Landon Saunders 539
If you have a bible I’d like you to be turning to the book of Ecclesiastes. We’re going to be
reading some selections from this book in just a moment. I want to share with you my two favorite
stores this year. We all need a perspective on life and we all need people to help us with perspective.
And my perspective this year has come from two young men, one of whom is nine years old, and the
other is four years old. And I’ll start with the older and move to the younger.
Earlier this year in Europe I was in Geneva and heading to the airport and my flight back to the
states, boarded the big seven, forty-seven and made my way to my seat and discovered my partner for
the next seven hours was a nine year old boy, who, before I could get settled in my seat looked up and
said, “Now sir, the first thing we’re going to do is play cards.” And I said, “Well, you may have to teach
me.” He said, “I’ll be able to teach you so well, you’ll be able to beat me.” So I knew I was in for a great
trip back. I sat down and still a nine year old speaking now, he looks over and he says, “What do you
do?” And I said, “Well among other things I do a radio program that’s called Heartbeat.” He said, “A
radio program?” I said, “Yes, it’s called Heartbeat” and he wrinkled his brow and thought a second and
said, “It must not be very popular.” So I suspiciously chastised him for the next several hours.
And then the next one happened last night and from really one of your beloved members
children. One of the Bakers children, a four year old. And Carolyn and Lynn were sort of reminding
Christians that the seminar was here and had mentioned Heartbeat and mentioned my name and he
was trying to get all that figured out again. He wasn’t for sure if he remembered or didn’t remember
and they said now, “First he thought maybe I was a doctor.” And so no I wasn’t a doctor and he got all
excited and showered and washed his hair, came out and said, “You know mom, there’s only one thing
worse than Heartbeat.” She said, “What’s that Christian?” He said, “Cancer.” So I’ve been over there
this afternoon helping Christian to really understand what Heartbeat is.
We’ve been looking at the book of Ecclesiastes last night and we want to continue tonight. And
I’d like to begin by just reading a few selections to give us a feel for one of the primary themes that were
going to look at tonight. Which is the theme of joy. And we’ll read these and then we’ll back up a bit
and show how this relates to this book. In the twenty-fourth verse of chapter two let’s pick up there
first of all, the second chapter. Now remember what his theme is, that the recurring theme of the book
is vanity of vanities, all is vanity. And yet as we mentioned last night he had a peculiar however
tentative realization that there was a quality of life that was not exhausted with chronos time or time
that is not governed purely by the watch. And so in the third chapter he speaks of something beautiful
that is really in the world and that has been put into man’s heart. Which is eternity? And we explored a
little of that last night, we’ll pick up a little more of it tonight.
The second thing that this writer does, who is considered to be the most pessimistic writer of
the Old Testament or the bible for that matter. Is he has this recurring theme of joy. And so after he
moves us thru these sort of dreadful sections of this book in which there is so much bad news, and he’s
trying to tell us what the world really is like. And that’s always the hardest thing to teach anybody. Is
what the true nature of the world is. But then in verse twenty-four he says, now is almost as if he says
now since everything is this way, here is what’s left. “There’s nothing better for man than that he shall
eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also I saw is from the hand of God. For apart from him,
who can eat or who can have enjoyment for to the man who pleases him. God gives wisdom and
knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and he thinks only to give to one
who pleases God.” And then he returns to his theme, this also is vanity and is striving after the wind.
Now let’s come to the third chapter and begin at verse twelve. Now again he’s moved thru this
difficult view of time that he has. These rhythms and cycles that we have no control over and can’t
change, can’t do anything about. They just wash over us whether we want them to or not. He says in
verse twelve, “I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as
long as they live. Also that it is God’s gift to man that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure
in all his toil.” Isn’t that interesting that that would come off the background that we looked at last
Now look at the fifth chapter. Let’s pick up another section of joy in the book. In this fifth
chapter in verse eighteen, “Behold what I have seen to be good and to be fitting, is to eat and drink and
find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life which God has
given him for this is his lot. Every man also to whom God has also given wealth and possessions and
power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and find enjoyment in his toil this is the gift of God, for he
will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.” You
may want to mark that one, because that’s such a beautiful, powerful one.
Then in the sixth chapter, look at verse one, “there is an evil which I have seen under the sun
that lies heavy upon men. A man to whom God gives wealth, possessions and honor so that he lacks
nothing of all he desires yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them.
This is vanity. It is a sword affliction.” Interesting isn’t it?
Now let’s go to the eighth chapter, and pick it up again. In chapter eight let’s look at verse
fifteen. “And I command enjoyment for man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and
enjoy himself for this will go with him in his toils thru the days of life which God gives him under the
sun.” See, I don’t know if you’ve noticed how many times he keeps moving back to the same recurring
Look at the ninth chapter now verse seven. “Go eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your
wine with a merry heart for God has already approved what you do.” Now that’s a very interesting
verse. Verse nine, “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life which He has
given you under the sun because that is your portion in life and in your toil in which you toil under the
sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might for there is no work or thought or
knowledge or wisdom in shield to which you’re going.”
Now turn the page to the eleventh chapter, verse eight. “For if a man lives many years let him
rejoice in them all but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many all that comes is vanity.
Rejoice oh young man in your youth and let your heart cure you in the days of your youth. Walk in the
ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes but know for that all these things God will bring you into
judgment.” Remove that vexation from your mind and put away pain from your body for youth and the
dawn of life are vanity.” Now those are some of the sections of joy in the book.
Now we’re going to first of all tonight give a short of diagram and you won’t be able to see this
all the way back and incidentally if you see a wire dangling, that’s supposed to dangle. That’s not just a
thread that’s loose on my coat. I did this with words last night but this will be better to do it with the
diagram I’ll explain what I’m doing so if you can’t see it why maybe it’ll be easier to see. If we allow
these two lines to form the boundaries for the limitations of life. The limitations of the world and that’s
really, that’s what we’re dealing with. The thing that makes life so absolutely irresistible and so
maddening is that it is so limited. The world is such a limited place. Death, disease, disappointment, our
tendency to build illusions, all of these things makes life very very limiting. And so it’s what you can do
within a limited world and with a limited amount of time with a limited amount of life. That’s what
we’re dealing with. Now he says that in this world, this is a brief recap, “In this world he said everything
is vanity and is striving after the wind.” Because what the world is like says the writer of Ecclesiastes is
a, monotonous repetition of the same sorts of things, it happened yesterday, it happens today and it’ll
happen tomorrow, and ten years from now it’s still happening and there’s not a thing in the world that
you can do about it. He says that’s just the way life is. And all of your big hopes and all of your big
dreams and all of your big promises, he said all of that is vanity of vanities is striving after the wind. He
says, you think there’s going to justices in the world? That you’re wrong about that. The truth is that
the righteous will get it in the neck and the evil one’s are going to flourish and blossom like a rose. And
he said you’d better not ever forget it. And you think that your religion, or your relationship with God is
going to isolate you from the disappointments and of pain and the disillusionment of this world, he says
you’re on shaky ground. That there are, that we are caught up into mad and maddening cycles of time,
the tick tock time that we talked about last night. And he said, there is nothing that you can do about it.
That it’s just here and your going to suffer, and there’s going to be pain and there’s going to be
oppression and family life isn’t going to work and people are going to disappointment you, there’s going
to be corruption in government because that’s it’s nature he says, and there’s going to be corruption in
your political leaders because of that ever maddening tendency to an ever spiraling hierarchy,
competition and bribe and everything else that it breeds. He says that is the nature of things and he
says it’s the nature of religion to go bad and to keep going bad and that’s why in many assembly where
noises are supposed to be made to God he says that it is a very evil thing that they do. All is vanity,
vanity of vanities says the preacher, it’s all a striving after the wind. And if you look at this world, purely
in terms of this world within its limits, within its own boundaries, he said the situation is hopeless.
Now that’s a little hard for us to take because we tend to put the best interpretation on
everything. That’s sort of our philosophy on life. That we want to interpret everything, we want
everything to turn out right. But Ecclesiastes says, it’s not going to turn out right. Now he’s looking for
whatever it is that gives life some real meaning.
Now before we look at his clues, I have a hunch, this is just a hunch, you can try it on and think
about it and see if it makes any sense to you. But before one can come to God, one has to clean off the
slate. That there is a way for you to put so many, so much religious information and so many promises
around the realities with which you are dealing that it’ll just blind you. It’ll just completely blind you,
and you won’t be able to see. What Kehelahath, the writer of Ecclesiastes says is, that the thing that you
need to come to grips with first of all is that this thing does not work. The world doesn’t work. And it
keeps taking you by the hand and spreading you eagle on the wall and say it now, it doesn’t work. It’s
almost as if the person who is plastered to the wall keeps coming back and says but, there will be justice
by and by and he says listen, justice will be so long coming that it’s a senseless concept. Say it! And he
says the person says, but you see I have my religious life, and he says look at religion, can’t you see that
religion basically does not work. Say it! Doesn’t work. The person keeps saying but, but you see I’ve.
He says say it, it doesn’t’ work. The person says, but you see I know that there is oppression and I know
that there is injustice in life but were going to do something about that, it’s going to get better. He says,
it’ not going to get better, it’s not going to get any better, say it. It’s not going to get any better. The
poor are going to get run over, the down trodden are going to get heels in the neck this year and next
year and as wrong as the world stand that’s the way it’s going to be. Say it!
Now, what he’s doing is just reducing us. Giving away as what he would probably describe in
today’s language as the illusions, most human beings live their lives based on illusions. And those
illusions are that things are fine, and things are going to get better and it’s going to be better tomorrow
and everything is going to be clear and the day after that. Illusions! Illusions of wealth, illusions of time,
illusions of health, illusions of happiness, illusions of joy, illusions of justice, illusions of where it’s all
going to come out he says, the thing the world does is lives by its illusions and then when the illusions
are shattered their disappointed and disillusioned and their dreams die, and their youth flies away like
the wind and they are left to die in dread and in misery. It’s an illusion he says. And we would go back
to our friend on the wall and say can’t you see that’s it’s an illusion. That there are allot of myths out
there, there are allot of illusions out there, allot of pipe dreams out there, and he says if you want to get
real with life you’d better get down to the real issue that this world has nothing to offer but vanity that’s
striving after the wind that flows and then keeps going. You don’t know where it comes from; you don’t
know where it’s going. It’s all a mad reaching for the wind and then you try to grab it and you think that
you can stop the wind, but you don’t stop the wind anymore he says than, and he says your best
illustrations of the way the world works and of your powerlessness over the world is to just look at the
wind and look at the sea, and look at the sun. What can you do about these things? Cycles, maddening
I think that it is very good for Christian people today particularly in a time when we are accused
absolutely on every hand of promising more than we’ve ever been able to deliver and when there is so
much difference between what we say, and the way we live that it is so refreshing to people who are in
the world to hear a Christian get really honest about the nature of this world. It’s not a happy world.
It’s a world of tremendous pain, and tremendous suffering. And all the writer of Ecclesiastes is trying to
get us to see is, before you start building your life back, reduce it to the absolutely irreducible minimum
and face the world as if there is nothing, no resources at your command to make anything out of it, and
then start from there.
I think it’s a very interesting view of the world and there allot of problems and you hear them
from Christians today. There are more problems in Christian’s hearts because of false expectations.
Because of distorted understandings about God and the nature of this world. Because of promises that
just cannot find anyway to be fulfilled in time. There is more pain and more conflict, and more suffering
that is arising now in religious circles because of misunderstanding of those matters, I believe than
What would you do? Almost any Christian would say, “Yes I have trouble sometimes relating to
God, and I have trouble figuring all this out and I have trouble with suffering, and I have trouble with all
the evil that’s in the world and I have trouble with, here’s one person that’s doing the best they can and
they suffer so much, and here’s this person who’s doing evil.” What would you do if you just quit
cropping up any of that? And if you just said “It’s just the way the world is.” What if you just said that?
And yet, this writer never broke from God. With the view that we’ve just recapped, he never broke
from God. God is there all the way thru.
Now, what our friend is doing. One who is so passionate about life, that’s what distinguishes
the book of Ecclesiastes from the writings of the (INAUDIBLE) for example, and many of the cynics, the
great cynics of history is that this man is so disgustingly alive. He just keeps wording and arguing and
testing and questioning and he’s so much with it. The others have reduced it to formulas, but he
doesn’t. He keeps the questions wide open, and even into his age he says, I’ve looked at the world and
I’ve found its all vanity and yet he says, there’s something beautiful, and this is the view of time. And he
basically leaves us working and we’re right between the time that’s experienced in the world. Chronos,
the clock, the tick tock, trying to make everything come out right.
But he says that God has set into the heart of human beings in this world another kind of time.
This is kiros. God’s time. And he’s put that in the world. This is the sense of time that makes person’s
wise. He says, if this does not exist then its all vanity of vanities and striving after the wind. But he said,
I’ve noticed something that in some hearts at least there’s something beautiful that’s been introduced
into the world, there’s eternity that God has placed there. Kiros. That is more quality than beginning
and endings. Kiros that frees you from the rat race and the anxiety of being separated from the world.
You see in our day and time people are so hung up on time they think when their delivered from the
kingdom of Timex to the kingdom of Rolex that they’ve been saved. And it’s just one of the problems I
suppose of our day that we have such a bound time. Now incidentally the writer of Ecclesiastes would
have loved that. And he couldn’t have waited to say “Yeah but even the kingdom of Rolex is vanity of
vanities and is striving after the wind.” Don’t forget that he would say. See he loves to get into these
kinds of give and take. Okay, that’s the first clue.
Now let’s look at the second clue. And this one is this theme of Joy. Now he says, what’s a
person to do with a world that’s like our world? How can he put it together? Number one he says,
you’ve got to do something about the way you look at this, you’ve got to be free from the clock and
you’ve got to tap into another kind of timing. And secondly he says, that you have to enjoy and
sometimes you’re not quite sure how much he understood about the joy that he was asking us to have.
He just says do it. And it’s almost as though he’d say to a person who does not understand anything
about this larger issue of life, he would just say to them, listen there’s not anything you can do about the
way this world is, you can’t change it. And so if you have any sense at all there a human being what you
will figure out a way to do is to laugh. You’ll figure out a way to find joy.
Now let’s work on this theme of joy for a moment. What’s a person doing when their joyful?
What’s that mean? Is that just a psych job in which you get up in the morning and say this is a great day
and this is a great world and I’m going to be happy, and then we start trying to convince everybody that
I’m happy, you know I’m really happy. You know and we say it so many times that people begin to
doubt, we protest too much. What is he talking about when he describes this joy that is available to
human beings? And how deep is joy? And high is joy? And how can joy beat back the threat of the
clock, how can it beat back all of this process of ageing? How can joy keep us young, how can joy keep
us delivered? How can joy keep a spring in our step, and a light in our eyes? Is it merely because we do
the psych job, and we just pretend? Is joy finally the greatest disguise, the greatest pretense? Or did
this writer send that one who pursues joy taps into to something that is larger? Let’s see.
What are the problems with joy? Why can’t we be more joyful? We say, is it the reason that we
couldn’t enjoy time more, or as it because of the fear of separation? One of the reasons that it’s hard
to be joyful in this world is because that everything that we’re trying to make a life out of, and usually
everything that we’re trying to derive joy from when we look at it it’s covered with the dust of death.
Vanity is vanity, all is vanity. That’s why a new car cannot bring inherent joy. The new car is timed. And
that’s why a million dollars in the bank cannot bring inherent joy. Because the million dollars will pass.
And that’s why fame cannot bring inherent joy, because if anyone that is famous knows that the fame
dies away to forgottenness as fast as it comes.
Freddy Prince took his life not long ago. Mr. Holden. Mr. Hughes would have understood this.
If you can have it all but not have joy. Why can’t you get joy from wealth? Why can’t you get joy from
power? Why can’t you get joy from fame? Why can’t you get joy from pleasure? If you want to see
absolutely one of the most horrible scenes that you’ve ever looked at you just look at a group of people
who are in the classification of the really worldly. And you listen. In New York about two o’clock in the
morning the day starts for a certain crowd of people. And you can walk up and down the streets and
you can see sights that are like a fantasy world. You can’t imagine the way their dressed, you can’t
imagine the way their faces are made up, you can’t imagine their eyes, but the thing that you really can’t
imagine is when you listen to them laugh, it is the hollowest, shrillest, most painful laughing that I’ve
ever heard in my life. Never heard anything like that. That those who have tried the hardest to extract
the most of joy from their own hands, and their own activities and their own pleasures will wind up with
an absolutely indescribable misery. The writer of Ecclesiastes would say that is vanity. It’s vanity of
vanities it’s all vanity. That’s the preacher.
Why is it that in the political world that so often people have been there a number of years
start shaking their head, some retiring or resigning are going back to other work, and sometimes their
life is never quit the same again. What’s the problem? The problem is trying to extract a joy that is big
enough for you, a person out of a limited world. Now that’s the first one, is the dust of death on
everything that your trying to seize to make you happy? And so even though you pretend, you know it’s
going to go away.
The second thing, this problem of joy is, and particularly in our society is that more and more we
have become what we will call tonight a flat world. Ours is a flat world, and by a flat world, I mean a
world that has lost its sense of mystery. A world that has lost the wonder. A world that is no longer
capable of awe, and cold chills. The west, the United States is becoming increasingly a nation of
shallowness, of flatness, incapable of enjoying the greatest genius’s produce in the area of music,
incapable of restoring politic heights of other years. It’s incapable of all that it can bring them to a
standstill. Motionless, before he god of the heavens and the Earth. Why do we have so much trouble
bringing wonder and joy and awe, and mystery to our own assemblies? It is because our own lives are
gripped with such flatness. Television flattens. We talk about the smut, we talk about the pornography
that’s on television, and more obscene than all of that is the mindless trash that comes out hour after
hour after hour that says about our world and about ourselves that everything is flat. Do what you will,
grab what you can, seize that golden ring, eat, drink, and be merry and the most offensive thing about
television to me is it is an absolute abject insult to thought. It’s an insult. It is so weak, it is so shallow,
and shallow minds feed on it, and feed on it, and feed on it, and nature is no longer as beautiful to our
young, and God is no longer a possibility for so many in this nation, and worship, worship has been
turned into a pass of donuts mentality. You can laugh if you want to.
It’s like; a father and his little boy were looking at this golden bronzed list of names, long
columns. And the little boy said, “Daddy, what is that?” And his daddy said, “This is the names, and
these are the names of all those that died in service.” And the boy said, “Which service, the eight thirty
or the ten thirty?” It’s so hard that we are we’re looking for God when we haven’t even come to grips
with our own world. What chance does a man have? What opportunities does a woman have to
understand God, who are completely blind by the shallow indifferent flatness of the world of which we
are living? Ecclesiastes pushes, and shoves, and kicks and cajoles and challenges us until we’re flat
against the wall, and he says that is life. Clean all that off he says. Come to enjoy flatness in our world.
Our education is flat. Flatness. Look at the kid’s educated, sharp many have information that’s
just unbelievable, but they’ve got, maybe it’s the sense, maybe it’s wisdom, maybe it’s death, or maybe
it’s mystery, maybe it’s wonder, maybe its awe, maybe it is the ability to stand in silence before that
which is great. And I believe that with our Christian schools whether they are secondary schools,
primary schools, or whether they are our colleges but absolutely the greatest sin of Christian education
is the presumption of virtue. That because it is Christian, that it’s out of this world. Because it’s a
Christian education everything is going to be fine. Because it’s Christian everybody will believe in God,
all you have to do is keep pouring out the information. And so they’re going to the bible classes they’re
getting degrees in bible. They don’t know God. They don’t know Christ. They don’t know how to
worship. They don’t know how to relate. And so very often all there is to do is stand before the
audiences and here comes a little more theological philosophy psychology. No depth. No depth in our
study, no depth in our teaching, no depth in our preaching, nothing that brings us to the edge or our
seats, that opens our hearts, stretches our minds and causes us to think, think, think. We come out; we
know it all, flatness, chapels. The greatest problem with keeping it chapel in a Christian school is
keeping some depth in it. You can’t let it be routine. It can’t be routine. It can’t, it can’t, and it can’t. It
can’t be flat; it can’t be taken for granted. We keep offering our students in our homes in our schools, in
our churches reportedly into the august presence of the living God and it be flat. We’ll kill them. We’ll
kill the idea of God in their hearts. We’ll kill the idea of worship; we’ll contribute to flatness, flatness,
The writing of Ecclesiastes says, if you must pence up to the way the world really is and more of
his world is our world. More and more empty, almost completely of anything that is vertical. We’re
living in a total horizontal plane today. We wonder about the values of our kids. We wonder about
those values and we wonder why this thing isn’t taking hold, we wonder in the church why the sermons
aren’t taking hold and why the bible classes aren’t taking hold, and we wonder why the instruction their
getting in our homes isn’t taking hold. It’s because life is like a speed boat. There’s nothing to grab
onto. All that is here is this thing and this thing and this activity and that activity and something else,
and we’re skimming, we’re like a rock skimming across the surface, and we’re like a speed boat. There’s
nothing that the kids can hang onto, there’s nothing to get hold of. Everything is psych and flat. But
somehow we have to find a way to get some depth, depth back into our lives. Some awe, some fear,
some reverence, some wonder. Some reverence of life.
Now, what he says is that if a person understands the nature of the world but will look for joy.
Then he says let that person hopefully will come to see that joy is the depth of God. That joy is not a
human gift that the joy that this world has to offer can be taken away. That there will be a few souls
who will come to their search for joy to live outside the vanity of this world. Will achieve depth in life.
And will be quiet again and will listen. That only God can give this kind of power.
Now, remember the cleaning off. Now let’s look at some New Testament ideas for just a
moment. What does John say in first John, two, beginning at verse fifteen? Doesn’t he say love not the
world, love not the world. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride
of life are not of the Father, but are of the world. Flat! And he said, those who try to find life that way
are going to get disappointed, are going to be disillusioned for all that is in the world. What’s going to
happen to it John? It’s going to pass away.
And so Jesus says in Mathew, the sixteenth chapter, if any man would come after me let him
deny himself and take up the cross and follow me. He that would save his life with time, with the world,
with things, with power even with this world’s pleasure and happiness and joy. He who would save his
life will lose it, but he who will lose his life for my sake shall find it, released from the flat and introduced
to the vertical. Now what he’s saying is that you have to die for certain things.
Now before we go any further and before we have our break let me make two or three
suggestions that will maybe help to clear the air. How does a person get from being so enmeshed in
things as we are, to thinking this way? How do you get free from the clock so that you are able to move
in the clock? That’s what you have to do. You can’t smash the clocks and bash the watches that’s a part
of this world. We’re not trying to escape chronos, what we’re trying to find according to the writer of
Ecclesiastes and later according to Jesus is, a way to live in this without being ground up in the rat race.
We’re painting the full height and depths of our humanity how are we to do that how do you quit
thinking this way, and start thinking in a way that allows you to be fully present in the moment that you
live? How can you get so free from the threat of separation that time brings, that you are able to come
back and enjoy all of those things from which you will be separated? As I said earlier, you can’t enjoy
the automobile if your life is wrapped up in the automobile. That if you are free from that automobile
and its destruction and if you understand that is to be enjoyed now, then it’s no big deal. It’s no big
status symbol. Then he says, you’ve got a shot at something here in this world. How can you be
penniless without somehow having the meaning of your life tied up in your fate, wealthy without having
the meaning of your life tied up in your power, a leader without having the meaning of your life tied up
in your leadership? He says, how can you live and use all of these things that are in the world that are
covered with the dust of death and are going to pass away, how can you do that and be happy, be
joyful. How can you be (INAUDIBLE) to anything that will pass away? How can you think that way?
Now, the first thing that Jesus says is that you have to make a decision that is a no to this
world. Now sometimes as Christians we hear the spiritual ideas and we want to say yes to those. That
sometimes it is hard to say yes to God if you have not said no here. Because here’s the problem, you
can’t imagine this. Nobody here can imagine this. That is so high above the Earth that there’s no way
for us to even imagine that. What do you think about when you think of God? We’ve been looking out
into the dark spaces of the universe. The Russian space ship went out and said, well there’s no god
because we went out and checked it out and there’s nobody there. That was very intelligent. How do
we think about God? How do we, you can’t imagine this. And probably you’ll never be very successful
trying to imagine that when you pray and do all those other things that you do where God is concerned.
But I’ll tell you what you can do. The things that you’re dealing with here and now you can know the
truth about those things and you can know that you cannot ring life out of anything that is going to pass
away and die, you can say No to this world, that it is vanity of vanities. It is all a striving after the wind.
You can say no, no, no to that. Be free of it, deny yourself, lose your life. The way you do that is to start
out saying no to the things, even your reason and your good sense that tells you is not adequate to base
a life on. You can’t build a life out of perishable material. Not and have any depth. You decide no, you
say no, that’s not the way that it’s going to happen. And when you say no to all of this, then the second
thing you do is you give yourself some time to grow. Some time. If you clean your heart off well enough
and it’s a heart that’ is seeking after God, then God will come. Say no to what you can see, and then be
open to a yes for what you can’t see. It’s a matter of learning. Giving yourself some time to work with
these ideas, nobody can take the idea of kiros and just master it in a night.
What we start out with is to be open and that brings us to the third point and that is to
recognize that these are just ideas. Eternal ideas, real ideas, genuine ideas but they are ideas that are
really nothing more than little seeds. That what I’m hopeful for is that is to water this little seed a little
bit more that’s already been planted in the hearts of most of the people here. Just a little seed about
time that will let you look at your clock with a sort of knowing look. Look in the mirror at those wrinkles
with a sort of knowing smile. It doesn’t make you anxious because you one of those rare people in this
world who never put any stock or future in that anyway. And so when it happens it’s no surprise, when
it happens it’s not a shock. Now it may be a little bit. That’s alright if it is a little bit, because these are
seeds that take some time. And don’t be anxious about yourself if it’s there just a little bit, don’t be
anxious about yourself if you’re a little bit afraid to die, don’t be anxious about that. Just keep affirming
what the truth is about time. And that truth is that if you believe you are bigger than time. I am slowly
coming to believe as a real thing that I am larger than slip sliding time. That I am a man made in the
image of the living God with inexhaustible depth and wonder available to me. That I ride the worlds and
the planets. That I am the slave not of the timed but of my true nature and creator. I’m a man. How do
we teach that? How can we say it? How can we take our young men and our young women and stand
before them not with many words but just a few and say I am a man. Say it.
We’re not pawns, we’re not automatons. One doesn’t’ derive that from the flatness of this
world but from some ideas, some seed, and some time. Now, the other thing that this means is that
what we do is it’s a matter you see it’s taking all that we know and finding a way to act on it practically.
You have the right ideas. I think I’ve got some of the right ideas that I am constantly overcome and
bombarded with all these ideas, all of these spiritual thoughts and somehow I’m just wrestling and
watching my life fade away. Give me some handles. Here’s number one. Start teaching differently
about the timed nature of this flat world. Here’s the second one. Start looking for joy that allows you to
come back and procreate the things of this world.
Now there are some enemies of this and after the break, we’re going to take these five or ten
minutes and stretch a little bit, and I’d like to come back then and spend the balance of the evening in
looking at the application. And that will be the third clue that he gives us which is built around the
theme of our task or our work in the world. I think that maybe the next hour we’ll continue to gel some
things. We’ll just pick up, take a break now.
Bringing this together, I’d like to fill in this third one just briefly and then we’ll just do a general
time together of all three of these things. That the writer of Ecclesiastes warns about making too much
of the virtues of diligence and hard work and he said that can be used to mask really very greedy hearts.
And so to mask greedy, you bestow the virtues of work and prudence, diligence, all of these things. And
it is not that he would put down work at all because that is one of his primary themes of the value and
importance of work. But he just says don’t make too much of that because that won’t ring very true.
That you can bestow all of these things and really all your doing is just greedy. You just get more and
more for yourself and you’re only doing what you want to do and it’s not so much the virtue of diligence
than it is that’s what it mask, this inner motivation it’s really not very pure.
And we might as well say this right here. There’s not any point brothers and sisters in trying to
fool ourselves. You know this isn’t any of that sorry business. You are what you are and that’s the way
it is. And you can fool me and I can fool you and we can play with each other and do our little mind
games and keep up our little pretentions and our disguises and all of that. But all that’s vanity. Its
vanity, it’s adolescent, it’s foolish, ridiculous and it blinds us to God, it blinds us to the world. Creates a
little self centered cell in which we finally will suffocate ourselves. So there’s just no future in that.
This is a book that is reminding us that we ought to be a people who tell the truth. And so let’s
tell the truth about the nature of this world, and as we do that let’s not seize on certain things that we
can sort of sell as virtues and then use them as cloaks. He also warns against saying I’m doing all of this
for my family. He says that’s another illusion many times for many people. That just masks greed.
Mask impure motivation. I love a line from Elliot that says, we would be ashamed at our most beautiful
actions if the world could see the motives that produced them. Another said the greatest treason is to
do the right thing for the wrong reason. It’s interesting to think about that this whole question of
Now this is the desire to really get honest and so when we talk about work we don’t want to
turn that into some sort of political action that is designed to protect either the middle class or the
upper class or any other class of human beings in the world and so you don’t have to do that. It’s not
necessary. Work has its own value and you don’t have to balloon it up and make of it some sort of
political sword with which to fight for the protection of certain classes in the world. You don’t have to
do that. There are allot of people that are going to do it, they’ve always done it and their always will do
it. In our society right now there’s an awfully lot of that going on. Work, work, work. Diligence is
virtuous, it’s prudent. When inside those who are talking that so much, and who are making so much
political hay out of it, look at their lives. Look at the way that their living their lives, look at the
selfishness, look at the relationships who all of those things that they are so prudently filling for the
world. Look at the way their living. Don’t participate in that. It’s all vanity of vanities it’s flaying after
the wind. We don’t have to play those kinds of political games in this world. We don’t need politicians
to tell us that work is important for a human being. What we need is people who understand God to tell
us the importance of work. I’m not going to get on anybody’s band wagon to extol those kinds of things.
We’re cut out of a different cloth. We’re members of a different kingdom that is not of this world and
that is not political in its nature that is not materialistic in its nature, it is of God the opitomey of whom
of which is Jesus Christ and the way he lived and worked and loved and served. And I’m not going to do
anything knowingly in this world, I’m not going to ride any horse, I’m not going to get on any band
wagon, and I’m not going to get involved in any alliance that carries me in any direction that I cannot see
obviously and clearly in the life of the one that I have said you are my Lord. Not going to do it.
I will not allow the culture in which I live, or any faucet of this culture to take command of my
life and manipulate me, and to use me and to spend me and my energies. I have one Lord, and I know
that Lord, and I have four books to which are added twenty three additional books of explanation to tell
me how to live my life as a human being in this world. And I’m going to look at that and I’m going to
love that, and I’m going to study that and I’m going to try to be this kind of human being and if this
church likes it, it’s fine, and if this church doesn’t like it that’s still fine. And if I like it that’s fine and if I
don’t like it that’s fine. Nothing matters except for the Christian to look and to follow Christ. And how
great it is when their bound together in groups of this size who are all looking at him. But I’ll tell you
one thing for sure, anyone of us who believes for one moment simply because of a word that’s written
on our signs or over any of our doors that that automatically presumes that we are everything that God
wants us to be in this world, that is a devils lie.
The truth is if there had been people that called themselves God’s People from the beginning of
time who had led the world continually on a path of destruction. The words pour out, and they keep
pouring out, and they keep pouring out. Somewhere along the line there’s an accounting, somewhere
along the line there’s a test. And what I’m saying right now is not to imply at all that because there are
words over the doors of our buildings and over our signs that this qualifies us. It doesn’t. I’m just saying
that one of the worst mistakes we could ever make is to take ourselves as a people of God for granted.
That because we are in Churches of Christ that that automatically assumes that everything is fine with
us. Look at us. Look in our churches. Look in our own hearts. Everything is fine.
Now, the point is that to be right in this world you don’t have to live with that kind of
foolishness. That kind of smugness. That kind of pride. It gets in the way and it’ll make of you a
dishonest person and a hypocrite if you not awfully careful. Some of the great values of this great book
keep all of that stripped away and it keeps reminding us that everyday we’re constantly affirming our
relationship to God in the way that we live. The way that we live. Isn’t that true. If that’s not true I
don’t know what’s true in this world. But I just know this. That we’ve got allot of words, and I believe
that we’ve got right words, and that with those right words there are so many problems. The latest
studies have indicated that in this one fellowship that it’s not that it’s not two and half or three and a
half million members but really nine hundred and seventy three thousand total. I do not want to
husband a little flame a little longer until inevitably it goes out. Let this book tell us in our generation
that we can tell the truth. The truth about our world, the truth about us, and that we don’t have to be
afraid of each other. That we don’t have to be afraid to tell each other, that we can do that. Don’t be
disturbed when someone stands up and says brothers and sisters things aren’t going well with us. Don’t
be disturbed. Blessed art they who mourn. Don’t be defensive, don’t be protective, don’t seize a kind of
control that says it’s all going to go to pieces depending on you. It’ll kill you brother. It’ll kill you sister.
The world is too big. There’s too much evil, there’s too much suffering, there’s too much failure for you
to believe that you’ve got to corner on God. Too much.
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God, Jesus says. What we can do is
come honestly. That’s the thing about great men and women. They’re not afraid to face themselves. I
believe right now that our own fellowship is beginning to show more and more courage just in the last
while, facing themselves. Don’t be afraid. It’s the first step toward moving on, it’s the first step. And to
look and to be led carefully by the bible itself. Letting Ecclesiastes play its part in leading and bringing us
back, first of all to these just fundamentals. Time and joy, the right task. And then let’s see now how all
of this can fit into and relate to a sort of force of life.
What is this task? Well first of all this task is just your job. Ecclesiastes says I really hope your
enjoying your job every day. You’d better be, cause your spending allot of time at that. Human being,
don’t you realize that? Do you realize human being how much time you spend at work? And how many
years you’re going to spend at work? Do you realize oh human being how many people you’re going to
meet at work, than you will meet at any of your other activities? And don’t you know human being that
if you haven’t made peace with your work that you probably aren’t going to make much peace with
God. And don’t you know human being that if you have not found joy in the activities of your day and in
your joy, I mean a relationship with it that doesn’t let it eat you up, and command you and boss you and
drive you into the ground, but that allows you to walk amidst your pressures and walk amidst your
decision making and walk amidst all the problems among employees and employers walking among it
all, beautifully, controlled, marvelously filled with peace knowing, that knowing look on your face that
says my life is bigger than all of this, and I will laugh over all of this.
Give us Samuel Johnson who the great lexicographer of England, a very huge man maybe three
hundred pounds, a very rotund character and who never lost his excitement and joyfulness and
playfulness about life and so he was with his friends one day and they were standing on the edge of a
little grassy slope. And the huge hulk of a figure famous throughout all of England and the world said,
started emptying his pockets, “hold this” to his friends. Took out everything from his pockets and then
he said, “My friends it’s been years since I’ve had a good roll” he was about sixty years old now, “Would
you join me in a good roll down this grassy slope?” and he laid down and went tumbling. Have you ever
done that as a kid? Wasn’t that fun? How long has it been since you’ve done it? When I read that about
Samuel Johnson I didn’t, down a grassy slope, nope took off and rolled down it, it was fun, even at forty
it was fun. He went to visit his childhood home and there was always this big high fence and of course
the place was being lived in by someone else and she was all excited about the great Samuel Johnson
who was coming back to visit and she looked out her window and here was the big hulk of a man now
along in age looking at that fence, that high fence, and began to empty his pockets, and she thought my,
he doesn’t know there’s a gate. And all of a sudden here he came hurdling toward that fence and
bounded up and over it, and went rolling and tumbling into the dirt on the other side. She went out and
said “Oh Mr. Johnson, Dr Johnson, didn’t you know there was a gate?” Oh yes he said, I know there’s a
gate, but I used to do that as a child and I just wondered if I still could. I’ll tell you, there’s something
that we can learn about this joyful relationship with the world.
If you go into an employer’s office and he’s sitting there. He may have his arms crossed. It’s like
a man who called up not long ago and he said I’m standing here with my arms crossed and I’m tapping
my foot. Now that will wake you up. And, what do you do with that? You want that man to tell you
about God? You want to follow him? That this person that’s standing over here and I mean don’t you
talk to me, I’m busy. I’m not talking about not being thrifty; I mean diligent and all of that. I’m just not
much on attitude. What’s coming out of your pours that people are going to catch? Cause you’re a very
infectious person, we all are. We’re going to infect the whole environment with dread and pessimism,
and fear, hatefulness and bitterness.
Listen, you got to be known as a person of joy. Find joy in your work. And he said secondly in
that task, it’ll all come together in you relationships, you’d better enjoy the life of your youth, and your
children. Now let’s talk about joy within this term for a moment. Joy with our work, and joy in our
relationships. Have you ever thought about the power of joy in your marriage? See marriage is, people
say to me all the time, and incidentally I hear enough bad news from married people that it just makes
us all think twice about wanting to get married. Now that’s not the reason that I’ve stayed single, but I
tell you it’ll give you pause sometimes. And yet if somebody’s going to make a speech on it a convincing
speech you get all the good news. See, but I get all that other news as well, but people say, oh marriage
has just gone flat. Well, you don’t laugh much in your marriage do you? Well, I don’t know, we laugh
some. You don’t laugh much. Because if there’s any joy in your marriage it wouldn’t have gone flat.
And I’ll tell you something else, if there’s no joy in your marriage, it’s your fault. Because one person
can put joy in a marriage. And joy is dynamite. Dynamite! Enjoy your marriage? What will joy do? See
what joy will do, makes it deeper. Keeps it from being flat.
Now this view of time, you know what that will do to your marriage? It’ll keep off the anxiety
and you’ll accept the passage of time for what it is. Because your tapping in to something else all the
time. And you’re not forgetting the joy, the passage of time and everything, it doesn’t take the joy out,
and so you don’t become one of those old anxious, fearful, narrow eyed, you know people who live in a
certain way and their eyes get closer together. And their nose gets more peaked and pointed, and their
mouth, strange things happens to it, physiologically, sometimes we grow older and they lose that sense
of joy. Now the wise men said, enjoy this work, enjoy these relationships and that will help put depth
When Paul described the husband and wife relationship in Ephesians, chapter five he says this is
a great mystery, and I speak of Christ in the church and Christ says to the church, my joy I give unto you
not as the world give unto you, but my joy I give. If you follow joy it will lead you deeper than the
shallowness of this world and put you in touch with the awesomeness of the living God. Puts depth in
there. And with your children. Are you guided by joy with your children? Guided by joy in your
marriage. Guided by joy with your children.
My mother is here tonight. No disrespect to your mothers but I’ve got the sweetest one. You
know I’m fortunate to have a mother like this. This time last year Dad was here with her. We lost him
since they were here last. But that hasn’t stopped her joy. Maybe a little bit changed the shape of
things but we had our ups and downs as a family, we had our fights and our fusses and got on each
other’s nerves, but it was playful. My parents were playful. My dad was that too, I shouldn’t tell this
but he’d be apted to turn a chair or sofa upside down, taking the pillows out and we’d play war. And he
was forty, forty-five years old. Now we didn’t do that when mother was home. We’d send her across
the street to the neighbor, Mrs. Javens and one night she suspected that something was going on
because we could hear her coming and by the time we heard her foot steps on the walk we could have
everything straight. Dad was a master at cleaning up messes. But she suspected that something was
going on and so she tipped toed in and when she opened the door she almost got taken out by a
cushion. I remember the year I think nineteen and forty-seven snow was thirty inches deep or it would
soon accumulate to that, and we said, “Mother, Dad let’s go get some ice cream.” Had to go into town
about seven miles, had to cross a creek bed, was snowing, and blinding snow. We couldn’t even get up
there, but wouldn’t it be good dad? Boy, having a pint of ice cream would really be great. And the crazy
character loaded us up, thru a blinding snow storm; we liked to have never got back. But we got our ice
cream. Playfulness. Got to be playful. Guided by joy. Listen my parents are the first ones to talk about
the mistakes they made with us, but let me tell you one of the things, and I don’t know if I’ve ever said
this to mother, but one of the things that reduces mistakes with a proper stature is when that home is
guided by joy. It’s got to be joy. It’s got to be laughter.
An interviewer ask me not long ago, said Landon when you think of your childhood and your
home, what’s the first thing you think about, what was the most important thing? And I thought for a
moment and I said, mealtime. Mealtime, our family ate together, three times a day as a family. And I
remember at the table, and I remember where each of the six sat. And I remember what it was like
when one member of our family’s chair was vacant. The meal just wasn’t as good. The solidarity was
broken. Something was missing. There’s a sense in which I almost feel I was held in the arms of a table
in which all of our family was present three times a day.
What’s important in this world? The wise men say, these are the things that are important.
Guide your children with joy. Think in the work environment. I know a company based in Dallas
operating chief executive is a great Christian person, and I see what has to be one of the most
remarkable quality I’ve ever seen in a business and no matter where you go in the United States where
the business are you see this tremendous quality of life and service. And so I went into his office not
long ago and I said, Bill could I attend one of your meetings with you, with your top people. He said as a
matter of fact we’re going to have one this afternoon. I said, I’d love to know what you do. And I went
in and I sat there for almost three hours and I heard this owner and top executive of one of the fastest
growing food chains in America tell his top managers, I thought he’d pull out the charts and look at this
bottom line and look at this goal and all of this and I’m sure they got some of that. But their leader sat
there for three hours and told them stories, stories. I thought after the first hour surely he’d get down
to the business part of the thing. Second hour he told stories, another hour and I watched the faces of
the management and the smiles, and the tears, and I watched them leave with quiet confidence, and
certainty. Joy. He would tell them things like in a couple of stores in one of the cities do you know what
one of the worst things that can happen to a fast food little restaurant it’s when you get your food and
you go out back to eat it in your car (AUDIO MALFUNCTION, UNRETRIVABLE. JUMPS TO DIFFERENT
SECTION OF THE SPEACH)
Now this man, he’s going berserk, you know big signs up; don’t throw paper on the parking lot.
Big garbage cans that said put your paper in here. Here’s these intelligent people who are not illiterate,
they can read, throwing their paper down on the ground. So do you know what the manager did? He
looked at his impulse watch and go out there and say, why don’t you clean up this mess, but instead, he
reached in his pocket and pulled out free tickets for free meals for all of them. And he went out and he
said to them, “We’re so glad to have you at our store. Is everything alright, did you enjoy the food
which was prepared properly? Here, I want to give you a ticket for free meals, I want you to come back.
Have a good day.” Turned around and walked back and as he went in the door he glanced over his
shoulder and they were already out of the car picking up paper. And he said, over at another store we
had a manager and the man came thru and he was complaining a little bit about the food. And he
manager said, what you mean complaining about this food, this is the best food. And the man said, I got
some bad stuff out here. He ended up inviting the man out behind the store. Now which kind of
manager do you want to be?
Here is a man who really enjoys his work, knows the importance of relationship and has led a
company to greatness. Joy. Joy in the church, joy among our elders. If there’s anybody on this Earth
that needs joy, it’s elders. Do you know what they have to put up with? Sometimes we think, Boy, we
have to put up with allot in our elders, but turn that around. Think what they got to put up with. How
would you like to put up with that mess? What can you do? I know one thing, that if we are led by
Sheppard’s of joy we’ll walk after you and love you and thrill to your presence. And we’ll follow.
Sheppard’s of joy. When we hear your voice let it be the noise of joy. Our people are hurting, bleeding,
wounded and dying. Their suffering all over our pews. There’s emptiness and loneliness, and there’s
fearfulness, and fright and people are scared. Stand before us with joy.
I think if I were (INAUDIBLE) the thing that is most misting today in our assembly it is joy. Now,
and then you can keep applying it. Glide with joy in your work, put these things together and what you
come away with then is this vision. When you put right here the person of Jesus Christ. Let me tell you
what you have. You have a flesh and blood example of how to live in the Ecclesiastes world. If you will
look at Jesus he will tell you three things. He’ll tell you how to live free from the separation that the
passing of time brings. He’ll show you how to live saying my hour is not yet come; there is nothing that
anybody can do to me. He will let you live with the view of your life in this world that one day will let
even you say, I have finished the work. Because he redefines it. And he lifts from your shoulders and
mind the obligation of having to right every wrong in this world. And feed every person who’s hungry.
And cleanse every leper. You can’t do it. So what do you do? What can you do? Is there a recipe that
begins to emerge? Christ says, this is the way you live in a world that’s out of control. This is the way
you live in a world filled with wrong. That you’ll never right. This is the way you deal with aging, and
wrinkles. This is the way you deal with the fleeting nature of wealth and riches and power. You deal
with it by redefining things. Let this mind be in you which is also in Christ Jesus. Paul got hold of that.
And you have hold of it. And I have hold of it. Let’s bring it on to fulfillment. And let’s begin to affirm
even the unaffordable that I live in a time that I am not of. I am of God.