Staring Death in the Face

Posted: February 28, 2018 by keystoneyouth in Ecclesiastes Lessons
Tags: , , , , , ,

 

Attention Funnel:

  • Dream Life: If I told you that you could have the life of your dreams? Live anywhere, with anyone, do anything, have anything, be anybody… what would your life look like?
  • Real Life: Craig Sager Speech at the ESPYs

 Introduction:

  • There are two ways for us to enjoy life. We can think that when we get to the future and have achieved the life of our dreams, then we will finally enjoy life.
  • Or we can see the life we have right here and now as a gift from God and start to enjoy every moment of it.
  • I think too many of us fail to enjoy life in the present because we are so focused on a future life that we are sure will be more enjoyable.
  • In our passage tonight, Solomon is going to urge us to enjoy the life we have right now… and he’s going to do that in a rather odd way, by telling us to stare death right between the eyes.
  • He’s going to tell us, a tornado is headed straight for your house (and our response is to bunker down, board up the windows, prepare for the worst), and instead he says, so go outside and play while the sun is still shining.

 Passage: Ecclesiastes 9:1-12 

Big Idea: Enjoy the life you have, not the one you dream of. 

Main Points:

  • Death is the only guarantee in this life.
  • Death is a good teacher.
  • Enjoy the life God has given you.
  • Hope: Jesus has defeated death.

Death is the only guarantee in this life. (vs. 1-2, 11-12)

  • We love guarantees.
    • By this pill and you will lose 20 lbs and have rock solid abs… money back guarantee.
  • Solomon tells us the only thing that is guaranteed is that you and I will both die.
    • Solomon says death does not pick and choose… it comes for everyone.
    • Death is not like a team captain picking people for his dodgeball team. Death is like the sun. Try as hard as you can to avoid it, but ultimately it’s going to find you.
  • Nothing else is guaranteed in this life!
    • Even the things that seem most certain…
      • Like the fastest runner winning the race.
      • The most intelligent person getting rich.
      • Or the Patriots winning the SuperbowlJ.
    • Not only that, but we don’t control the day of our death. Disaster or death can come for us at any moment – like fish caught in a net or a bird in a trap.
      • So why would we spend all our lives chasing after some future dream life?? Because we lie to ourselves and say, I can control that. I won’t be the one who dies until I’m good and ready to die.
    • There is no guarantee that you will live to the end of this week. No guarantee that you will even live until tomorrow.
    • I knew an 18-year-old who went out to ride his four-wheeler only to die in a freak accident when it flipped over. I knew another 18-year-old who went away to college, only to come home one weekend because she was feeling sick. She died that same Wednesday because of the Leukemia in the body that they only found on Monday.
    • You and I could die at any moment, just because we are young and healthy does not mean we will live until we are 90. There is no guarantee… the only guarantee is that you are now 10 minutes closer to your death then when I started talking.
    • Why am I telling you this? More important why is God telling us this through Solomon’s words??
    • Because Solomon wants to drive the idea of death deep into our bones.
    • He wants to shatter the illusions that we hold.
      • “We aspire to have it all, know it all, do it all, achieve it all, be happy forever, have all the answers, never be left scratching our head, and be remembered by all for all time. That’s what we hope for. But what guarantee is there that we won’t go under a bus tomorrow?” –David Gibson.
    • We all know that we are going to die, but very few of us KNOW that we are going to die.
    • Ed Dobson, a mega-church pastor, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2000 and has since died, put it this way… “Every human being knows they are going to die. The difference is I feel it in the twitch of my muscles. I feel it in the depths of my being.”
    • Solomon wants us to feel death in the depths of our being. Why??
    • Because death gives us a proper perspective on life.

Death is a good teacher. (vs. 3-6)

  • Have you ever thought about the fact that we listen more closely to the people who are terminally ill? Why is that?
  • Because we instinctively know they have something important to tell us. As people who are regularly staring death in the face, their words carry more weight.
  • Do you see in Craig Sager’s speech what was happening? A room full of to some of the healthiest, most powerful, richest human beings in the world (professional athletes) hung onto his every word. We all instinctively know that people who are staring down death have something to teach us, because they have learned something as they face death.
  • Solomon wants us to see that the more we face death here and now, the more we will gain wisdom.
  • Death teaches us this world is not how it’s supposed to be (vs. 3)
    • I sat by my grandpa’s side as he took his last breaths in 2015. He lived a full life, and died in his 80s. And yet I still couldn’t help but think as I sat there, this is not the way it should be. People should not just take their last breaths and die. This is not normal, not right, something is wrong.
    • How much more is this the case when it’s an 18-year old who takes his or her last breath?
    • Solomon tells us the world is like this because of sin… it’s messed up, it’s broken, and we desperately need someone who can fix it and put it all right.
  • Death teaches us what really matters (4-6).
    • What is Solomon saying in these verses… that the things we think matter, don’t matter as much in light of death (being a dog vs. being a lion). And if we are alive, then we have the opportunity to change and to shape our lives around what really does matter.
    • Paul Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon who wrote a best selling book called “When Breath Becomes Air.” In the book he details how hard he worked to become a neurosurgeon. He was brilliant, at the top of every class, with the brightest future, married to a beautiful and high-achieving wife. But on the verge of finally achieving all his dreams, he got a diagnosis that changed everything… Stage 4 Lung Cancer. He eventually ended up dying, and his book was released after his death.  These are some of the final words in his book:
    • “Everyone succumbs to finitude. Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way they belong to the past. The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed.”
    • How many of your dreams for the future really matter in light of impending death? Or is it all just a chasing after the wind?
    • How would you really live differently if you knew death was right around the corner for you?
    • God used the death of the 18-year old I talked about above to shake me up. He showed me how much of my life was pointless and how I was living entirely for myself. He showed me how little control I really had over my life. He showed me that to live a meaningful life means to surrender to him.
  • Death helps us to appreciate life.
    • Chris Sager Quote – “Whatever I might have imagined a terminal diagnosis would do to my spirit, it summoned quite the opposite.. the greatest appreciation for life itself.”

Enjoy the life God has given you. (vs. 7-10)

  • See this is what Solomon ultimately wants us to get to as we think about death.
  • Sandwiched between the two realities of not having control over this life and the fact that death is coming, Solomon says something we desperately need to hear: Enjoy life right now… because it’s a gift from God! (vs. 7-10).
    • He’s telling us, “Go, eat a spicy chicken sandwich at chick-fil-a, or a burrito at Chipotle.”
    • He’s telling us, “Spend times with the ones you love and truly enjoy their company. Laugh, play, and have fun together.”
    • He’s telling us, find out what we are passionate about and pursue those passions. He’s telling us, find out what we are good at and work hard because you enjoy it.
    • He’s like the mom who tells us, “School is cancelled for the day, now go outside and play in the snow. Have fun. Make a snow angel, build a fort, build a jump over the creek, and ramp it on your snowboard. Enjoy life!”
    • As Solomon urges us to stare down death, his main command to us is not, “So go be miserable.” His command is, “Go have a ball, enjoy the life you have.”
  • Why?
  • Because life and all we have in this life, is a wonderful gift from God.
  • God gives us all sorts of good gifts in this life, because he loves us (vs. 8). The list doesn’t just include food, clothes, and love… we could expand it to all sorts of other things.
    • “Go, enjoy a hike, go to the beach for a day, play Settlers, drink a good cup of coffee, go for a run, watch the Olympics, take in a sunrise or sunset, sleep in on Saturday morning, read a good book, watch your favorite movie… for the 10th time, build something, cook a meal, lay on the couch with your dog.”
    • Unfortunately, often we are so focused on the future life of our dreams, that we fail to enjoy the life that God has given us right now.
    • We spend our time glazing over Social Media, seeing everything else that everyone else has instead of enjoying what is right in front of us.
    • We complain about all the things we don’t have, and all the things that are going terribly wrong in our lives… and miss all the wonderful gifts that God has still put right in front of us.
  • God gives us good things in this life, so that we might be drawn to him, and so that we might become homesick for heaven.
    • When I lived away from Home for several months after High School, my Mom would sometimes send me a care package. And the care package might include some homemade desert – whoopee pie. Eating that whoopee pie tasted great, but it also made me long for the day when I would come back home to my family and sit down to a full meal of my mom’s cooking.
    • The gifts we enjoy in this life are like care packages from heaven. They should make us homesick for the future day when we go home to be with God.
    • Not only that, but they offer just a small taste of what life with God will be like.
  • When I think about heaven, I like to take the things I enjoy here on this earth, and then try to imagine what they will be like times 100.
  • I love to run here on this earth. There are times when I am running and I just feel free. In those moments, I remember, one day I won’t be able to do this anymore. My knees will give out, my body will start to creak, I’ll be hunched over, and then I’ll die. That makes me appreciate being able to run. But then sometimes I also think, “I can’t wait to run in heaven. What’s it going to be like to have a perfect body and run?  What’s it going to be like to run in God’s presence and to say, “God you made this body, how incredible is that??”
  • See the gift is great here and now, but how much better will it be after death comes…

 Hope: Jesus has defeated death.

  • One of my favorite mental pictures I have is a combination of David and Goliath and Jesus and death. I know that’s random!
  • When David defeated Goliath (the one who know one else could defeat), what did he do? He cut off his head and held it up before the army! The enemy had been defeated, and now all of Goliath’s army were servants of David and Israel.
  • I love to picture this with Jesus: I picture Jesus rising from the grave and in his hand, he is holding up death (the one that no one else could defeat). And he’s saying, “Death is defeated! If you are on my side. If your faith is in me. Death is now your servant.”
  • 1 Corinthians 15:54-55.
  • We have no need to fear death. We can stare it in the face, knowing full well that it is coming at some point, and yet with Jesus as our champion, say, “Come at me bro. You have nothing. You will only open the door into a greater life with my God.”

 

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