. What’s more, is the apostle Paul would go on to declare that those things he once counted as gain unto him—those things which he now counted as loss—he counted and considered to be dung. It is absolutely necessary that we encounter this awesome and incredible reality, for it brings us face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that not only did the apostle Paul count all things loss, but the apostle Paul also suffered the loss of all things. What a truly remarkable and astonishing picture it is to think about the fact that the apostle Paul both counted as loss and suffered the loss of all things, and would even take it a step further and would count and consider all things but dung. To count all things as dung literally means that the apostle Paul placed absolutely no worth, no value, no stock, and no importance in those things which he once considered to be so necessary. After the apostle Paul had been apprehended of Christ Jesus, and after Christ Jesus became his Lord the things of this world grew strangely dim and quite honestly faded into the background. All of a sudden Christ took center stage and became the forefront of the apostle’s heart, mind, soul and spirit. For the apostle Paul there was nothing greater, there was nothing more desirous, there was nothing more necessary than Jesus Christ and making Him Lord within and Lord over his life. For the apostle Paul he gladly and happily counted all things as loss for the sake of knowing Christ, and for the sake of allowing Jesus Christ to be Lord over every single area of his heart and life. What’s more, is the apostle Paul was willing to count all things but loss and as dung in order that he might be free to pursue that which truly mattered, and that which was truly important within his life—namely, attaining unto the resurrection of the dead, pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, and being made conformable unto His death.
Perhaps the single greatest question you and I must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to suffer the loss of all things, and count as loss all those things in order for us to allow ourselves to truly pursue that which is of the utmost and supreme importance. The apostle Paul wrote of those who were the enemies of the cross of Christ and whose end is destruction because their god is their belly, whose glory in their shame, and who mind early things. This is similar language to that which is found in the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Colossian saints when he spoke of setting our mind on things which are above where Christ is seated in heavenly places at the right hand of God. It’s absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this reality and concept, and directly apply it to our lives, for it is a terribly tragic and dangerous thing to be those who allow ourselves to be caught up and consumed with the things of this world. It is a dangerous thing for us to live for the desires, the pleasures, the treasures, the delights, and the temporary realities of this world. What’s more, is that until and unless we are willing to count all things but loss, and until we have suffered the loss of all things we cannot truly press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul was able to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus because he suffered the loss of all things—and not only suffered the loss of all things, but considered those things which he lost to be dung. The apostle Paul viewed those things which were once so incredibly important within his life to be of absolute little worth and value for the sole desire and purpose of knowing Jesus, of knowing the fellowship of His sufferings, and being made conformable unto His death. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truly awesome and astounding reality, for the apostle Paul had been so captivated and consumed by Jesus the Christ that it literally transformed his entire life, and brought him to the place where he no longer valued those things which were present within this life. The apostle Paul was no longer governed by the things of this life, and no longer allowed them to have any sort of hold and sway on him.
ENEMIES OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST! ENEMIES OF GOD! These two phrases are absolutely challenging and convicting when you take the time to truly think about them, for they reveal something truly and incredibly dangerous—namely, that it is possible to be both enemies of the cross of Christ, and enemies of God. What’s more, is that it is possible to allow ourselves to be enemies of the cross of Christ when we mind earthly things and do not set our affection on things which are above in heavenly places where Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of Almighty God. Perhaps one of the greatest truths that is found within the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes is that Solomon looked over everything he had accumulated, everything he had acquired, everything he had amassed over the years, and he realized that it was all vanity and that it was all worthless. The Preacher—Solomon the son of David and king of Israel—spent a considerable amount of his time living for those things of this world and those things in this life. Eventually and ultimately Solomon reached the point and place within his life where he realized that it was all vanity, it was all worthless, and it was all meaningless compared to that which truly mattered and that which was truly important. In the second chapter of the poetic book of Ecclesiastes we find Solomon reviewing everything he had done within this one single life he had been given, and he concluded that it was all meaningless, it was all worthless, and it was all vanity. Solomon looked over it all and saw that there was nothing of any eternal value or significance in any thing he had done within this life. Solomon looked over all he had built and all he had made for himself, and realized that none of it truly mattered in light of eternity. The question we must ask ourselves is our we willing to examine our lives in light of eternity? Are we willing to view our lives through the lens of eternity and truly ask ourselves whether what we have in this life has any eternal value? One of the single greatest truths that is found in Scripture is that naked we came into the world and naked we will live it. Moreover, we must realize that from dust we came and to dust we can and will return. We brought nothing into this world and we certainly cannot and will not bring anything out of this world with us. When we die and go the way of all the earth we leave everything behind, and only our soul and spirit will enter into eternity until that moment when our physical bodies will be reunited together and we experience the resurrection of the dead.
The more you read the words which Solomon wrote in the Old Testament book of Ecclesisates the more you will encounter and come face to face with the reality that he wrestled within his heart and soul over the worth, over the value, and over the importance of anything he had done within this life. Solomon wrote of making himself great works and how he built houses, how he planted vineyards, and made for himself gardens and orchards. Solomon planted trees in his gardens and orchards, and even made him pools of water to water the wood which brought forth trees. Moreover, Solomon would also get unto himself servants and maidens, and had servants born into his house. You will notice Solomon wrote how he had great possessions of great and small cattle above all those which were in Jerusalem before him. Solomon also gathered unto himself silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces. In the ninth verse of the second chapter Solomon wrote how he was great, and how he increased more than all that were before him in Jerusalem, and how his wisdom remained within him. Furthermore, Solomon declared that whatever his eyes desired, he did not keep himself from, and he never withheld his heart from any joy. What’s truly interesting when you consider the words which are found within this passage of Scripture is that Solomon initially declared that whatsoever his eyes desired he kept not from them, and withheld not his heart from joy—and even rejoiced in all his labour. When, however, you come to the eleventh verse you will find Solomon l poking on all the works which his hands had wrought, and on all the labor that he had labored to do, and he beheld it all as vanity and vexation of spirit. This would take on an entirely different level when you find Solomon writing in the eleventh verse that there was no profit under the sun. What’s more, is Solomon found himself looking over everything he had accumulated and thinking about what he would leave behind to and for the next generation—and not only what he would leave behind, but who would come after him. One of the things Solomon’s wrestled with was wondering whether or not that one who would come after him would be wise, and whether or not they would be good stewards over what was left unto them.
Although stewardship might not be a concept and reality that is readily seen and visible within the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, I cannot help but be absolutely captivated with and by the fact of the tremendous need we have in this life to be wise and faithful stewards over that which we have been given and over that which we have been entrusted with. While it is absolutely necessary for us to live our lives with eternity in view and eternity in focus, I am absolutely convinced that there is a tremendous responsibility placed upon us to take what we have been given in this life—regardless of how great or small it might appear to be—and faithfully steward over it in the sight of the living God. As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I cannot help but be reminded of the parable which Jesus spoke concerning those wise and faithful stewards whom their master left with a portion of his worth and a portion of his value that they might steward over them. When speaking concerning the kingdom of God Jesus spoke parables that demonstrated the truly awesome and wonderful need for wisdom in stewardship—and not only wisdom in stewardship, but also faithfulness in stewardship. With this writing coming to a close I feel it absolutely necessary and imperative to draw and call your attention to the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples concerning the kingdom of heaven, as well as concerning the Last Days. We cannot truly have a conversation about living with eternity in view and eternity in mind without at the same time having a conversation about stewardship and realizing that we have been given a tremendous and awesome responsibility to faithfully steward over everything we have been given. What’s more, is that we must realize and recognize that everything we have been given has come from the LORD, and we bear a tremendous responsibility to faithfully steward over that which has been placed into our hands and into our care. It would be very easy to simply speak about having eternity in mind and leave the conversation of stewardship out of the picture, and yet I am absolutely convinced that to do so would be completely miss the awesome and incredible truth surrounding being faithful and wise stewards over that which the LORD our God has given us. It is absolutely necessary that we live our lives with eternity in mind, that we live our lives counting all things as loss for the sake of knowing Jesus the Christ, and pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, and also being faithful and wise stewards over that which we have been given. The question we are faced with today is whether or not we are living with eternity before us, and whether or not we are living as faithful and wise stewards within this life. With that being said, I leave you with the words which our Lord spoke unto the disciples when speaking of the kingdom of heaven and the Last Days:
“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one; to very man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents when and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And I’ll kisses he that had receive two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and dogged in the earth, and his his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had receive five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; tho hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had receive the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knowest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: thou lightest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every on that hath shall e given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that h hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:14-33).
It is with these words we encounter the tremendous responsibility of faithfulness and wisdom in stewarding that which has been entrusted into our hands and into our care, and any true discussion about eternity must have at the very heart of it deliberate and intentional call to be faithful and wise stewards over that which we have been given. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we live our lives with eternity in mind, and the only way we can and will be faithful and wise stewards over what we have been given is to live our lives as such. Permit me to ask you how much time you spend living your life with eternity at the forefront of everything you do and everything you are. When you read the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes you will find that at the very end of the book Solomon comes to the conclusion of the whole matter—the conclusion of everything he had written up to that point. If you read the thirteenth and fourteenth verses of the twelfth and final chapter you will find that the conclusion which Solomon came to was to fear God, to keep His commandments, for this was the whole duty of man. What’s more, is that Solomon concluded this book by declaring that God shall bring every work into judgment with every secret thing whether they be good or bad. Thus, the words which we find in the final portion of this book invite us to fear God and to keep His commandments—a reality which Micah the ancient Hebrew prophet also spoke of as well. It was Micah who himself declared that what the LORD has required and showed unto us is necessary is to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. It would be Moses himself who would declare unto the children of Israel that the LORD our God is one LORD, and that we must love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength. Moreover, it was the prophet Samuel who declared that obedience is better than sacrifice, and to hearken is better than the fat of rams. As this writing comes to a close it is absolutely necessary that we truly live our lives with eternity at the very forefront of who we are and what we do, and that we allow our lives to be completely and utterly governed by the knowledge of the eternal and the reality of eternity.