Alone in my head,
I'm feeling so low,
You wont understand,
No one can know.
My eyes are so tired,
I can't sleep at night,
Your face haunts my dreams,
When I turn out the light
Deep down inside,
I know it's my fault,
So I'm just going to lock it,
Away in my vault.
Regrets…haunting… compromising… they age you… strip the joy from life.
When God gave out brains, /I thought He said trains, /and I missed mine.
When God gave out looks, /I thought He said books, /and I didn't want any.
When God gave out noses, /I thought He said roses, /and I asked for a red one.
When God gave out legs, /I thought He said kegs, /and I ordered two fat ones.
When God gave out ears, /I thought He said beers, /and I ordered two long ones.
When God gave out chins, /I thought He said gins, /and I ordered a double.
When God gave out heads, /I thought He said beds, /and I asked for a soft one.
Gee, am I a mess!
God’s desire for you is to live above regrets, to find a renewed joy, a delight in him. . That’s what keeps you young. That’s a key to keep you satisfied with life. No regrets. With God at the center of your life and basking in his spirit. No regrets.
As I read today’s scripture there is kind of a trick to it. On the surface it appears as if young is contrasted with old. We seem to like to pit youth vs. their elderly counterparts. We all play that game: The strong young man at the construction site was bragging that he could outdo anyone in a feat of strength. He made a special target of one of the older workmen. After several minutes, the older worker had enough. "Why don't you put your money where your mouth is?" he said. "I will bet a week's wages that I can haul something in a wheelbarrow over to that outbuilding that you won't be able to wheel back." "You're on, old man," the braggart replied. "Let's see what you got." The old man reached out and grabbed the wheelbarrow by the handles. Then, nodding to the young man, he said, "All right. Get in."
This scripture is not about young vs. old. At least not chronologically. This is tricky. Notice two statements: READ Ecc. 12:1. Sounds pretty straight-forward. Somebody said, “growing old is not for wimps.” That might be true, but that is not what is going on here… Listen to this statement back in Ecc. 11:8: “However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all.” Here’s the point, you never have to get to the place when you say, “I find no pleasure…” (Ecc. 12:1). I know people who are young in years but have no pleasure in life, already they live with regrets, bad decisions, grow up too fast. What does the scripture say, “enjoy your youth.” When does it say to stop… “enjoy all the years of your life…” live a carefree life, a life free of worry “banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body” (Ecc. 11:10). Is there an age when Solomon says you can no longer get rid of anxiety? Not that I can see. This scripture is not about young vs. old, it’s about attitude, living with a spirit of joy regardless of your years or the condition of your body..
Ecc. 12:1-5, you gotta see the old age verses with a sense of humor because the Bible clearly says you never have to live like this… maybe in your body, but not in your spirit, not in your mind, nothing can rob you of your joy. Two choices: Live with the Joy of the Lord as you look forward to a bright tomorrow, or live with regrets and the weight of the past? ///
My favorite old person: my grandfather! A towering man of faith. … I loved, admired, watched how he carried himself, peace and contentment. He read the Bible constantly, used to read Greek, but in the last years grew to appreciate the GNB… He underlined and underlined Ecc. 12:1-5….(read GNB version) As his Parkinson’s made his hands shaky, you could see the shakiness of the lines he drew under the word “tremble”. IMO, you are completely missing this passage if you do not see the humor. Surely grandpa loved this scripture because while his body mirrored the text, his spirit was closer to the description of the youth. My grandfather was a contented man that loved the Lord, loved his life, the world around him.
I hope you have enjoyed Ecclesiastes. Some of the past messages from Ecc. this past few months: Accepting reality, standing with others when life is difficult, listen more and speak less, figuring out what’s most important, problems aren’t all bad, finding a healthy balance, everything is going to be all right, life is short so make the most of it, living with common sense. And today, this is one of those times I wrote the bulletin too soon because I figured out a much superior message... The revised title: no regrets. You can live in such a way as to never get to the place where you say, “I find no pleasure…” I have been blessed to spend a lifetime surrounded by those who are of mature years, but have an incredible joy… it’s one of the great advantages of a church our size, the interaction of generations. When I am old in years, I want to be the most optimistic person in the room. I want to be the 100 year old that plants the plum tree. I read about one man in his 90’s, about to die, and he made arrangements with his son to take his offering to church the following Sunday because he wanted to contribute and make a difference. You are as young as the joy you have in your heart! Why did my grandfather love these verses so much: surely because he knew they were only describing an earthly body falling apart but how much he still enjoyed the Lord and the blessings that come with knowing God.
This scripture is a simple invitation to find meaning in life by finding JOY.
Bronnie Ware is a woman in Australia that made a career out of going to homes to help people in the final weeks of life. She asked the dying about regrets and concluded, “Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.” A lot of truth ~ but Ecc. goes deeper. It’s not always that easy… Here is a deeper wrinkle (no pun intended)… READ Ecc. 11:9-10…the world says you can choose to be happy, the problem is that none of us are smart enough in our own strength to always make the right choices. We need God. God is our creator; we must strive to live up to his vision for us. The last verses of Ecc. say something similar. READ Ecc. 12:13-14.//
“Follow the ways of your heart… but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment” is similar to the N.T. truth, “Ask anything in my name [the name of Jesus] and you will receive it.” Ask for anything, in the name of Jesus. What does that mean? Let me illustrate with a rather crass, human example. Not long ago, our good friend Rachel, threatened to kill me! It’s true. Here is how this unfortunate threat came about. After Seeds of Hope a few Thursdays ago, a group of 5-6 people were standing around in a circle, smoking. I joined the circle and said, can anyone spare a cigarette. Rachel said, “Pastor Carl, if you were to smoke, I would kill you.” People do not see me as a smoker. It is beyond their conception.
Ask for anything, in the name of Jesus, and you shall be given it. “in the name of Jesus” means whatever you ask has to fit who Jesus is. Jesus is not going to bless your request to be a thief. “Jesus” is not a magical formula to give you everything your selfish heart desires, “Jesus” is the giver of all good gifts, those gifts that fit who Jesus is. People only ask me for help within the scope of the things I value, or the things I am capable of doing. Nobody asks me to take them on a beer run. Nobody asks me to play the piano. If this principle holds true for me, a mere man, how much more Jesus Christ./// To ask in the name of Christ is to ask for that which Christ approves, Christ ordains, is fitting for what Jesus wants for you.
“Follow the ways of your heart… but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment” Judgment is good when you are in the right! Let the desire of you heart be that which is pleasing to God. and you will live a life with no regrets, no uncertainty, you will find the joy and happiness. Your body may age, but your spirit will be at peace and contentment. let me say, while the topic is beyond this message today, if you are already living with regrets that are compromising your life, the secret thoughts of your heart, forgiveness is a powerful cleanser.
Bronnie Ware… listed a few common regrets of people that were dying .
1. “I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
2. I wish I didn't work so hard.
3. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Solomon expresses similar ideas ~ he says them positively: “Follow the ways of your heart, and whatever your eyes see…” That’s living true to yourself, Ecclesiastes says to embrace that which is also pleasing to God.
“Banish anxiety from your heart” ~ live a carefree life, the things you enjoy… One man that was a long time member of this church told me when he was dying that his biggest regret was not spending more time with his children. He felt he worked too hard, too long, and left too much to his wife… Figure out what is most important, what God says is most important: family, friends.. I like this quote: “In the short term, it would make me happy to go play outside. In the long term, it would make me happier to do well at school and become successful. But in the VERY long term, I know which will make better memories.” (Bill Watterson, It's a Magical World) there is more to life than work. Take the time for that which is most important while you have the time…
You know what Sally and I did right? For years behind the scenes Sally and I felt out of control, a long transition of uncertainty with money, jobs, where we’d live, etc. I am proud that I think we managed to not let our personal tension be felt by the children; in spite of our own life uncertainty, we managed to provide a measure of stability and consistency while our children grew up. No regrets. The Lord is good.
“I wish that I had let myself be happier” ~ fascinating regret. “Let myself be” Happiness is a choice. “Be Happy” is a command in this scripture (Ecc. 11:9). Refuse to be dragged down by life’s circumstances. Shed worry and doubt… People fear change, they worry about their reputation… Let yourself be silly, live your life… enjoy all the years of your life
Today is a new day. Choose happiness. Regrets destroy from within. No wonder Solomon says that the answer to overcome regrets is also found within: Be happy by living out the desires of your heart that also please God. You never need to get to the place where you say, “I have no pleasure…” because, the open secret of Ecclesiastes, the secret which is open to anyone who has the ears to hear, is that this scripture is not primarily about young vs. old, it’s about inner joy and peace. You are as young as the joy that is found in your heart. As Mark twin said, "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." Live without regrets, choose happiness, choose that which is pleasing to the Lord. Amen.