In this sermon, Pastor Dave Capoccia examines Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 and Solomon’s teaching there about making the most of life amid risk. As Pastor Dave explains, Solomon gives three fundamental exhortations toward bold action so that you will not miss out on God’s good in life:
1. Take Wise Risks (vv. 1-2)
2. Beware Over Analysis (vv. 3-5)
3. Work Hard and Hopefully (v. 6)
Today we approach another biblical passage that is extremely relevant for our day. And that is because our passage is all about risk. These days, risk and its related topic safety are on the minds of probably most people in the world because of the prevalent coronavirus. We ask ourselves whether it is safe to gather, to do activities with others, even be in church. We assess the risk of getting the covid vaccine or of not getting the covid vaccine and getting sick. We even judge whether it is safe to listen to various government health and news sources. And this concern with risks and safety is not necessarily evil. It is natural, even wise to a certain extent, to be concerned about the preservation of our lives and the well-being of our loved ones. The Bible, after all, does feature many prayers related to physical protection and deliverance. Yet, there is another side to this story, and a side that we can forget in our myopic view of our own times and our own lives.
I want to read to you an excerpt from a letter written by a man named Adoniram Judson. Adoniram Judson lived in the early 1800s. He was one of the first American missionaries to travel overseas. Before leaving America to go to India and then ultimately to Burma, modern Myanmar, Judson wrote a letter to a certain John Hasseltine asking for permission to court and ultimately marry John’s daughter Ann. Listen to part of what Judson wrote,
I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world? Whether you can consent to her departure and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of wants and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death?
We’ll just pause there for a moment. What an unusual and even outrageous letter. What sane person would ever consent to join in such a venture, much less send his precious daughter? But listen as Judson goes on.
Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and die for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?
Can you hear the essence of Judson’s appeal? That enduring all this risk and danger is worth it for the glory of God, for worship of the Savior, for the possibility of seeing distant souls, fellow human beings saved. And lest someone think that Judson was being a little overly dramatic, that God would surely protect such a zealous persons from difficulty and danger. Come on, it won’t be that bad. Let me tell you what actually happened next. After receiving this letter, John Hasseltine decided to leave the decision up to his daughter. And Ann consented. She soon married Adoniram and the two of them were in Burma about 2 years later. After arrival, it took the Judsons three years to learn the Burmese language. And it was only six years into their ministry, six years of hard ministry, that they saw their first convert to Christ. When war broke out between Britain and Burma 11 years since their ministry, Adoniram was imprisoned as a presumed british spy, and he endured 17 months of misery, torture, and life in squalid conditions. Meanwhile, Ann, who had miscarried in route to Burma, she lost another child during infancy. When her husband was in prison, she was left alone to nurse their third child, while at the same time tirelessly advocating for her husband’s release, also seeking to aid her husband and the other prisoners while they suffered. When the war ended, Adoniram was released as one of the few prisoners who had survived. But the difficult months had taken a toll on his wife. Six months after his release, she died of smallpox. And their third and last child died soon after.
Was it worth it? Was all this toil, suffering, sickness, heartbreak, was it worth it? Of course it was. Of course it was. The Bible would say the Judsons were spending their lives well amid the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death. And not only was the Lord pleased by their obedient worship and service to Him and others, but He also chose in His grace to bless their work and to use it to save many souls. When the Judsons arrived in Burma, Adoniram’s goal before he died was to translate the Bible into Burmese and found a church of just 100 members. That would be enough. But when Adoniram did died in 1850, aged 61 after 37 years of missionary service in Burma, not only had Adoniram completed and published a Burmese Bible translation, but there were one hundred churches and more than 8,000 believers in Burma. In fact in 1993, the head of the Myanmar Evangelical Fellowship stated, “Today there are six million Christians in Myanmar, and everyone of us trace our spiritual heritage to one man – the Reverend Adoniram Judson.” Of course, his wife deserves much credit too.
Now does all this not give a different perspective compared to the ones we’re used to hearing or even feeling ourselves? We should ask ourselves this morning – how much do I value safety? How willing am I to take risks? Not just with health, but also with money, jobs, relationships, reputation. I think we all feel the overwhelming temptation in our lives, many areas of our lives, to just play it safe. Hang on tightly to your resources. Don’t risk your life or health at all. Don’t risk offending anyone with uncomfortable truths. But we need to remember two realities presented clearly in the Bible and even the book of Ecclesiastes. First, you can never make yourself completely safe. There is risk in inaction, just as there is in action. And second, if you refuse to take risks, you actually will miss out on so much good in life. Yes, without risks, the Bible says you will miss out on joy and prosperity. And most importantly, you will miss out on participating in the eternally significant glorious and soul satisfying work of God in the world. You only have one life. Will you risk wasting it for the sake of illusory safety? Now this is not a call to recklessness, naivetÃ©, or even the doffing of common sense precautions. But the call we have from Scripture is a call to fundamental courage, vivacity, and proper stewardship of life. What are the right and wise kinds of risks to take in life, and why should you take them? That’s what Solomon is going to teach us in our next passage in Ecclesiastes.
Please take your Bibles, open to Ecclesiastes chapter 11, for we have a short passage today. Ecclesiastes 11:1-6. We’re coming near to the end of this great book of wisdom from king Solomon. Recall in Ecclesiastes chapters 1-6, Solomon exposed for us the world’s fundamental frustrations and vapor-like nature. That uncertainty and injustice, they make a living for this world and its treasures a fundamentally foolish and miserable way to live. There is no knowledge that will unlock this world to give us full satisfaction and security. Yet, Solomon stress to us, for those who fear God and take Him as their treasure rather than the things of the world, they can embrace life for what it is, not looking for too much from it but rejoicing in the good that God provides in the midst of it. Ecclesiastes chapter 7, Solomon began to clarify how wisdom will not able to fix life’s fundamental frustrations, nevertheless is the best equipment for facing and enjoying life. You must seek wisdom. You must seek and know God’s wisdom.
Starting in Ecclesiastes 9, Solomon began to exhort us to seize the day and make the most of our lives. I told you that in these final chapters of Ecclesiastes, the overwhelming question is – what are you waiting for? Life is uncertain. Death is certain. Thus, use your days from God well while you still have them. Don’t go through life without life rescuing wisdom, and beware the life-destroying nature of folly. But make sure you actually go, act, do something. Use your stuff. Work hard, enjoy life. What are you waiting for? As we come now to the beginning of Ecclesiastes 11, Solomon prods again with that same fundamental question – what are you waiting for? But this time, he brings our attention to the problem of risk and our natural desire to avoid it. Let’s hear the wisdom of God as spoken through Solomon in Ecclesiastes 11:1-6. It says,
Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days. Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth. If the clouds are full, they pour out rain upon the earth; and whether a tree falls toward the south or toward the north, wherever the tree falls, there it lies. He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap. Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things. Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good.
In the face of the vapor-like nature of life, each of us could be easily drawn into a kind of scared stupor. We’re so afraid of making the wrong moves that we make no moves at all. Or we become so pessimistic about improving our circumstances that we don’t even bother to try. But these are the exact opposite. These sentiments are the exact opposite of the wisdom of Solomon and the wisdom of God. You have got to make moves in your life because your life is moving, whether you like it or not. And you might be surprised at how often you will find success when you simply try, when you simply try with wisdom. And that’s the reason for the title of the sermon today. The title is try, you just might succeed. Here’s the main idea of our passage. In Ecclesiastes 11:1-6, Solomon gives three fundamental exhortations toward bold action so that you will not miss out on God’s good in life. Three fundamental exhortations to bold actions so that you will not miss out on God’s good in life. The first exhortation appears in verses 1 to 2 of our passage. Number one – take wise risks. Take wise risks. Look at verse one again,
Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.
This is a very famous saying from Ecclesiastes regarding risk and reward. Even though it’s famous, the words actually seem to make little logical sense. Why on earth would I throw my bread into the water? Even if I did find it after many days, I don’t think I’d want it anymore. It may be that this is simply an idiom or saying that made sense to the ancient Hebrews because there was something understood or implied that has been lost to us over the centuries. For example, in English, we have the phrase break a leg. The saying is equivalent to saying good luck to somebody who’s about to do a performance. But to someone unfamiliar with the phrase, it sounds awfully cruel and nonsensical. Why on earth would you wish for him to break his leg? It could be something similar going on in the verse here. Still the overall sense comes through. Solomon is exhorting us, even commanding us, to take surprising and even risk-laden action because such action will prove profitable in the end.
If there is a way that this phrase could make sense to us now, most commentators agree that Solomon is probably referring to overseas trade. The word translated cast here more literally means to stretch out, to send, to let go of. And the Hebrew word for bread could refer to literal bread or more generally to food or life’s necessities. So, we could understand this beginning phrase to mean let go of, send out your life provisions on or over the surface of the waters. Now is that an action that carries risk? Of course it does. You never know what might happen on the waters at sea. And the Hebrews are not a particularly skillful seafaring people. There are pirates out there, storms, shipwrecks. And getting away or trading away your food, life’s necessities, but what if you run out? To trade it away and you run out back home. It’s not like I can just go to the supermarket. Food wasn’t abundant back then as it was today. Don’t you think it’d be safer to just hang on to all those goods, horde it up, because you never know what might happen?
What has Solomon already shown us in Ecclesiastes? Just to show you again, Ecclesiastes 5:13 and 14, this was in a section where he was talking about wealth and goods. Solomon told us,
There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt. When those riches were lost through a bad investment and he had fathered a son, then there was nothing to support him.
Hanging onto, refusing to use, giveaway, or invest your goods is not truly safe. You can still lose it all in a moment, even if you’re hoarding it up. Pests can get in there. There could be a natural disaster. War might consume it, or you might simply misplace it. You might make a mistake. But think of all the benefit that could come to you and others if you use your stuff, even sending it over the water. You can make a great profit and secure distant valuable goods for yourself and for your household. Solomon did this when he sent wheat, barley, oil, and wine to Hiram of Tyre. He received timber and skilled workmen, and these were important for building the temple. By sending your goods over the water, you could also supply food to those who desperately need it, and thereby secure for yourself grateful and loyal friends who can help you when you are in need. And of course, you could also, by letting go of your stuff, secure praise and glory to God, eternal treasure, and everlasting friends as you give away your things for the gospel and the needs of far away brethren. Isn’t this what Paul was trying to do in the New Testament when he took up a collection for the saints who were suffering in Jerusalem?
Solomon is telling us here to not be afraid to let go of our precious things, even our life, even our health. You can and should take some risks with the treasures of this life because chances are by doing so, you will accomplish great good for yourself and for others. You will find it after many days, Solomon says, which is an interesting assertion. It may take a while. Many days, he says, and overseas trade after all with not exactly quick back then. You may not see the fruit of your investment or charity for a long time. But eventually, Solomon says, you will. The ships will come back and your given away bread will return to you with much more.
It’s interesting that there’s such a positive guarantee here. Not you might find it after many days. You could find it, but you will find. Now Solomon of course is not ignorant of life’s sudden calamities. He’s already told us about those things. There is no true guarantee that your investments will succeed and come back. So you shouldn’t be naive or reckless. But I think Solomon speaks so assuredly to us here because he wants us to see that the risks maybe are not as great as we suspect. It’s true, ships do sink. But most of the time, they come back. Sometimes you lose your investment. Sometimes your charity is wasted. But most of the time, that’s not what happens. Typically, you send your bread away, it comes back. So don’t be afraid. Don’t be foolish, but don’t be afraid to let go of and send out your precious goods.
Verse two continues this same idea while stressing wisdom’s necessary part in risk-taking. Look at verse 2,
Divide your portion to seven or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth.
This is your classic verse for the wisdom of diversifying your financial portfolio. Every commentator I read cited the same English proverb related to this verse – do not put all of your eggs in one basket. This is common sense wisdom, and most of us readily see that. But do you see the risk that comes with heeding this wise command from Solomon? There’s risk in it. Divide your portion, Solomon says. Or we could translate it – give your share of treasure. What? My portion, my treasure – that is precious to me. As long as it’s in front of me, I can watch it. I can count it. I can keep it. I can guard it. You want me to give it away? You want me to let go of it? You want me to let it get out of my sight? Yes, Solomon says. And don’t just give it away to one place or two places, but actually seven or eight. Now those numbers aren’t to be interpreted too literally. They simply represent a lot and more than you might expect. Hebrew sometimes like to use an X, X plus one saying to express super completeness and overabundance. You might be familiar with one of their proverbs that says, there are six things which the Lord hates, yes seven which are an abomination to him. The idea is six would have been enough, but 7 is more than enough. Similar idea here. Dividing your treasure seven ways, that might be sufficient, but eight is even better.
Wait a second, why do you want me to give away my treasures, my goods in so many directions? Because, Solomon says, you do not know what misfortune, literally evil, will be on the earth. You can perfectly foretell the future. You can’t forestall all calamity. It’s actually riskier for you to hoard your treasure or put all your hope in just one avenue of good than for you to send out your portion in multiple directions, many directions. If one or a few fail, the others may still succeed. Expect that there will be reversals, betrayals, tragedies, and distribute your treasure accordingly.
Now brethren, there are so many relevant applications of this one truth. If you’re sending out bread in ships, have multiple ships, so if one goes down or is delayed, that’s not the end of you and your business. If you’re investing in the stock market, invest in multiple stocks, even an index fund. Have many people serving and working in the church. Don’t just have one indispensable man. What if something happens to him? Get news and teaching and counsel from multiple sources. Don’t risk just one. Don’t just apply to one school or one job. Give yourself options. You don’t know how things are going to turn out. Everyone must take risks in life. The question is whether you will take wise ones. The one who hoards and refuses to let his treasures leave his sight takes the wrong risk. Because not only can his treasures still be lost in a moment, but he risks wasting his life, wasting his treasures, wasting his goods. Brethren, we must not let that be true of us. It’s what is God’s telling us this morning. Let us fear God and take bold action for the sake of good. Let us take wise risks.
Now that’s the first exhortation. Solomon’s second exhortation appears in verses 3 to 5. Not only must we take wise risks, but we must also number two – beware over-analysis. Beware over-analysis. Let’s just read verse 3,
If the clouds are full, they pour out rain upon the earth; and whether a tree fall toward the south or toward the north, wherever the tree falls, there it lies.
Now here’s another saying from Solomon that is puzzling at first glance, not because the meaning is hard to determine, but because the meaning seems so obvious. Of course full clouds will eventually rain. Of course the fallen tree remains where it is. Why are you telling me this? I think the obviousness is actually the point. In verses 3 to 5, Solomon is drawing our attention to what we can know and what we cannot know. There’s no point, Solomon tells us, in constantly studying, dwelling on, worrying about unknowable matters, ultimately unknowable matters. We should focus on what we know and act accordingly on what we can know. Consider the clouds in verse 3. Can any of us know for certain when, where, or how it might rain? Yes, we have advanced meteorological technology today that predicts the weather, but how often are the weathermen wrong and both major ways and minor ways? They said it would rain today, but it didn’t. Or they said the storm would start at 5 PM, but it actually started at 7 PM. Happens all the time. And our personal judgment and analysis is not much better. How many times have you looked up and you said, oh surely it’s about to rain, but then the whole day goes by and it never rained. How many other times you look up the sky and you said, I think I’m okay. I think the rain is done. You go out and you get caught in a rainstorm.
Our knowledge about rain is fundamentally limited. We know that full clouds mean rain. But when exactly, where exactly, how exactly? We can’t say for sure. Rain is ultimately beyond our control and understanding. It’s the same with fallen trees. We all know that tree can fall down. We even chop down certain trees and make them fall into place in the direction that we want. Sometimes trees fall down without our help, or even our expectation. A sick tree with shriveled roots suddenly keels over, or a windstorm causes one tree to fall but another tree is totally fine. Now we might be able to analyze wind direction and tree health and predict which trees are more likely to fall over, but there are so many unknown factors and so many trees in the world that we cannot say for sure when, where, or how a tree might fall. But we do know the basics. A tree sometimes falls. Now wherever it falls, that’s where you going to find it. Once it falls, it’s not like it’s going anywhere.
What’s Solomon’s point? Don’t get caught up in over-analysis. Don’t think that you can predict perfectly when it will rain or which trees will fall and where were they fall. Take basic precautions against rain and falling trees. But make sure you actually act and not simply wait around and speculate. This exhortation is given to us even more forcefully in verse four. Look there,
He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap.
Verse four represents exactly what Solomon does not want to see happen in our lives – paralysis by analysis. The first line here, Solomon pictures a man who keeps checking the winds and signs related to the wind before he goes out to sow and scatter seed. He’s afraid that he goes out to scatter seed on his farm when it’s particularly windy, that the seed will all get blown away or land in all the wrong spots, and he probably just have to do the whole thing all over again. So he’s watching the wind. In the second line, Solomon pictures a man constantly looking at the clouds, checking to see if it will rain. He’s anticipating harvesting and gathering in his crops, but he knows it will become more difficult if done in the rain, so he’s watching the clouds.
Now you might think that this kind of analysis is good and prudent. But noticed Solomon’s observation about these two men. He says they’re never actually going to sow the seed or reap the crops. Their constant checking and analyzing approach is actually foolish and a huge waste. They only make their lives harder, and they risk destitution and starvation themselves. These men won’t act. And why? Because they’re afraid. They’re afraid of wasted effort, disappointment, difficulty. They are looking for the perfect sure success, risk-free situations before they act. I’m not sure. Checking the wind. I don’t know. Look at those clouds. Got to make sure it’s ready, it’s perfect, it’s secure, it’s safe before I go. Solomon says, you know what, that situation you’re looking for is never going to arrive. Your ideal situation only exists in your imagination. There’s never a time where you’ll have complete knowledge or surety for action. You won’t find a perfect situation. So stop waiting around for this ideal, and just act according to the needs and opportunities you have. You’re going to have to face some risk. You might end up having to sow the whole field again if the wind unexpectedly picks up. That’s okay. You can deal with that. You might end up harvesting in the rain if the clouds that are threatening it suddenly poured out. You can get through that. Enduring these risks, as difficult and annoying and problematic as they are, is much better than the risk of never sewing or reaping at all. If you just try to sow and try to reap, chances are even through difficulty you’ll succeed. But the sure way not to succeed is to wait for the perfect situation and never try it all. If you wait vainly for perfection, you are sure to fail.
Here again is a teaching with so many valuble applications to life. Stop waiting for the perfect job, the perfect church, the perfect spouse. They don’t exist. Stop waiting for the perfect time to buy a home, perfect time to serve the church, perfect time to have kids, perfect time to give the gospel to a family member. That perfect, risk-free, sure success time is never going to arrive, which means if you waiting for it, you’re never going to act. Now while you keep waiting for and looking for the perfect, you miss out on all the good. In the end, just do what you need to do, even if the circumstances are not ideal. I think about Paul’s charge to Timothy in the New Testament. What did he say? Preach the word, in season and out of season. When it’s an ideal time, a good time, and when it’s not ideal, you still got a job to do.
Now this counsel from Solomon is humbling and it continues to be so in verse five. Look there now,
Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.
Now your Bible translation, if you’re not using the New American Standard, may be a little different because there’s some question in the original Hebrew text as to whether Solomon is giving one comparison or two. The word for wind in Hebrew is the same word translated spirit. So some Bible translations understand Solomon saying, as the ESV has it, as you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child. So just one comparison. I think the New American standard reading is more likely, but either way the overall message is the same. Solomon’s reminding us here once again that our limitations in knowledge and power are real. Therefore, we need to trust, ultimately we need to trust and rely on God. We can know certain facts about the wind and about pregnancy. We also see the beautiful or tragic outcomes of wind and pregnancy in the world. But there are fundamental mysteries to these realities that we’re just not going to know, that we’re never going to know. Even though we are modern very scientifically advanced Americans, there’s still mysteries to pregnancy, and mysteries about the wind. These are just two examples. Solomon is drawing our attention to our lack of knowledge and power to again emphasize the difference between us and God. God knows all things. He is actively working all things according to his good and mysterious purpose. But if we tried to become like God and obtain God-like understanding of situations before we act, we are doomed to fail. Because we are not God. We’ll never obtain that God-like understanding. We are clay in the hands of the Potter. We can’t understand all that He does.
So though it is good for us to gain basic wisdom and act with wisdom in the world, there will always be some risk. There always be some needs to rely on God amid danger and uncertainty. But this, you know what, is actually God’s design. Remember what Ecclesiastes 3 said? God has so worked. He’s made these situations where we are fundamentally confronted with our limitations for what reason? So that we might fear Him. So that we might revere Him as is proper for us and helpful for us. So we must not run away from this reality, but we must instead embrace it. Let’s leave the secret things to God and focus on the things He’s given us to know and to do. We’ll find that if we simply try, we just might succeed in this life and know the Lord’s good.
So Solomon has given us two fundamental exhortations toward bold action. Let’s now look at the third and last in verse 6. One last exhortation towards bold actions so that we do not miss out on God’s good. that is number 3 – work hard and hopefully. Work hard and hopefully. Verse 6,
Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good.
Notice here that Solomon again turns to the farming metaphor, the farming picture that is so familiar to the agricultural society of the Hebrews. Though Solomon’s words do have a direct application to those who farm, they’re really applied to all the endeavors that we must undertake in life. Solomon says, sow your seed in the morning and in the evening. Do not be idle, he says, or more literally, do not cause your hand to rest. Work hard and try out multiple avenues of work, multiple possibilities of success. And why? Because life is uncertain. This sounds a lot like verses 1 and 2, right? Diversify your options as you seek to experience and bring about good. You don’t know whether it’s the morning sowing that will be successful or whether it’s the evening sowing, or maybe even both. You never know which investment is going to turn out big, which business is going to hire you, which ministry is going to have a great impact, which counselee will have a spiritual breakthrough, which person you share the gospel with actually repents and believes. So what should you do? Give a shot to everything you can. Don’t stop working. Don’t stop trying. You never know what good God might accomplish through your hard work, through the work of your hands, the words of your mouth.
Notice how optimistically Solomon ends this third exhortation. Solomon does not say, work hard, try everything, because you never know what might fail. Rather, you don’t know which will succeed, or whether both of them might succeed. Why again this rosy outlook? Again, I don’t think it’s that Solomon has suddenly become ignorant again about the possibility of total and unexpected ruin. After all, he lived in a world frequently devastated by droughts and famines. These are still around us today, but in those times they were even more catastrophic. In time of famine, if you sowed in the morning or the evening, it didn’t really matter. Neither was likely to succeed. Solomon’s not ignorant of that. So why the optimism?
I think there is optimism here and I think it comes from two sources. First, the way that God made the world. As Solomon described in the book of Proverbs many many times, there is a general fact written into the way that God has designed the world. And that is – those who work hard and with wisdom generally succeed. Those who work hard with wisdom generally succeed. Proverbs 10:4,
Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
The plans of the diligently lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.
Now of course life doesn’t always work this way. But if you’re a hard worker trying multiple avenues of success, operating according to wisdom, you can work in the hope that your efforts will bring about good. That’s just generally what happens in the world when you embrace that posture. That’s not the only reason for optimism I’d say. I think the second is just the goodness of God. The goodness of God, because consider, what is one of the most basic promises that God gives His people over and over and over again in the Bible? But if you seek Me, if you obey Me, if you follow after Me with a true heart, then I’ll take care of you. I’ll take care of you. You’ll still see trials, God tells us. You will still encounter difficulties, but I will use these to grow you, to test you, to put My glory on display. But you don’t need to be afraid. You don’t need to worry. You don’t need to become obsessed with safety. Rather work hard, act in wisdom, but trust Me. As you work hard and act in wisdom, trust Me because I will take care of you and I will bring you to good.
Brethren, this is one of the truth to which I cling and to which we all must cling. God will show His people good. He has promised that. We don’t know how or when. We know in the end in His kingdom we will experience good beyond our imaginations. But even now in this life, we can take courage as we work hard and suffer mysterious reversals that God will still accomplish good and show us good again. Think of what David says in Psalm 4:6-8,
Many are saying, “Who will show us any good?”
Where is good? I don’t see any good. When is it going to come? I don’t see any good. Who will show us good?
Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O Yahweh! You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Yahweh, make me to dwell in safety.
You know, in an earthly sense, life is never without risk. It never has a guarantee of good or safety. But in a fuller God-aware sense, for God’s people, life is always safe and good is always guaranteed. In a way, to take a wise risk for the Lord is no risk at all because we know we have been promised that God loves us and will care for us. Even if our faithful and wise obedience to Christ results in death, for the Christian that is no great loss. Remember the words of Paul in Philippians 1:21 and 22,
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me;
My brothers and sisters, isn’t that the perspective that we want? May God give each one of us such a wise, bold, hope-filled perspective. This is the perspective of the apostles. This is the perspective of the great missionary heroes and martyrs of the past. Let me remind you of a few kind of famous things from missionary heroes. Hudson Taylor, great missionary to China, once said – unless there’s an element of risk in our exploits for God, there is no need for faith. William Carey, great missionary to India, said – expect great things from God, attempt great things for God. Jim Elliot, missionary martyr to Ecuador – He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. The great Christian heroes of the past got it. But do we get it? Are we so convinced that that is the right way to steward our lives? Not clinging to something that we ultimately cannot preserve. Life is uncertain, death is certain. How will we steward our lives?
Now I should mention there is one way to make sure that we will not see God’s good now or even ever, and that is to not even try. Perhaps when you listen today, you were reminded how similar this discussion sounds to the parable of the talents. Remember, Jesus told this story, this parable about three slaves who were all charged by their master to make the most of entrusted resources while their master was away. Two of the slaves did so wisely, even amid risk. The text says they doubled their talents of money that were given to them by engaging in trade, by engaging in business. When their Lord returned and assessed their work, he commended them and rewarded them. But then the third slave, who was given one talent, what did he do? He never used it. He played it safe and fearfully buried it in the ground. I think many of us in our fleshly moments, we have felt and acted just like this slave. Survival, not obedience, not ministry, becomes our greatest priority. We never asked ourselves for what use we are surviving. I’m not going to serve the Lord if I’m not going to obey Him. What’s the point of preserving my life? If this is the way that we live, if this is the pattern of our lives, brethren, then we must repent. This is a matter of repentance. And why do I say that? Well listen to Jesus’s assessment of the third slave. Matthew 25:26-30,
You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore, take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Now brethren, that is a sobering word. A wasted, useless, risk-free life, according to Jesus, actually risks the everlasting wrath of God. As Paul says in the Scriptures though, I’m convinced the much better things concerning you, my brothers and sisters here at Calvary. But we need to heed the wisdom of God. The Lord has been so kind to give us this Word in Ecclesiastes 11 today, this word of wisdom. If you want to live life well, if you want to see God’s good both now and forever, then let us heed the Spirit of God and take bold action. Let’s take wise risks. Let us beware over-analysis. And let us work hard and hopefully.
As pastor Babij likes to say, and I agree, it’s an exciting time to be a Christian, yes even now. The world will continue to be crazy. New dangers, risks and persecutions will come. Brothers and sisters, let us be courageous. Our God is with us. Let us try, let us try on the Lord’s behalf, because you never know, you never know what great good God can accomplish through even us.
Let’s pray. Lord, thank You for Your Word that indeed equips us for life. There are so many things, Lord, that are uncertain. There are many risks that we face. We want to act wisely and You called us to do so, but Lord we see from Your Word today that actually acting wisely means taking certain risks. We don’t want to waste our lives, God. We don’t want to waste our lives because they’re passing quickly. We want to use them for Your glory. We want to see Your goodness put on display. We want to experience the joy and goodness that comes from living life well. Lord, help us to do that, to steward these vaporous lives we have, so that at the end of our lives and throughout eternity, we’ll say, I’m glad I didn’t waste it. In Jesus name, amen.