Sermon: A Biblical Alternative to the Winter Blues (Ecclesiastes 3-5)

A Biblical Alternative to the Winter Blues

I’m sick of the snow.  How much longer will it last? Will it snow next week?  How many school days will we have to make up?

As we sit in the middle of Feb., we may find ourselves not only battling the snow and bitter cold but also battling unrest, boredom, depression, and being discontent.  It’s so timely that in God’s sovereignty we find ourselves in Ecclesiastes in the dead of winter.

Last week, we came to the conclusion along with King Solomon that the only way we can discover meaning and purpose in life is to loosen our grip on the created material world and tighten our grip on Christ.  We can do this as we realize that all the things we have come from God and he is the One to be worshipped not the stuff He gives us.

That sets up this week’s sermon from Ecclesiastes.  God has a plan for His people.

God’s Sovereign decree or will for man is often missed because man has too much of his time and concentration focused on material possessions and worldly endeavors.

Solomon makes a very forceful and clear argument for the thesis sentence in the second round of his book.

Truth Taught- God has determined our lot in life and we bring glory to Him when we are thankful for the everyday things He gives us.

Contentment with all God has given will lead us to a meaningful and enjoyable life.  Contentment will lead us to discovering God’s will for us.  It will lead to contentment with God. It won’t be our best life now but it will be very good and we will be better prepared for our best life later.  We’ll see that God is in control of our lives and to be unhappy with life is to be unhappy with God.  Be accepting and thankful for God’s loving providence in our lives.

As we did last week, let’s read Solomon’s conclusion and then trace how he got there.

Eccles. 5:18-20 (ESV)

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.  [19] Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.  [20] For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

Solomon wants us to see God’s providence in the world and in our individual lives.  This knowledge will go very far in equipping us for everyday living.

1- God’s Providence in the Universe (Ecclesiastes 3:1-15)

Eccles. 3:1-15 (ESV)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

[2] a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

[3] a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

[4] a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

[5] a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

[6] a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

[7] a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

[8] a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.

[9] What gain has the worker from his toil?  [10] I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.  [11] He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.  [12] I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;  [13] also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

[14] I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.  [15] That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

Solomon is declaring the ultimate truth.  Our lot in life is determined by God. He is showing us the sovereignty of God.  There is a time for birth and a time for death.  Every step of our lives follows God’s decree.  Your birthday and the day of your funeral are all determined by God.  God has determined in His goodness the day you were born and when you will die.  Nothing is left to chance.  God determines the weather, if it rains or snows, if it is sunny or cloudy.  As we’ve been experiencing lately, there is a time for winter and a time for summer and all works exactly as God chooses.

Truth Taught- God has determined our lot in life and we bring glory to Him when we are thankful for the everyday things He gives us.

What we are referring to is the doctrine of providence.

God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that He keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which He created them; cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and directs them to fulfill His purposes—Wayne Grudem

Hebrews 1:3 (ESV)

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Col. 1:17 (ESV)

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

The other important point in this section is that man has been given an innate knowledge of God.

[11] He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Because God has placed a sense of eternity in man’s heart, material things will not fill this void.  You can’t satisfy your soul with stuff.  If you find yourself uneasy or anxious with life, ask yourself, What am I substituting for God?  Is there something in my life that has been filling the place God alone should control?

God determines our lot in life and we have an innate awareness of God’s providence.  So, when we live as if we are God and in control it doesn’t take but a few hours to become frustrated and miserable with life.

Why do we complain about the weather?  For now, it’s our lot in life so rejoice because the snow is a gift from God.

If you find yourself dreary in the middle of winter realize as Solomon did that God has a purpose in the seasons and that we are to enjoy the everyday things God gives us.  There is a time for winter and a time for summer.  Love God in the winter and love Him in the summer.  Enjoy the snow when it falls because God is sending it.

Job 37:6 (ESV)

For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’

likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.

Job 38:22 (ESV)

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,

or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,

Praise Him for everyday that you live because, as Solomon points our, our lives are very short.  What a tragedy it would be for someone to long so much for warmer weather that they hated the winter.  What if they lived for summer only to find out that their life was so short that they were not going to make it to summer.  Love the everyday things God gives us and love Him for giving them.  Don’t be like the Hebrews in the wilderness who were chronic complainers.  They told God enough times that they would be better off dead than to eat manna and walk in this no-man’s land that God eventually gave them their heart’s desire.  That whole generation 20 years old and older died in the wilderness.

The will of God is seen in the fact that there is a time for everything under the sun.  So, whether you’re mourning or dancing, weeping or laughing, planting or picking, speaking or being silent, all are coming to pass and following the course of God’s plan.

Solomon declares this universal truth; God’s providence is at work in the world.

But what about the things that seem to prove otherwise?  How can God be God and at the same time we witness things that make us wonder or question either His goodness or His Sovereignty?

2- God’s Providence Brought into Question (Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:16)

Anyone with any sense at all can look around or watch the news and wonder about why things go on the way they do.

Solomon makes his overarching statements about God’s providence and yet what he sees around him causes him to wonder is God really in control of everything?  Has God really determined our lot in life and can He be trusted?  That’s Solomon’s real question.  That’s what was gnawing at him and sometimes those same thoughts trouble us as well.

He introduces each of these statements with “Moreover I saw”

Here’s what I know about God but here is what I see going on in the world…

Eccles. 3:16-17 (ESV)

Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness.  [17] I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.

He first addresses the fact that God has set in place the government to be a protector of the people.  However, at times the government becomes corrupt and doesn’t execute its purpose.  Solomon, no doubt, saw this around him in other countries and he questioned God’s power and wisdom.

He saw severe oppression of helpless people and questioned God’s providence.

Eccles. 4:1-3 (ESV)

Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them.  [2] And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive.  [3] But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.

Solomon asked the question, How can God’s plan encompass everything in the universe when he sees events that look to go against what God is doing?

Some people have concluded that there are things outside of God’s control and others have questioned the fact of God’s goodness.

At the end of the day, Solomon concluded that because God is God and he is a man, he wouldn’t always understand God’s providence.  His conclusion was that just because he didn’t understand something didn’t mean it wasn’t true.  He cautioned the people of his generation and he cautions us as well.

3- Do Not Deny God’s Providence (Ecclesiastes 5)

Eccles. 5:1-3 (ESV)

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.  [2]  Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.  [3] For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.

The point is made that just because we see something that causes us to question what God is doing, we should also understand that we do not see the big picture as God does.  We forget that He has a plan that encompasses the universe.

His first piece of advice from Solomon is that we should be very careful how we approach God.  If we speak irreverently to or about God we may find ourselves in the realm of judgment.  So approach God cautiously with your questions.  Next, he mentions that when we do draw near to God, we should listen more than we speak.  He says; let your words be few. God is not under any obligation by His creation to answer any questions.  Not only should we understand that God is sovereign over the universe but that He is also over and intimately concerned with our lives.

Just how involved is God with our lives?

Psalm 139:16 (ESV)

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there were none of them.

Job 14:5 (ESV)

Since his days are determined,

and the number of his months is with you,

and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass,

Paul knew the truth of God’s providence as well…

Galatians 1:15 (ESV)

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,

We could go to Acts where it says that in God we live and breathe and have our being; or Jeremiah 10:23…the way of man is not in himself it is not man who directs his steps; or man’s steps are ordered by the Lord Proverbs 20:24

Mankind does make real choices every second but we find these choices are already decreed by God.

Joseph’s brothers hated him, wanted to kill him, and were jealous because of him (Genesis 37) and at the same time we turn to the end of the story and read what was really going on…

Genesis 50:19-20 (ESV)

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? [20] As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

So, the bottom line is everything is orchestrated by God.  He is not the author of evil but evil is done in the world and God uses those evil acts for His glory as He did in the life of Joseph.

Because our understanding is limited we must go by what we know for sure about God.  That comes from the Bible.  God is merciful and God is just.  When we see things in the world that cause us to wonder about God, we must very quickly get back to the Bible and the things we know for sure.  Our interpretation of what we see are very limited.

If we were witnesses of the mistreatment of Joseph by his brothers we might have been tempted to go and rescue him from the pit they threw him in.  However, by doing that we would have been working against the good God was doing.  God was in the process of saving millions by getting Joseph to Egypt.  We only see the present, God sees all.  All we see is a helpless boy thrown into a pit, God sees the saving of a nation.

We might have been like Peter when he questioned God’s providence as Jesus told him and the others about His death.  If we’re going to speak about things that seem unfair we must go to Calvary.  If we really want to get to what seems to be the ultimate injustice we shouldn’t look to sinful people mistreating other sinful people, we should look at sinful people killing the sinless Son of God.  It was so bizarre that even the evil pagan ruler Pilate said, this man has done nothing that deserves death.

Mark 8:31-33 (ESV)

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.  [32] And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  [33] But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

In Jesus’ rebuke of Peter we see how strange God’s good plan may seem to us fallen humans.  God’s will was that Jesus be crucified.  For Peter, looking at the situation from a mortal man’s perspective, it seemed unfair. Surely God would not allow His Son to be murdered.  Peter didn’t see the event from God’s vantage point.

Solomon warns us not to hold too tightly to this world because we loose eternal perspective.  Peter was placing his trust in his own view of Christ.  What He needed to do was to trust God’s will for His Son which included going to the cross.  By going to the cross Jesus would save many people from spiritual death.  In a way this is like Joseph’s oppression.  Through Joseph God would save many people from physical death

Solomon concludes his sermon with an amazing final twist of godly wisdom.  He basically says that by finding joy and peace in God’s providence we can have meaning and fulfillment in life.  The things that would otherwise have the effect of getting us down can no be means for rejoicing.

Eccles. 5:18-20 (ESV)

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.  [19] Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.  [20] For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

Accept the providence of God in your life or as Solomon puts it, accept your lot in life.  Come to terms with what God’s desire is for you.  Accept it and thank the Lord for it.  Begin to find joy in the everyday things that we all must do…the toil of our lives can be enjoyable because it is exactly what God has given us.  As you begin to enjoy everyday things you will not be crippled by the fear, worry, and anxiety of the future.  You won’t worry about your health or how much longer you have to live or your finances because you’re enjoying what God has given you today.

[20] For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

What’s the biblical alternative for the winter blues?

Thank God for snow.  In the middle of a blizzard thank God for snow and you will begin to enjoy your life in the dead of winter.  The winter blues will lift as your focus become heavenly instead of earthly.

Truth Taught- God has determined our lot in life and we bring glory to Him when we are thankful for the everyday things He gives us.

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