Growing older is a process from which we cannot escape and should not deny. Some people grow up, however, not just older. Like wine they get better with age. Some major poets are examples:
William Gladstone took up a new language when he was 70. At age 83, he became Prime Minister of Great Britain. Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote “Crossing the Bar” at 80. John Wesley was still preaching every day when he was 88.
In 1984, Ronald Reagan was seeking reelection for a second term as United States president. Reagan was seventy-three years old, and his opponent had been deriding him for what they labeled the ‘senility factor.’ If elected Reagan would be the oldest president in U. S. history. During the televised debate with his opponent, former Vice President Walter Mondale, a reporter asked Reagan whether his age would be a handicap in the campaign. Reagan responded: ‘I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.’ Reagan’s quick rejoinder even forced a chuckle out of his opponent on national television (Henry Blackaby. Spiritual Leadership, p.169). Reagan was one month short of being 78 when he left office.
Dave Ramsey says that “Today 60 is now what 40 used to be in the business world. If necessary change your career.” When American jobs are being outsourced to other countries, you may have to retool in your career.
All of these leaders grew up and better not just older.
This is Solomon’s message to young people in Ecclesiastes. Listen to this plea in 12:1: “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, while (or before) the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when you shall say, I have no pleasure in them.”
So much of Ecclesiastes is found repeated in the New Testament. For example, in Ephesians 4:15, Paul says, “Grow up unto Christ in all things”
When Solomon commands, “Remember now your Creator” he is saying, “Respond to God now while you are young.” David helps us understand what is to remember in Psalm 103:18, “Remember his commandments to do them.” Hannah, who was barren in 1 Samuel 1 pled with God, “Remember me and give your handmaid a man child.” Hannah doesn’t believe God has had a lapse in His memory in regard to her infertility. She is praying God will respond to her prayer. And when God responded and gave her a baby, Hannah praised God saying, “The Lord remembered me.” God responded to Hannah’s prayer.
Solomon in his old age is staring death in the face and he is challenging young, potential leaders, “Don’t make the mistakes I made. Don’t waste your youth like I did. Respond to God now.”
First Solomon tells young people how to respond and then he tells them why.
1. How Can Young People Respond to God? How can all of us grow up not just grow older?
This is the last of six Enjoy Passages in Ecclesiastes: 2:24-26; 3:12-15; 5:18-20; 8:15; 9:7-10; 11:9-10.
A. Enjoy Your Life which is a Gift From God (2:24). Job recognized this after his 10 children were killed. Job said, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes.”
B. Enjoy Your Blessings of Life as Gifts from God (3:13). “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father” (James 1:17).
C. Enjoy Your Ability to Enjoy as a Gift from God (5:18, 19). To enjoy God’s gifts one needs to be a believer who recognizes these gifts as from God. The unsaved are like the wealthy person at Ruth Chris who is about to dive into his steak that has been cooked to perfection. He carves off his first bite of his medium well and places the piece into his mouth. He sinks his teeth into the warm meat and feels the juice ooze out. But tastes nothing because he has no taste buds.
He is like the guy with the can of peaches with no can opener. Jesus has the can opener.
D. Enjoy Your Youth as a Temporary Gift from God (11:9-10)
Solomon is saying in 11:9, “Enjoy your life which God has given you. Solomon is not saying enjoy sin.” You can follow your heart only if your heart is surrendered to the God who is also your Judge to whom one day you will give an account. This is not the Hollywood counsel to follow your heart or follow your feelings.
David put it this way in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the delights of your heart.” When Solomon was young and in love with the Lord in 1 Kings 3:3, God said to him, “Ask what I shall give you.” God knew Solomon would ask for what God wanted him to have, wisdom to live for Him.
Solomon warns from experience in 11:10: If your delight is not in God in your youth, you will be frustrated, depressed, and filled with regrets. Put away evil now. Solomon did not continue to love the Lord. Solomon did not continue to grow up and look at the mess he got into in 1 Kings 11. Spurgeon said, “Youthful sins lay a foundation for aged sorrows.”
In my next post, we will study Why Should Young People Respond to God Now? Why should all of us grow up not just grow older?