“Risk” – Ecclesiastes 11:1-6

March 9th,  2014

Ecclesiastes 11:1-6


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Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.  — 2 Thessalonians 3:13


Background Information:

  • That the book of Ecclesiastes has been wrongly characterized as a book of despair and gloom ought to be plain enough to anyone who fairly studies Solomon’s concluding words.  He is concerned to see that the reader (especially a youth, who can profit most from his earliest days) makes the most out of life that he can.  He wants the reader to avoid as many pitfalls as possible while entering into all of the good things that God provides.  He wants the believer to find purpose and meaning and joy in a world where nothing really matters to those who do not know Him.  The book was designed to help him discover how to live a life that does matter.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 112-13)
  • The limits of our wisdom are a catalyst to industry not despair.  Verse 6 is the counterpart to verses 1-2: both speak of hedging against the ups and downs of life that we “do not know” about and cannot control.  The sphere of activity in the beginning verses seems to be mercantile investment in export and import overseas; the final verse uses the language of agriculture.  We cannot be certain of the literalness of either.  The points are boldness, diversification, and hard work–a common sense that applies to almost every field of endeavor.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 229)
  • (v. 1) There has been much discussion among commentators about the precise meaning of this advice.  Is it directed at business people, perhaps suggesting that they engage in sea-trade, but using several boats?  Is it exhorting everyone to generosity and almsgiving, assuring them of help in the future when they find themselves in difficulty?  Most likely the advice given here does not have one precise meaning.  Instead, Qohelet is inviting his readers to embrace a certain way of looking at the world.  (Iain Provan, The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 206)
  • (v. 1) There is debate about the meaning of this injunction. In context, it appears to encourage trade and commerce: One should diversify the investment in seven or eight directions (v. 2) in the certainty that eventually one’s investments will come back (v. 1).  Akkadian texts on beer-making, however, have prompted the suggestion that Eccl 11:1 actually refers to brewing practices.  These texts indicate that dates and a type of bread were “thrown” into the “water” during the process of mixing ingredients for beer.  In this interpretation, “you will find it again” (v. 1) would mean that the bread will come back to you as beer, and “give portions to seven” (v. 2) would mean that you should share the beer with others so that in lean times the others will reciprocate.  (John H. Walton, Zondervan Ill. Bible Backgrounds Commentary, Vol 5, 513)
  • (v. 2) Seven or eight” is a Hebrew numerical formula called X, X + 1.  It occurs frequently in Proverbs (chaps. 6, 30) and in the first two chapters of Amos.  Here it is not to be taken literally but means “plenty and more than plenty,” “the widest possible diversification within the guidelines of prudence…”  Seven means “plenty,” and eight means, “Go a bit beyond that.”  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 227)
  • Ours may be the first generation in civilized times that has not raised its young on proverbs.  From the beginnings of recorded history in Egypt and Sumeria, concise sayings which describe the benefit of good conduct or the harm of bad have been used to teach children how to behave.

From the islands of the sea to China, from the Bedouin of the Arabian peninsula to the Eskimos of Alaska, proverbs have been a standard way of summarizing life’s experiences.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 223)

  • Qohelet’s view throughout the book . . . is that life should be embraced for what it is, good and bad, and that people should give up the pursuit of “profit” from their toil, understanding that living life fully is its own reward.  (Iain Provan, The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 206)


The question to be answered is . . . What is Kohelth trying to say here in the first 6 verses of Ecclesiastes 11?


Answer:  You never know what is going to take place in the future.  But you must not allow this to paralyze you.  Do your best.  In life under the sun (without God) . . . you can only wish for the best (following your own agenda) with no assurance that things will work out.  But in life under the Son (with God) you can be assured that God will use everything in your life to ultimately work for our best (Gen 50:20 & Rom 8:28).


Do your best and let God take care of the rest.


The Word for the Day is . . . Risk


We are all faced with great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.  — Chuck Swindoll


At last the Teacher is approaching the climax of his book.  We cannot see God’s whole plan, and there is nothing in this world that we can build on so as to find satisfaction or the key to the meaning of things.  Yet we are to fulfill God’s purpose by accepting our daily lot in life as from him and by thus pleasing him make each day a good day.  But how can we please him when there is so much we cannot understand?  The Teacher has already shown that certain things stand out as right or wrong, and a sensible conscience will see these as an indication of what God desires.  This section gives further wise advice in the light of an uncertain future.  We must use common sense in sensible planning and in eliminating as many of the uncertainties as we can.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1188-89)


If you spend your time trying to outguess God, you’re wasting your time.  Life will never give you a perfect set of circumstances.  You’re going to marry a fallen person.  You’re going to have fallen children. You’re going to get a job with a fallen employer.  And along the way, you’re going to get hurt.  (Tommy Nelson, A Life Well Lived, 177)


What is Kohelth trying to say here in the first 6 verses of Ecclesiastes 11?:

I-  Dividends don’t come without first risky investments .(Eccl 11:1)


Nothing ventured; nothing gained.


If you are in business or in trade, you must be prepared to take risks.  Export or perish!  If you are wise, however, you will spread the risks: you will not put all your eggs in one basket.  You never know when or where bad luck may strike.  It may be that in verse 1 we are dealing with a proverbial saying which is close to our ‘nothing venture nothing win.’  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 79)


Some commentators draw a comparison to an ancient Arabian proverb: “Do a good deed and throw it into the river; when this dries up you shall find it.”  Others remember the words of Jesus:  “Give, and it will be given to you.  Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap” (Lk 6:38).  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 254)


Where did one gain the highest return on one’s money?  In investments overseas: in the rich export and import business of the Mediterranean ports like Tyre and Sidon.  “Bread upon the waters” that you will “find” “after many days” was Ecclesiastes’ way of describing investment in those lucrative mercantile enterprises where fortunes were to be made.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 226-27)


1.  Send out your bread upon the waters.  These words initiate a series of prudential maxims on how to conduct one’s life in the face of the unpredictability of events and their deterministic character that is beyond human control.  The sending out of bread on the waters is surely not advice about overseas investments, as some commentators have imagined, but rather a didactic metaphor.  The proposal of Rashi, ibn Ezra, and other medieval commentators that the reference is to acts of charity is perfectly plausible: perform acts of beneficence, for you never know when you yourself may benefit from having done them.  The idea is then continued in the next verse: be generous to any number of people, for in the course of events you yourself may end up in need and enjoy a reciprocation of support from one of those you have helped.  (Robert Alter, The Wisdom Books, 384)


When you see people in need, though you do not know how they may use your money–it may not be apparent that they will even use it wisely–nevertheless, be generous.  That is what he is saying.  “Cast your bread upon the waters,” take a chance, for in the wisdom and purpose of God it may very well return to you someday when you need help.  (Ray Stedman, Is This All There Is to Life?, 163)


Walter Kaiser explains this text well.  Observe what he says: “‘Be liberal and generous to as many as you can and then some,’ is the way we would say it.  So, make as many friends as you can, for you never know when you yourself may need assistance.  Instead of becoming miserly just because you fear that the future may hold some evil reversal of your fortunes, leaving you in poverty and want, you should all the more distribute to as many as possible so that you can have the blessing of receiving in the event of such reverses (Kaiser, Ecclesiastes: Total Life, 114).  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 111)


It has usually been taken as an invitation to be charitable or generous even when such generosity seems to offer no foreseeable harvest.  Be generous, however: you can never tell, perhaps “after many days”, sometime in the future you will reap a reward.  But this is not an invitation to be generous so that you may reap a reward.  That would be against the spirit of true generosity.  That would be like counting the slices and weighing up whether you ought to give a slice away, rather than casting your bread upon the waters.  You do not look for a reward when you are generous, but often, and sometimes in unexpected ways, a reward comes.  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 78)


Jesus counsels his followers not to store up treasures on earth, where they will eventually be lost, but to think in the long term and invest in heaven (Mt 6:19-21).  He illustrates the folly of hoarding possessions out of self-interest in the parable of the rich fool in Lk 12:16-21, going on to advocate a carefree attitude to life in the context of real faith in God and a generosity toward the poor (12:21-34).  He teaches us not to try to hold on to life but rather to give it away.  (Iain Provan, The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 207)


Jesus is particularly opposed to defensive living, as the parable of the talents reveals (Mt 25:14-30).  The two servants who are entrusted with money and use it to make yet more are commended, but the servant who buries it in the ground it not (vv 24-26).  (Iain Provan, The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 208)


Seneca, a heathen, could say, I possess nothing so completely as that which I have given away.  Whatever I have imparted I still possess; these riches remain with me through all the vicissitudes of life.  “Thou shalt find it, perhaps not quickly, but after many days; the return may be slow, but it is sure and will be so much the more plentiful.  (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1042)


Some will say that what they have is their own and they have it for their own use, and will ask, Why should we cast it thus upon the waters?  Why should I take my bread, and my flesh, and give it to I know not whom?  So Nabal pleaded, 1 Sm 25:11.  (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1043)


II-  Be as diversified as practical for the future risk is unknown. (Eccl 11:2)


Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.


Misfortune and calamity (here as usual in Ecclesiastes called “evil”; see on 2:21) are part of life.  Who knows what crop will fail, what ship will be seized by coastal pirates, what merchant will abscond with the profits?  Spread your investments (“serving” is lit. “lot” or “portion”; see at 2:10) widely–to seven or eight places–so that no one or two tragedies can wipe you out.  That advice was crucial to the path to prosperity.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 227)


The expression “to seven, yes to eight” describes a sort of generosity that isn’t concerned about exact numbers.  We are not to help others simply to build up a record of ourselves.  More important than keeping track of how many people we’ve helped is that our giving be motivated by love.  (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 114)


We have reason to expect evil upon the earth, for we are born to trouble; what the evil may be we know not, but that we may be ready for it, whatever it is, it is our wisdom, in the day of prosperity, to be in good, to be doing good.  Many make use of this as an argument against giving to the poor, because they know not what hard times may come when they may want themselves; whereas we should therefore the rather be charitable, that, when evil days come, we may have the comfort of having done good while we were able; we would then hope to find mercy both with God and man, and therefore should now show mercy.  If by charity we trust God with what we have, we put it into good hands against bad times.  (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1043)


Be like the merchant who uses his capital for trade, including trade across the seas.  But be sensible, and do not gamble everything on one venture.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1189)


III-  Life is subject to a cause and effect inevitability as well as to chance.  Deal with it!  (Eccl 11:3)


3.  If the clouds fill.  The sense of this entire verse is that there is a system of strict causation in the structure of things, though the second sentence puts this in terms that verge on tautology.

if a tree falls.  This image conveys a sense of events occurring with an inevitability that, like trees in the forest, is not controlled by man.  (Robert Alter, The Wisdom Books, 384)


The happenings described in these verses are inevitable and predictable.  Full clouds will give rain, falling trees will lie where they land, and people who spend their time watching the weather will not produce anything of value.  By mentioning such occurrences, Solomon probably has in mind individuals who waste their time and energy observing the obvious, talking about the inevitable, and worrying about both.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 111-12)


The processes of creation go on without your worry, and you could not change them if you tried.  So keep your eye on those processes and get on with your work, Ecclesiastes urged.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 228)


The first picture is a storm with heavy rain and violent wind.  The second seems to be an uprooted tree.  The point is not that the tree could not be moved, but that its fall could not have been anticipated.  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 141)


The trifling discouragements of the winds and the clouds are the appointed trials of faith.  And when does our God honor faith, till he has first tried it?  Or when does he fail to honor it, either in the trial or out of it?  How little should we have known of the power of faith, the privilege of prayer, the preciousness of the promises, the faithfulness and sympathy of the Savior, if difficulties had not shewn to us our weakness, and made the Gospel a Divine reality to our souls!  The victory over the lesser difficulties strengthens us in conflict with the greater.  The triumph will be complete, and the crown glorious.  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 272)


If we stand thus magnifying every little difficulty and making the worst of it, starting objections and fancying hardship and danger where there is none, we shall never go on, much less go through with our work, nor make any thing of it.  If the husbandman should decline, or leave off, sowing for the sake of every flying cloud, and reaping for the sake of every blast of wind, he would make but an ill account of his husbandry at the year’s end.  The duties of religion are as necessary as sowing and reaping, and will turn as much to our own advantage.  The discouragements we meet with in these duties are but as winds and clouds, which will do us no harm, and which those that put on a little courage and resolution will despise and easily break through.  Note, Those that will be deterred and driven off by small and seeming difficulties from great and real duties will never bring any thing to pass in religion, for there will always arise some wind, some cloud or other, at least in our imagination, to discourage us.  Winds and clouds are in God’s hands, are designed to try us, and our Christianity obliges us to endure hardness.  (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1043)


The first rule of time management: Make the time because you’ll never find the time.


IV-  Do your best (work hard, obey God, & diversify) and let God take care of the rest.  (Eccl 11:4-6)


Hedge your bets.


But if a person becomes so cautious that he does nothing–takes no risks–and will not act until all conditions seem favorable, that is as wrong as the failure to use prudence.  It leads to inactivity.  Prudence doesn’t mean inaction; it means carefully calculated action.  If a person doesn’t sow until conditions are perfect, he’ll probably never sow at all.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 111)


4.  The Preacher warns next against procrastination, still using an agricultural illustration: faced with erratic wind and weather, the farmer is not to wait interminably for a more propitious occasion to sow his seed.  “Lack of complete knowledge is no excuse for inactivity” (Jones).  The life of joy will not come to the waverer.  His life will be a total failure.  (Plant…reap indicates totality.)  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 142)


Cover all your bases.


How much better it is to be pursuing life rather than watching it pass by, to be working on the things that we can change rather than worrying about those things that we cannot alter in the least!  Solomon is exhorting us to get down from the spectators’ stands and run onto the playing field.  We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking his advice.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 112)


Let God take care of his mysteries and you take care of your work, was the Preacher’s conclusion.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 229)


If we are going to wait until we are absolutely sure as to what God wants us to do and exactly when he wants us to do it, we are going to wait for a long time.  That is no excuse for sitting around doing nothing now.  Do not be like that farmer waiting for the wind to change.  Get out and sow your seed in the morning and in the evening (v. 6).  In other words, get cracking, redouble your efforts:  you cannot guarantee results, but you increase your chances if you are diligent and make the most of the chances that come your way.  There is nothing more sad than looking back on life and seeing it as a series of missed opportunities and thinking, “If only I had done that.”  Do what you have to do, do what you can do–now.  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 80)


We don’t choose the country or the family into which we are born.  We don’t decide the age to which we shall live–not unless we commit suicide.  We can’t change the color of our skin or our IQ.  We can’t stop the clock or prevent the years from swiftly passing.  Such things are not ours to choose.

But there are other things which we can and must do.  There are decisions which are ours to take day by day.  Too often we look for excuses to put off until tomorrow what we know we ought to do today, and more often than not we find them.  Thus we are like the farmer, says Koheleth, who looks out and decides that the wind is not in the right direction for sowing that field, or who sees a cloud in the sky and decides that the weather is not settled enough for him to bring in the harvest.  So we put off and put off, until sometimes it is too late.  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 79-80)


Certain aspects of God’s working on earth defy explanation.  The mystery which shrouds our very origin underlies the whole of reality  (cf. Isa 44:24ff.).  In its context this verse drives the reader to a sense of need and warns against an unwarranted optimism in life.  The life of faith does not remove the problem of our ignorance; rather, it enables us to live with it.  Faith flourishes in the mystery of providence; it does not abolish it.  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 143)


6.  The Preacher draws his conclusion.  If we are never sure which endeavors will prove fruitful, the right approach to life is to give ourselves to the responsibilities at hand, and await the course of events.  The life of faith which leads to joy and contentment does not give infallible knowledge of the future.  The Preacher has a doctrine of providence, but it is not a ‘calm and tensionless constant’ (Berkouwer, The Providence of God, 15).  Negatively the Preacher has forestalled alarm by warning of our ignorance and difficulties; now positively he encourages unremitting diligence.  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 143)


If, then, we cannot know him in his ordinary works of nature–in his works near at home–much less can we know the works of God, who maketh all.  Truly he “doeth great things and unsearchable; marvelous things without numbers” (Job 5:9).  “Our wisdom is but as a drop in the bucket–yea, but a drop in the ocean.  Can our drop compare with his ocean?  A bucket shall as soon take in the ocean, as man the wisdom of God.”

And ought not this sense of ignorance to furnish a convincing reply to many things that are called objections to Revelation?  When tempted to pry–“on such subjects”–said a serious thinker–“I have no confidence in reason.  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 273-74)


The purpose of the sovereignty of God is not to cause you to lean on a shovel, praying for a hole.  You know what I’m saying?  You have to venture out boldly and let the sovereignty of God be your comfort, not your excuse.  (Tommy Nelson, A Life Well Lived, 179-80)


Life begins in mystery with the baby’s conception and prenatal growth and continues with the mystery of the working of God’s total plan.  Few parents understand precisely how a baby is formed, but most follow the rules of common sense for the welfare of the mother and the unborn child.  This is exactly the application that the Teacher makes here to the plan of God.  Indeed, it illustrates the whole theme of the book.  We cannot understand all the ways God works to fulfill his plan, but we can follow God’s rules for daily living and thus help bring God’s purpose to birth.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1189)


Because the future is unknown, we must accept calculated risks and believe that though some of our ventures may fail, a sufficient number of them will succeed.  The Teacher has been drawing his illustrations from trade and agriculture, and some of us may find difficulty in applying it to our situation today.  It would be wrong, however, to spiritualize the verses.  They are intended to be practical.  One thinks of making an unwise investment in a single project that promises large profits or of the restlessness that risks the family’s welfare by moving to some distant field that looks greener or of the indecision that loses an opportunity because of timidity.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1189)


4-5.  Man cannot have absolute assurance of safety and success before he begins to act.  Besides, man’s knowledge of the works of creation–e.g., the growth of the embryo in the womb–is small and insignificant.  The original text probably read, “And you do not know the way of the spirit in the womb…” (Galling).  The Hebrew word rendered “as-the-bones” appears to be an explanatory gloss.  The thought evidently is that although man has not the knowledge of the mystery of life, yet he does not on that account refrain from the act of procreation.  (Abingdon Press, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. V, 82)


It is crucial to know that risk is not all that is involved.  God must be taken into consideration.  How He will act in the business enterprise (or whatever the matter in question may be) is the most important factor.  While God uses means (including human prudence), He also controls them.  And this makes all the difference.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 111-12)


Because God’s plans are hidden, we do not know what will happen.  We trust Him, we love Him, and we obey Him; but we do not know His timetables.  He may call us home at any instant–or He may send us on some new earthly mission.  God moves in mysterious ways, and that invites uncertainty into the world.  (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 281)


What these same readers should not do is described in verse 4.  They should not try to “beat the system,” attempting to find some patterns in the complex combination of predictable and unpredictable events that will enable them to manipulate reality to their own ends and profit.  (Iain Provan, The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 206)


We cannot describe the manner either of the formation of the body or of its information with a soul; both, we know, are the work of God, and we acquiesce in his work, but cannot, in either, trace the process of the operation.  We doubt not of the birth of the child that is conceived, though we know not how it is formed; nor need we doubt of the performance of the promise, though we perceive not how things work towards it.  (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1044)


The implication is that he is trying to guess when he can safely cast his seed or harvest his grain.  Although there is “a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted” (Eccl 3:2), apparently this man is not sure what time it is!  Back in chapter 10, the Preacher introduced us to a foolish homeowner who was too lazy to fix his roof (v. 18).  The farmer in chapter 11 also refuses to work, but he is a different king of fool.  He keeps watching and waiting, but never sowing or reaping.  Why not?  Because rather than getting on with his work, he keeps hoping for better conditions.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 257)


CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: How does a relationship with Christ give freedom and hope to Koheleth’s message?:

A-  Trusting in Christ frees us up from the bondage of trying to insure that our efforts guarantee a bright future for ourselves and our family.  Every good and perfect gift comes from God Who provides us with everything we need. (Dt 8:18; 15:4-6; 1 Sam 2:6-9; 1 Chr 29:11-14; Job 12:23; 33:14-30; 37:6-24; Ps 33:12; 34:9-10; 104:10-30; 146:7-9; Mal 3:10-12; Mt 5:45; Acts 14:17; 2 Cor 9:8-10; Phil 4:6-19; 1 Tm 6:17; Jas 1:17).


The faithful response to divine generosity is generous and exuberant living, in the awareness that Jesus came to give us life “to the full” (Jn 10:10)–an eternal life that begins in the present (Jn 5:24).  Enjoying this life before and with God, we see everything else from this perspective, behaving as the wise rather than the foolish.  (Iain Provan, The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 208)


Every man is to consider himself as a particular object of God’s providence, under the same care and protection of God as if the world had been made for him alone.  It is not by chance that any man is born at such a time, of such parents, and in such place and condition…Every soul comes into the body at such a time and in such circumstances by the express designment of God, according to some purposes of His will and for some particular ends.  (William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, p. 322)


In our day work is viewed in various ways: necessary evil, source of self-actualization, a way to contribute to the economy, or means to becoming wealthy.  But the work we’ve been given to do is greater than the job at which we work.  We must work at our marriages, raising our children, caring for our property, participating in the political life of our community, serving in our local church, investing for the future, nurturing friendships, and more.  If we invest all our best energies in our job, then other crucial areas entrusted to us will not be as fruitful as God intends.  The wise person will accept all the work God has given him to do with gratitude, and labor at it continuously, seeking the good that comes to all from his labors.  (T.M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, July 21, 2011)


God relishes surprise.  We want lives of simple, predictable ease, – smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see, – but God likes to go off-road. He provokes us with twists and turns.  He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension – and yet don’t.   By His love and grace, we persevere.  The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise. (Tony Snow, President Bush’s Press Secretary, during his fight with cancer.)


Generally speaking, one day of adversity can be of more profit to us for our eternal salvation than years of untroubled living, whatever good use we make of the time. (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 114)


Our circumstances are the things of life which stand around us—the details, the events that make up life.   God has so ordered our being that every event, yes, every detail, can be a circumstance that may be used to bring us closer to Him, if we are willing to stand on the circumstances, instead of getting under them. (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Remedy,  343)


It is strange that, while praying, we seldom ask for change of character, but always a change in circumstance.  (Baptist Challenge, December 1981).


* God cooperates with natural and secondary causes to employ fit means to good ends through orderly and intelligible processes of natural causes (Prv 8:29-31; Westminster Conf. V.2, CC p. 200); and

* God guides and governs all events and circumstances, even free, self-determining agents, overruling the regrettable consequences of freedom and directing everything toward its appropriate end for the glory of God (Eph 1:9-12).(Thomas C. Oden; The Living God, 270)


The divine preservation of the cosmos is a free act of God.  As God was free to create or not to create all things, so is God free to continue or not continue all things in being.  Yet God continues by grace to uphold all things by the word of his power.  (Thomas C. Oden; The Living God, 280)


A psychologist named William Moulton Marston asked three thousand individuals, “What have you to live for?”  The answers shocked him.  He found that 94% were not living at all; they were simply enduring the present while waiting for something in the future.  They were waiting for something to happen–waiting for children to grow up and leave home, waiting for next year when things would be better, or at least different, waiting for the chance to take a trip, waiting for tomorrow.  Waiting…waiting.  For them, life had deteriorated to a cycle with little meaning in and of itself.  (Jemes S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited, 291-92)


I said that every Discipline has its corresponding freedom.  What freedom corresponds to submission?  It is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way.  The obsession to demand that things go the way we want them to go is one of the greatest bondages in human society today.  People will spend weeks, months, even years in a perpetual stew because some little thing did not go as they wished.  (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 111)


St. Gregory sets the same truth before us in another light.  A doctor, he says, orders leeches to be applied.  While these small creatures are drawing blood from the patient their only aim is to gorge themselves and suck up as much of it as they can.  The doctor’s only intention is to have the impure blood drawn from the patient and to cure him in this manner.  There is therefore no relation between the insatiable greed of the leeches and the intelligent purpose of the doctor in using them.  The patient himself does not protest at their use.  He does not regard the leeches as evildoers.  Rather he tries to overcome the repugnance the sight of their ugliness causes and help them in their action, in the knowledge that the doctor has judged it useful for his health.

God makes use of men as the doctor does of leeches.  Neither should we then stop to consider the evilness of those to whom God gives power to act on us or be grieved at their wicked intentions, and we should keep ourselves from feelings of aversion toward them.  Whatever their particular views may be, in regard to us they are only instruments of well-being, guided by the hand of an all-good, all-wise, all-powerful God who will allow them to act on us only in so far as is of use to us.  It is in our interest to welcome instead of trying to repel their assaults, as in very truth they come from God.  And it is the same with all creatures of whatever kind.  Not one of them could act upon us unless the power were given it from above. (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 22-23)


Do not let ourselves be troubled when we are sometimes beset by adversity, for we know that it is meant for our spiritual welfare and carefully proportioned to our needs, and that a limit has been set to it by the wisdom of the same God who has set a bound to the ocean.  Sometimes it might seem as if the sea in its fury would overflow and flood the land, but it respects the limits of its shore and its waves break upon the yielding sand.  There is no tribulation or temptation whose limits God has not appointed so as to serve not for our destruction but for our salvation.  God is faithful says the Apostle, and will not permit you to be tempted (or afflicted) beyond your strength, but it is necessary for you to be so, since through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God in the steps of our Redeemer who said of Himself, Did not the Christ have to suffer all these things before entering into his glory?  If you refused to accept these tribulations you would be acting against your best interests.  You are like a block of marble in the hands of the sculptor.  The sculptor must chip, hew and smooth it to make it into a statue that is a work of art.  God wishes to make us the living image of Himself.  All we need to think of is to keep still in His hands while He works on us, and we can rest assured that the chisel will never strike the slightest blow that is not needed for His purposes and our sanctification; for, as St. Paul says, the will of God is your sanctification. (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 31-33)


B-  Trusting in Christ inspires us to multiply God’s graces on the face of the earth and thus promote God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Dt 4:29; 1 Chr 15:1-2; 28:9; Prv 2:7-8; Jer 29:11-13; Mt 6:12; 7:1-2; 10:8; 18:21-35; Lk 4:18; 6:37-38; Rom 2:1-3; 2 Cor 3:17; Gal 5:1, 13; 6:7-10; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13; 2 Tm 2:12)


I would venture to say many of your problems as a single person exist because you are holding back.  You’re waiting for something better to come along, that certain something that will enrich your circumstances.  Well, friends—it’s here.  It’s called Life.  And Breath.  And God.  That’s all you need.  You don’t have to be married to be happy.  You just have to be alive.  God has wonderful things in store for us as singles when we let go and get involved with the richness and rhythm of life. (Luci Swindoll; Wide My World, Narrow My Bed)


The difference between the man who trusts in God and the man who trusts in himself is not in the circumstances, but in his response. (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 282)


Is it possible to have the walls crashing down around you and still experience contentment?  I would have never thought so, but I was surprised to learn that we can be content in the midst of suffering—not mere inconvenience, but severe, agonizing suffering.  The issue, I learned, is that our circumstances don’t’ determine our contentment, but our faith and trust in God do.   (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 101-02)


Spiritual gifts are for using in service.  If God didn’t intend for your gift to be used, there would no longer be any purpose for your life.  Why would God allow us to live beyond any usefulness to Him?  In His wisdom and providence He has gifted each believer to serve and kept each of you alive to serve.  (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 119)


Grace is available like a lifeboat ever ready to launch a rescue operation.  But what sailor worth his salt would say “Let’s sail dangerously; there’s always the lifeboat”?  The NT equivalent of 14:7b and 15:2 is the solemn either-or message to Christians in Gal 6:7-9 concerning exact recompense.  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 281-82)


One of my favorite examples of God’s surprising harvest is the conversion of Luke Short at the tender age of 103.  Short was sitting under a hedge in Virginia when he happened to remember a sermon he had once heard preached by the famous Puritan John Flavel.  As he recalled the sermon, Short asked God to forgive his sins right then and there, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He lived for three more years, and when he died, the following words were inscribed on his tombstone: “Here lies a babe in grace, aged three years, who died according to nature, aged 106.”  But here is the remarkable part of the story: the sermon that old Mr. Short remembered had been preached eighty-five years earlier, back in England!  Nearly a century had passed between Flavel’s sermon and Short’s conversion, between the sowing and the reaping.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 261)


We should wish with the divine will for heat and cold, storm and calm, and all the vagaries and inclemencies of the elements.  We should in short accept whatever kind of weather God sends us, instead of supporting it with impatience or anger as we usually do when it is contrary or what we desire.  We should avoid saying, for instance, “What awful heat!” “What terrible cold!” “What shocking weather!” “Just my bad luck!” and other expressions of the same kind which only serve to show our lack of faith and of submission to Gods’ will.

Not only should we wish the weather to be as it is because God has made it so but, whatever inconvenience it may cause us, we should repeat with the three youth in the fiery furnace: Cold, heat, snow and ice, lightnings and clouds, winds and tempests, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.  The elements themselves are blessing and glorifying God by doing His holy will, and we also should bless and glorify Him in the same way.  Besides, even the weather is inconvenient for us, it may be convenient for someone else.  If it prevents us from doing what we want to do, it may be helping another.  And even if it were not so, it should be enough for us that it is giving glory to God and that it is God who wishes it to be as it is.  (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 46-48)


We ought to conform to God’s will in poverty and all the inconveniences poverty brings in its train.  It is not too hard to do so if we fully realize that God watches over us as a father over his children and puts us in that condition because it is of most value to us.  Poverty then takes on a different aspect in our eyes, for by looking on the privations it imposes as salutary remedies we even cease to think of ourselves as poor.

If a rich man has a son in bad health and prescribes a strict diet for him, does the son think he has to eat small amounts of plain or tasteless food because his father cannot afford better?  Does he begin to worry about how he will exist in the future?  Will other people think that because of his diet he has become poor?  Everybody knows how well off his father is and that he shares in his father’s wealth and he will again have what is now forbidden him as soon as his health is restored.

Are we not the children of God of riches, the co-heirs of Christ?  Being so, is there anything we can lack?  Let it be said boldly:  whoever responds to his divine adoption with the feelings of love and trust that the position of being children of God demands has a right, here and now, to all that God Himself possesses.  Everything then is ours.  But it is not expedient we should enjoy everything.  It is often necessary we should be deprived of many things.  Let us be careful not to conclude from the privations imposed on us only as remedies that we may ever be in want of anything that is to our advantage.  Let us firmly believe that if anything is necessary or really useful for us, our all-powerful Father will give it to us without fail.  To those gathered round to him our Savior said: If you evil as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father. . .? (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 58-59)


In Sickness and Infirmity

We ought to conform to the will of God in sickness and infirmity and wish for what He sends us, both at the time it comes and for the time it lasts and with all the circumstances attending it, without wishing for one of them to be changed; and at the same time do all that is reasonable in our power to get well again, because God wishes it so.  “For my part” says St. Alphonsus,” I call illness the touchstone of the spirit, for it is then that the true virtue of a man is discovered.”  If we feel ourselves becoming impatient or rebellious we should endeavor to repress such feelings and be deeply ashamed of any attempt at opposition to the just decrees of an all-wise God.

St. Bonaventure relates that St. Francis of Assisi was afflicted by an illness which caused him great pain.  One of his followers said to him, “Ask Our Lord to treat you a little more gently, for it seems to me He lays His hand too heavily upon you.”  Hearing this the saint gave a cry and addressed the man in these words: “If I did not think that what you have just said comes from the simplicity of your heart without any evil intention I would have no more to do with you, because you have been so rash as to find fault with what God does to me.”: Then, though he was very weak from the length and violence of his illness, he threw himself down from the rough bed he was lying on, at the risk of breaking his bones, and kissing the floor of his cell said “I thank you, O Lord, for all the sufferings you send me.  I beg you to send me a hundred times more if you think it right.  I shall rejoice if it pleases you to afflict me without sparing me in any way, for the accomplishments of your holy will is my greatest consolation.” (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 67-68)


C-  Trusting in Christ empowers us to work hard, risk and enjoy life by allowing us the freedom to be wrong.  God is Lord over all.  (Dt 10:14-17; 32:8, 39-43; 1 Sm 2:6-9; 1 Chr 29:11-14; 2 Chr 20:6; Ps 24:1; 34:9-10; 47:2; 75:6-7; 103:1-22; 107:1-43; 115:3; 135:5-6; Prv 3:5-6; Isa 40; Dan 4:3, 17; Acts 17:24-25; 1 Tm 6:15-19)


There are a number of things in life that we do not fully understand–such as the nature and work of the infinite God.  But many people will not launch into anything until they grasp it fully and rid it of all risks.  How few things we could do if we adopted this approach to life!  Solomon rightly urges us to throw this philosophy to the wind.  In its place, he calls on us to live life to the fullest, trusting God along the way.  Why?  Because we do not know which activities we engage in will bring an abundant return.  We need to go for it and not look back!  God will honor our efforts.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 112)


More failure comes from an excess of caution than from bold experiments with new ideas.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 127)


There are no guaranteed rules for success that will work unless you do.


God does not guarantee us success, but he does promise his blessing in every circumstance.  God does not require us to succeed, but he does tell us to be faithful.  Faithfulness is determining what God wants and going for it.  If we are faithful but miss, we have done what we should.  To not be faithful is to join the ranks of the fired servant in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.  (Leith Anderson, A Church for the 21st Century, 99)


When you are pursuing love, running toward Christ, you do not have opportunity to wonder, Am I doing this right? or Did I serve enough this week?  When you are running toward Christ, you are freed up to serve, love, and give thanks without guilt, worry, or fear.  As long as you are running, you are safe.  But running is exhausting – if, that is, we are running from sin or guilt, out of fear.  (Or if we haven’t run in a while.)  However, if we train ourselves to run toward our Refuge, toward Love, we are free – just as we are called to be.  As we begin to focus more on Christ, loving Him and others becomes more natural.  As long as we are pursuing Him, we are satisfied in Him.  It is when we stop actively loving Him that we find ourselves restless and gravitating toward other means of fulfillment.   (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 104)


To grow in faith you must be willing to risk.  The greater the risk the greater the opportunity for growth in faith. (Chuck Swindoll, “Faith and Vision”)


There’s nothing worse than insecurity.  So many people live in fear because they are uncertain about what comes next and their standing before God, if they even believe in God.  On the flip side, there’s nothing better than being absolutely sure that the most powerful Being in the universe adores you as His own child.  This is precisely the confidence the Holy Spirit offers us.  (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 103)


God allows you to go through hard times so that God might bring you to the end of yourself.   (Steve Brown; “Beloved Pagan: Keeping the Church Honest”)


It is a tragic mistake not to give our young people the right to fail, because it’s through their failure that we can show our love–as God through our failure shows us His love.  It’s through their failure that we can help them understand the forgiveness of God, and it’s through showing grace toward them that we can teach them this repeated message of the NT–the message of the grace of God. (Jay Kesler; Ten Mistakes Parents Make With Teenagers, 115-16)


Under the Sun . . . life is uncertain.  Let’s give up.

Under heaven . . .  Life is uncertain.  Let’s roll up our sleeves.  (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 284)


It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena: whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood: who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually try to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm; the great devotion, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat. — Theodore Roosevelt


If you want employees to do a good job, tell them what you want and encourage them to succeed.  If you want employees to do a great job, tell them what you need and give them permission to fail.  —Richard Kessler


“It is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed, than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.  —Peter Marshall


Even when we do not know how God will use our work to advance his kingdom, we should continue to pray, continue to serve, and continue to hope, “knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).  The Preacher takes this perspective in Ecclesiastes 11, where he tells us to live boldly, not letting the uncertainties of life hold us back from taking risks by faith for the glory of God.  The better part of spiritual wisdom is not caution but courage through Christ.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 254)


Do not hold back because of fear, but step out by faith–not faith that your own efforts will succeed, necessarily, but faith that God will take what you offer and use it in some way for his glory.  But whatever you do, do not use the sovereignty of God or the uncertain difficulties of life as an excuse for not doing anything at all.  “If there are risks in everything,” Derek Kidner writes, “it is better to fail in launching out than in hugging one’s resources to oneself.”  When it comes to kingdom work, we should always be venture capitalists, willing to take risks for the glory of God (cf. Lk 19:11-27).  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 257)


Every time we choose to go down a particular road in life, we forfeit other opportunities.  In the end we often beat ourselves up over the decisions we made.  In fact, studies have shown that people ache more over what they failed to do than what they actually did.  (Lee Strobel; God’s Outrageous Claims, 39)


People are not the victims of fate they sometimes make themselves out to be.  As Cassius says to Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “Our fate, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.”  Whether or not we allow depression to rule our lives is largely up to us.  We can use the past to drive it away.  We can use the future to impact it with hope.  And in the present, we can choose to do those things that will change our dispositions.  What we do influences what we feel.  And that is our good fortune, because that gives us control over our emotional destiny.  (Tony Campolo, Carpe Diem, Seize the Day, 217-18)


Divine providence does not exclude free human agency but enables and sustains it.  There are indeed limits on human freedom, but God’s providence, in fact, grants and permits freedom.  Though God does not give aid to human distortions and sin, God nonetheless by grace sustains the human nature that falls into sin.  God permits sin in an otherwise good and intelligible order, yet limits and finally overrules whatever distortions human freedom can create. (Thomas C. Oden; The Living God, 281)


God allows freedom to be penultimately effective, even permitting freedom to distort an otherwise good creation, but that does not mean that God affirms or enjoys or permanently abides the defective side of freedom. (Thomas C. Oden; The Living God, 284)


God concurs with the effect but not with the defect of our actions. (Thomas C. Oden; The Living God, 284)


Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.  (Reader’s Digest; 11/96, 37)


“God is a God of new beginnings, and He never leaves me with the sense that I have blown everything or that it’s too late to try anything new.”  (Tony Campolo; Carpe Diem– Seize the Day, 105)


Life is like a roll of film.  You take your best shot, but you never know what’s going to develop.


The mistakes to avoid:

*Remorse over yesterday’s failures.

*Anxiety over today’s problems.

*Worry over tomorrow’s uncertainty.

*Waste of the moment’s opportunity.

*Procrastination with one’s present duty.

*Resentment of another’s success.

*Criticism of a neighbor’s imperfection.

*Impatience with youth’s immaturity.

*Skepticism of our nations future.

*Unbelief in God’s providence.  —William Arthur Ward


Worship point:  You will never know the freedom that comes in Christ until you know the catastrophe, apathy and ruin that can come by making one wrong decision.  It is not until you are fully aware of the potential consequences of being wrong that you can fully appreciate and worship the God who promises to cover for our sins and free us to love and serve others by assuring us (with His power, knowledge, wisdom, grace, mercy, forgiveness and love) that everything will eventually work out for the good for all who love Him (Rom 8:28).   Even that which is meant for evil (Gen 50:20).


Here is one of the great ironies and great dangers of loving God with your mind.  You have to think and rethink, but you cannot overthink.  And there is a fine line between rethinking and overthinking.  But here is what I know for sure: overanalysis always results in spiritual paralysis.  If you try to logically figure out the will of God, you’ll never take a step of faith.  Why?  Because the will of God is not logical.  It’s theological.  It adds God into the equation, and that’s why it doesn’t always add up on our human calculators. The promptings of the Holy Spirit won’t always make sense to your logical left brain.  In fact, God ideas often seem like bad ideas.  But that is when you need to allow the Holy Spirit to override your intellect.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 139-40)


Spiritual Challenge:  You never know how God is working in your life.  Still, God commands us to love Him and others as much as possible by multiplying His grace on the earth.  So do your best and trust God with the rest.


In God’s faithfulness lies eternal security. –Corrie ten Boom


This is freedom Sunday.  And we are encouraged to set the captives free.  But that will never happen in any realm unless we fight against the world, the flesh and the devil and take an active role in promoting the Kingdom of Heaven, the Spirit and the Living God.


Each of us have 24 hours each and every day.   That time can be used to make the world a better place (For God’s will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven) or it can be used for selfish non-eternal goals.  When you fail to be productive, when you fail to produce what God designed and created you to do for the sake of His Creation; you are robbing mankind and God of the fruit that God gave you the resources to produce by which you could demonstrate your love for God and your love your neighbor through your work and efforts.  — Pastor Keith


The way we employ the surplus hours after provision has been made for work, meals, and sleep will determine if we develop into mediocre or powerful people.  Leisure is a glorious opportunity and a subtle danger.  Each moment of the day is a gift from God that deserves care, for by any measure, our time is short and the work is great.

Minutes and hours wisely used translate into an abundant life.  On one occasion when Michelangelo was pressing himself to finish a work on deadline, someone warned him, “This may cost your life!”  He replied, “What else is life for?”

Hours and days will surely pass, but we can direct them purposefully and productively.  Philosopher William James affirmed that the best use of one’s life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.  Life’s value is not its duration but its donation–not how long we live, but how fully and how well.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 93-94)


The dictionary defines retirement as “withdrawal from an occupation or business, to give up or retreat from an active life.”  The goal of retirement is deeply ingrained in our culture.  Many people retire at an arbitrary, predetermined age and cease all labor in the pursuit of a life filled with leisure.

Scripture gives no examples of people retiring.  Only one direct reference to retirement is found in the Bible.  It is in Num 8:24-26; the instruction there applied exclusively to the Levites who worked on the tabernacle.  As long as one is physically and mentally capable, no scriptural basis exists for retiring and becoming unproductive.  The concept of putting an older but able person “out to pasture” is unbiblical.  Age is no obstacle to finishing the work the Lord has for you to accomplish.  For example, Moses was 80 years old when he began his 40-year task of leading the children of Israel.

Scripture does indicate that the type and intensity of work may change as we grow older–shifting gears to a less demanding pace and to becoming an “elder at the gate.”  During this season of life we can actively employ the experience and wisdom gained over a lifetime.  I believe this should be the most rewarding and productive time of life.  God has invested years in grooming us, and often we have more discretionary time.

Forget retirement.  Grasp the opportunity to help build God’s kingdom!  (Howard Dayton, Your Money Counts, 95)


Too many Christians freeze because they don’t know what God wants them to do.  They suffer from a paralysis of analysis.  When facing a decision in their lives, they want God to tell them exactly what their choices should be.

Does God have to tell you what to do?  Will God tell you what to do?

There is a difference between right or wrong decisions and right or left decisions.  In the Bible, the will of God always refers to moral choices–decisions where one path leads to sin and the other to righteousness.  For these right or wrong decisions, we can know the will of God.  It’s found in the Bible.  We need to pray and pursue the path of righteousness.

For right or left decisions, God is under no obligation to reveal His plan to us.  More than likely, He will not.  That’s why in Ecclesiastes Solomon says you just have to be bold and act.  (Tommy Nelson, A Life Well Lived, 179)


“The habit of always putting off an experience until you can afford it, or until the time is right, or until you know how to do it is one of the greatest burglars of joy.  Be deliberate, but once you’ve made up your mind–jump in.”  Are you in a rut?  Have you become a slave to the humdrum activities of your life?  When was the last time you broke away from your routine and did something unusual?  Have you been told that God wants you to live a dull life?  Have unbiblical instruction and well-meaning people robbed you of enjoying life to its fullest?  More than likely, most of our answers to these questions would reveal the tedious boredom of our existence.  The good news, however, is that we do not have to live this way.  The Lord has a much better lifestyle in mind for His people.  He wants us to stop existing and start living–in other words, to be bullish.  This divine plan is embedded in Eccl 11:1-6.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 110)


The last two major sections of Solomon’s journal can be summed up in three divinely approved commands:  Be bold!  Be joyful!  Be godly!  When these directives are obeyed, they turn a boring life into an exciting and contagious one.  In Eccl 11:1-6, Solomon exhorts us to adopt this lifestyle, to jump into life and experience it to the hilt.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 110)


When we set out to boldly live for Jesus Christ, we ought to expect that times of little excitement and low productivity will come.  It is often during these periods that we are prompted by others to entertain doubts regarding the value of living a bold Christian life.  However, aggressive living is threatening to those who refuse to live that way.  Remembering this will help keep us from giving in to mediocrity and will motivate us to press on with enthusiasm.  So what are we waiting for?  Let’s start living!  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 112-13)


(Eph 5:16)  making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.


Quotes to Note:

Sin comes when we take a perfectly natural desire or longing or ambition and try desperately to fulfill it without God.  Not only is it sin, it is a perverse distortion of the image of the Creator in us. All these good things, and all our security, are rightly found only and completely in him.  (Augustine, The Confessions of Saint Augustine).


Divine Sovereignty vs. Human responsibility:

God’s control of things is not contrary to the responsibility of man.  It is the very foundation of it.  If God were not in control He could not hold man responsible.  Man is accountable to God because God is sovereign; he should obey God because God is in control of things.  Moreover, man has significance because God has sovereignly ordained significance for man.  Whatever responsibility we have is founded on God’s sovereignty, not in spite of it.  Without God’s sovereignty man would have no responsibility. (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.;  Every Thought Captive; A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, 120)


God is sovereign.  But man also has free choice and will. How can these be reconciled?

I’m not sure anyone can answer this question fully, but I think much insight might be able to be gleaned by considering these thoughts that came to Brad Shaw and myself on 5-15-07 on a talk in the afternoon:

God created laws that the universe was designed to follow.

If God is not sovereign, He could not rule over the universe to insure that those laws are followed.

God wants those laws of the Universe to be followed because it is only by having consistency in the universe, 1- That real learning on the part of man can take place.  2- That our actions can possibly have any real meaning or significance.  3- It is the only way that we can interact with the Universe in any real significant or meaningful way.

Therefore, God wants to insure that the Universe has a cause and effect that obeys the Laws of the Universe that Wisdom (God) laid out at the foundation of the world.

Satan, on the other hand, has been trying to disrupt those cause and effects connections since just prior to the Fall.  He will do and has done all that he can to try and get us to believe that there is in fact, NO cause and effect between our actions and the consequences.  Especially in regard to spiritual cause and effect—when it comes to disobeying God’s Laws.  Simply remember his strategy in the Garden.

Therefore, it is God’s control over the universe that allows us to have any meaningful choice at all.  Satan is trying to diminish and/or destroy that connection.  We need to make sure that we do not put into conflict God’s sovereignty and man’s free choice.  They are not mutually exclusive.   They are, as it turns out, intimately tied together.


That notion has created mischief on hospital wards and in mental institutions and has rationalized holy wars, crusades, and racism.  Both the view that God absolutely determines human effects without any cooperation of human freedom and the view that human freedom occurs without divine concurrence equally lack grounding in the classical Christian understanding of providential concurrence.  The concise scriptural affirmation balances these points: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5); that is, without the cooperative grounding of our freedom in divine providence, we could not even have in the first place the freedom that is prone to go away. (Thomas C. Oden; The Living God, 284)


Life is filled with so much uncertainty, so many unforeseeable events, that we need to trust ourselves to God and rest in His sovereign care.  But if we won’t do that with the everyday details of our lives, we’re not likely to do it when push comes to shove in the hard patches that must surely come.  (T.M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, July 20, 2011)


Between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man.  Nearly all of our Reformed forefathers stressed that God is fully sovereign and man is fully responsible.  How that can be resolved logically is beyond our finite minds.  When Spurgeon was once asked how these two grand, biblical doctrines could be reconciled, he responded, “I didn’t know that friends needed reconciliation.”

He went on to compare these two doctrines to the rails of a track upon which Christianity runs.  Just as the rails of a train, which run parallel to each other, appear to merge in the distance, so the doctrines of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, which seem separate from each other in this life will merge in eternity.  Our task is not to force their merging in this life but to keep them in balance and to live accordingly.  We must thus strive for experiential Christianity that does justice both to God’s sovereignty and to our responsibility.   (R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Feed My Sheep, 124-25)


There is no wider path to misery than to play it safe.

— Steve Brown



Christ: Life


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