Matt Chandler is the senior pastor of The Village Church in Highland Village, TX. He is expounding on Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8.
The audio is available for download here. Video footage can be viewed below:
My notes below:
I pastor a church where there’s a lot of young people. In nine years, I’ve done one funeral for a person over 30, but I’ve done dozens of for people under the age of 30, and many under 10.
I wanted to be faithful to the Lord and the people He’s given me to shepherd to prepare them for this suffering, and one of His great mercies on Him was that as I was preparing them, He was preparing me.
When I read this text, I feel it, because here’s what I know that you don’t:
Some of us who are here aren’t going to be here when we do this again. Nobody thinks it’s coming for them. So when I read this text, the weight of it, the pain of it, it’s honestly a beautiful thing.
Ecclesiastes 11, beginning at verse 9:
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low—they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets—before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity. (Eccl 11:9-12:8)
There are a lot of imperatives in this text:
Rejoice. We have a rejoicing problem We have no problem rejoicing, but we have a problem with what we rejoice in. So for in Romans 1, we rejoice in creation, but the Creator. And we say, “Isn’t creation lovely?” And our rejoicing is shallow because it doesn’t roll up into rejoicing in who created it. It’s this fallen nature that believes that we’re smarter than God. When man takes what God has given him and rejoices in himself, he becomes a blasphemer. We don’t have a problem with rejoicing, it’s that we don’t get underneath what we’re rejoicing.
Remember Your Creator. The question we have to answer is, “Is there a way of remembering that redeems how we rejoice?” We see this call in the OT this call to remember these things about God:
- Remember I am God. “I am the Creator,” says God. See Job 38. “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me…” You’ll also see it in Psalm 37; God named the stars. “Remember, I started this, I am beyond you…”
- Remember what I’ve done. He calls people back to remember what He’s accomplished. See Ex. 12:14, Josh. 4:5-7. “It’s I that freed you… it’s I that delivered you… and I didn’t do it because you’re awesome.” God’s going to tell us, “I’m going to do it because I’m awesome. And what’s really spectacular is I’m using you, dummy… I’m letting you play in what I’m doing.”
- Remember my commands. God’s commands are about lining people up with how God has determined how the universe works. And if God has made a command it’s not to rob you of joy but to bring you into it. Deut. 6:6-9: “Remember my law… and teach them diligently to your children…” Num. 15:39-40.
In the NT, Jesus brings this pattern to completion, and says, “When you do this, do it in remembrance of Me…” Paul takes this and runs with it in 1 Cor. 11:17-34. And Paul wants to preach the gospel not just to non-Christians, but to Christians.
1 Cor 15:1-4: “Now I would remind you, brothers of the gospel I preached to you, which you received…” The gospel of Jesus Christ is what saves us, sustains us and what brings us home. We do not move beyond the gospel.
Gal 1:6-9: “I am astonished that you are so quickly turning…”
Eph 1-2, Phil 1-2. I’ve never met a man as free as Paul is. He’s just an untouchable man. How’d he become that way? He keeps coming back to the gospel. He’s saying everything drives the gospel forward. What you’ll find in all of Paul’s writings, he always wants to clearly set up the gospel before he gets into any commands. “If you’ve been baptized into this, then… but if you’ve not been brought into the gospel, then we can’t have these conversations.”
Let’s look back on some of the things we’re supposed to rejoice in in Eccl. 11:
If I can rejoice in remembering what Christ has done for me in His perfect life, on the cross and in His resurrection, I’m not rejoicing in my youth and my physical strength, I’m rejoicing in Christ that God in His mercy has allowed me to use it to serve Him. So youthful strength, youthful passion is redeemed because I’m here… and in my youth He’s opened my eyes and I can make much of Him.
In marriage, I can rejoice not only in my wife, but I can rejoice that underneath that God has entered into a covenant with me and He will never leave me.
In parenting, there’s so much about God teaches us about Himself. With walking, there’s this step, step, fall and rejoicing. Then we set Audrey [his daughter] up and do it again. And she gets better and better and better. And I’m just blown away by the grace that’s, “That’s what I’m like. I celebrate your steps.” I think the litmus test for the gospel is what you do when you’ve blown it. Do you run away or do you approach the throne with confidence? It’s not you at your worst that God has a problem with you, it’s at your best.
This is not just a mindset. How do we get into remembering that leads to rejoicing correctly?
- You need to be born again. You’re a much better pastor when you’re saved—when you understand it not just in your head, but in your heart.
- A constant meditation on and thinking on the gospel of Jesus Christ. I still have to preach the gospel to myself. Do not assume the gospel. It has to be explicit and it has to be constantly explicit.
- Walk by the Spirit and not by flesh. I want to stay deeply tuned into my affections. When I no longer marvel, when I’m no longer overwhelmed that God in His mercy saved me. I want remembering to lead to rejoicing and when that’s not happening, I want to be nervous and get around others who can help me remember.
We’re all over the map here, some of you are young, some are at cruising altitude, some are on the descent… we are, right now, several hours closer to standing in front of standing in front of our great Father or Judge than we were when we first walked in here.
How are you doing at rejoicing? Are you doing it well? Are you getting underneath to what God has done? Are you looking at the little nuances of everyday life and are they stirring up an appreciation for God’s mercy?
Are you in the kiddy pool or are you in the ocean?
There’s a confidence that comes from this kind of rejoicing. Remembering leads to rejoicing and you’ll be the kind of man or woman that’s unshakeable.