The Secret of True JoySermon passage: (Ecclesiastes 11:7-10) Spoken on: August 24, 2014
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Elder Jonathan Lee For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Ecclesiastes
The Secret of True Joy
Rev. Siow Hwee suggested that I share on today's verses to all the young people in this congregation (well, I guess that includes me as I celebrated my 21st birthday not that many years ago). So if you have more hair on your crown than me, you are in the right place. (This excludes brother Ivan as his shinning crown is man induced). Let's turn our bible to Ecclesiastes 11:7-10. I will be reading from the New International Version.
Ecclesiastes 11:7-10 (NIV)
Remember Your Creator While Young
7Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
8However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all. But let them remember the days of darkness, for there will be many. Everything to come is meaningless.
9You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
10So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigour are meaningless.
What caught your eyes when we read through the verses? For the optimist, I believe the words "enjoy", "happy" and "joy" might have caught your eyes. For the pessimist, guess the word "meaningless" would have surfaced.
Some of you might have seen it from the macro view and you might be thinking, this King Solomon is such a wet blanket. First, he told us to enjoy our lives, then he said that all to come is meaningless. He followed by saying to "follow the ways of our heart and whatever we see that give us joy", but warned about God's judgement and again ended with the word meaningless (by the way, he used the word meaningless more than 30 times in Ecclesiastes).
It's like he opened this huge freezer full of Hagan Dazs ice cream and invite you to eat to your heart contend, "come, eat and ENJOY all the ice cream you want, BUT, you will put on a lot of weight and grow VERY FAT, your six packs will become ONE BIG LUMP, and you will need to run 10km everyday for the next hundred days to lose those fats".
Let's take a look at the verses and see what the wisest person ever lived on earth is revealing to us. Let's dig into the treasure of King Solomon's wisdom.
Life Should Be Enjoyed Because Death is Inevitable
In v7, "Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun". The word Light here also means life or pleasures of life. Sweet signify that life is to be savoured with enthusiasm, just as one enjoys honey. When you wake up in the morning and you are able to open your eyes and see the sun shining; Hallelujah! you are alive! In this verse, it means not just to live but "to live joyfully", the word see stresses the note of enjoyment.
In v8, the enjoyment of life is to be life-long (many years). However, death will come knocking on your door one day; and there would be sickness, trial, misfortune, frustration and unpleasant days. These are part of the days of darkness mentioned here. Our present lives are meant to be joyous. King Solomon urges us to enjoy this life before death overtakes it.
Yes, we should be enjoying the life and blessings God has given us, not to take a single day for granted, but be contented and count our blessings, keeping our mind on God.
In my counselling profession, I have seen many clients whom are unhappy and angry with life. From my observation, they have this mental block that they see only what they do not have but failed to see the abundance in their field.
One young man came to see me and told me that he is depressed. "Tell me more of what caused you to be depressed?". "You see, I have these pimples on my face which make me unattractive; my family is not wealthy (but I have more than $50k in my bank); and I am not popular among my friends in the Uni". As a trained counsellor, we engage and intervene professionally; but, we still have this very human thing at the back of our mind. (You have pimples but I have these holes on my face, on top of that, I've a shining bald head that can be seen kilometres away. By the way, that's how my children locate me in the crowded shopping mall; on wealth, you have $50k in your bank and that is not wealthy?; you think you are not popular but you top your cohort every term and have been on the Dean list). He was looking from the perspective of what he does not possess, (I named it half glass empty syndrome), he ignored the half glass that is full. In English we say "the grass is greener at the other side of the fence" while in Mandarin "the moon is rounder in other countries". I had to point him to his strength and reframed his mindset to focus on what he possess; to look at the half glass full and not half glass empty. Don't we sometime fall into this same mind trap and took things for granted?
Enjoy Life to the Fullest, focusing on Jesus
In v9, King Solomon urged young man to pursue joy by following the leading of the heart and eyes. So what gives you joy? All As and distinction in your exam? Money to buy what your heart desires? Be popular with friends? Or you need power, status and be influential?
When we read v9 in line with Ecclesiastes 6:9, "It is better to be content with what the eyes can see than for one's heart always to crave more", once again we are reminded that this pursue of joy is to be done with contentment, with what we have rather than always to desire for more. Further, this following of the heart and eyes is to be carried out with the knowledge that there is accountability to God. This joy is to be pursued within the boundaries set by God.
In v10, young man is to make the most of his brief moment of youth. He is to remove from his heart anxiety (frustration & grief) and reject troubles from his body (sin of the flesh). He is to embrace his whole being, in the light of God's divine purpose, rather than defining himself by the world's standard and practices.
The secret of true Joy - Jesus, Others, You.
A man in depression for many years came to see me and told me he needed joy. He had gone from church to church but he was unable to find joy. He was unhappy with church leaders and members, unhappy with his wife and children, unhappy with the doctor treating him, unhappy with people whom crossed his path. I told him I can't give him joy but am willing to explore ways to find that joy he wanted. But he insisted that what he needed is for God to do a miracle and "download" JOY into his heart. I wanted to share with him the SECRET of TRUE JOY but he declined and insisted that the only way is through miracle.
Do you want to know the SECRET of TRUE JOY embedded in King Solomon's wisdom?! This true joy will enable you to enjoy life and yet not end up with a meaningless ending. (Do you want it?!)
Before I reveal the secret, let me share with you a group of people I got to know in May (2014) this year that already knew this secret. I was in Zambia (Central Africa) with the Council of World Mission for a mission enabling trip. My teammates came from UK, New Zealand, Jamaica and South Africa.
I stayed with the local church pastor and leaders and visited the regions which are relatively poor. Let me show you some pictures of my visit. (PPT) This is the church in the bush constructed with mud and leaves. The drum is their only worship instrument. They squeeze in 150 people on a normal Sunday and villagers walk many kilometres under the hot sun to attend service.
This is the Community Hospital set up by the church, with one medical officer and two nurses (with no doctor) attending to about 300 patients each day. See the unique wheelchair made of plastic chair.
These are the houses at the Ndola area which I stayed. I was wondering why people seal up their windows with bricks. I was told that the people are so poor that they completed the house but have no money to put in windows. So they used the leftover bricks to seal them up first. This could remain for years until they save enough for windows. I thought the Minister's house should be better since the church built it. I went to the toilet to do my business and I was, "wow, no toilet seat". I was stunt for a while, and was like "how should I do my business?". Time for bath but the big pail had nothing to scoop water. I was told to use my bare hands to scoop the water.
The Minister was very warm and hospitable that she prepared a lot of food for me; beef, chicken, fish, mushroom, vegetable, rice and nshima (Nshima is the staple food made of grinded corn, goat milk and water). I went to their kitchen to see what her eight children were eating and I was stunt for a second time. I took a photo from far as I felt that I could be impolite to take a close up. Hence, I made a replica to show you what was on their plate. Rice with two pieces of potatoes salad and a little tomatoes sauce with onion. The plate she was using had a big triangle chip.
Despite having very little, (many are widows and do small scale farming at their backyard), they were able to build a three thousand members church. (They share gospel through open air rally under hot sun, do door-to-door sharing, walked many kilometres on challenging mud road, engaging youth and women. With the little they had, they shared with the widows and orphan in the community; they built schools and hospitals, they trained their own social workers to care for the people; they have quite a few theological colleges too.
Let me show you a short clip of their singing.
No doubt life is hard for them, but they have true joy. Christ is the centre of their lives, they live in contentment of what God has given them, sharing the little they have with those in need. The sacrificial love of Christ is indeed in them.
Are you ready for the SECRET of TRUE JOY? J is JESUS, putting Jesus first; O is OTHERS, caring for Others; and Y is YOU, putting yourself LAST.
Putting JESUS in first place is not about quitting your job to become a full time minister; it is not how much time you spend each day in prayers and reading the bible (although these are important); it is not how much time you spend in church or how many ministries you are involve with. The bible shows us how to put Christ first but I can only give you a glimpse due to time.
I believe we are familiar with Matt 6:33, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness...", meaning, to fill your thoughts with his desires, to take his character as yours (e.g. fruit of the Spirit), and to serve and submit to him. Life goals, career, hobbies, wealth, power etc. all compete for priority. Any of these can bump Jesus out of first place if you don't actively choose to put him in first place. Hence, we are to direct our thinking and action toward God, to decisively live for Jesus.
Some years back I was in the main congregation pondering about Jubilee Church and our challenges. I received this image, very similar to the gospel track we used in the 70s and early 80s. The image of a big "I" sitting on the throne with God at the base, relatively smaller. I was like, "emm God, we are all Christian so how could this be possible". The pride and self-centredness in our heart elevated us to the throne and bumped Jesus out of his rightful throne.
I visited a church last year and was impressed with their choir and worship. I told God, "how nice if Jubilee Church can be like them". Immediately words came very clearly in the midst of the very loud music and singing, "A little less of self, a little more of me (God)", and this image appeared very clearly in front of my eyes. Tears flowed like an open flood gate. I couldn't stop tearing throughout the service as the words and image kept echoing in my mind.
Have we become so BIG that Jesus has become so small? Have we become like the church which Paul wrote to in 1 Cor 4:8, "you are already filled. You have already become rich. You have come to reign (without us)".
We saw earlier how the Zambian love and care for OTHERS with the little they had. Jesus told us to love our neighbour the way we love ourselves (Luke 10:27) and to care for those in need (Matt 25:35-40). Just last month, I shared at Presbyterian Care Singapore Network conference on the good work that Jubilee Church forefathers did for the community.
Let me share a few of them with you. (PPT) Do you notice that we did many FIRST (pioneering work) in Singapore and were a positive influence in the community?
Our good work in the community ceased in the late 80s when the Elder Care Centre at Bukit Merah View was closed. There was a drought of more than twenty years until we set up Jubilee Community Service in 2011. When JCSC first started, I went to meet the grass root leaders at Tiong Bahru CC to discuss a joint community project. No one had ever heard of Jubilee Church, although we have been on this Outram Hill for forty years and is just five minutes away from the CC. I was truly embarrassed and my heart bled. Have we been too comfortable in this fortress that we have lost the spirit of caring for OTHERS? Or have we been too engrossed in the big YOU that we pushed Jesus & Others to be secondary? Gal 6:9-10 reminded us, "Let us not become weary in doing good..... let us do good to all people......"; In Hebrews 13:16, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have…”. I believe you know many more verses that point us to care for Others.
I would like to invite brother William to share a short testimony on his life (video). From brother William's testimony, we saw how he was struggling when tried to survive through his own effort. The situation changed when he depended on God, and directed his thinking and action toward God. From his words, he is now living a better life than before.
King Solomon told us that we should enjoy life, but under the light of Jesus, or life would end up meaningless. We can search for purpose and meaning in life, but they cannot be found through human effort, they can only be found through Jesus Christ. This is the secret of TRUE JOY.
Now that you know the SECRET of TRUE JOY, do you want it? It is your CHOICE as Jesus will not force you to take it.
If you are willing, let us lift JESUS high into his rightful throne; let Jesus be the centre of your life, your home, your marriage, your career, your studies, and our church. Let us ask for a tender heart to love and care for the people in the community. Only through these will you find TRUE JOY, and you will not join king Solomon in lamenting the word "meaningless" at the end of your life journey.
May you be blessed with this JOY from now till the day our Lord Jesus Christ return. Amen.