#HashtagsPastor Jerry Gillis - July 31, 2016
Wisdom is better than pleasure because wisdom gives us eternal perspective.
Community Group Study Notes
- Interact with the main idea from this message: Wisdom is better than pleasure because wisdom gives us an eternal perspective. What does this mean? Why is this true?
- Since life is so brief, why does this sensitize us to the mission of God? How does the brevity of life change our priorities?
- How can we live in such a way that demonstrates we have that eternal perspective?
A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth. (Ecclesiastes 7:1)
Yeah. Yeah. I know, I know. I know what you're thinking. You're a great singer Jerry. I know. I know. That's what I'm thinking too. It's crazy, isn't it? We're thinking the same thing. I haven't shown it to you very often for good reason. I want you to still come to this church.
I had thought of, when we initially thought of this series that we called “Hashtags", and we're going to deal with kind of these individual subjects, I had thought about kind of another series intro-bumper. I had an idea for maybe what we could do, but before I said anything about that particular idea, our folks in our Worship and Creative Arts came and said hey, we've got an idea for like the sermon intros for this Hashtags deal. And they told me kind of the general principle, you know, kind of based on a Fallon skit where he does all of that stuff, him and Justin Timberlake, anyway, and I was like, that's awesome. And in my mind, I said to them, I was like that's better than what I had in mind. It's way better, in fact. Of course, then I didn't realize that I was going to be in them. Because I come to find out that they were writing me into the last two of these Hashtags videos, and that I was going to have the privilege of making an absolute fool out of myself in both of those. Which just goes to show you the principle that sometimes things that you think are better are not actually better.
I saw this illustrated in a blog that I came upon recently and it was a lady who is a reasonably young mom who is in a food and milk co-op, alright? So she was wanting to make sure that her family ate healthy, and she was in this co-op, and she was doing all these things. She found that she was driving ridiculously long distances to get the fresh milk that she wanted, and then she would have to drive all over to drop the milk off when it was her week to drop it off for all of her friends, right? And then she became increasingly frustrated because her body's response to the milk that she was getting is that she was breaking out in acne all over the place, and she was blogging about this. And then she was frustrated because her diapered daughter was now not able to process the milk, and so the diaper was always, right, not clean. Is that the right way to say it? Needed changing, right?
And then she found herself becoming kind of a helicopter mom by her own description where she was literally hovering around her children all the time wondering what it was they were eating. She was developing an irrational fear of food that was starting to make her paranoid. She was actually now spending more money on gas than she was saving in the co-op. She was stressed out because she couldn't figure out how to make creative meals out of the four food groups that she determined were okay, which was lentils, asparagus, wheat grass and kale, and she couldn't figure out how to make everything every night to satisfy everyone. She's having arguments now with her husband, not only about what they're eating but what they're spending on eating, and life is a complete mess for her. And he finally asks her why are you doing all this, and she said because it's better for us! And she finally came to the conclusion that she shared in her blog that what she thought was better was not actually better.
That is the idea behind the text today when we are looking at what the teacher, as he calls himself, writes down for us in the book of Ecclesiastes. It's that idea of where we start to think maybe there are some things that are better, but we find out that maybe what we think is better is not actually better, but instead learn a better way than we thought was better. Did that make sense to anybody? Hopefully it will by the time that we're done, and we're going to be looking in just a moment in Ecclesiastes chapter 7.
Now the teacher, so called, is the name that he gives himself. Many scholars would say that this is King Solomon who is writing, because he gives to us in the book of Ecclesiastes a lot of proverb-like statements. And it would make sense, because Solomon knows very well what life affords, right? He's the richest man in the world at that time, he's experienced everything, he's tasted all the foods, he's drunk all the wines, he's seen all the women. He's experienced everything that there is to experience in life. And what Solomon keeps coming back to is that he's finding that a lot of the endeavors that he was trying to satisfy himself with actually were meaningless. He says it's like chasing after the wind, it doesn't really have kind of a functional meaning for him.
And then he writes to us in Ecclesiastes 7 about some things that we think may be better, but we actually learn there are better things than what we thought were better. And he's helping us in some proverb-like statements to pick up the wisdom that he's sharing with us today.
So today we're talking about #Better. Let's look at what the teacher has to say in Ecclesiastes chapter 7 in the first part of verse number one it says: A good name is better than fine perfume. Now, if you're reading this in the Hebrew language and you look at the text itself, it's actually a play on words. And this is kind of an indication that he's giving us some proverb-type language. There's a play on words, because in the Hebrew language the word for name and the word for fine ointment or fine perfume are very similar in the way that they look and they sound. And so he's playing these words against each other saying a good name is actually better than fine perfume.
Now when Solomon's talking about a good name, he's not just talking about the name that we received at our birth. Is there anybody through the course of your life, and if you're too embarrassed to raise your hand you don't have to, you can raise your hand in your mind, in your heart. Or you can actually raise your hand, that's fine too. Has anybody ever questioned like your parent’s sensibility in naming you? Like you're going, why did you name me this? Has anybody ever had any name problems in their life? Okay, there's some people that are being honest. Some of the rest of us are lying and that's okay, it's no problem. Some of us like our names, some of us don't. Whatever. That's not exactly what he's talking about, like he's not talking about your birth name, like if you had a good one versus a bad one.
You know like the guy who wrote my college algebra textbook. His name, not kidding, was Rudiger Dornbusch. If your name is Rudiger Dornbusch, you're not destined to be a pop star, right? Like opening for Selena Gomez, Rudiger Dornbusch. Everybody's like, what?? Right? Your destiny is to write a math textbook if your name is Rudiger Dornbusch, right? That's kind of how it is. He's probably thinking, what were my parents thinking? I would like another name.
That's not exactly what we talk about and in fact, if you don't like your name I promise you I can find some names of actual people that are legal names, that you'll thank God that you're not named what they're named. You will actually pray and say "God, thank you that my parents had the wisdom to name me Gertrude and not name me some of these things".
Let me give you a couple of illustrations. These are actual names. There was a kid born in New Zealand in 2008 and his official name on his birth certificate is 4Real Superman Wheaton. That's his actual name. And it's not for, it's 4 man, 4Real Superman Wheaton is his name. There is also someone who is named, check this out, GoldenPalaceDotCom Silverman. That's their actual name. In May of 2005 an internet gambling site actually for $15,000 purchased the rights for a child to be named this, and they're actually named GoldenPalaceDotCom Silverman, and they did it as a marketing ploy. What's even the nickname there? GPD? Right? Where's GPD, who's GPD? GoldenPalaceDotCom Silverman.
Here's another good one. For those of you who are older and know who Frank Zappa is, he's got some kids that have some interesting names. Here was one that I just couldn't get my mind around. Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen Zappa. Yeah. So, Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen Zappa is born to Frank Zappa, and has siblings, has a brother named Dweezel and has a sister named Moon Unit. These are their actual names.
So when I tell you that there are names you could compare your name with and you would be thinking to yourself, thank you Jesus that I have parents who named me this, these are some of those ideas, but that's not what he's talking about here. He's not just talking about our birth name. When he's talking about a good name, he's actually talking about the idea of noble character, and that he's saying that noble character to kind of have a reputation as a human being, a name kind of gives indication of a reputation. Like the names of God indicate the nature of who God is, so too sometimes our name can be spoiled or can be a good name one or the other and the teacher here says that a good name, a noble character, a good reputation is better than perfume.
Have you known anybody in your life who has ever, that when you think of them you think of how they smell, like they smell really good. Like they have good hygiene, whatever, they take showers, you like their perfume or you like their cologne or whatever. They just smell good, and in fact, when you're around them you smell like them, right? There are a number of wonderful, seasoned ladies in our church who are chronologically gifted, who will from time to time hug me and kiss me, and it's perfectly okay, and then I will smell like them from that hug for some duration of time. I walk around you know and people, you can kind of see the look on their face, like when they're shaking hands with me like, wow, is that Estee Lauder, what's going on with you? What happened to you Jerry? I don't know what that's all about. Cause you smell like you're wearing Chanel No. 5. That's kind of odd, right? Oh yeah, that's because some ladies hugged me, or whatever, right?
But here's what's great. The scent actually wears off. But you know what's true about these Godly ladies? Their good name doesn't. The scent runs out but their good name stays. We probably all know some people who physically smell really, really good. They're attractive, they smell really good, but when we start breathing in their life, it doesn't smell good at all.
You see, the writer is telling us that a good name is far better than fine perfume. Because a good name is something that will last, it will outlast us. A scent comes and it goes. And it's fine, by the way. Smelling beautiful is great. Living beautiful is better. That's what he's trying to say to us in this text, right?
And if we know and understand the life of Jesus and some of the things that he did, we actually can see this principally being worked out in one interaction that Jesus has with a woman inside of a Pharisee's house named Simon. Watch what occurs in Matthew chapter 26. It says: "While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. "Why this waste?" they asked. "This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor." Aware of this, Jesus said to them, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."
Here we are, 2000 years later, and do you know how Jesus paid this woman who poured this expensive perfume on him? Do you know how he paid her? With a good name. Because 2000 years later, we are seeing the testimony of what she did. Even though she goes unnamed in this text, she is named because her testimony, her story, her reputation outlasts even the scent of what she poured on the Savior. It's a really beautiful for us picture. A good name is better than fine perfume.
Some of us take our names very seriously, and well we should, right? Because some of us have names that are of deep significance. You know I came to find out that my name, of course, I've got kind of a Scottish/Irish heritage with my name, Gillis, as you can imagine. Do you know what my name means? Servant of Jesus. That's what Gillis means. Servant of Jesus. Now, it's a big responsibility, right, to live up to the name that I embody. But we take our name very seriously. Both of my guys, we've had conversation before with my two sons, that hey, there's a name on the back of your jersey, and it's Gillis. There are some things that Gillis' don't do. When you're playing athletically or when you're out in our community, there are some things that Gillis' don't do, and there are some things that Gillis' do. You've got a name, and you've got a responsibility to live within the boundaries and up to the expectations of that name.
Some of us, you know the feeling, right, you take your name seriously in terms of what it means to you or to your family. Israel took their name seriously, kind of in the ancient world, because they were designated by tribes, there were twelve of them, right? And those twelve tribes actually appeared, they were so meaningful that they appeared on the breastplate of the High Priest. Tribes like Dan and Naphtali and Judah and Benjamin and Simeon, right, all of these are appearing on the breastplate. And listen, as great as that is, that we go wow, it's a good name. I can identify with my tribe, whatever that might be. Better than, listen, better than your name being on the breastplate of a man, is for your name to be inscribed in the palms of God.
Listen to how Isaiah says it when he talks to his people Israel, he says, listen to his language: See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands... Don't miss the language. See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.
Here's why that matters. Because when Jesus came, who was God with skin on, He was representing all that Israel had failed to live up to be. He became the fulfillment of what God's design for humanity was to be. Without sin. Jesus lived sinlessly. Having been born of a virgin, lived sinlessly, preached the kingdom of God, went to a cross to die for the sins of humanity so that we could be reconciled back to our Father because sin had emerged in our lives and separated us from God. But Jesus didn't stay dead so that we look back on this event by saying wow, isn't that inspirational and we sentimentalize it. He got up from the dead on the third day. And upon getting up from the dead, just like probably you would be, some of His disciples, including people like Thomas were very kind of doubtful, right? People don't rise from the dead. This can't be, I can't put my hands around this, I can't understand this.
Listen to what Jesus said to him in John chapter number 20. He says: A week later Jesus' disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" and listen to what He said to Thomas. Put your finger here; see my hands.” He's referencing Isaiah. “See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
You see, what we're reminded of ladies and gentlemen, is that better than having our name written on the breastplate of a man is having our name written on the palms of the Son of God who while we were yet sinners came and died for us. You see, this is the sweetest smelling fragrance that we could ever imagine that on those nail-scarred palms are also how He through His blood has written our names in the Lamb's Book of Life. You will smell no sweeter smell this side of heaven than to know your name is written down in the Lamb's Book of Life. The teacher says to us, loaded with wisdom, a good name is better than fine perfume.
Then listen to what he says in the second part of that verse, he says: ...and the day of death is better than the day of birth. Now that almost seems morbid, like how is that even possible, like the day that people die is better than the day that they're born? In other words, we could say it like this, that the teacher is saying that your death day is better than your birth day. You're like man, nothing's better than my birthday. Today's my birthday. It's my birthday, man! Nothing's better, right? The teacher says that your death day is better than your birth day.
And you say wait a minute that doesn't make sense to me because doesn't the New Testament talk about death as an enemy? Doesn't the apostle Paul talk about death in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 as an enemy? Absolutely. There's no question that the last enemy to be stomped out is death according to the scripture, but what the teacher is doing here is taking something bad like death and redeeming it for us so that we can see something different. Remember these are proverb-like kind of statements that he's giving to us. But he's saying to us that our death day is better than our birth day. How in the world could that be?
Let's think about it for just a second. On the day that you're born here's what everyone talks about. Your physical appearance. That's what's discussed on the day that you're born, right? You send out messages or text everybody or you send, you snap a picture and you post it and here's what you post. Their weight, their length, their eye-color. It's all about physical appearance. Little Johnny was born, he's 7lb. 6oz., he's 20 inches, he's got blue eyes.
I remember when my youngest guy Tanner was born. My wife had had to have an emergency C-section with my oldest son Trace. There was a cord that was wrapped, and we were there just on a regular visit, it was like a day past her due date. And the doctor was looking at everything and realized that something was going on and he wasn't getting the oxygen that he was supposed to be getting and he looked at this was kind of like whoa, we're going straight to the hospital. I mean it wasn't go get your bags, it wasn't you know, we went straight to the hospital. It's like in two hours I've got a child. I went whoa, right? I wasn't ready for this. So she had an emergency c-section. So, with Tanner they had scheduled a c-section because that was just the nature of what they intended to do in case there was another event like that.
So I got to go in actually for this, I put on scrubs, I had the full thing. I had on green scrubs, had on the mask, I mean I'm walking down the hallway with the doctor, right. I'm following him and I looked just like him. I'm walking by, you know, the nurses I'm like "I'm gonna' need some things stat, just a minute I'm gonna', I'll be right back with you. I'm not kidding, I'm going to need some stuff in just a minute. Probably for me, like oxygen or whatever, right? I still remember the code, cause it was like this special doctor's code to get into places, you know and I'm looking over his shoulder like if I ever need this, I'm just gonna' check this code out. Not that I'm ever going to need it right, I might have to go in there and do a hysterectomy or something. I don't think so. Slept at a Holiday Inn last night, but I'm not doing that, right?
So, I go in, Edie's laying there and they set up this curtain, right? Where she's laying so the curtain kind of, you know, right about here and she can't see anything. But I'm sitting like on this movable little chair stool where I can kind of see the whole thing going on, right. I’m like, hey how are you, what, that's what I'm doing. And it's a, I won't go into too much detail, but I'm going to go into some. Not going to go into too much. I just kept looking at Edie going, um, do you feel that? She's going no, and I'm like, that's good. Cause there's a, there's grown men with knives all in your stomach right now. You have pretty guts. Your guts are beautiful. She's just looking at me like, oh, what're you doing, you know. So I'm trying to cut up with her a little bit.
Well, we didn't find out if our children were male or female, we never found that out. We had the technology. I know it was the ancient ages back for those of you who are younger, but we had the technology to find out if it was a girl or a boy. But we didn't. We chose not to do that, for whatever reason. I like surprises.
My wife is not as much into surprises as I am - you know, her and her sister tell each other what they're getting each other for Christmas and then pick it out and then wrap it and pretend...ha, ha. I'm like, what? It makes no sense to me whatsoever. She got that straight from her mama, and if you're watching you know it's true. It's true. That's what they do. Not in my house, man. I never knew nothing about nothing and that's how I like it. I want to open it up and if it's terrible I want to fake it! That's how we do it. I like surprises.
So, we just decided to have a surprise and I know some of you that are really high strung are just like, man, I could never do that because I have to get the nursery ready. I got to get prepared. Like you're going to bring home the kid and the kid's going to go, what?!!! What are you doing with pink in here???!!! My name's Chuck. Right? I mean so you bring the baby home and then fix the nursery around it, the baby doesn't care.
So, we didn't know what we were going to have and as the child is coming out of her...out of her, the doctors reach in to her stomach area and pull out - an all I see is a head with hair. And she's going what is it? What is it? And I went, it's hairy. It's a hairy - I don't know. I think it's a chimpanzee! I'm not kidding. I think it's a monkey. What has happened to us? What's going on??!! And so then they pull him all the way out, and I'm like, it's a boy, it's not a monkey! At first I was like, whoa - because his face was all squished up and he had all of his hair. And within three weeks he started looking like a human. I mean it took a little while then he started - he's here in the room right now in case you're wondering. Some of you are going, wow - does he even like you? I don't know. I don't know. I'm not sure.
But that's how we describe it. We describe the day of our birth by our physical appearance. But do you know what happens when people die? Guys like me get up and do a funeral, and we talk about their soul. We don't talk about just what they looked like. We talked about what was inside and what they did. You see the day of our birth can be better than the day of our death because we get rid of the idea of just external appearance and we talk about the soul. When we are born, we're given a name. Whatever that name may be, we're given a name when we're born. But when we die, we get to determine whether or not we lived up to it or not. When we're born, it's like we're full of promise. It's about dreams of what will be but when we die, it's the fulfillment of the promise. When we're born, we begin the battle. When we're born we begin the process of dying. But when we die, we end death, and we secure the victory for those of us that are in Christ.
You ask any soldier of any army anywhere - what is a better day? The day that you heard the first shots ring out in the war, or the day that you hear of the cease-fire when the victory is won? That's the better day. That's why the Scripture talks to us about the day of our death can actually be better than the day of our birth.
The life of Jesus illustrates this. We love the story of Jesus' birth, right? Christmas, man! Right? Christmas, man! Right? Christmas! And we've commercialized it and we think it's so fantastic - the story of His birth and the narrative surrounding it and Mary and Joseph and little farm animals and mangers and all this kind of stuff. We love the story of His birth. They make for great cards. It makes for a great time to celebrate that and exchange some presents - to put up some decorations and have some nativity scenes on our mantel and stuff.
But why was He born? And why did He get the name at His birth that He got? Because He was born to die. Because the name that He was given was Jesus, and the angel told him you will give Him the name Jesus because He will save His people from their sins. The name Jesus means God saves. So the promise was in His birth, but the fulfillment was in His death. He got a name when He was born, but He fulfilled His name when He died and rose again, so that people who are sinful could put their faith in Him and find their sins forgiven and find themselves reconciled to the Father. See, this is illustrated in the life of Jesus. Good name is better than fine perfume and the day of death is better than the day of birth.
But then look at the next couple of verses at what it says. It starts to amplify this idea. It says, it's better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
You see, what the writer here is saying to us, ladies and gentlemen, is this and I don't want you to miss this: for our souls, a funeral is better than a party - for our souls. Now, the writer is not suggesting that there should be no celebration and there should be no parties. Believe me, that is a part of the rhythm of the world that we live in. There are things that are worth celebrating and should be celebrated and it needs to be a part of who we are and what we do. But he's saying for our souls, it is better for us to have to absorb what you absorb when you're a part of seeing mourning as opposed to trying to live life like it's a forever party.
You see, the Scripture is very clear for us that this idea flows through it. Listen to how the psalmist said this in Psalm 90 verse 12: Teach us God - that's the implied - teach us God to number our days, that we might gain a heart of wisdom. And then Jesus' half brother, James - you know they shared the same mom, but not the same Dad, right? - says this: Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you don't even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Every time I hear that passage, I'm reminded of being at home with both my mom and my grandmother on my father's side when I used to watch her cook, when I was younger. Maybe she was boiling potatoes or whatever she might have been doing, but steam would rise right off of that pot. And I would watch. I would actually try and track the little vapor pieces and I would watch it, and it would come right off of pot and then would just vanish. Like that. I would try and track it. Whoa...it's gone. Right? James actually uses that picture and says, this is what our lives are like. They're like a mist that appears for a moment - a vapor that appears for a moment and then immediately just vanishes. By the way, whether that's seventeen years or seventy-five years or eighty-seven years - in the scope of eternity *snap* - that's what it's like. It's here, and it's gone. It's here and then it's gone.
And so, we're trying to be exhorted by the teacher in this passage of Scripture to say, there's a reason that it's better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting. There's a reason that it is more advantageous for your soul to see what's happening in the house of mourning than to just think that life is an eternal party. You see, the brevity of life and the frailty of life should actually lead us to a place where we contemplate God.
And in fact, that's what happened to the teacher. Because in chapter twelve after exploring every option, chasing everything that he could to satisfy him, listen to how he sums it up in Ecclesiastes twelve. He says, Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you'll say, "I find no pleasure in them" - before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when people rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; when people are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags itself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then people go to their eternal home and mourners go about the streets.
You see, the writer is saying to us you can try all of these other avenues, but you're going to come up empty. I want to encourage you to remember the One who made you from the time that you're young. Because ultimately life happens - and it does - and when tragedy happens - and it does - you are actually going to learn more in the house of mourning than you will in the house of feasting. If I were summarizing, the reason is because when you come to the house of mourning, here's what you learn from it: wisdom. This is what you get from that. Wisdom. Wisdom doesn't come in living life as an eternal party. Wisdom comes when the sobering moments come. That's why, if you want to sum up what we're teaching today it's this: Wisdom is better than pleasure because wisdom gives us an eternal perspective. Wisdom is better than pleasure because wisdom gives us an eternal perspective.
You see, you don't gain wisdom sir, ma'am, you and I don't gain wisdom if we avoid these kind of moments in life, or if we live in denial that these kind of moments happen. We don't gain wisdom. Because what happens for us is that we get sobered up when we start to see the frailty and the brevity of life.
I had a friend named Steve that I grew up with. We played baseball together when we were little, and my mom and his mom were really good friends. And he had a brother that was about my brother's age, and so we were friends when we were little. Got to high school. He went to a neighboring high school. I was at Sprayberry, he was at Lassiter. One night at a party - Steve was there and he had had some alcohol to drink. There was another girl there named Michelle, if I remember right. Michelle had had too much to drink, but she needed a ride home. Steve said, I'm fine, I can take you - even though he had been drinking, too. And as a result - you know how these stories end. They wrecked. He was killed. She was injured, but she lived.
So we went to Steve's funeral. After his funeral, some of the guys that we all knew that hung out together - some of these guys decided to go back to someone's house, and remember Steve by getting drunk. The thing that killed him is what they chose to use to honor him. That is a morbid paradox. Why? Just couldn't deal. Didn't know what to do with it. Didn't let an opportunity to sit in the house of mourning for a little while that would bring us to a place of contemplating God - didn't let that happen. Wanted to live in a bit of denial.
I see it sometimes when somebody passes away and then a loved one, maybe a spouse or maybe a son or a daughter or a mom or a dad or a friend - and you have to talk to them about everything because they're saying to themselves, I'm not going to the funeral. I can't even deal. I can't deal. I'm not doing this. I'm not doing this. I can't deal with it. You can't deal with what? I can't deal with that they're gone. Well they're going to be gone. No matter what you do - go or don't go - they're going to be gone. You need to be there. You need to be there so you can honor their life. You need to be there so that you can contemplate what God might say about the brevity of life, and what you're doing with the days he's entrusted to you, so that you start counting your days and making your days count. Avoidance or denial is not going to give us the wisdom that we desperately need.
Celebration, by the way, should be a part of the rhythm of our life, but we miss wisdom when we don't go through mourning, because mourning - obviously it does better for us on two levels. The first level is this: is that personally, it sobers us up and it matures us.
We went through a long time, Edie and I did, with her father's illness. He had an eleven year brain tumor. It was a long thing to observe and to watch. And it went from little episodes and having to take some time off of work to ultimately seizures, to not being able to work, to losing short-term memory, to not ultimately being able to function, to him finally passing away. It was inoperable. It was a long, long road that Edie had to walk, that I walked with her in that process, that her mother had to walk - it was a long road. And toward the end there we were back and forth. We were living in Florida at the time. This had to be maybe sixteen years ago or so. We were living in Florida at the time and having to go back and forth to Atlanta - she going sometimes without me and us going at certain times, not knowing what was going to transpire.
When he passed away, I was a part of officiating that funeral for my own father-in-law. And after we buried him and ultimately came back to Florida some months later, after ministering and preaching and those kinds of things, one of the few - we had a handful of retired pastors in our congregation in Florida - one of those pastors was named Pastor Jones, and he was from England and I loved every time he talked. I felt like God was speaking every time he opened his mouth. Jerry. Right? I started having flashbacks of the old movies, right? Where God's voice apparently is British. I have no idea if that was the case but... So he starts to talk to me, and he says I want to tell you something. I said sure. And he said, I've noticed something. I said what's that? He said ever since all of this has happened with your father-in-law, God has used it to give you a sense of gravitas, maturity, and seriousness. I'd never thought about that before. He pointed it out - a wise, long-term pastor - pointed it out in my own life. Why did that happen? Here's why: because the house of mourning sobers us up and matures us.
But do you know what else it does? It causes us to live our lives on mission with an eye on eternity. And I'll tell you why. Because now, in your heart, when you come through the house of mourning, and when you allow God to speak to you deeply about the brevity of life and the frailty of life you have a concern - not just about all of the externals - but you have a concern for the souls of people you're talking to - who you want to know how they can be reconciled to the Father through the Son. You want to use the resources that you have - you want to steward them with an eye on eternity - of saying how can I leverage what I have for the sake of the Kingdom of God and not just consume it all on my own selfish pursuits and interests. Why? Because wisdom is better than pleasure. Because wisdom, not pleasure, gives us an eternal perspective.
Let me ask you this. What if it was over for you tomorrow? I hope that's not the case for any of you. But what if it was over for you tomorrow? What would you have to show for it? I'm not talking about you'd say, well, you know, I've got some family that loves me. You don't need Jesus for that. A lot of people that don't know and love Jesus have family that loves them. Well, you know I've kept my family together and all that kind of stuff. Great! I'm for that. But that's not necessarily something that's indicative of you just being a follower of Jesus. What would you have to show for your life from an eternal perspective if tomorrow was it for you? With whom have you shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ? With whom have you shown the love of Jesus and shared with them how they can know Christ? Would your testimony of your money - if it could speak when you stand before God - would it testify that you chose to steward it in such a way to advance the Kingdom of God? Or would it say “I ran things”. What would you have to show if your tomorrow was it?
You see, here's what I know. That at some point, your tomorrow and my tomorrow is going to come. That's why the teacher says so very clearly for us in verse number two that death is the destiny of everyone, so the living should take this to heart - because this is where wisdom comes from. Death is the destiny of everyone. The statistics are still the same. One out of every one dies. It's the destiny of everyone and the living should take this to heart.
What does that look like for you? Have you lived your life on a weighting scale to say man, I hope my good outweighs my bad and then I'll take my chances? That's not even remotely what the Gospel of Jesus Christ talks about. Here's what it talks about. That we've all sinned and come short of the glory of God. That none of us can save ourselves. And that God, in His infinite love and mercy and grace, sent His Son to stand in our place - the sinless One for the sinful ones - to take upon himself the justice of a holy God so that in that justice our sin could be eradicated through His faithful death on our behalf, in our place, and through His resurrection from the dead showing he conquers sin, conquers the grave, and is the only giver and source of life.
You see, this is ultimately what we have to put our faith and trust in. It is the person of Jesus and what He's done. We can't operate on some weighting system. That in effect says, there's no need for Jesus. I can just do my way to whatever I want. That's the antithesis of the Gospel - that is not what grace is about. Grace is the difference between what we believe and what most everyone else in the world believes - that they can work their way to God. But in fact God, having revealed Himself says you can't work your way to me. I will work my way to you because I love you. This is what grace is.
So, what would you have to show for your life? My hope is that you would be able to be a trophy of grace, a picture of grace, somebody who's been so transformed by the grace of Jesus that the things that you do, that the way that you steward your life and your resources and your relationship all sing a song together of the greatness of who He is. Wisdom is better than pleasure because wisdom gives us an eternal perspective. And do you know what that eternal perspective does? It gives us great pleasure. That's the secret.
Let's bow our heads together. Before we're dismissed, if you're here and you've never entrusted your life to Jesus, I would invite you to do that today. Just simply in your own heart as saying I know I've sinned. I know I've come short of the glory of God. I know I can't save myself and I'm putting my trust in Jesus to do that. I'm surrendering my life to Jesus. You know Jesus said, I'm the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through me. So He's either telling the truth or He's not. And I would encourage you, if you believe with your heart that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, that you surrender your life to Him today and serve Him with all of your heart.
If that's your desire, and you want to know what that looks like, then we've got some folks that would love to take a moment - some pastors and some other friends that would love to take a moment and talk to you about that. We won't keep you forever. But there's no more important decision you'll make. And so when we dismiss in just a moment there's a room out in our Atrium called the Fireside Room. You can see it clearly marked on the other side of our Atrium. If you'd just come in there and take the first person you see by the hand and say I want to give my life to Jesus, they'd love to talk to you about what that means, what that looks like. No more important decision you'll make today. No more important decision that you'll make forever than this one.
And maybe some of us have let some other things get in the way and we've called them better when now we're learning that maybe there are better things than what we've called better. Maybe we haven't been counting our days and making our days count. Maybe we haven't been stewarding our life and our words and our resources for the glory of God. And maybe that's our need. If that's you, I'm going to pray for you but I'd ask you to do business with God yourself - to talk to Him about this. To repent where you need to repent and to receive His love and receive His correction where ever you need to receive that.
So Father, You've heard what we've talked about and as the best I can I've tried to represent Your heart from Your word. God, if at any point I got anything wrong, I pray that you'd erase it from the minds of these precious people. But for whatever I got that's consistent with Your heart, I pray you'd write it on our hearts so that we might know what it means to live in wisdom, that we might know what it means to have a good name, that's better than fine perfume and that the day of our death could actually be better than the day of our birth. Lord, I pray that You would give us a heart to live life on mission, that You'd attune our minds to the brevity and the frailty of life and that we would learn what it means to share the love of Jesus with people and to show them the love of Jesus in our lives - to serve them, to show compassion, to love them deeply, to tell them the truth. And I pray that you would help us to be people who are sober minded and mature, who know when to celebrate, and know when to mourn so that we might grow in wisdom and grace and be attuned and sensitized to the souls of people around us. So, Lord, we trust You for these things. Thank You for Your Word to us. In Jesus name, Amen.
As you're being dismissed, any of you that need to come by the Fireside Room please do. And for those members that are going to be sticking around for our Annual Update, we'll probably get going in about ten, twelve minutes or so, o.k.? God bless you.