“Live Your Best Life”
The Sanctuary Sermon for
The Sanctuary Sermon for 8/22/21
“Live Your Best Life” Ecclesiastes 9:7,8 & 10
Let me preface today’s word to you with a few thoughts. For whatever reason and I don’t have a clear one, I’ve been perseverating on our mortality and the brevity of life the past few weeks. Maybe it’s because I find myself on the back nine of life getting closer to the club house, or the fact that I live next door to a cemetery, and it’s been busy there of late. I don’t know either way, but I’d like to share with you the only thing that I’m certain of in this life. Here it is, the sum of 60 plus years as the sun rises and sets: Life is unpredictable in all facets. That’s all I know. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, let alone the rest of this day. Life happens while we’re busy making other plans—because, well, life comes at you fast.
You may be 18 or 80 and while some days seem to tick by painstakingly slow, yet when you blink another year has passed. So, as I live my life I hold on to the many promises of God and the reminder that, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Here are the words of the wise King Solomon that succinctly puts into perspective the brevity of life which reminds us to have a blast while we last.
“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. 8 Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil… 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.”
A teen was asked upon graduation, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Perhaps seeing the world through a young adult’s eyes, the boy thought for a moment and then replied with just one word: “Alive.” And everyone said…
The love of life lies deep in the human soul. Jesus summed up his mission to earth with these words: “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
We can paraphrase King Solomon’s advice with, “Have a blast while you last.” That little saying sums up an enormous spiritual truth. Since we won’t be here forever, we might as well have a blast while we have breath. Folk singer Joan Baez put it this way, “You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die, or when. You only get to choose how you’re going to live now. So, live your life, don’t let someone else try to live it for you.” I think that’s a wise maxim to live by—live your life. Live your best life. It’s yours and it’s the only one you’ve got, so live it unto Christ.
Most days I’ll take the Dals for a brisk jaunt through the cemetery next door, well, actually they pull me all over the place. There are markedly different headstones displayed all throughout, yet they all have one thing in common. A date of birth, a dash to represent everything in between, and a date of death. That’s all this life really is, the short little—dash—between the time we show up and the time we depart. Either that thought makes us depressed or it inspires us to life. So, what are you doing with the dash? Are you living your best life?
Here are a few observations off the top in Ecclesiastes 9.
Solomon says to eat and drink with a joyful heart, to dress in white even after Labor Day, and anoint your head with oil. These are images or metaphors of one living their best life.
Live your life with passion. Solomon reminds us, “Do it with all your might!” Life is too short, too fragile, and too precious to take lightly. So, whatever you do, don’t hold back—give it your all. Do it to the best of your ability unto the Lord. Nike had an add campaign centuries ago, so I’m aging myself here. It said, “Life’s short. Play hard.” That’s true, but there should be some prayer in there as well.
Also, ponder the brevity of life. There’s a tag-line in a country song that says, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to go now.”
Solomon reminds us that the grave awaits where we won’t be making any more plans. That’s a fact we’d all rather ignore. I found a translation of this verse in the Contemporary English Version: “You will soon go to the world of the dead.” That sounds like something you’d find in a bad Chinese fortune cookie. But it’s entirely true whether we like it or not. We’re all going to take a dirt nap sooner or later, I assume that we all would prefer later.
I remember learning that time is a measure of motion—it’s a dash. But here’s the thing. We were made for eternity and not for time. God lives in eternity, and we live in time but one day we will measure time no more when we’ll dwell in the house of the Lord forever. God has placed eternity in our hearts. We were created by God, for God and eternity, not for this world. We were made for life beyond the boundary of time, and so we are restless. We’ll never be truly at rest until we find our rest in God. Our time here is simply an opportunity to preview what God has to offer. He whets our appetite, sharpens our appreciation by every experience we encounter here on earth.
So, in your day to day, be thankful for things large and small.
Eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. Always be dressed in white and anoint your head with oil.
Solomon gets to the heart of the matter and offers some very practical advice; take time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. We might translate it into Common Era idiom this way:
Enjoy a good meal with good company. Appreciate every moment as a gift from God.
Wear you Chuck’s. Wear clothes that speak of joy, not sorrow. Brush your hair. Wash your face. Shave. Smile.
Don’t be an old curmudgeon. Or a grumpy young one either.
Look for God’s hand at work in your life.
Love and be loved. Savor time with your best friend and care for their soul.
As I’ve said, we always ask each other, “How’s it going?” What we need to ask is, “How’s your soul?”
One favorite writer of mine shares her observations of serving in a small parish, of her friendship with the priest and how he always said, “You can tell if someone really loves you by how well they take care of your soul. Forget that chemistry crap, that’s for the birds and the bees.” Sometimes we need to be reminded that God is to be seen not just in the big events but also in the tiniest details of life.
As I’ve been teeing up on the back nine, I observe what I call The God Sighting game. It’s very simple to do. You just look around and see where you can find God’s fingerprints in your life. And when you do, you’ll begin to see Him in small things. A phone call from your son who lives in Carmel telling you he sealed the account in Cali. The sun shining. The snow falling. A nice long email from someone you haven’t seen in a while. A quick ‘good morning’ text at the start of the day. A scribbled picture from your grandchild. A loved one who travels a long way to be where you are. A song’s lyrics that stirs a pleasant memory. At the intersection of two roads that lead to home. Watching the lightning bugs dance in a field on a summer’s eve. The touch of a hand. The swing of a hammock at the end of the day. A conversation over a cup of coffee. A son or daughter who has found their way home and a parent’s heart who made it possible.
I’ve discovered that if we pay attention, we start seeing God in many places. Sometimes it’s a small little thing, something that causes us to say, “Thank you.” I’ve learned that if you keep your eyes open, pretty soon you’ll see God everywhere in your life. One of our problems is that we focus on waiting for the spectacular answers to prayer. But in the ordinary miracle day, God says, “That’s not always where you’re going to see me. Look for my fingerprints in the small things and listen for the whisper of my still small voice.”
This week, ask God to open the eyes of your heart that you might see him everywhere. You know what? You’ll see God at work in places and just perhaps in people where you have never seen him before.
You’ve probably heard this quotation many times. It’s over 200 years old and comes originally from the Quakers: “I expect to pass through the world but once. Any good therefore that I can bestow, or any kindness that I can show, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
Whatever your hand finds to do today, do it.
Don’t think you’re immortal (Seinfeld’s routine on boxes). When you die, they’ll take your body, put it in a box, and put the box in the ground. We’re all going to do some box time. The point is, do whatever you’re going to do now. If you intend to do some good thing, do it now. If you have some great plan, work on it now. If you intend to do something or be something or try something, do it, or be it, or try it now.
I’ll say it again. These are the times of our lives because they are the only times we have. May I share with you the goal of my life? I want to die young at a very old age. That’s not just a play on words; that’s a philosophy of life. Growing old is not just a matter of chronology. It’s also a stage. You can be old at 20 and young at 85. My goal is to die young at a very old age, doing everything I can. Have you ever seen the movie, Second-Hand Lions? If so, I rest my case. I want to go out with my boots on.
Looking at it in that light, “Have a blast while you last” is far more than a slogan. I think it’s the most biblically-based philosophy of life there is.
Live the best life God has given you because for the time being, it’s the only one you’ve got.
This is the Word of the Lord for the day.