At the end of last Sunday’s sermon – Don’t Lose Sight of God – I talked about looking for God when we are in despair. I said that God is not far from us and that all we have to do is take a look around us at all of His great work. I knew the sermon that I was setting up to preach next would be about how we should cherish life.
On my birthday (Jan. 22nd) I rejoiced at starting my 35th trip around the sun. Unlike many people, I like to have a nice quiet birthday to reflect on my life and rest. I expressed my prayer of thanks and praise to God for that blessing because life is not something I take for granted. One of my online followers wished me a happy birthday and said, “You are so right – every year, every day, every SECOND is such a blessing! I realize that the older I get. God is good!”
It was a comment that really brought a smile to my face because it’s rare for me to hear that from people my age. I honestly feel like sometimes we get so caught up in the normal routines of everyday life that we end up taking this life for granted. Planned to preach this sermon last week, but Job and his despair was laid on my spirit so I pushed this sermon to this Sunday.
I did not realize the news that I would see as I reclined back in my recliner after church last Sunday to rest – the helicopter crash that tragically killed Kobe Bryant, his young daughter, and several others. The abruptness of it all brought back the sad memories of my dad passing away abruptly in August 2011. I felt the pain for all of the loved ones now finding themselves in sudden bereavement. So, that evening I shared a message that I will share today: Cherish life; Cherish loved ones; Cherish all of God’s blessings; Take none of it for granted.
Life is short
In the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, we quickly notice that Solomon was focused on time. Solomon says (Eccl 3:1), “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.” He then begins to list off the time and purpose for things like weeping, laughing, breaking down and healing. Solomon even mentioned that there is time and purpose for birth, death, mourning, and dancing.
Everything has its time is the sub-heading for this passage of scripture in my Bible. “Life is short,” is something you always hear after someone passes away. When I was younger, that did not mean much to me because I was young. I felt I had all the time in the world but before I could blink, I was 5 years away from being 40. Life is speeding by!
James asked (James 4:14), “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” How often do we stop to consider that our lives are like that of fog and mist? There one minute and gone the next. In the heart of this chapter of Ecclesiastes, we see Solomon say this about life, “it is the gift of God”. Are you treating life as something that is incredibly special – a gift?
Cherishing or taking for granted
Cherish: to protect and care for (someone) lovingly; to hold (something) dear; to keep or cultivate with care and affection. I am pretty sure all of probably have our own definition for the word cherish and I imagine that many of our definitions are similar to Merriam-Webster’s definition.
Cambridge defines taking something for granted as: to never think about something because you believe it will always be available or stay exactly the same. When Ecclesiastes was written, Solomon was not a man who was taking life for granted. No, he was a man who had lived a very prosperous life as the son of King David and as King of Israel. Yet, he was also a man, while very wise, had made a great deal of mistakes.
Taking for granted and wasting opportunities
When Ecclesiastes was written, Solomon was a man who in all of his wisdom was reflecting over life. He opened this book by saying (Eccl. 1:2), “ ‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher; ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’ ” That is to say, “All is useless (or empty)”. I always point this out when I teach or preach from Ecclesiastes because we must know the mindset for which this book was written.
Why would he say this? What could cause this man to say something like that? Was he depressed or in despair? No.
God had gotten upset with Solomon and visited him after Solomon had built shrines (idols) for all of his wives. God told him of what was going to become of his kingdom (1 Kings 11:8-13). Solomon had his eyes opened to the fact that he had turned from God and was going down the wrong path.
God has a way of opening up His children’s eyes, doesn’t He? God will certainly work on you when you’re going down the wrong path and start going adrift. As my uncle said one Sunday, “God will prune you” (John 15:2). So, Solomon could either continue down the wrong path or course-correct.
Solomon made his course-correction. He then thought about all that he had done in his life and began to realize just how much of his life was wasted on doing vain things. He felt he had lived a life of no purpose! Yes, he had built the great temple of God in Jerusalem and gained great wealth, but what else do you know Solomon for? (Think about that for a moment.) Not too much of any real purpose and that’s the point he makes in Ecclesiastes.
He had a wonderful opportunity presented to him in his life, was given a special gift, and lived most of his life wasting it. How many of us have been wasting this wonderful opportunity that has been given to us? Have we been taking for granted the special gift that was given to us – life?
How do we cherish this life?
So we see Solomon say in our key verse, “I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives.” He completed that thought by saying, “every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.” I have summed that statement up by saying cherish this life. The question is how do we properly go about doing that?
By doing good?
Solomon is pretty specific in how we go about cherishing this life. He simply says, “do good”. That’s a very simple answer, but it can also be a very complicated answer, right? Because what exactly is ‘doing good’? What does this mean?
You see, one man’s good may not be so good to others. Without swaying too far off from the subject, there are many people who believe they are doing good in the world today that I would completely disagree with. Many who claim to be believers and followers of Christ.
There are two different perspectives that our key verses can be viewed from. It can be viewed from the perspective of someone who has not made God a part of their life. We could also view this scripture from the perspective of one who has accepted God into their life.
Doing good without God?
To those who do not believe in God, Solomon says that they too should rejoice in this life – cherish life – because it is a gift to all. He even encourages that they also do good in it. Is it possible to do good without God being a part of your life? We will see the good that scripture talks about doing in a moment.
We should make note that from this viewpoint, Solomon felt that this sort of life, in the end, would have been a life that was lived in vain. His reasoning was because there would be no reward for living a life without accepting God. He certainly felt it was possible for people to be able to rejoice in life — be happy — yet that happiness could not meet the happiness enjoyed by those who have God in their life.
Solomon had reached a conclusion that life without God ended up being a life that boiled down to hard labor with no reward in the end. I always think about those people who are on their hustle and their grind, day in and out. They never seem to stop to appreciate life and something is not right about that, to me.
Take a moment to slow down to at least appreciate a beautiful day or the company you keep. If you cannot do those things, what would be the point to life? Yes, we must grind and hustle but God did not create us solely for doing those things!
By doing good with God in your life
Solomon learned the Lord’s grace and mercy when God had gotten on him. When you are able to recognize God’s mercy and grace, life takes on a new meaning for you. The appreciation for life becomes different than the appreciation for it you once had. Instead of taking things for granted, you will begin to cherish this life and the opportunity we have to do real good with it.
Solomon says to us, “rejoice in God’s grace and mercy – do good with it!” He then concluded that living a life with God in it and doing good would be a life that is rewarded. Solomon also concluded that we should fear the Lord and be obedient to His way (Eccl. 12:13).
God’s grace, mercy, and His love towards us makes this life that much more exciting and at the very same time it gives our life meaning and purpose; it brings joy and peace to our heart that eases the toils and burdens of life.
Our showing of appreciation begins here
We show that we truly cherish this life in how we go about treating one another. I mentioned James earlier but I want to mention something else he also said. James wrote (James 1:27), “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
He was speaking about the sort of good that we can do in our lives. Someone will take this to mean that they should literally only do the things James mentioned because that’s what this scripture says to do. However, the point that James was making was to love each other and to care for one another. I don’t believe there is any greater good that can be done in our world today other than loving each other and genuinely caring for each other.
True cherishing and appreciating of life is how we care for it. From the time of conception to those who are elderly, we should love one another. Regardless of faith or creed, race or sex we should care dearly for each other. We should refrain from causing harm to our brothers or our sisters of mankind. The apostle John wrote that he who hates his brother is in darkness (1 John 2:9).
If we truly cherish life, that us learn to truly cherish each other – that is where doing good and appreciating life begins. I end this sermon by repeating what I said before: Cherish life. Cherish your loved ones. Cherish God and all of His blessings. Take none of it for granted! Lastly, don’t waste this special gift that has been given to all of us.