Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church Under The Sun #8 (Ecclesiastes): Focus To hear this message and others download our free app at The App Store by searching Gathering Connect.
Good Times/ Bad Times Ecclesiastes 7:13-14, James 1:2-4, Matthew 5:44-45
As we continue our lessons on wisdom we come to subject of focus. What do you focus on in this life “under the sun”? Do you obsess over what is bad and you cannot change or do you embrace what is good and make the most of it? What is your focus?
The first question asked for us to consider is— “who can straighten what God has made crooked?” God has made (it is better to say allowed) both good and bad times, people, places and things. In fact, God has even made Satan. For it says in John 1:1-3— “without Him nothing was made that has been made.” While it is correct to say God created Satan, it’s never correct to say that God created the sin within Satan. Satan chose his own course (Isaiah 14:13) as man has through the free-will that God has given. God never causes sin (James 1:13), even though He has created a world where sin is possible. Some day God is going to put an end to Satan and all sin (Revelation 20:10) by confining him and his minions to everlasting punishment; nonetheless, God did create Satan with the fore-knowledge that Satan would fall and deceive many. The only logical conclusion as to why God has done this is to understand that “free-will” must be paramount (of supreme importance) to God. Only in freedom can one choose to love and worship. There can not be freedom without a choice and there can not be a choice without good and bad.
So we have both good and bad in this world and what can we do about it? “When times are good be happy”, but a wise person realizes that bad times will also come and we cannot know exactly when they will occur. So what will be your focus? The celebration and thankfulness for the good or the anticipation that bad is just around the corner? Let us do the former and even realize the good among the bad in all things. The apostle James said “Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds…the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-4). Jesus reminded us that even our enemies and those who persecute us can teach us to pray to God (Matthew 5:44-45). In this world the sun will shine and the rain will fall on both the good and bad alike. It is our focus on Christ that will make all the difference.
Righteous & Wicked Ecclesiastes 7:15, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Psalm 73:25-28
The second thing we are asked to consider is the righteous perishing and the wicked living a long life. Once again, what is your focus on such an observance? Are you looking at the eternal or the temporary aspects of living? A wise man builds his house (life) upon the rock (Christ: Matthew 7:24-27) . The wicked will be judged in eternal hell but the one who builds his life on Christ will be rewarded with eternal glory (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). What we have on earth and in Heaven are incomparable. Focus! (Psalm 73:25-28)
No Earthly Good Ecclesiastes 7:16-22, 1 Corinthians 2:12-14, Matthew 23:24-28
Have you ever heard the saying: He is so heavenly minded that he is no earthly good? This is what Solomon warns us about when he says: “Do not be overrighteous, nor overwise, nor overwicked …whoever fears God will avoid all extremes” (Ecclesiastes 7:16-18: paraphrased). Biblically speaking, the scripture actually deals with the opposite problem of being so earthly minded that we become no Heavenly good— The scripture is clear on the point that we be guided by the Spirit of God and not by the spirit of the world (1 Corinthians 2:12-14). We are also warned not to love the things of the world: The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17), but Solomon obviously means something different from being truly righteous and truly wise.
To be “overrighteous” and “overwise” is to strive for a self-made righteousness based on an outward adherence to rules. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were “overrighteous” and “overwise” in this way; in their fanatical self-righteousness, they would as Jesus said— “strain out a gnat but swallow a camel”, like “whitewashed tombs” they looked good on the outside but were dead inside. (Matthew 23:24-28). Self-righteousness drives people away from God rather than bringing people to Him. This type of lifestyle is condemned by God and therefore leads to the destruction of self and others.
To be overwicked is to purposely look for ways of doing evil. Solomon makes it clear that “no one on earth is righteous” (never sins). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This is why Christ has become the Savior to those who call on His name (Romans 6:23). Some people; however, foolishly plot wickedness on a whole other level and therefore prematurely end their lives and the lives of others. When Solomon writes, “It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other” he is saying that a wise person will understand (grasp) that he is a sinner and not “let go” of (neglect) the righteousness that God freely gives through our Savior. The focus of a wise person is therefore on God. “Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes”. Lastly, we are not to “pay attention to every word people say” (to discover their hypocrisy) but to watch out for our own (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22). Don’t be a Pharisee! Are you focused on God or self?
Scheme of Things Ecclesiastes 7:23-29, 1 Kings 11:1-13, Hebrews 12:1-3,7-9,12-13
Solomon said that he was determined to be wise— yet he had 700 wives and 300 concubines, many of them foreigners who led him into public idolatry in his old age, greatly angering God (1 Kings 11:1–13) and costing him his kingdom. No wonder he saw women as a snare which he did not escape. The men and women Solomon surrounded himself with were scheming for their own pleasure of which he was the means to their end. Solomon knew the truth — to Keep life focused on God, but he “schemed” (plotted) otherwise. He was not so to” determined to be wise” after all. Are we?
Solomon ended this chapter by concluding that God is good! He has created mankind good (“upright”— Genesis 1:31), “but they have gone in search of many schemes”. Wisdom is not just knowledge but the application of it. Living wisely in life is like a marathon, not a sprint. We must “throw off everything that hinders and run with perseverance the race marked out for us”, focused on Jesus. Let us endure the hardships of life as disciplined children of God—Let us not be lame, but be healed. FOCUS!