It has been said that there are four seasons to a man’s life:
There is the time when he believes in Santa Claus.
There is the time when he no longer believes in Santa Claus.
There is the time when he is Santa Claus.
There is the time when he looks like Santa Claus.
Along with Nehemiah, and, believe it or not, Job, Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books of the Old Testament. And Chapter 3 is by far the most famous.
In the 1960’s, when young people were impatient for change, Ecclesiastes 3 spoke loudly to them.
It was first adapted to music by Pete Seeger in 1959, and then Judy Collins recorded it in 1963, but it was in 1965 that the rock band The Byrds that made Verses 1-8 a number 1 hit. The song called was Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is a Season).
So you could say, for everything there is a season, and in 1965 it was the season when Solomon met hard rock music. I’m not sure how thrilled he would have been with that, but there it is.
With that song, most everyone in America, and much of the world, learned some bible verses.
And these Bible verses are there to help us understand “time”.
There is a saying that goes….the reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen all at once.
But doesn’t it feel like that sometimes?
We look at our lives and everything seems to be happening at once. Or at other times, we may look and wonder if anything is really happening at all. Sometimes it seems like only good things are coming our way, and sometimes only bad.
And it’s hard to sort it all out. Why is all this stuff happening, or not happening? Why was someone miraculously healed, and another suffers and dies? Why did they get rich while I am struggling? Why do some get much, while I can’t have all the things I want. Why is all this happening?
The bible answers those questions quite profoundly.
But it’s a different answer than some will try to give you.
There are people who say that if you are a Christian, then nothing bad will ever happen to you.
The message, which is quite vocally preached in some Christian circles, would tells us that if there are any problems in your life, you are doing something wrong with your faith.
They will use Matthew 21:22 “And all things, whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.” he English Standard Version reads: And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
So they will say, in other words, if you are sick, or suffering, or lacking in any way, it’s your fault. Your faith is not strong enough.
By “proof texting”, or using that one verse in that way takes, it completely it out of context. It’s certainly not what Jesus meant. Not everything the faithful ask for will they get.
With that verse, Jesus was specifically, commissioning the apostles, in this case, to go out and perform miracles in his name. And He was reassuring THEM, specifically, that they need not worry. If they pray to God and had faith, God would do miraculous things through them, if it was in His will.
He wasn’t telling them that they would get WHATEVER they prayed for. But instead, God would keep his promise, and since this was a time for miracles, God would come through for them.
And that is the greater message about God and his will that we see through scripture.
We see it in Job, and we see it here in Ecclesiastes. Throughout Ecclesiastes, Solomon tells us over and over that he did all the right things, and in many cases all the wrong things, and in the end it really didn’t effect anything. It was all vanity, like chasing the wind.
Working hard to better himself didn’t always work, and being lazy didn’t always lead to ruin. Saving money didn’t always make him rich, and spending it wildly didn’t always make him bankrupt. Living a healthy lifestyle didn’t keep him always from being sick, and so on.
All the things he tried, from knowledge to pleasure to hard work, just didn’t change some things.
Some things just happened.
God says so….and that’s God’s will.
Solomon eventually concedes that in the end it’s all in God’s hands.
In Job, Job’s friends tried to convince him that his misfortune was his own fault, that he had sinned and caused it, but God comes in and says “that’s not how it is”.
His suffering was just part of a bigger picture that he had nothing to do with, and Job would have to just grin and bear it, and have faith.
Ultimately, I think that the message of Preacher means with these verses.
You’ll notice these are not all good things, and they are not all bad. They are not all things we’d prefer, nor are they things we can avoid. AND all these things happen to the sinner and the righteous alike.
Solomon says there is time and a season for them all, and God uses them all for His good purposes.
Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 [From the NLT – New Living Translation]
1 There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven.
2 A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to rebuild.
4 A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.
5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6 A time to search and a time to lose. A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak up.
8 A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.
9 What do people really get for all their hard work?
10 I have thought about this in connection with the various kinds of work God has given people to do.
11 God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.
12 So I concluded that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to enjoy themselves as long as they can.
13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.
14 And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose in this is that people should fear him.
15 Whatever exists today and whatever will exist in the future has already existed in the past. For God calls each event back in its turn.
16 I also noticed that throughout the world there is evil in the courtroom. Yes, even the courts of law are corrupt!
17 I said to myself, “In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.”
18 Then I realized that God allows people to continue in their sinful ways so he can test them. That way, they can see for themselves that they are no better than animals.
19 For humans and animals both breathe the same air, and both die. So people have no real advantage over the animals. How meaningless!
20 Both go to the same place — the dust from which they came and to which they must return.
21 For who can prove that the human spirit goes upward and the spirit of animals goes downward into the earth?
22 So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is why they are here! No one will bring them back from death to enjoy life in the future.
St. John of the Cross spoke of the dark night of the soul as a time where prayer became difficult and God seemed unrelatable.
But even in that he also believed that in the midst of this crisis of faith there was blessing.
He believed that instead of just being a test of faith, the dark night was a time for the faith to grow and prosper and become even deeper.
Because in that place, where it was futile to fight, the only thing you could do was surrender.
In the poem “Footprints in the Sand”. The poem talks about a person complaining because they looked at their life and saw two sets of footprints in the sand, one set for themselves and one for Jesus, who was walking beside them.
But at the difficult times in their lives, they would only see one set of footprints.
The author of the poem asked why Jesus abandoned him during those difficult times. And of course, Jesus responds by saying that he didn’t abandon in the times of trial. Rather, the reason you only see one set of footprints is that Jesus was carrying him through the difficult times.
It’s an important truth. We often thing, “Me and Jesus, where got it covered.” That’s not true at all. We really don’t have control of anything. We could stop breathing in the next moment if that is God’s will, and real faith is surrender.
Real faith is KNOWING that it’s all in God’s hands, and he’s GOT IT. It’s kind of cliché, but he really does have the whole world in his hands, and there is a time for everything under heaven.
1. A time to be born and a time to die.
Solomon begins by looking at the two extremes of life. These are the bookends of our earthly existence. There is a time when you are born and there is a time when you die and everything else takes place between these two times.
We should note that nearly every other time mentioned in this chapter involves a choice. We can decide when to plant or when to uproot or when to kill or when to heal or when to weep or when to laugh or when to mourn or when to dance. But there are two things we don’t decide. We don’t decide when to be born. And as God has ordained, we don’t decide when we will die.
This is really the heart of the entire teaching.
You’re here, my friends, because God said so, and when it’s time to exit, that’s up to God too. There have been those who have thought they could play God, and decide the end life on their own timetable. But in their failed attempts, many have conceded that it’s God, not man who decides when it’s time to go.
2. A time to plant and a time to harvest.
This is pretty straight forward, but in reality he’s talking about much more that farming. Solomon, like many authors of the bible, was speaking to people who lived within an agricultural economy so they understood it. But really it tells us not to get the cart before the horse. There is an order to God’s universe. If he were writing to painters, he might have said, there is a time for sanding, and a time for priming, and a time for a second coat. You can’t harvest before you plant. God has an order, we should surrender to it.
3. A time to kill and a time to heal.
We should note that the Hebrew word used here for kill is NOT the same word as is used in the ten commandments for murder. The word here refers to righteous and lawful life taking. There has been huge debate about what exactly that means, but again it’s in God’s hands. He knows those circumstances, and clearly saving life and bringing about death, are sometimes part of God’s plan.
4. A time to tear down and a time to rebuild.
Whether is a physical building or any other project at our hands, each has a life expectancy. God tells that just like a building, many times it is appropriate to build up but there are times when the most constructive thing to do is to tear down.
5. A time to cry and a time to laugh.
In other words, there is a proper time for the manifestation of all emotions. There are times when we Christians ought to weep but Solomon tells us that truthfully there is no purpose to this life if we cannot enjoy it.
6. A time to grieve and a time to dance.
This in another way restates the previous verse. All emotions are there for us and are a part of life. But we cannot live life if we always mourn, nor can we honor death if we always dance. There is a time for each.
7. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
Sometimes there is nothing better to do than knock down all our best laid plans and start over. And I have seen that happen quite a few times in my life. There has indeed seemed to be seasons that begin and come to an end. It seems we will be going along just fine, making progress, getting somewhere, and then God steps in and says, “time to start over” “time to do something else”. It’s all part of his big picture.
8. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. KJV reads: A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
Quite simply, there is a time to mend fences and sometimes it’s just not the right time yet. But it could go even deeper than that. Embracing was a common form of greeting in the ancient world. When you saw someone you knew, it was just not polite if you didn’t run up and grab them by the arms, and pull them toward you.
But there is a time when that would not be welcome, or appropriate. Sometimes a kiss or a handshake is not the right thing do. There is a time for hello and sometimes there is also a time for good-bye.
9. A time to search and a time to lose.
The bible and common sense tells us that you cannot and should not spend your entire life searching for that which has been lost. There comes a time when you have to face the facts that what is lost is now lost and can no longer be found.
This is the story of the mid-life crisis. They happen we cannot accept the passing of youth. And people will then attempt to regain their youth by doing youthful things – new styles of clothes, a hairpiece, a new sports car, a new wife.
But it doesn’t work.
God says nothing lasts forever. There is a time to grasp, but there is also a time to let go.
10. A time to keep and a time to throw away.
This is the same theme. Everything that you now own will one day be thrown away.
Nothing is permenant. Everything decays. Everything, even life itself, is eventually lost.
Does this mean you should throw everything away now.?
No, because there is a time to keep.
But we should take care not to cling too tightly.
Even our most prized relationships will not last forever, and there is a time to let them go, when that times come. Parents and children, husbands and wives, friends and neighbors. All of these dynamics change over time. Sometimes we just have to let go.
11. A time to tear and a time to mend.
The ancient idea of “tearing apart” often refers to the rending of garments in a time of grief or of crisis. So God tells us that there is a time for grief and sorrow and even anger, but there comes a time when a crisis is over and the grief is passing and now that which has been torn is should be sewed back together.
12. A time to be quiet and a time to speak up.
Has anyone here ever had a time where they regretted speaking? I have. But what about a time when you regretted staying silent.
There a saying about regret. We will find that we will regret less what we have done, then what we have failed to do.
It goes both ways with out speech.
Mostly we have a society where we talk way to much, and usually what we say is not all that valuable, and sometimes it’s even harmful. But there are times when silence is deadly.
So wisdom comes in knowing when to speak and when not to speak.
13. A time to love and a time to hate.
No one like the idea that there is a time for hatred, but the bible tells us that God both loves and that He hates.
And God’s hatred is always directed against sin.
Which means, he can have no part of it. He is completely seperate from it. It is against His nature.
Jesus tells us there is always a time to love, but we should hate injustice and evil.
That said, only God can truly judge, but it takes the knowledge of God’s hatred of sin and suffering to compel us to action. And sometimes lives are on the line, and action is necessary.
14. A time for war and a time for peace.
And finally, and unfortunately, this and other passages in the Scriptures indicate that there are indeed times when warfare is just and right. Only God can bring true and lasting peace, but sometimes the injustice and evil has to be confronted, the innocent must be defended, wrongs must be set right.
I pray every day that we’ve seen the last war, and I work actively as a peacemaker. They rarely solve anything. But until eternal peace has arrives which only Christ can bring, there is still a time for war, and a time for peace.
There is a time for everything. But one thing is true. God is in control of it.
When I’m working at the library, our computers are set on timers, giving each patron one hour to use them before it’s the next persons turn.
Before we had these automatic timers, we’d have to keep track of the time manually, and every once in a while someone would ask….”How much time do I have left?”
I was always tempted to say “How much time do you have left?” “All of it”
Or if someone asks me “How is everything going?” I will sometimes say, “Only God knows how EVERYTHING is going, but things I know about are going fine.”
I usually refrain from those saying those kinds of things. Making a big theological question out of everything is usually not appreciated.
But it goes to my heart to examine what we say and even think closely.
We toss around words like ” “it’s only a matter of time,” “it’s a race against time,” “Do you have the time?” “having the time of my life,” “just killing time,” “borrowed time,” “let’s spend quality time.” prisoners are “doing time” and when we are having fun “time flies,”.
But really we have control of time?
Do we get any more than he lets us have? Can we borrow time, or race against it?
No, the only time we have is ALL OF IT. Whatever God gives us.
One days we are promised we will leave the confines of time. If we trust Christ as our Savior, we will enter eternity with Him.
Until then, we have this finite life, and the only thing we can do is try to use it well.
Our time here is short, so what do we have time for?
SON: “Daddy, may I ask you a question?”
DAD: “Yeah sure, what is it?”
SON: “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?”
DAD: “That’s none of your business. Why do you ask such a thing?”
SON: “I just want to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?”
DAD: “If you must know, I make $100 an hour.”
SON: “Oh! (With his head down).
SON: “Daddy, may I please borrow $50?”
The father was furious.
DAD: “If the only reason you asked that is so you can borrow some money to buy a silly toy or some other nonsense, then you march yourself straight to your room and go to bed.
The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door.
The man sat down and started to get even angrier about the little boy’s questions. How dare he ask such questions only to get some money?
After about an hour or so, the man had calmed down, and started to think:
Maybe there was something he really needed to buy with that $50 and he really didn’t ask for money very often. The man went to the door of the little boy’s room and opened the door.
DAD: “Are you asleep, son?”
SON: “No daddy, I’m awake”.
DAD: “I’ve been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier. It’s been a long day and I took out my aggravation on you. Here’s the $50 you asked for.”
The little boy sat straight up, smiling.
SON: “Oh, thank you daddy!”
Then, reaching under his pillow he pulled out some crumpled up bills. The man saw that the boy already had money, started to get angry again. The little boy slowly counted out his money, and then looked up at his father.
DAD: “Why do you want more money if you already have some?”
SON: “Because I didn’t have enough, but now I do.
“Daddy, I have $100 now. Can I buy an hour of your time? Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you.”
The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little son, and he begged for his forgiveness.
There is a time under heaven. A time for all things.
(c)2013 Timothy Henry