We are wrapping up our series called 5 Easy Ways to Wreck Your Life. It’s been a fun series, but it’s also been a really important and hard-hitting series.
Over the last 5 weeks, we have been listening to a guy named Solomon. Solomon wrote the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. This book was essentially Solomon’s journal that he wrote at the end of his life. Solomon is now an old man, and he’s looking back on his life with a ton of regret. And that’s why one of the biggest themes in the book of Ecclesiastes is, “Don’t do what I did.” We’ve heard Solomon say that to us throughout this series.
We’ve heard Solomon say, “Don’t let pleasure drive you like I did. Don’t let success consume you like I did. Don’t isolate yourself and try to do life alone like I did. Don’t reject wisdom and live your life with no guardrails like I did.”
Over and over again, Solomon tells us, “Don’t do what I did. I’m an old man now, and I really wrecked my life. Don’t wreck your life like I wrecked mine.”
Today as we wrap up this series, we’re going to listen as Solomon tells us about one more easy way to wreck our lives, and that is to try to be God. Living like you are God is the surest way to wreck your life.
And one more time, we want to thank our friends at Southland Christian Church in Lexington, KY for their help with this series. They were very generous in sharing their creative resources for this series, including last week’s video message. So thanks to Jon Weece, Mike Breaux, and the entire team at Southland. We really appreciate you guys.
Now, let me pray for us and then we’ll talk about one more easy way to wreck your life.
We’re going to spend some time today reading what Solomon wrote at the very end of his journal here in the book of Ecclesiastes. As Solomon reflects back on his life, here is what he had to say as he wrapped up his book.
In Ecclesiastes 12:1, he wrote, “Remember your Creator…” (Ecclesiastes 12:1a, NIV)
There is so much in those three words. Remember your Creator. Remember that you are created, not the Creator. Remember that there is a God, and you’re not Him. You were created by Him. You were created to love and serve and worship Him.
We tend to try to reverse those roles sometimes, don’t we? We seem to expect God to serve us. We believe He exists to please us. He exists to cater to us. To make us happy.
Now, God does want us to live lives that are blessed. He does want us to be filled with joy. But that blessing and that joy are only found when we understand the true order of things. We exist to serve and please and worship God, not the other way around.
If you want to wreck your life, live your life trying to be God. It’s a role that you are completely unsuited for. You are trying to fill shoes that you can never fill. And life will never make sense if you set yourself up as the center of the universe. If everything exists to make you happy. If you live this narcissistic, self-absorbed existence where everything is always and only about you.
That’s why, in the conclusion of his book, the first thing Solomon says is, “Remember your Creator.” Because Solomon forgot his Creator. He set himself up as the center of his universe. His pleasure, his success, his comfort, his fame were the objects of his worship. And now at the end of his life, we hear him say one more time, “Don’t do what I did. Don’t forget about God. Don’t try to be God. You are not omnipotent, or all-powerful. You are not omniscient, or all-knowing. And you are not eternal. This life is temporary. In fact, it is VERY temporary. Remember your Creator.”
Let’s keep going in Ecclesiastes 12. This is some of the most poetic writing you’ll find in all of Scripture. These verses are extra special to me because they are my dad’s favorite Scripture. I remember him explaining these verses to me when I was a kid.
Solomon wrote, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, NIV)
Solomon tells us to remember our Creator, but then he says, “Especially if you are young. When you’re 11, 12, 13 years old and you’re in those crazy middle school years. When you’re 16 and all you want is your driver’s license so you can have some freedom. When you’re 18 and you’re preparing for your first year of college and you’re asking those big, life-shaping questions…Who am I? Why am I here? Where will my life end up?”
Solomon is saying, “When you are still young, while you are still strong, while your mind is still sharp, and while your dreams are still fresh and new and exciting…remember your Creator. Remember God now. Don’t buy into the lie that you can do life on your own. Don’t buy into the lie that life is all about you. Don’t buy into the lie that you can be the god of your own life. Because that’s the easiest way to wreck your life.”
Solomon goes on. Remember your Creator “before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain…” (Ecclesiastes 12:2, NIV)
In other words, remember God while you still have your memory. Before you have difficulty remembering events or recalling people’s names. Or before Alzheimer’s sets in.
Remember God before you grow old, “when the keepers of the house tremble [remember God before your hands start to shake from Parkinson’s], and the strong men stoop [remember God before your shoulders slump and your back is hunched over and you don’t have the strength that you once had], when the grinders cease because they are few [remember God before your teeth fall out and you spend a small fortune on dentures and PoliGrip], and those looking through the windows grow dim [remember God before your eyesight fades and you have to hold everything a mile away to read it or you have to use a font that astronauts can read from space]…” (Ecclesiastes 12:3, NIV)
“when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades [remember God when you’re still able to work and produce]; when people rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint… [remember God when you can still hear those birds and before you need hearing aids]” (Ecclesiastes 12:4, NIV)
“when people are afraid of heights [remember God when you can still ride rollercoasters and bungee jump and your equilibrium isn’t all messed up] and of dangers in the streets… [remember God before you become paranoid and you’ve got 16 locks on your front door and a home security system and a guard dog on top of that]” (Ecclesiastes 12:5a, NIV)
“when the almond tree blossoms [this is a cool picture: remember God before your hair turns white. Or for some of you, while you still have it.] and the grasshopper drags itself along [remember God while you can still walk, before you need a walker or a wheelchair or someone to take your arm and help you along] and desire no longer is stirred. [That’s interesting. I’m pretty sure this is talking about those commercials with people sitting side-by-side in bathtubs. You know what I’m talking about? Remember God in your young married life, when your sexual desire is healthy and blessed.]” (Ecclesiastes 12:5b, NIV)
Over and over again in these verses, we hear Solomon so poetically saying, “Remember God while you’re young. Remember Him before things start to change and your body starts to break down and your health leaves you.”
Solomon tells us, “Remember God now when you’re young and strong. Then when you’re old and weak like me, you won’t look back on your life with so much regret.”
Look at what he writes next in Ecclesiastes 12. “Then people go to their eternal home and mourners go about the streets.” (Ecclesiastes 12:5c, NIV)
It sounds so strange for Solomon to say all this stuff to young people, and then he makes a whiplash turn and starts talking about death. But the truth is that we need to live our lives with death in mind. We need to live our lives with the knowledge that our lives in this world are very, very temporary.
Death is a reality that we all have to face. To put it simply, we’re all going to die. Which really reminded me of this clip from Everybody Loves Raymond.
Death is inevitable. Frank Barone said it best. “You’re gonna die!”
Death can be feared or death can be faced. That’s the choice that we have. But death itself is not a choice. It’s a sure thing. It’s a rock solid certainty. You’re gonna die!
This is an interesting message to preach in our church. We have become a pretty young church overall. Now, I love that we have some older people who call Connect their home. I love that we have access to their experience and their wisdom. But I also love the fact that our church is reaching a generation of people that has, by and large, rejected the church.
This is a message that a young church desperately needs to hear. Most of us are living our lives like we have all the time in the world. Growing old isn’t going to happen to us. Death isn’t going to come knocking on my door. That’s especially true for young people. Teens. Twenty-somethings. Thirty-somethings. Every forty-somethings. We live like death is just not going to come for us.
But every now and then, we get hit hard with the truth. This is a picture of a guy named Matt. I went to college with Matt. Matt was one of the most gifted musicians I had ever met. He had played and even toured with some musicians that you would recognize immediately.
But Matt wanted to use his gift to glorify God, not himself. He went to BibleCollege and went into worship ministry. Matt was one of the worship pastors at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville.
Almost exactly one year ago, Matt was in a serious car crash where he suffered a broken pelvis. But he seemed to be recovering well. But then, seemingly from out of nowhere, he died from a pulmonary embolism that had never been detected.
Matt was my age. Just 37 years old. He had a wife and three kids, ages 10, 5 and 2.
And at almost the exact same time last year, another young pastor named Jeremy died. Jeremy was the valedictorian of his high school class in AdamsCounty. He went to college and grad school. He taught at a small, local college and he was the pastor of small church that he loved with all his heart.
He had a beautiful young wife and a little boy. One night, one average, ordinary night, Jeremy went to bed. And he never woke up. He was only 28 years old.
Two young guys with young families. In the prime of their lives. Loving and leading God’s church. And without warning, both of their lives in this world came to an end.
And both of them would want me to tell you this truth…your life in this world is more temporary than you realize. So much of what we constantly chase after in our lives doesn’t matter. In fact, a lot of us constantly fill our lives with stuff that ends up wrecking our lives.
These two men would want you to know above all else that it’s all about Jesus. You hear us say that all the time here at Connect. It’s one of our core values. It’s all about Jesus. Anything else is going to leave you empty and hurting and broken.
That’s why Solomon hammers on this truth. Remember your Creator. Don’t forget about God. Don’t buy into the lie that you are the god of your own life. Don’t try to do life on your own. Remember the God who loves you so much that He gave His own Son for you. And remember Him now. Today. Because you’re not guaranteed tomorrow.
Listen to the next words Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 12. “Remember him—before the silver cord is severed, and the golden bowl is broken…” (Ecclesiastes 12:6a, NIV)
Solomon is sitting at the desk in his study, and he looked up and saw his chandeliers. The chandeliers in the ancient world are different than the ones we have today. They were attached to the ceiling by a silver cord, and that silver cord supported this big golden bowl. And they placed candles in this golden bowl, and the gold would reflect the light all over the room. Solomon was an incredibly wealthy man, so he probably had these chandeliers throughout his palace.
But what Solomon is telling us here is that someday, that chandelier is going to fall. The cord will break, the golden bowl will crash onto the floor, and the light will go out. It’s a metaphor for death. Solomon said, “Someday, the switch is going to be flipped. The light is going to go out in our lives. Death is going to come for us all.”
Whether you have one candle or 1,000 candles, it’s something we can’t avoid. Death comes for us all.
Solomon goes on. Remember God “before the pitcher is shattered at the spring [you can’t get water anymore], and the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from [which is a reference to your bones], and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:6b-7, NIV)
Solomon is painting this simple picture of the great equalizer in life, which is death.
Moses, another old man, said it this way in Psalm 90. “Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.” (Psalm 90:12, TLB)
That’s what Solomon really drives home here in the end of his journal. If we were to take Ecclesiastes 12 and boil it down to the CliffsNotes version, Solomon’s message to us would be this.
Count your days and make your days count.
Solomon has his arm around you right now. And he’s telling you, “Don’t do what I did. Don’t waste your life pursuing all this stuff that doesn’t matter. Realize how short your life really is, and do something with it. Don’t forget about God, like I did. Don’t try to be God, like I did. Remember your Creator. Remember how much He loves you. Remember that He died for you. Remember that He forgives you and loves you. And remember that He has a purpose and a mission for you.”
Here’s what Solomon wrote in the next verse. “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes 12:8, NIV)
If you’ve been here throughout this series, you know that Solomon said this over and over again in Ecclesiastes. We learned in the first week of this series that the word Solomon uses here is the Hebrew word “hebel.” 38 times in Ecclesiastes, Solomon says that everything he has pursued is hebel. It’s meaningless. It’s vanity. It’s like chasing after the wind.
This is the 38th, and last, time that he writes those words in Ecclesiastes. His warning is simple. If you don’t remember your Creator…if you forget about God…if you try to be God…then this is what you’ll be left with at the end of your life. You’ll reflect back on a life that is hebel. Empty. Pointless. Meaningless.
It really reflects what sociologist Alan Sachs said. “Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives.”
That’s so true, isn’t it? It was true for Solomon. In his youth, Solomon was overflowing with potential. There was more potential packed into his life than anyone you have ever met.
Remember what Nehemiah said as he reflected on Solomon’s life. “Among the many nations there was no king like [Solomon]. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin…” (Nehemiah 13:26b, NIV)
So much potential. Solomon was so loved by God. He was given great blessings from God. But then, Solomon forgot all about God. Instead of pursuing God, Solomon spent his life pursuing wealth, and wine, and women. And in the process, he completely wrecked his life.
And we all find ourselves in a similar situation. You are so loved by God. You are more loved than you could ever imagine. And God has incredible blessings available if you keep pursuing Him. But everything goes off the tracks when our pursuit of God is replaced by a pursuit of other stuff. It’s the fastest, easiest, most sure-fire way to wreck your life.
And that’s why Solomon wraps up his journal with these words. “Now all has been heard [meaning, I’m done talking. I’ve said it all]; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God [believe Him, trust Him, give your life to Him, let Him love you] and keep his commandments [obey Him, follow Him, understand that He wants what is best for you], for this is the duty of all mankind.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, NIV)
This is an incredible thing for Solomon to say at the end of his life. Keep in mind, this is a guy who had devoted his life to the pursuit of wine, women, and wealth. But now, at the very end of his life, his eyes are opened. He has a moment of clarity.
And what he’s telling us is, “Don’t do what I did. Don’t wait until the end of your life to realize that it’s all about God. You don’t know how much time you have left. Remember God now. Remember His love and His grace now. Surrender your life to Him now. Sure, you won’t be perfect. You’ll still fall. You’ll still fail. You’ll still sin. But if you remember God now, if you commit to pursuing Him now, you’ll save yourself the lifetime of regret that I have.”
We used this verse earlier in this series, but I want to come back to it again. Jesus Himself said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10, NIV)
The things that a lot of us pursue in our lives are actually thieves. They steal the very things that we thought they would give us. We thought they would provide happiness, but we end up miserable. We thought they would fulfill us, but we wind up empty. And we really do end up just chasing after the wind.
But Jesus said that He came to give us life. It’s not chasing after the wind. It’s not pursuing something that can never be caught. It’s actual. It’s real.
Jesus came to give us life. A life that allows us to get off that treadmill, to stop chasing after the wind. A life that gives real peace. Real hope. Real fulfillment.
That’s why Solomon challenges us to remember Him now. He told us to, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth…” (Ecclesiastes 12:1a, NIV)
Now you may hear that and say, “Well, that’s not me anymore. The days of my youth are long gone.” But let me add a little perspective to this.
Compared to our Creator, we’re all young. We’re all in the days of our youth. God is eternal. He has always existed. So, compared to Him, we’re all in the days of our youth.
And the message here is simple. It’s not too late. This is not your last chapter. Your story is not finished. As long as there is breath in your lungs and a beat left in your heart, it’s not over. It’s not too late.
Maybe you reflect on your life up to this point and you have a lot of regrets. Solomon knows what that’s all about. But he also knows what it’s like to have that moment of clarity before it’s too late.
It’s not too late for you. Whatever sin, whatever failure, whatever regret lies in your past, it’s not too late for a second chance. For a fresh start. For forgiveness and freedom.
You have to understand that failure is an event. It’s not a person. You are not a failure. You are a person who has failed. But when Jesus is part of the equation, failure is never fatal. Failure is always forgivable.
Solomon realized this at the end of his life. He challenges us to understand it now.
You may feel like a failure. You may feel like you’ll never measure up. But God’s love for you is never defined by how you feel about you. It’s defined by how God feels about you…and God loved you enough to die for you. If you want to know how God feels about you, you don’t have to look any further than the cross of Jesus Christ. When Jesus died, He was giving His life for yours. He took the punishment of your sin. And in exchange, you are forgiven. You are free. You have a second chance. And you have eternal life.
Your failure isn’t fatal. Your regrets are not insurmountable. Your life is not beyond repair. Your sin is not greater than God’s grace.
That’s why Solomon’s message to us is “Remember your Creator. Remember Him now.”
That’s the opportunity that we want to give you today. Let me pray for us.