Sunday 01082012 – Ecclesiastes 3 vs1-13 – What Time is it?

Sermon Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3

1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2 a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to throw away;

7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.

9 What gain have the workers from their toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. 11 He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 13 moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.


Solomon tells us that there is a time for everything that we can imagine. In the context of the entire book, in which he occasionally opines, “Vanity of vanities. Everything is vanity,” what is he trying to tell us? I think it is simply this – stuff happens. As Jesus says, “The rain falls on the just and the unjust.” (Mt 5:45). Solomon reflects throughout Ecclesiastes that sometimes what is due the good goes to the wicked, and what is due the wicked comes to the good. (Ecclesiastes 8:14)

Everything happens in its time, and v11 says, “He makes each thing beautiful in its time.”

Might that mean that he redeems each thing? That even the ugly things become beautiful, or that God brings something beautiful from even the ugliest thing. This is surely one message of the resurrection – that God redeems the ugliness of the cross through the beauty of the empty tomb.

Focusing in on vs 1-8 – “…a time for every purpose/event under heaven.” Neither purpose nor event are a full translation of this Hebrew word, “Chephets” – usually means delight or pleasure. The word implies a full experience of each moment, which is the theme Solomon carries on throughout this writing. Solomon says to, “Eat, drink and be merry.” (Ecclesiastes 8:15) His point is not to indulge in nihilistic debauchery, but rather simply to remind us to enjoy life. To not take everything too seriously. To not get sucked into singlemindedly pursuing any goal so that we fail to appreciate each moment we are given.

So, What time is it?  It’s time for you to enjoy your life. It’s time to stop and smell the roses, to wake up and smell the coffee. It’s time to embrace the moment, seize the day. Carpe diem! It’s time for you to live fully the life you have been given by God.

How much of your time is spent wishing

you were somewhere else

doing something else

with someone else?

Paul says, “The time is short!” (1 Cor 7:29) He tells us that we should live as though Christ’s return is immanent. Jesus himself said that the son of man would come like a thief in the night, and that no one knows the time.

I think that one of the tragedies that most tugs at my heart is when I hear during the day that there has been a traffic fatality. Someone was on their way to work or school, they’d just said a normal good bye, perhaps not even that, or maybe even had exchanged harsh words with someone, or given them the silent treatment, figuring, “I’ll let them stew it in for the day, and then tonight we’ll sort it out, reconcile then.”  But tonight doesn’t come. It makes me nauseous thinking about it now.

What time is it? It’s time for you to live the life you’ve been given.

The Poet Mary Oliver asks:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

How do you spend your life?

TV:     According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube.

Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900 hours

Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1500

Women – 38:46; Men – 34:44; Teens (12-17) – 23:50; Children (2-11) – 25:59   (Nielsen)

Computer: I tried looking for statistics, and it appears no one has done research since 2004 – it doesn’t even occur to people to ask the question anymore.

Texting:          Teens – 3400; Young adults – 1900

Reading:         One study reported that the average adult in the US spent 21 minutes reading per day (


Prayer:           The archbishop of Manila suggested that parishioners fast from electronics on the Sabbath and spend that time with family, serving others, or in prayer, study and other spiritual devotions.

What time is it?

It’s time for you to think about how you are spending your time.

“There’s a time for everything, and a time for every pleasure under heaven.”

What time is it?

I’ve actually stopped wearing a watch. I find that it keeps me from checking my watch all the time, and helps me to be present.

We have to be careful when we read passages like this so we realize that Solomon is being descriptive, not prescriptive. He’s just telling us the way it is, not the way it should be, or the way God wishes things to be. He’s not saying, “God has appointed a time for you to hate, and a time for you to love.” Rather, he’s saying that all of these things are a part of human life, and each one comes in time.

How do you discern what time it is in your life? Try asking these questions…

WWJD – What Would Jesus Do?

WWJHMD – What Would Jesus Have Me Do?

WWWJD – What Would Waylon Jennings Do?

What time is it in your life?

There’s a time to say yes, and a time to say no.

There’s a time to work, and a time to rest.

There’s a time to lie dormant, and a time to grow.

There’s a time to decrease, and a time to increase.

There’s a time for everything.

What time is it? How do we know?

Sometimes we check our watch, phone, or clock.

Sometimes we have to ask others…“Excuse me, do you have the time?”  –  “Why yes, It’s 3:30.”  –  “Thank you.”

Sometimes we can tell by the sun, moon and stars. Its nearly sunrise, noon, sunset, midnight.

None of these are what the scripture or our question mean by time. We’re talking about seasons, periods, eras, epochs.

In Hebrew and Greek there are two different words for time –

one is for the moment-by-moment passing of time – its ordered

the other is for periods of time – its fluid.

The word Solomon is using here is the second of those – in Greek the word is Kairos, which connotes a weight and import, as in: “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the good news!”

Kairos is also the word used to designate the time for planting or harvesting – it means the appropriate time for the task at hand – it has to do with knowing what is called for.

When people are visiting someone who has just experienced a tragic loss, and they jabber on incessantly because of their own nervousness, they fail to know what time it is.

It is time to refrain from speaking.

This question is about knowing what is called for, what’s appropriate at this time.

The question is not really, “What time is it?” so much as, “What is it time for?”

Yes, I know you don’t end a sentence with a preposition, but for most of us, it is awkward to say or hear, “For what is it time?”

It is time to begin the harvest.

Back in October, during our Quest season, some folks wanted to say, “You know, we need to do XYZ.” And I would simply say, “You may be right, but it’s not time for that conversation yet. Make a note of that, and we’ll come back to it in a few months.”

Well, now it is time to come back to those things, if they are still present.

It is time to talk about what we hear God saying in our hearts and minds. What is God showing you in your dreams? What needs within and around Forest Grove is God wanting to meet through us? What resources within and around Forest Grove is God wanting us to help name and equip for use in the kingdom of God?

It is time to begin harvesting the seeds and bulbs of dreams and begin to see what comes together.

How will we do this?

God’s dream being revealed – what’s our process?

a)      Highlighting the dream seeds

  1. Direct people to the daffodil dream bulletin board
  2. Create other visuals in the ministry building organized by theme
  3. Ask questions in conversation… “Someone listed XYZ as their dream. What do you think of when you hear that? Where do your thoughts go from there?”

b)      Looking for patterns and connections – what themes emerge? How do these ideas group themselves? What connections exist between internal and external needs and resources?

c)      Telling stories about life and ministry – Begin practicing telling future stories. Choose a specific date in the future – 2, 3, 5, 10 years out, and tell a story about life at Forest Grove at that time. The narrative reveals the ministry priorities. We then explore how to “reverse engineer” that future – how do we get there from here?

Think about the stages and phases each of us go through in our life –

In our earliest years, we are not aware of the passage of time – we live simply in the now.

Later, we begin to understand tomorrow, and we begin to anticipate and hope – for birthday and Christmas, for school to start and for school to give way to summer. We dream about seeing our friends, playing sports, getting and giving gifts, taking trips, running barefoot through the grass and swimming – all the joys of childhood.

Then our dreams begin to grow – in weight, size and cost. We dream of cars and college and careers. We dream of leaving home and launching out on our own as adults.

Years go by and we may need to push the reset button our lives and our dreams.

We may need to wake from sleep, to be born again.

Some of us may need to do this several times throughout adulthood.

There’s a time for that.

And during that process, different things are appropriate at different times.

People often try and figure out what time it is alone, or with the wrong kind of counsel. So many people trust only their own feelings or intuition or thoughts. Others listen to friends or celebrity “experts” who have no wisdom or depth of experience for making big decisions.

One sign people misread is discontent. They think that if they’re unhappy, then it must be time to leave – this relationship, job, organization, etc. Unhappiness cannot be trusted as an indicator – we are too fickle, and we may be unhappy because we are uncomfortable with the positive change and challenge that is being asked of us. Discontent can actually be a sign that we are right where God wants us – being pruned and refined for greater growth and purity later on.

Maybe it is time for pruning and refining.

Another thing people misread is when something feels good and right. Again, feelings are fickle, and that good feeling may be our own selfish desires, our weakest and basest self being coddled in the easiest possible way. If you’ve felt ignored at home, does the attention of someone, almost anyone, feel good? Sure, probably so. But that doesn’t mean you should move toward it. It can be a signal to you of what is missing, and then you go back to the right place to receive that attention, and you voice your needs and hopes in healthy ways.

We should not make big decisions based on feelings – good or bad.

Nor should we trust our thinking – research shows that we can talk ourselves into nearly anything that we want, regardless of whether it is helpful or harmful. We are way too confident of our own intelligence and ability to figure things out. 90% of people think that they are above average in looks and intelligence.

So, if we can’t trust feelings alone, and we can’t trust reason alone, how do we figure out what time it is?

  1. Do listen to your heart, just don’t follow it right off the bat.
  2. Do use your reason and intellect, just don’t try to figure it out alone.
  3. Get wise counsel – from people who are thoughtful and prayerful, who have some basis on which to be able to think about what you are considering, and who have some history of making good decisions themselves. Don’t ask the person with four divorces for relationship advice.
  4. Worship – Rejoice in God for who God is and who you are in God. Give thanks in all circumstances. It is always time to worship and give thanks to God.
  5. Pray and wait. What you are seeking is peace, not happiness or the absence of discomfort. Peace is deep – you feel it at your very core, and it settles over your mind. Don’t act until you have it, unless it’s an emergency. Peace is the gift of God – Remember Paul’s advice – Rejoice and Pray…and the peace of God will shelter your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do these five things, and you’ll discern what time it is.

1>    Feel

2>    Think

3>    Ask

4>    Worship

5>    Pray

Then ACT

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