Sustained Through All Seasons: James 4:13-17 and Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

Sermon Overview
 
This Sunday we looked at one of the foundational elements of Christianity: trust in God’s goodness and sovereignty even when life hurts and there seem to be few if any answers. 
 
James, the half-brother of Jesus, became a pastor in leadership among the Christians in Jerusalem. He saw himself as a servant of Jesus, a far better claim than he might have had in bragging about a family connection to Jesus. Servants of Jesus will have the mindset that in all they do, God is sovereign and trustworthy. In James 4:13-17, we learn that life plans are to be made in view of God’s will. God’s will is not always clear to us when it comes to the details, but this much of God’s will is clear: that we do the right thing we know to do, and that we honor Him in our endeavors. Living life, however productively, without humbly remembering that when it goes well, it’s because God willed it to go well! When it doesn’t go well, we ought to trust Him no less and keep doing what we know is right.
 
Solomon lays out a picture of life in chapter three of Ecclesiastes, declaring that there is a time for every matter under heaven. This picture begins with birth and death and goes on to include many details of life on earth, from laughing and weeping to war and peace. The poem of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 has captured the attention of believers and nonbelievers throughout recent times, and we should reflect on the timing of our lives as God carries us through. In fact, believing that God carries us through the chapters of our lives according to his will can give us solid hope when life is hard, and humble joy when life goes well.
 
Solomon follows the poem with some observations in verses 9-15 where we find that 1.) God is working this all together from beginning to end, and 2.) that we have a deep desire built into our souls to know that there is more than this life, and 3.) That we should enjoy what we can, even as many things about God’s bigger plans seem mysterious to us. For example, what good is there in some of the wars we’ve had? How do periods of terrible suffering bring about any good? Is the chaotic culture we live in today still under God’s good control? When it seems he has taken his hand off the wheel, we need to remember that God has already dealt with the biggest problem we have – how to relate to him even though we are sinners. There’s a time for every matter under heaven, including the suffering and victory that Christ went through for our sakes. The question we must answer is this: are we content to embrace the greatest thing God could do for us without having all the answers right now for the things that perplex and even hurt us?
 
Read James 4:13-17
 
Is it easy to make plans and live out daily live without humbly submitting to God’s rule and reign over all of life? Why so?
 
What does James say here that keeps us from being fatalistic about the fact that God is in total control?
 
Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
 
How have you lived through parts of this poem? Does part of this poem speak to your life right now?
 
Did Jesus himself do or experience any of the things we see in this poem about life?
 
Read Ecclesiastes 3:11
 
What is more surprising – the fact that we often don’t understand God’s ways or the fact that we expect to understand God’s ways?

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