Sermons & Sunday Schools

It’s a Good Day to Be Alive

In this sermon, Pastor Dave Capoccia looks at a surprising, carpe diem style exhortation from Solomon in Ecclesiastes 8:16-9:10. Solomon gives two simple reasons why you should stop waiting and start making the most of your vaporous life from God:

1. Life Is Uncertain (8:16-9:1)
2. Death Is Certain (9:2-6)
3. Conclusion: Make the Most of Your Life While You Can (9:7-10)

Full Transcript:

It’s so good to see you all this morning. Let’s pray as we go to hear from the Word of God. Great provider, just as You provide food for all the animals and all men on earth, provide us the food of Your Word this morning. Teach us Your wisdom. Empower me to speak it. Work it out in our lives by your Spirit. Amen.

I’d like to start the sermon by sharing with you a quick story. One time, while Ema and I were living in Los Angeles for seminary, as a lot of my stories come from LA, somebody was kind enough to send us a gift basket of Harry and David fruit. This basket included a few tasty snacks and a number of fresh pears. Ema and I were delighted by this thoughtful gift, and immediately ate a pair or two and some of the snacks. But then over the next week or so, we forgot about the gift of fruit. And by the time we came back to enjoy them, guess what had happened to them – they went bad. They were no longer fresh. They didn’t taste very good. So we had to throw them away. I’d been embarrassed that we had failed to make full use of this very thoughtful gift that we had received.

Have you ever similarly waited so long to do something in your life that you no longer have the ability to do it? If you waited too long to turn in some school work, you got a zero. Maybe you waited too long to decide on a house, and someone else took it. Or maybe you waited too long to enjoy some delicious food, and it spoiled. Life is full of time-limited opportunities. You often don’t know how long a certain opportunity will last. So if you wait too long, or if you simply forget about it, you’ll miss it.

Actually though, according to the Bible, life itself is a time-limited opportunity. It is a gift from God that is fading fast. For all of us, human beings living under the sun, we know that we are going to die. Yet we don’t know when we’re going to die or how our lives might change before we die. What’s the best way to handle this time-limited gift that we have from God? Well, the answer is simple – make the most of your life while you can. Don’t forget to do what’s important before the deadline. Don’t be slow to utilize a good opportunity. Don’t fail to enjoy the fruit while you have it. You only get one shot at life, and then you have to hand it over to God for His assessment. Therefore, make the most of your life while you can.

The first century BC Roman poet Horace used a phrase that captures well this biblical concept – carpe diem, often translated as seize the day, but more accurately translated as pluck the ripe day. Do you want to be wise and please God with the way that you live? Then you should gratefully and reverently pluck every ripe day that God gives you.

This is precisely what King Solomon of Israel will teach us in our next passage of Ecclesiastes. Please take your Bibles and turn to Ecclesiastes chapter 9. The title of the sermon is – it’s a good day to be alive. We’re looking at Ecclesiastes chapter 8 verse 16 to chapter 9 verse 10 today. This section represents another turning point in this great Old Testament book of wisdom. Considering the structure of Ecclesiastes as a whole, you might remember I told you that Ecclesiastes 1-6, the first 6 chapters of the book, emphasize reality. What are the frustrating realities of living life in a world made vaporous, fundamentally vaporous, hevel like, to use the Hebrew term, because of the fall. What’s reality? That’s chapters 1 through 6. Chapters 7 to 12, they emphasize response. How should you respond? What is the wise way to respond to the fundamental frustrating realities of life in this world? There’s some overlap between the sections, but those are the two fundamental emphases – reality and response.

Now we’re in the second section in chapter 9. Starting around chapter 9 and going all the way to chapter 12, the energy of Solomon’s instruction starts to pick up. He’s going to underscore one main question as he drives to the conclusion of the book. You know what that question is – what are you waiting for? If this is what life is, and if this is the wisdom of how to respond to life, then what are you waiting for? We’re certainly going to see that question implied in our passage today.

Let’s read our passage now. Ecclesiastes 8:16 to 9:10. Read along with me:

When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task which has been done on the earth (even though one should never sleep day or night), and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise men should say, “I know,” he cannot discover.

For I have taken all this to my heart and explain it that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are in the hand of God. Man does not know whether it will be love or hatred; anything awaits him.

It is the same for all. There is one fate for the righteous and for the wicked; for the good, for the clean and for the unclean; for the man who offers a sacrifice and for the one who does not sacrifice. As a good man is, so it’s the sinner; as the swearer is, so is the one who was afraid to swear. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one fate for all men. Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterwards they go to the dead. For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun.

Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. Let your clothes be white all the time, and let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.

Some interpreters believe this to be one of the bleakest passages in Ecclesiastes. They believe that a disillusioned Solomon, or whoever they say the author is, is telling us – look, death is end of everyone. There is nothing to look forward to after death. After all, Sheol or the grave represents annihilation or permanent inactivity and forgetfulness. So you might as well just try to enjoy life while you can. It’s all you got, and it’s going to turn to nothing soon. That’s what some people say Solomon is saying? But such an interpretation would ignore what Solomon just told us in the previous chapter and what also Solomon says in other parts of Ecclesiastes and what the rest of Scripture says. As we’ve seen, though Solomon in his day knows very few details about the life after death for the world to come. He is nonetheless sure that God is just and there will one day be a judgment in which the righteous are vindicated. To remind you, Ecclesiastes 8:12-13:

Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly. But it will not be well for the evil man and he will not lengthen his days like a shadow, because he does not fear God.

So this passage is not a display of cynical nihilism. Rather it is the opposite. In recognition of the nature of this life as a passing but good portion from God, Solomon charges us to make the most of it while we can.,This is the most enjoyable way to live. And it is what will most honor God, who is the giver of life to each of us.

Our text is actually laid out in a very straightforward, carpe diem type argument. In Ecclesiastes 8:16 to 9:10, Solomon gives two simple reasons why you should stop waiting and start making the most of your vaporous life from God. It’s the main idea – two simple reasons why you should stop waiting, start making the most of your vaporous life from God. Let’s hear the argument. Let’s start with the first simple reason in chapter 8 verse sixteen to chapter 9 verse one. That reason is number one – life is uncertain. Life is uncertain. Let’s just start with verses 16 and 17,

When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task which has been done on the earth (even though one should never sleep day or night), and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise men should say, “I know,” he cannot discover.

These represent a set of transition verses between the previous passages’ instruction and our current ones. The main idea is one that we’ve seen repeatedly in Ecclesiastes. Solomon is telling us – no one, not even Solomon the great, Solomon blessed with divine wisdom and understanding, no one is able to figure out the grand secrets of life. Everyone wants to know the future and how to act in perfect wisdom for that future so that you’re absolutely protected. If anyone could discover that kind of knowledge, it would have been Solomon. Look how Solomon reminds us in verse 16. He gave himself fully to this task. He wanted to understand everything that happens on the earth. And this was a task so strenuous that it demanded many sleepless nights from Solomon. He then beheld every reality, every kind of work of God as it takes place in the earth. And what did he find? Verse 17 – you cannot fully understand what’s going on in this world or why God is doing it. You just can’t. The fundamental scheme of the world, the full explanation, is a secret thing that belongs only to God. So even if you try to outdo Solomon, if you study laboriously, if you don’t allow yourself to see sleep day or night, you’ll get the same result of Solomon. You will not discover. Again, Solomon admits at the end of verse 17, there are many naive people, arrogant people, self-deceived people, who insist that they will discover or they have discovered the scheme of life. But Solomon tells us when you hear that claim, don’t believe it. Though the wise man should say, “I know,” he cannot and he will not discover.

Now don’t misunderstand. Solomon is not saying we can’t make certain advances in knowledge. We can and we have as a society. And these are good – technology, medicine and such. But no one is going to discover the full explanation of the world or be able to discover something that will fix its fundamental frustrations, like uncertainty, like death. So where does this admission leave every man or woman, every boy or girl who has to face life? Chapter 9 verse 1,

For I have taken all this to my heart and explain it that righteous man, wise men, and their deeds are in the hand of God.Man does not know whether it will be love or hatred; anything awaits him.

You know where your inability to discover or to master life’s secrets leaves you? Simply in the hands of God. Even wise persons, righteous persons, all their choices, actions, and consequences are in God’s hands, not in their own. We have to rely on God for everything. We have to trust Him and take whatever He gives us. He is a good God. He is someone that we can trust in placing ourselves in His hands. But His ways are far above ours. He doesn’t explain Himself to us fully. So we don’t always know what He’s doing or what’s going to happen next. You see the line,

Man does not know whether it will be love or hatred; anything awaits him.

A more literal reading would be both love and hatred, there is not a man knowing all before him. Now this line does raise a question of interpretation – whose love and hatred are we talking about? A lot of commentators that I consulted believe that this is referring to God’s love or hatred. You don’t know whether it’s going to be God’s love or hatred before you. I think a better interpretation is to see this love or hatred as belonging to man, according to the different circumstances that God sovereignly apportions in life. And the reason I say that is, the two other times love and hatred are mentioned together in this book, it’s man’s experience that Solomon is talking about. Ecclesiastes 3:8, the first part of it says one of the times of life we’re going to experience – a time to love and a time to hate. Or if you just go a bit further down in the passage we’re in now, Ecclesiastes 9:6 says,

Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished,

So I believe what Solomon is saying in Ecclesiastes 9:1 is – you don’t know whether the next experience you face is going to be one you will love or one you will hate, whether will be an experience filled with love for good people and good things, or an experience filled with hate or evil people and evil things. Both await you in life. But you don’t know how much. You don’t know when. It’s all in God’s good but inscrutable hands. Solomon said essentially the same thing in Ecclesiastes 3.

So if life is uncertain, and we don’t know how long a good thing from God will last and whether something we hate is right around the corner, if that’s all true, how should we respond? Well, if we’re wise, we will stop waiting and start making the most of the good we have right now.

But life’s uncertainties is only the first simple reason that we should do this. The second simple reason appears in verses 2 to 6. Life is uncertain number one, but number two – death is certain. Number two – death is certain. Look at verse 2 and the first part of verse 3,

It is the same for all. There is one fate for the righteous and for the wicked; for the good, for the clean and for the unclean; for the man who offers a sacrifice and for the one who does not sacrifice. As a good man is, so is the sinner; as the swearer is, so is the one who is afraid to swear. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one fate for all men.

Here again is something we’ve seen multiple times in Ecclesiastes, Solomon reminding us that we’re all going to die. We’re all going to have the same fate, no matter how we lived. Now notice verse two provides a series of contrasting pairs. I won’t look at them all specifically. We’ll just engage them in a summary fashion. Whether you are righteous or not, whether you meticulously follow ceremonial laws or not, whether you offered public worship or not, whether you zealously take oaths before God or not, your outcome is still the same. It’s death. And Solomon confesses again what a frustrating fact of life this is. That isn’t right. It doesn’t seem fair. He calls it an evil. Not only must the good and bad both face a life of uncertainty, they also both faced certain death. And that includes you and me, every one of us here.

Solomon next reminds us how most people react to this common fate of all men, namely with evil and insanity. Look at the rest of verse 3,

Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterwards they go to the dead.

The phrase “hearts full of evil” should sound familiar if you were with us last time, since Solomon used a similar phrase to describe how people react to the reality of slow justice in the world. Ecclesiastes 8:11 to remind you,

Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.

So what Solomon is telling us again in chapter 9 is that if there’s one fate for all man, if doing evil is not going to change that fate, then for many people their responses is – well then why not do evil? Why restrain myself? Why not just enjoy fulfilling every evil inclination of my heart. Everyone’s going to die anyways. Might as well get mine before I die. Notice that men’s hearts are not just full of evil but also insanity throughout their lives. The word insanity could also be translated madness, foolishness, or even blindness. During life, people naively or stubbornly remained blind. They make themselves blind to the realities of death and God’s coming justice. Thus they act foolishly, sinfully, insanely.

I like what Pastor Babij has sometimes said, being a Christian is like finally becoming sane. A lot of people think when you become a Christian that you went insane, but it’s the opposite. You actually became sane. Living as a sinner in rebellion against God, that’s actually stupidity and madness. You must start thinking clearly and living wisely and you need to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. That’s the truth. Most people in the world don’t see it that way. They don’t live that way, and they don’t want to live that way. Thus they pursue sin. They chase after everything that will ultimately not profit, the things that Solomon’s already discussed in this book. They weary themselves in obtaining treasures that will not last. And then, as Solomon says at the end of verse three, afterwards they go to the dead. The phrase is actually even more abrupt in the Hebrew literally – and after it to the dead. Like rodents fighting and scurrying aboard a ship that’s about to snap in half and sink, so the sons of men pursue evil and insanity despite the sobering reality of death. They use death as an excuse to sin. What a waste, especially in light of God’s soon to follow judgments.

Now, though all people will face death, there is one advantage for the wise when it comes to death. Look at verses four and five,

For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know they will die;

Let’s stop there for now. What is this one advantage for the wise? Not simply that there will be a future judgment that will go well for them after death, that is definitely true. That’s a huge advantage, but that’s not Solomon’s focus here. The advantage that he brings to our minds is that the wise know that they’re going to die. They appreciate that fact, which means for them there is hope. Hope for what? Hope in that they will still have a chance to make the most of their lives now. If you’ve been with us, you know this is previously spoken quite provocatively in Ecclesiastes about how the dead in certain respects are better off than the living. Ecclesiastes 4:2, Solomon said, I’m paraphrasing, better to be dead than to suffer through life without comforting companions. Ecclesiastes 6:3, better to be a miscarriage than to live a long life without enjoying any good. He seems to be on the side that death is better. But notice here, he flips that judgment. He says that living, being alive, is far better than being dead. Notice Solomon even says, surely a live dog is better than a dead lion.

Now this saying, live dog better than a dead lion, would have a lot more punch in ancient Hebrew culture than it does in our society. That’s because today, at least in America, people love dogs. Dogs are cute. They’re valued companion. We cherish dogs. We have dog groomers, dog hotels, dog treat bakeries. The people in ancient Hebrew culture had a very different attitude. They typically hated dogs. Dogs were not pets. They were disgusting and unclean wild animals. They roved in feral packs on the outskirts of the city and they ate dead bodies in trash. No one aside from maybe some shepherds owned a dog, much less wanted to be a dog. In fact, what was one of the easiest ways you can insult a Hebrew? Call him a dog.

With that background then, Solomon’s words are shocking. He says better to be a live dog than a dead lion. Lions are considered fierce and majestic Animals. Many Hebrews would be proud to be compared to a lion. But Solomon asks, what’s the good in being a lion if you’re dead?You can’t do anything anymore. Better to be a live dog, or to give an equivalent modern expression to give you the effect – better to be a live dirty rat than a dead lion. Because at least if you’re alive, you can still do something with your life. Your portion is not yet gone from this world.

Here then, friends, is why I’ve chosen the sermon title that I have – why it’s a good day to be alive. It’s because you still have a chance to do something with your life, to make the most of it, to use it well before God and men. This is an opportunity you won’t always have. The dead once had that opportunity, but it’s gone for them, even the greatest among them. But you still have it. You’re still alive. If you can hear my words right now, you’re still alive, which means you still have that opportunity.

Notice in verses 5 to 6, Solomon makes some observations about the disadvantages of being dead. We have to be careful with these, lest we come to some strange theological conclusions. Solomon’s main emphases in all these descriptions is that being dead means you can’t do anything profitable for this world anymore, and you can’t enjoy the good things of this world, good things from God anymore. Solomon first says in the second part of verse 5, the dead do not know anything. But this cannot be literally true, since Solomon has already expressed to us his belief that there is a coming vindication of the righteous, even the righteous dead. If the dead don’t have anything, what’s that vindication going to mean for them? That’s no comfort. That can’t be what he means. Rather, I think Solomon’s idea is the dead do not know something that will still profit them for their earthly lives because it’s too late. Their lives are over. Whatever they learned after death makes no difference. It’s not like after they die, they realize what reality really is, they’re like, okay give me a do-over. Now I know. No, it’s too late. The dead don’t know anything that’s going to profit them for their earthly lives.

Solomon says further in verse five that there’s no longer any reward or more literally, no longer any wages for the dead. Again, Solomon can’t be saying that there’s no reward at all in the afterlife because that contradicts his confidence in that future judgement, a judgment that will go well for the righteous and not for the unrighteous. So instead, Solomon’s idea must be that with death there’s no more possibility of appreciating any earthly reward for your labor. It’s like having a birthday party and then suddenly being called away by an emergency. However much you anticipated enjoying this party, I’m sorry, it’s over. If you didn’t get to try the cake, too bad. You have more important concerns.

Solomon connects this idea of reward with remembrance. Notice verse five ends with, for their memory is forgotten. One of the temporary wages of life is that some people care to know you and remember you. And for some special ones, God even give them a respectable name, a popular reputation. That’s a gift, but death means the end of that. If you didn’t get to enjoy the fruits of a good name, well it’s too late when you die. The world moves on and you and your name are all too quickly forgotten.

The beginning of verse six notes that all the driving emotions of life, including love, hatred, or zeal, also could be translated jealousy there or envy, the same word in Hebrew. All these driving emotions perish with a person at death. Whatever you did or didn’t do these emotions while you are alive, that’s it. Your share or portion in the world under the sun is finished. You know, it was common in many ancient pagan cultures to believe that people who died with strong unfulfilled passions, they would not move on to the next world. They would linger and stick around on earth as some kind of mournful pining or vengeful spirit. But Solomon says such is not the case. Whenever you perish, your passions perish with you. Everything that drove you forward is laid aside. You no longer have a direct interest in what takes place under the sun.

So then, brothers and sisters, if death is the end of any opportunity to make the most of life and its gifts, how should you live right now? It’s as I said. Stop waiting around and start making the most of this good but vaporous life you have as a gift from God. And that’s the very conclusion that Solomon spells out for us in the rest of the passage. We see it as a call to action, a really enthusiastic call to action in verses 7 to 10. Life is uncertain. Death is certain. Therefore, number three, our conclusion, make the most of your life while you can. The conclusion is make the most of your life while you can. Look at verse 7,

Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works.

Here again is another call from Solomon in this book to enjoy life. This is like the fifth or sixth one now, but notice this one is even more confidently spoken than the last. I made a point of this in the last sermon in our previous chapter because Ecclesiastes chapter 8 verses 14 to 15, Solomon said that he commended pleasure or he praised joy in light of frustration of unfixable injustice or unjust rule. He says, I commend pleasure. It’s even more intense now. He actually commands us in this passage – go. What are you sitting around for? Go! Go and do want? Go and eat and drink, Solomon says.

To which by now, you might be asking – what is with Solomon and food and drink? This guy loves to eat. Why is always mentioning this? I think the reason is actually pretty simple, and it’s because food and drink are simple and common gifts. Everyone has to eat. Everyone has to drink. You have to to survive. But why not enjoy what you eat and drink, making the most of these simple life necessities. God provided them to you. Why don’t you enjoy them? Your food doesn’t have to be expensive to be enjoyable. You can eat mac and cheese to the glory of God. Or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – I actually really like this. Or an apple, just an apple. You can enjoy these. Now, if you have means and opportunity, you could buy food that’s more expensive, a little bit more refined. That’s fine. But whatever good food and drink God has given you for a portion, Solomon says eat it in happiness. Drink it with a cheerful heart. In other word, enjoy it. Be thankful for it. Make the most of it.

We noticed why at the end of verse 7. Our God has already approved your works. That’s profound statement. Solomon is saying, God wants you to enjoy simple gifts like good food and good drink. He likes that. His favor is on that. He approves of that, which should only make sense. Any giver is pleased when he sees someone using and enjoying the gift given. And so is God. It honors Him. It pleases Him when you enjoy the good things of life that He gave to you. Not enjoying the gift more than the Giver, as if the gift itself were ultimate gain. Solomon’s already dealt with that wrong view. Rather, enjoy the gift because of the Giver and as a means of enjoying the Giver. Isn’t God great. Look at the simple gift He gave me, simple but good gift.

You see, when you reverently enjoy the simple gifts of life such as food and drink, really it’s worship. It’s worship. We sometimes get into thinking that worship is only the singing that we do in church or maybe, if we’re a little bit more mature in our thinking, it’s the obviously holy acts of righteousness that we do. But you know what else is righteous? You know what else is worship? Enjoying the simple gifts that God gave you. That pleases God. You’re actually using your life the way that God intended you to use it. And if that’s His design, and if that’s going to be enjoyable for you, then don’t let the opportunity pass by. Don’t let the opportunity to enjoy the simple gifts that God has given you in your life pass by.

Now that was just one example. Solomon’s got three more. Look at the next one in verse 8. These are different examples of how you make the most out of your life. Verse 8,

Let your clothes be white all the time, and let not oil be lacking on your head.

Now this is really interesting. In ancient Hebrew culture, white or bright clothes were your good clothes. They were the ones that you would wear to feasts and festivals. Meanwhile, oil on the head was part of perfuming yourself for attending a happy occasion. Perfumed oil was quite expensive. It was quite a blessing to have someone put oil or perfume oil on your head. So Solomon says, wear those clothes all the time. Put that oil on your head all the time. Wait, what are you saying, Solomon? It’s the same basic truth as in the previous verse. Stop waiting around to enjoy the good things that you have from God. Stop leaving your best clothes in the closet. Stop leaving your perfumed oil to be used some unknown distant time in the future. You don’t know what’s going to happen in life. You don’t know if you’re going to die soon. So get dressed up and go to the festival. If there’s not a festival to go to, wear your good clothes and your perfume anyways, because you know what, you might not get another chance.

Take a moment to think about this for yourselves. Do you have something nice that you hardly ever use, but you’re saving for some unknown day in the future, some special occasion? Solomon’s prodding you here, asking – what are you waiting for? Use it before you lose it. Don’t wait to enjoy the good things of God in this life until it’s too late. God gave it to you for you to enjoy it. Don’t miss that opportunity.

The next example, the third example, for how you can make sure to enjoy God’s good gifts. It’s one of the most famous in the book of Ecclesiastes. Look at verse 9,

Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.

Now here again, we might be surprised at Solomon’s words. Wait a second, didn’t Solomon recommend that we beware those of the opposite gender in chapter 7 verses 26 through 29 – beware the enticing woman or man? And didn’t Solomon himself find no true satisfaction, even though he had a thousand wives and concubines. Yes, that’s true. But remember also that Solomon wrote Proverbs 18:22, which says,

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.

Don’t forget also, Solomon wrote a certain Old Testament book called the Song of Songs, which is all about a couple enjoying marital love and God’s approval of such. Friends, Solomon is reminding us here in Ecclesiastes that even though no relationship or spouse can bring you ultimate satisfaction, a spouse, just one spouse – notice the singular here. Solomon learned his lesson. A spouse is still a good gift to you from God. So enjoy that gift. Enjoy your spouse. Enjoy serving your spouse. Enjoy your love together in marriage. Your spouse is probably not everything that you would like your spouse to be, but that’s life, and you’re not everything that your spouse would like you to be either. Enjoy everything good that your spouse actually is. After all, the mysterious and wonderful way your spouse, if you’re married, was specifically designed for you by God. He Himself joined you together. So make the most of it. See all of life together with your spouse, the ups, the downs, being young, being old, children being born, children growing up. Enjoy it all with your spouse. Life is better together – Ecclesiastes 4. Your spouse is part of your God ordained portion during your vaporous life and amid all your difficult toil.

But you won’t have your spouse forever. You never know how many days left you have together. You should be thankful for every day you’ve already had with your spouse, but don’t wait to make the most of the rest of the days you have with your spouse. Don’t miss that opportunity. Don’t become distracted from your spouse by chasing some pointless vaporous game in the world. Don’t sinfully abandon or wage war against your spouse because that would not be profitable for either of you. Instead, be humble, be gracious, be understanding, seek reconciliation with your spouse. Because then you can enjoy life together.

Well, that’s three examples. Solomon has one more example of what making the most out of life looks like, and it too is surprising. Verse 10,

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.

This recommendation might be the most counterintuitive of the bunch. Wait a second. In light of life uncertainty and death certainty, you say that I should work hard? Yes! Whenever opportunity for work that you find in front of you, Solomon says, do it and do it well. Why? Because you can’t work when you’re dead. Once you’re in the grave, once you’re in Sheol, you cannot contribute any work, scheme, knowledge, or wisdom to the tasks of life under the sun, you have clocked out for good.

Now it won’t make any sense to us if we’re still thinking like most people in the world think and believe that work itself is a curse. It’s not. Work is not a curse. Remember, God created work before the fall, before sin entered the world. He gave work for Adam and Eve to do, and more than that, God Himself is a worker. Now, work was cursed at the fall. It became toilsome. It became vaporous, but work itself is good. It’s even a gift from God. Your work is a gift. Indeed, God created us to work and to find enjoyment in our work. There is enjoyment and learning in applying skill and labor. There is enjoyment in accomplishing a task. There is enjoyment in bringing benefit to yourself and others by your work, even if in a fallen world that benefit is temporary. And even if whatever benefit you accrue, it cannot overcome the fundamental frustrations of life such as death. You see, work is part of God’s good portion to each of us, each one of you in your life.

So if you want to live life well, if you want to make the most out of this portion that God has given you, then you should work hard while you still can. Work hard for yourselves, for your families, for your church, for your neighbors, for your country, and ultimately for God. I know some of you might be retired. It’s not the the end of your work. There’s still plenty for you to do in the church and in other places. Don’t miss out on that opportunity. And even if a specific task is not your first preference for the type of work that you would like to do, you can still enjoy that work. You can enjoy it as part of God’s good portion to you. And you can do it to the pleasure and glory of God.

That’s all of Solomon’s examples for now. And is this not an amazing instruction? It certainly has amazed me. It’s not something we hear very often. Yet it is the word and wisdom of God, spoken through a servant, King Solomon, by the Holy Spirit. Make no mistake, life is uncertain. Death is certain, unless of course Christ comes back before you die. That exception aside, we are all going to die. So if you want to live life wisely, stop waiting and start making the most of your vaporous life from God. It’s going to pass quickly. Start using it well. Ask yourself – what’s preventing you from doing this? What’s preventing you from making the most of your life? Is it laziness? Is it busyness? Is it sin? Is it some foolish devotion to some empty idol that’s never going to satisfy you, no matter how much you pursue it? Are those things causing you to miss out on the good of God in your life and you making the most of it? Whatever it is, it’s time to give it up. Give it up. Instead, consider what good things you should be taking advantage of while you still can. Maybe it’s simply enjoying a good meal or wearing nice clothes. Maybe it’s getting a job or getting married. Maybe it’s actually spending time with your spouse or your kids or some other loved ones. Maybe it’s getting involved in the church, serving in the church, giving the gospel to those who don’t know God.

Or maybe most importantly, it’s repenting and believing in Jesus Christ for the salvation of your soul. Now that’s a good thing that you don’t want to miss. Because whatever else you might embrace to improve your life, that’s only temporary. Your relationship with God is forever. God made you and He made you to depend on Him, love Him, worship Him, serve Him. You know that’s the way God made us. All of us have rebelled against that. We wanted to serve ourselves. We wanted to do our own thing. We want to be king, and we don’t want God to be King. We became lawbreakers. We became sinners. We were sinners. We manifested it in the way that we lived our lives. And thus the penalty of sin, the just penalty of sin, came upon all of us, which is death, and not just temporal death but eternal death, forever torment. That’s the price of sinning against the perfectly good and holy God. And there’s nothing we could do to deliver ourselves from that penalty. No amount of good works, all our works are tainted by selfishness anyways.

But God made a way. God made a way to salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. God Himself came into the world. He lived a perfectly righteous life, doing everything that God’s commands and nature would demand of a person. And then He died on a cross, one of the most excruciating ways a person could die. But the most amazing part of it was He died on the cross as a sin bearer, as the substitute for all those who would believe in Him. He took the sin, the penalty of their sin, on Himself on the cross. Hell is what a sinner deserves, what I deserve, what you deserve. For those who trust in Christ, He suffered that for them on the cross totally so that there’s nothing left. There’s no amount of time in hell that we could spend that would finish the punishment, but an infinite God could finish the punishment and He could finish it for all His people once and for all, and that’s what He did. Jesus did that for His people on the cross. He died, was buried, and He rose again because he’s God and He has power over death. He’s the life giver. He appeared to His disciples and then rose again to heaven, where He waits to come back.

And His message is the message that has been passed down from Him to His apostles to us, is repent and believe and you will be saved. Turn from yourself, turn from your sin, turn from your vain way. Dear God, trust in Jesus to be your Righteousness, the one to make you right with God, Him and Him alone, and follow after Him as His disciple. Those who do that know, according to 1 John, that they have eternal life. That is a wonderful message. That is a wonderful celebration to embrace. But you have a limited time to embrace it. As with all these other things I’ve just mentioned, these good things like getting married or enjoying food, consider you don’t know how much time you have left. Death and God’s judgment are coming soon. What are you waiting for? What are you waiting for to make the most out of your life and what are you waiting for to get right with God?

Don’t be foolish. Don’t act insane. This is reality. Don’t wait to act until too late. It’s a good day to be alive. Take advantage. Start making the most of your vaporous life. As you do so, always remembering the fear of the Lord, the wisdom of the Lord, and the judgment of the Lord.

That’ll be a good place to end, but I got to throw in two quick clarifications. I don’t want you to misunderstand what we’ve heard today. Remember that this teaching is all about making the most of what you have, not grasping after that which you don’t have so you can make the most out of that. If you’re not rich, if you’re not married, or if you don’t have a great job, you know what God’s wisdom would say? Don’t worry about it. God has ordained for you few different gifts in His own wisdom for now. No good thing in life is essential. And most good things often bring with them their own troubles and their temptations. If you’re able to change your life circumstances in a positive way for you, gain wealth, get married, get a better job – great. Take advantage of that. But if not, don’t sweat it. The instruction here about embracing your portion is embracing whatever portion you have. That’s the key to pleasing God and that’s the key to enjoying life. That’s one of clarification.

Another is that this teaching is not really in contradiction to other Scriptures that are just to sacrifice, endure suffering now and wait for a good reward that is to come. This is not in contradiction to that. Rather, it complements it. Solomon does not ignore the fact that suffering and toil are part of life. There’s not instant gratification for everything. That’s a lot of things that there’s no instant gratification. Solomon doesn’t ignore this truth. He doesn’t ignore also that for many good things, the righteousness must simply wait. I brought up that Scripture before from Hebrews 13:14,

For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.

That’s all true. Solomon wants us, God wants us, because remember, He’s speaking through Solomon. God wants to make sure that we don’t go too far to the other side. There are some good things that God has given to us now that help us endure our often frustrating and sometimes very difficult earthly sojourns. He even said it. This is your portion amid the toil in which you toil. So we shouldn’t miss those good things out of some misplaced ascetic piety. No no, I shouldn’t enjoy that good thing because it’s more holy if I wait for what’s to come. Actually, not only do God’s good things comfort us now, but enjoying them is part of pleasing God and even laying up treasure for eternity. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this. I don’t have time to fully develop it, and I can only just mention it at the end. Not every choice in the Christian life is a choice between enjoyment now and enjoyment later. For some things, it’s actually both. You not only please God when you give up comfort and joyfully suffer for His sake. That’s a lot of the Christian life. But you also please God when you reverently enjoy the comforting gifts that God gives you. When you enjoy good, that is accruing for yourself eternal reward.

So, let’s take advantage. It is a good day to be alive. Let’s not waste it. Lord, I thank You for this word. Give us wisdom as we apply it. You are a good God, not only giving us this instruction, but giving us so many good things. These are good for now. But Lord, we do look forward to an even greater good with You in the future. In Jesus name. Amen.