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 which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.”
Intro: Before we start, can I ask everyone to close your eyes and try your best to remember the times when you were younger. Particularly for our adults, try to imagine you were teenagers again. Try to imagine the times when you thought you knew everything there is to know, and yet you knew nothing at all. This was the time when you were the most energetic and maybe even on your physical peak. This was the time you felt so much more. Your emotions were very unstable and yet were such a big driving force in your decisions. Maybe for some of us here, our younger years were our most reckless and fearless years. But it was also the time when we started asking who we really are and, in that regard, we wanted more independence whether it was from our friends or the shelter of our parents. Our values and priorities became shaped by the friends we were constantly around rather than what we got from our mom and dad.
If there is one word that I think would define teenage years, I think the word would be “change”. There was change physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally and spiritually. These younger years were defined with us just trying to figure out how life works while coping with all the changes that comes with growing up. How did you handle all of that?
Today, the subject of our message will be our younger generation. As we have been going through a series on “Desperate Households”, we are seeing that there truly is no need for us to live in pretension that we have perfect lives or that we have to live one. We may live in uncertain, desperate, and scary times especially for our teenagers, but I want us to understand, we are not alone. As it takes a village to raise a kid, it takes a family, a community of faith, it takes all of us together to help raise up young people who will follow and live for God not just in their younger years but for the rest of their lives. We will look to Solomon to give us an insight as to how we can live life according to how God wills during these younger years.
Many scholars believe that Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes in his old age. In the book, the writer is called the “Qohelet” or the Preacher. Some even think that this could be translated as the “Professor”. This is a book unlike any other book in the Scriptures as it is like a philosophy book, seeking to answer life’s biggest questions. Solomon opens up the book with the tragedy of life. It is the tragedy of finding meaning and purpose of life without God. To illustrate this, he uses the term “life under the sun”. It simply means that he had this experiment of trying to find what true life is, apart from God. The reason why I chose this passage for us today is because I see that in the world our younger generation face today, the book of Ecclesiastes gives us very relevant principles. We live in a world that teaches that this life is all there is. The world teaches us that is up to us to make our own meanings and purposes. Solomon tried that already. It didn’t work. If anything, it made life more frantic. If we give our full life to anything under the sun like, relationships, or work, or pleasure; it only will lead us to nihilism, and the realizations that Solomon once found. Life has no meaning. Everything is vanity. The verses that we are reading today is Solomon’s final reminders for the young person. Solomon’s conclusion for this life experiment was, “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.” With life under the sun, the Preacher cannot find the deeper meaning of life. In our passage, we see the beginning of the conclusion of the book. This is what Solomon learned as he concluded this life experiment. I do think that we need to pay attention to the Solomon because He has a lot to say for our lives today.
I. Rejoice in your youth
Eccl. 11:9 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.
This counsel by Solomon seems like it’s out of place with the rest of the Bible. This first part of this verse seems to suggest that while we’re young we should enjoy life to the fullest and follow our hearts and eyes to what can give us the most pleasure. This seems like promoting the YOLO lifestyle.
You only live once, so eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we will die. Sometimes, people think that Christians should live like monks: pious, meek and always a neutral face in everything we do. However, that is not what God intends. Life was meant to be enjoyed. Our younger years were meant for us to rejoice in. God did not mean for us to live in drudgery and loneliness. I do believe that if we do not to enjoy this life, we are sinning. Enjoying life is man’s duty and a gift from God. There was a Jewish teacher, named Rab, of the 3rd century AD, that commented, “Man will have to give account for all that he saw and did not enjoy.” God gave us so much that we are going to waste life not to enjoy them.
But sometimes, we go enjoy life with no accountability and responsibility. In our younger years, we tend to follow our desires more than anything else. We pursue things that makes us feel good, and sometimes with no regard for anything else. No one can tell us what to do, not our parents, or any other authorities, as long as we feel good about ourselves. In the time of our youth, there is a real tendency to abuse the pleasures that we have been given and just let our desires get the best of us. This is the culprit behind many of the issues that a young person today faces, whether it be sexual misuse, stealing, alcohol/drug abuse, or any other addictions that we see in today’s world. We may think that seeking pleasure is all that this life is. We may think that to be happy with what we can see, and taste is the goal and purpose in this life.
However, this is not what Solomon is ultimately saying. This is not the rejoicing that he was talking about. How do we know that? He’s tried all the pleasures under the sun. He tried to seek life in all riches, in relationships, in work, in everything he could lay his hands on. Solomon experienced the best that life could offer. He had so much pleasure, much more than any man normal man could gain. He had a vast kingdom and the grandest accomplishments. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines in his disposal.
He had power beyond imagination. What more could a man want? What did this life of pleasure give him at the end? He said, “vanity of vanities, everything is vanity.”
So, what is the answer that we may avoid the same conclusion? Solomon proposes living a life with a view of the judgment day. In our younger years, we need to realize that there will come a time that we will be accountable for everything that we have said, done, and pursued. We will come face to face with God and we will give an answer for all we have done. This is the balance that we truly need to realize at our younger years. Yes, enjoy life as much as you can, but also be reminded of the day when we will give an account to the one that gave us that life. One day we will be asked, what did we do with the life God has entrusted to us? Did we take life for granted, or were we in gratitude of it? To be thankful in the ways that God gave us this young life for Him, is how we can stay grounded in enjoying life. In Psalms 37:4 it says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Our ultimate delight cannot be found in the pleasures this life gives, but it should be placed on Him who gives life.
II. Remove Vexation
Eccl. 11:10 Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.
What does vexation mean? It is the frustration, anger, indignation and sorrow that comes from the disappointments of life. Solomon tells his readers to put away this kind of feeling and thinking from their hearts. The KJV puts it as, “remove sorrow from your heart.” Solomon also talks about taking pain away from your body and about pursuing pain in order to deal with life’s harshness. In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes of things that truly made him disappointed in life. He gives a description of life’s injustice and failures. He talks of oppressions, injustices, and violation of the righteous, poor and powerless. To make sense of this, Solomon tried pursuing knowledge and wisdom, or in our case, philosophy, and yet he could find no answer. This is also the dilemma of the modern man. If one dares to believe that there is no God, then how could one explain pain, loss, suffering and death? There will be no worthy explanation. Again, life does not have purpose if it is only lived under the sun. This is the reality of life. We live in a very painful, unfair, and broken world. We have no control over events that may disappoint and even hurt us. It’s because we live in a world that has no regard for God and is against him. We do not live in a fairy tale world where everything will be as we wish. This is a fallen world of sinners where the Scriptures says Satan Himself rules as the prince of the power of the air.
Because this is so, Satan will do everything he can, to make our life miserable. He will give us pains seemingly too hard for us to bear, till we have a mindset that God doesn’t really care, and no one else does too. If Satan will fail to tempt us to live in unchecked pleasures, he will seek to ruin us to live life in bitterness, grudge, and loneliness.
This is a relevant reminder for our youth today. I believe that removing vexation in our hearts goes a long way because these things manifests in the lives of young people in very ugly ways. Ate Joyce and I went to a Youth Mental Health Aid Seminar in which we were able to learn ways young people today deal with the deep sorrows of the heart. Substance abuse, eating disorders, and even hurting oneself are just some ways that vexation can overcome someone. Eventually, taking one’s life becomes an escape to this unfair and broken world. This world seems dreadful and weary when we live this life under the sun. However, Solomon tells us why we need to remove vexation from our hearts and pain from our bodies. The reason he gives is that “youth and the dawn of life are vanity”. The “dawn of life” here means childhood. What Solomon was saying is that these younger years are but a brief moment.
The word Solomon used for vanity in Hebrew is “hebel”. The meaning of this word is not just emptiness but it also has a meaning of being short lived. The word “Hebel” has a meaning breath or vapor. You feel it now, and later it will be gone. Solomon is saying, do not let this vexation of the heart overcome us because our younger years are such a short time. It will be gone just like a snap. In other words, Solomon is telling us to not let bitterness overtake us, but remove it from our hearts and our body.
You see, life has a way of making us realize we are not in control. It has a way of bringing us down to our knees. The temptation is to let these disappointments, rejections, and pains control us. Solomon is urging us, to remove it from our hearts. How? Tim Keller suggests don’t just listen to your hearts but talk to your hearts. Debate and argue with our hearts. Psalm 42:5 gives us an example of how David talked to His heart. He said, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.” In a way, we need to train our hearts to focus Someone instead of somethings. We need to be listening to Him who is greater than our vexations and pains. This is how our hearts become stronger and our young lives become more hopeful.
Ultimately, I believe the answer to how we can rejoice in life, and remove vexation from our hearts is found in the next verse.
III. Remember your Creator
Eccl. 12:1 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.”
In the life experiment that Solomon pursued, of living life under the sun, he only found “Hebel”or vanity. According to Solomon, life needs to be lived beyond the sun as he offers the answer to life’s biggest questions. He says, “remember your Creator.” Remember who made you, who you belong to, who owns you, and who loves you. Solomon says to do this while we are still young for there will come a time when it might be too late. This vitality that we experience when we are young will not stay with us forever. What we have is borrowed time. There will be a day when you are too old to be reminded of Him. In making your decisions, choosing the course on which our life will take, and selecting our friends, our partners, our actions, remember your Creator.
We live in a world that tries to take God out of the picture and think that life would be much better off without Him. The notion of a Creator today is a big offense. Atheists like Richard Dawkins proposes that if there is no God, then we are free to make our own purpose and meaning in life. But if there really isn’t a Creator, and we were only here because of time and chance, then we cannot pretend that our lives have any significance at all. The end of life won’t have a purpose too if there is no Creator. If we decide for ourselves what we want to live for, nothing in this world can suffice. We will only live for things that makes us feel good and is in vain just like what Solomon says. Life is meaningless and only a vapor if there is no Creator.
However, if there is a Creator, our lives do have meaning and purpose. Our dignity comes from beyond anything this world can offer because we were created beyond anything in this world. In light of Him, we can truly rejoice. Here’s the thing, how else could we really live life apart from Him who gave us life? Where else can we find deep joy, but in Him who is the author of joy? Where else can we find what our soul truly longs and craves for, but in Him alone who shaped our souls? So, enjoy all the gifts that God has given you. Your family, your friends, your relationships, your material blessings, your jobs, your money; they are all gifts from God and need to be enjoyed. Remember there needs to be a balance so because we are responsible and accountable to Him. I can never forget what one of my teachers told me in Bible School. He said in order to truly experience life, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbors as yourself. Then, do everything you want.”
How can we remove vexation from our hearts? We need to remember that we have a Creator that did not just leave us be. God did not create the world like a watch where he created it, and just left it be waiting until it falls apart. We have a Creator that is very much involved in each and every one of our lives. He came near and risked it all. He experienced the injustice, pains, and suffering this world offers.
This Creator sent His Son into the world, so that the world may know of Him and His love. Jesus Christ revealed to us that we have a Creator that we belong to and that He will love us and accept us no matter what. The reason why we can remove the deepest griefs and sorrows in our hearts is because Jesus took on the greatest sorrow of being separated with God the Father to pay for our sins and to be with us. He is risen again giving us hope that there is no need to live under the sun. We can live beyond the sun, when we remember our Creator. He brings Heaven down to our hearts giving us true purpose, joy, hope and life. This is the answer to our desperation: “Remember Your Creator.”
June 10, 2018 Pastor Jeru Ona