Ecclesiastes: “Been there , done that, now what?” from Ed Young of 2nd Bapt Houston

Ecclesiastes 2-3

Published on Sep 19, 2012

Calvary Chapel Spring Valley | Sunday Evening | September 16, 2012 | Derek Neider

_____________________________

I have written on the Book of Ecclesiastes and the subject of the meaning of our lives on several occasions on this blog. In this series on Ecclesiastes I hope to show how secular humanist man can not hope to find a lasting meaning to his life in a closed system without bringing God back into the picture. This is the same exact case with Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Three thousand years ago, Solomon took a look at life “under the sun” in his book of Ecclesiastes. Christian scholar Ravi Zacharias has noted, “The key to understanding the Book of Ecclesiastes is the term ‘under the sun.’ What that literally means is you lock God out of a closed system, and you are left with only this world of time plus chance plus matter.”

Let me show you some inescapable conclusions if you choose to live without God in the picture. Solomon came to these same conclusions when he looked at life “under the sun.”

  1. Death is the great equalizer (Eccl 3:20, “All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.”)
  2. Chance and time have determined the past, and they will determine the future.  (Ecclesiastes 9:11-13)
  3. Power reigns in this life, and the scales are not balanced(Eccl 4:1)
  4. Nothing in life gives true satisfaction without God including knowledge (1:16-18), ladies and liquor (2:1-3, 8, 10, 11), and great building projects (2:4-6, 18-20).

You can only find a lasting meaning to your life by looking above the sun and bring God back into the picture.

By Michael Duduit

(Ed Young is senior pastor of one of America’s largest and fastest-growing congregations, the Second Baptist Church of Houston, Texas. Located on a large, contemporary campus in suburban Houston — featured in a full-page illustration in USA Today — the church offers a model of reaching and involving young and median adults. Young is seen weekly on a nationally-televised program featuring the worship service at Second Baptist.)

Preaching: Your newest book — Been There, Done That, Now What? — deals with the increasing sense of life’s meaninglessness and the lack of value of life that seems so prevalent in American culture today. As you minister to your own congregation, do you find that to be a common attitude, particularly with baby boomers?Young: Absolutely. With boomers and busters. I think that in different ways everyone is looking for meaning and they try many different channels. In reading the book of Ecclesiastes, I realized this was Solomon also: been there, done that, now what? Solomon wrote three books in the Bible: Song of Solomon — a romantic book, it’s filled with chemistry and love and great words that sizzle of his first love. Then he wrote Proverbs — a middle-aged man, successful. Been there, done that.Then he reveals his inner heart and soul — perhaps his journal or his spiritual autobiography — and that’s the book of Ecclesiastes. The end result is that he looks back and says, “I have lived a life under the sun.” It was a life of emptiness, a life void of meaning. Solomon — who was the wealthiest person who ever lived and evidently one of the most brilliant individuals who has ever lived — gets to the end of his life, after he’s accomplished all that he’d accomplished, and he says it’s all empty, it’s all futility, it’s all vanity. And he says, “Now what, now what? What’s it all about, what did it mean?” He missed the meaning of life.Preaching: Why do people feel that way today?Young: I think they’re trying the same thing Solomon did. Many people are pursuing pleasure; they’re hedonists. A lot of people are pursuing materialism; they’re pursuing wealth. Someone just told me that one who is wealthy has one and only one advantage over those of us who are not wealthy. I asked, “What is it?” He replied, “They know wealth will not bring happiness.” I think people are trying the same things. There’s nothing new under the sun and Solomon lived an under-the-sun lifestyle. In doing so, he cut off the tie with God that he had early in his life.No one else in history that I know of was told by God, “Name it and you can have it” — was given a blank check. Solomon asked for wisdom and God was so pleased that He gave him wisdom and honor and wealth. That’s the way God does, you know. When God’s pleased He gives us more than we ask for. But somewhere along the way with building the temple, Solomon — who I believe went through all the rituals of worship and all the paths of being a religious man, a God-fearing man — somewhere along the way he sold out to this world’s structure and this world’s system. We’ve seen that sell-out happen in America in our own lifetime…Preaching: How do you prepare for that moment in the pulpit after you’ve written the manuscript?

Young: I used to practice some, though I rarely do that anymore; sometimes I will go over something. I get my outline and then I work on the transitional phrases. I spend a long time on the introduction and I spend a good while on the conclusion, then I begin to fill in the gaps. I’m now on Compuserve (a computer service), which is a wonderful help. I can find so many periodicals, modern speeches or press conferences, TV or radio programs which commented on any one particular area I’m dealing with. I’m wired into various libraries from which I can get bibliographical information or a thesis that was written. This has been a recent thing for me, and it’s opened up just a whole new world of information. The key to the process is discernment, plus taking all that information and saying it in a simple way.For example, I think preaching needs to be void of much of the old religious terminology in order to meet those busters and those boomers. Instead of talking about salvation, I might use the word salvaged. When you salvage something, you restore it for the purpose for which it was made — that’s what salvaging is. That’s also what salvation is. The boomer understands that. We have geared the pulpit in our church to those who are not yet there. We feed and minister to our flock through Bible study and through other kinds of worship experiences, but primarily we have pitched the ministry of our church to the secular mind.Therefore, Ecclesiastes is right over the plate. We’ve had more adults come to Christ — more people who’ve come from being agnostics and atheists — just because of the book of Ecclesiastes. It asks the question that the rest of the Bible answers. If you’re going to teach the Bible, begin with Ecclesiastes.I worked all last summer just on titles before I began in September. Then I worked on my outlines. I had my bibliography. I got people who had really struggled with Ecclesiastes ahead of me, which has always been helpful. Then I sit down with the Scriptures. First of all, I try to do my own work: “What does this scripture say to me? Are there any pregnant words there?” Find those pregnant words and do a little word-study. Then I try to let the Scripture outline itself if that’s possible. God works in creative ways and different ways in preaching.My process of preparation: I get my sermon, my title, a sense of God’s direction, then I write out manuscripts of that sermon and I preach without notes. I can just have an open Bible because I’ve crafted that through writing. I dictate it before I preach. My sermon’s typed before I preach, it’s typed after I preach, so I’ve got double manuscripts for anything that I’ve done. It helps us to edit for television as well. I’ll spend twenty hours a week on every sermon.

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