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Are You Getting Along With Uncle Sam? - Ecclesiastes 8

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In one of the most insightful writings about the working of human government, King Solomon shows the problems of it, the power of it, the failure of it, and the believer's relationship to it. We are citizens of God's kingdom, but we also have an earthly address. This means we are to be model citizens attracting others to our heavenly destination.

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2/18/2001
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Are You Getting Along With Uncle Sam?
Ecclesiastes 8
Skip Heitzig
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In one of the most insightful writings about the working of human government, King Solomon shows the problems of it, the power of it, the failure of it, and the believer's relationship to it. We are citizens of God's kingdom, but we also have an earthly address. This means we are to be model citizens attracting others to our heavenly destination.
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21 Ecclesiastes - What's the Point? - 2000

21 Ecclesiastes - What's the Point? - 2000

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon delves into the hard issues of life, and attempts to find satisfactory answers that avert despair. Pastor Skip Heitzig examines Solomon's search for meaning.

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Outline

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  1. A Citizen's Submission

    1. Submission is Part of God’s Will (v. 2)

    2. Submission Can be Enforced (vv. 3-9)

  2. A Government's Provision

    1. An Example of Failure (v. 10)

    2. The Principle of Failure (v. 11)

    3. The Overrule of Failure (vv. 12-13)

  3. A Believer's Position

    1. No Human System is Perfect (v. 14)

    2. Make the Best With What You Have (v, 15)

    3. God Works Behind the Scenes (vv. 16-17)

Read and apply these verses:
  1. 1 Timothy 2:1-3
  2. Romans 13:1-7
  3. 1 Peter 2:13-15

Transcript

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How often lately have you heard the term 'separation of church and state'? That's become the chant for those who think the government should be devoid of any kind of spirituality whatsoever. So whenever an issue arises that is a spiritual issue, or, it's a secular issue where spiritual people get involved, the banner is raised 'separation of church and state'. As if we're supposed to react and say, 'oh, yeah, I forgot. Thanks for reminding me.' And then just scurry back into our little religious hole somewhere.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was not written so that spiritual people would be uninvolved, it was written to restrict the power of government in religious matters. Some Christians believe in separation of church and everything. Separation of church and everyone. In fact, they want to be so cloistered and so separate and so out-of-touch, so that they can live a godly life. Back in the 5th century, there was an intriguing, eccentric guy by the name of Simeon Styalites. He was a recluse. Simeon lived out in the middle of a desert in Egypt on top of a pillar for 30 years. And people would go out and look at this guy on top of a pillar and think, 'Now, that guy's got to be godly. 'Cuz he's so separate.' A guy who was watching this was named Anitole. He was from France. Anitole of France decided he needed to do what Simeon had done, but he didn't have a pillar. So he put a stool on top of his kitchen table at home and donned simple garments to live out his life, he thought, in simple contemplation and prayer. And everything was well -- until his family came home that day. They said, 'What are you doing?' 'I'm going to live my life in contemplation and prayer.' And of course, they thought he was nuts. And they made his life so miserable that he, eventually, wrote these words: "I soon perceived it was a very difficult thing to be a saint while living with your own family. And so now I know why Simeon and Jerome went out into the desert.'

We need saints in factories and behind desks and in our culture, not on top of pillars. We need to be involved because we are salt and we are light. And remember, our Lord Jesus prayed for His disciples, that would be us, He prayed: "Father, I don't pray that you'd take them out of the world. But keep them from the evil one." He never prayed an escapist prayer for us. It was never something like, "Father, help these believers of mine find caves in which to store weapons and food and ammunition from all the bad people." No, it was "Father, let them live with the bad people, but keep them from the evil one." Now, I was always told that I should not never discuss religion and politics in public. Now, if that's true, I'm in a lose-lose situation here. Because the theme of chapter 8 is the believer's relationship to the government. I'm calling the message 'Are You Getting Along with Uncle Sam?'

Uncle Sam has become the symbol of American government. Popularized in the War of 1812, Congress in the 1960's as a precept put Uncle Sam as the caricature of American government. You know, it's the guy with the top hat and the little goat kind of beard and the coat with tails printed with the American flag of stars and stripes -- that's Uncle Sam. Symbol of the American government. How are you getting along with Uncle Sam, the American government? Now, the American government was not written into chapter 8, and we should probably, to contextualize it, say, 'How are you getting along with Uncle Solomon?' He was Uncle Sam back then -- there was a monarchy, not a democracy. But, for our purposes, how are you getting along with government? How do Christians relate to the government?

Some Christians turn so far away from any involvement with the state. Some Christians believe you shouldn't even pay taxes because some of your tax money is being used for immoral purposes. So, as a Christian, they say, 'We don't have to pay taxes.' Others take the opposite extreme and think that government is our salvation. We're going to bring in the kingdom of Jesus Christ through the government. They wrap their Bibles in the flag, so to speak.

Chapter 8 is a great chapter written by a king, the one in charge of a government, and there are three threads that are woven through this, as I see it, in these sections. A citizen's submission to government, a government's provision for citizens, and then a believer's position to all of it.

Let's go and look at the first nine verses and then we'll make comment on a few of them. Actually, the chapter begins in verse two, the first verse is part of the thought in chapter seven, so let's begin in verse two Ecclesiastes: "I say, keep the king's commandment." Now you say, 'that's easy for the king to say'. But notice why, "For the sake of your oath to God. Do not be hasty to go from His presence, do not take your stand for an evil thing for He does whatever pleases Him. Where the word of a king is, there is power and who may say to him, what are you doing? He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful and a wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment. Because for every matter there is a time and judgment, though the misery of man increases greatly, for he does not know what will happen. So who can tell him when it will occur? No one has power over the Spirit to retain the Spirit and no one has power in the day of death. There is no release from that war and wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it. All this I have seen and applied my heart to every work that is done under the sun, there is a time in which one man rules over another to his own hurt."

Solomon wrote those words, he was the head of state. The form of government, as I've already mentioned, was a monarchy. There was an allegiance by the population to a single head of state -- in this case, King Solomon. In verse two, the king cuts to the chase and says that submission is part of God's will: "keep the king's commandment for the sake of your oath to God." There was a literally an oath that the people of Israel at that period took before the Lord to have an allegiance for the kingdom of Israel. And there was an allegiance that the king would take when he was sworn in to office to be a proper king and to love the people. In 2 Kings 11, it says, "Jehoiadah made a covenant between the Lord and the king and the people, that they would be the Lord's people. He also made a covenant between the king and the people." That's the idea of the oath before God -- bringing God into the allegiance of a country.

We do this in our own Pledge of Allegiance. We bring God into it: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, UNDER GOD, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." God is brought into it. So part of my commitment to God, according to not just this phrase of Scripture, but so often in the Scriptures it's mentioned, part of my commitment to God involves my submission to my government. Romans 13 is really the definitive text on the believer's responsibility to government. It's very clear and perhaps that's why it's not underlined in many Bibles. Romans 13: "Let every soul be subject to governing authorities" 'Every' would include yours and mine. "For there is no authority except from God and the authorities that exist are appointed by God" Now, keep in mind that when Paul wrote those words Caesar Nero was on the throne -- a wicked ruler over the world. "Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves."

There are three institutions that God has put for society: the family, the church, and the state. The state is given by God to restrain evil. Not only to restrain evil, but to promote social order. And according to these two verses, all power has one origin -- God. There is a sovereign God who dispenses power, even to rulers on earth. Whether that power is used by a good person or a bad person for a good reason or for a bad reason, all power has one origin and that's God. It's an interesting statement; it's tough to swallow, I'll admit that. But do you remember our Lord Jesus, when he stood before another wicked ruler named Pontius Pilate? Pontius Pilate got up from his throne indignant because Jesus wouldn't answer his questions at that trial. And he said, "Don't you realize..." (Now, he's saying this to God) "... don't you realize I have power to crucify You or power to release You?" Remember what Jesus said to him? "You would have no power at all unless it were given to you from above." Interesting. Even that ruler, Jesus recognized, had power given to him from above.

When I was a kid, I was a rebel. I still am in many ways, but I was really bad then. Right down the street from where I lived, there were two CHP's -- California Highway Patrols. They were neighbors, they were brothers. And I would make a point of revving up my motorcycle really loud and going really fast past their house when they were off-duty. Kind of a signature. Vrooom. And, they made it a habit of stopping us and giving us little pieces of paper, from time to time -- love notes, tickets, when they were on-duty. And we had this thing going. I'd rebel and I got plenty of warnings and tickets during those days. Now, I did it then because I was a rebel. Now, I don't want to do that. I recognize that as a believer, that's not appropriate. It might be fun, but it's not appropriate. And as a believer, I want to, as a witness, obey the law. Now, admittedly, I don't always do it. I am not perfect and yes, I have gotten my share of tickets as a believer. And even as a pastor. And I've got to tell you, it's awkward. I was once on my motorcycle, in recent times, going from Phoenix to Tucson -- you know, that long stretch of road where nobody is... except police. So I wanted to see what that bike could do and I got it up to a good old speed, I was with a buddy -- got pulled over by a police officer. He was writing me the ticket, noticed it was an out-of-state driver's license and he said, "What do you do?" He would have to ask that. So, I told him the truth. I said, "I'm a teacher." "Oh, really, well, where do you work?" "Albuquerque." "I know that, but I mean, where exactly do you teach?" "Calvary." It's awfully embarrassing as a pastor do be caught in that situation. So, part of our submission to God is commitment and submission to the state.

But, are there times when, as a Christian, I should disobey the government? Absolutely. You're called to a higher government -- God's government. You have an allegiance to the King of kings and when the kingdoms collide and there's a conflict between the kingdom of the human government and the kingdom of heaven you have to obey the kingdom of heaven. For instance, in the 1850s, when our nation was divided into a civil war because of the slave trade in America and Christians really struggled: "This is wrong, slavery is wrong, how do I react as a Christian?" Or in the 1930s when a new leader arose in Europe, Adolf Hitler, and he hated Jews and killed six million of them and Christians thought, "What do we do?" Well, they decided to disobey the government and hide Jews in their homes. In the Bible, that's warranted, by the way. The pharaoh, the king, the government issued a decree, a law, that all the midwives kill every Hebrew male child as soon as they're born. The midwives decided to disobey the government. Exodus chapter 1, "The midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded." That was right. When King Nebuchednezzar of Babylon put up a big golden statue and commanded everyone bow down to the statue, three young Hebrew guys decided "we're going to disobey the government." In Daniel chapter 3, they said "Let it be known to you, o king, we do not serve your gods nor will we worship the golden image which you have set up."

Then in the New Testament, another government order was dispatched by the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews who had jurisdiction over Jerusalem, especially the temple area. The law was that the early Christians, especially the apostles, could no longer preach the gospel publicly in Jerusalem -- it was a decree. So they decided to break the law. Because Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone." And so they stood before that court and they said in Acts chapter 4, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen you more than God, you judge. But we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." So yes, there are exceptions to that rule of submission to human government. And I've just given you a few exceptions, but the issue is still clear: if you're a good Christian, you'll be a good citizen. In fact, you'll try to be a model citizen. Will you ever be perfect? No. But we ought to be and try to be a model citizen.

I think that means three things. Submission, first of all, we've already seen. Second, involvement. Because you live in a democracy, you can be involved in it. Even Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's". Joseph was involved; he was the prime minister of Egypt. He was a believer. And third, it means prayer. Do you pray for your government? I hope on a weekly basis you have some time carved aside to pray for local, state, national, and even international government. The Bible tells you to do that. 1 Timothy 2, Paul says, "That supplications, prayers, and giving of thanks no matter who's in office should be given for all men, for kings and all who are in authority that we may live a quiet and peaceable life." So, submission is part of our commitment to God.

Something else he notices back in Ecclesiastes is that the state has the right to enforce that submission. In verse 3, Solomon says "don't be hasty to go in front of the king's presence, don't take your stand for an evil thing, for he [that is, the king] does whatever he pleases. Where the word of a king is, there is power and who can say to him, what are you doing?" Now, we can say that in our country -- they couldn't say that back then. "He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful and a wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment." In other words, the king is sovereign -- he has sovereign power. And if you live right, you've got nothing to worry about. If you don't live right, you've got a lot to worry about. Keep the laws -- no problem, don't keep the laws -- big problem. And the state will enforce them.

By the way, that's also a New Testament principle. Romans 13 once again, verse 3: "For rulers are not a terror to good works but to evil, do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Then do what is good and you'll have praise from the same." You see, the state is not a remedy for sin, but it is a restraint to sin. The government is part of God's common grace -- to curtail evil activity upon the earth. And there's the principle: rulers are a terror not to good works but to evil. If you want to be unafraid of them, keep the laws. Have you ever found yourself suddenly startled, even afraid, when you see a police officer in your rearview mirror? What are you worried about? Are you speeding? Did you roll through that stop sign, instead of stop at it, hoping nobody was around? Because of my earlier altercations with the law, seriously, every time I see a police officer -- no offense if you are one -- it's an adrenaline rush. My heart booms and I clench the steering wheel and I automatically look down at the speedometer. Now, if when I look down, I'm going 75 miles an hour when I pass the police officer, I say, "Uh-oh." But, if I'm doing 45 in a 45 and he's got the little radar gun out and I pass him, I go, "Thank you, Jesus!" Nothing to worry about -- as long as you're doing right.

Look at the next verse in Romans 13, this is how to treat government officials. If you think the other verses were tough, listen to this one: "For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid for he does not bear the sword in vain." In other words, he has the right to enforce submission. "For he is God's minister, an avenger, to execute wrath on him who practices evil." That's tough to think of government officials as ministers, isn't it? But they are. In fact, the same word is used of angels in Hebrews 1: "Are not these angels ministering spirits sent by God?" So when you see those lights in the rearview mirror think, "The ministers have arrived. The angels have come." It's also the same word Paul used of ministers in the church. Diocinos -- deacons, same word. Ministers of God, avengers on those who execute wrath.

Shame on our attitudes toward police officers sometimes. We're indignant at them, give them smart-aleck comments, "You ought to be after the bad guys, what're you stopping me for?" You know we ought to thank God for them and thank them. Now, I admit, there are those Barney Fifes out there -- give them a badge, authority goes to their head, they're like king of the earth. But most of them aren't like that, I've found. Most of them are just trying to do their job. And what a good witness it would be if you would stop, even go out of your way, and say, "I just want to thank you for the work you do. And I want you to know I'm praying for you." You might see a few jaws drop when you do that -- because they rarely get that. We have a fellowship of police officers that meet here every week -- I thank God for them. You couldn't drive home safely unless there were laws and policemen to enforce them. It's part of God's common grace to the earth.

Now, look at verse 10, in Ecclesiastes chapter 8, there's a change here. The second strand is not a citizen's submission but a government's provision. The government has a responsibility for the citizens: to provide, a form of protection. To ensure their well-being. Now, there are times that the government fails to do this and Solomon is picking up on this negative aspect, of their failure to do it. And every time the government fails to provide protection, anxiety goes up and crime increases. And Solomon knows that if you have a corrupt government, and he's the king now, that you breach the trust, you break the trust, between the people and the government. Always happens. He knew that. There's a sign on the desk of somebody in the Pentagon that reads: "The secrecy of my job does not permit me to know what I am doing". We think, well, there's a lot of people in the government like that. Verse 10 is an example of the failure of a government with a certain person who is notable and got away with crime, verse 10: "Then I saw the wicked buried who had come and gone from the place of holiness" That would be the temple. In other words, here's a wicked man but he used to go to church every weekend -- to the temple every Sabbath. "And they were forgotten in the city where they had so done [that is, done the wickedness] this also is vanity" Maybe Solomon had just come back from the guy's funeral. Funeral of a hypocrite -- a wicked, evil person and everybody knew it. Used to go to church, now he's dead, and at the funeral they praised him. In this version it says, "He is forgotten in the city where they had so done." Most translations, even the ancient Latin Vulgate say "He's praised in the city" where he once did it.

This bothers me from time to time. I'll go to certain funerals -- I have gone to some funerals in my time -- but there's a few funerals I've gone to for people who were notably not godly people. And at the funeral that's all forgotten. Nothing is said about what a creep he was, just what a 'wonderful person he was and now he's in heaven'. And I'm thinking, "Are we talking about the same person?" It's convenient to do that at death. It's funny how you'll have an ungodly or an unbelieving person who wants nothing to do with God, nothing to do with Jesus, don't want to go to church and suddenly the minister's talking about them being in heaven?! Like, would God make a person be in heaven if they want nothing to do with God? That's an injustice and Solomon saw it. I heard about a guy who died, he was a pretty wicked guy and at his funeral the minister got up and said, 'Oh, what a wonderful person! What an example he was to his community! A stellar human being!" And his wife, who was sitting in the first row, furrowed her eyebrows and wondered if she was at the right funeral. And she said to her son, "Go up and look in the casket- make sure that's you papa!" It didn't sound like him.

Verse 10 is an example of government failure to swiftly punish somebody who is evil. And that's followed up by the principle in verse 11 "because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." In other words, delays in justice encourage criminals. Like the guy in verse 10, he got away with it. He died and they praised him at his funeral. Whether it's a delay in a trial or it's a release because of a technicality, whenever that happens there is a contempt for the judicial system. Criminals think, 'I can get away with it.' Our law states that a person is innocent until proven guilty, and our law demands that every person be given a fair trial. And that's good -- it ought to be that way. But when the system overprotects the criminal at the expense of the victim, that's a crime, that's wicked. And so what do you need? You need strong, impartial, fair judges who won't let lawyers outmaneuver the system but will meet out swift justice and, if need be, punishment.

The famous trial lawyer F. Lee Bailey, who helped O.J. get off, said, "In America, an acquittal doesn't mean you're innocent, it means you beat the rap." And so you need people who say, 'No, that's not right. I'm not going to let the system be that way." Fair judges are needed. The poet Robert Frost even noted that "a jury is simply twelve people chosen to decide who has the better lawyer".

Having said that, Solomon wisely moves into the next two verses to say, "It might be that way, we might have an imperfect government, a wicked government that fails sometimes. However, God can overrule it in the long run." That's the thought of the next two verses -- the overruling of failure. Look at verse 12: "Though a sinner does evil a hundred times" and the implication is he gets away with it, "and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. But it will not be well with the wicked, nor will He prolong his days, which are as a shadow because he does not fear before the Lord." Eventually, the wicked will be judged and the righteous will be rewarded. When? In the Supreme Court -- of heaven. The judgment. When every wrong will be made right and every right will be rewarded. And so there's the wicked guy who seems to get away with it a hundred times and lives to be a long, old guy -- long life, prosperous life. In the long run, he's the loser. His days may be prolonged like the shadow, but what's a shadow? It's just air, it's just the displacement of light. It's not the substance, the shadow isn't the same as the person. So, the shadow lengthens. And when the shadows lengthen, it indicates the sun is about to go down and darkness is about to arrive. And I think that's the thought of Solomon. His lights are about to go out, the wicked guys, he's about to perish -- so, in the long run he's the loser. As it says in Psalm 11:4, "The Lord is in His holy temple, The Lord still rules from heaven, He watches everything closely, examining everyone on earth."

Now we come to the third strand of this chapter -- the believer's position. How should we respond to the injustices, the inequities of a corrupt government? What's our position supposed to be? Should we close our eyes, ignore it, have nothing to do with it? Villify it? Run from it -- like the Jehovah Witnesses who refuse to salute the flag and give any kind of allegiance to the country? Or, on the other hand, do we go to the extreme of saying, "Christians should overtake the government and bring in the kingdom of God" like the kingdom theologians tell us? I think there's a great balance. There's three principles that Solomon leaves us in the next few verses that form a believer's position.

Number one, recognize there is no perfect human system of government. None. Verse 14: "There is vanity which occurs on earth, that there are just men to whom it happens according to the work of the wicked again there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous, I said this is also vanity" Even Solomon, trying to provide for Israel the best form of government he could, recognized that people will fall through the cracks sometimes. And sometimes, you'll have a criminal who gets off and is treated like a righteous person. And you might get a righteous person who is treated like a wicked person and sentenced. There is no perfect form of human government. You know why -- because there are no perfect people. We're all subject to the fall, we've all fallen in that sense -- we're imperfect. So, you could go way back to the ancient forms of government, tribalism, patriarchal forms of government: they failed. You could look back to the times when the judges ruled in Israel and it was sort of state powers that were ruling: that failed, everyone did what was right in his own eyes. You could go back to the ancient monarchies where a king or a queen ruled through dynastic succession: that failed, absolute power corrupts absolutely. And you could take a democracy which, though it's the best form of government we have on earth, it still fails ultimately. Why? Because you've got imperfect people. And, like in our country, if you have people who lose their moral underpinnings, that form also washes in the end. So, yeah, we should submit to it, we should be involved in it, we should pray for it. But know that ultimately there is no perfect form of government.

President James Madison once wrote, "We have staked the whole future of American civilization not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments." Now, that's a great statement but that's not happening today. You don't have Americans saying, "I'm going to rule my life by the Ten Commandments." We are a nation that has pushed God out of national life -- separation of church and everything.

Here's my position on it, knowing that we live in an imperfect world with imperfect governments: it just causes me all the more to look forward to God's perfect kingdom. It does. I can live with the form of government that I have. But it makes me look forward to the Lord's return, when Jesus Christ will rule and reign with an iron rod -- a perfect government. I try to imagine that -- a world without war, a world full of peace, a world where justice always prevails, a world where one perfect person with one perfect mind makes every decision perfect. Where all politicians are saints -- now, you have to stretch your imagination there a little bit. That's what the future form of government will be on earth one day in the thousand-year reign of Christ -- the millennium. It'll be a theocracy. Not a democracy, not a monarchy, a theocracy. And it will be perfect. And so I realize that no human system is perfect and it causes me to look forward to the future.

You know, back in the Civil War, the nation was divided. A song was written called The Battle Hymn of the Republic. It was written by a lady named Julia Ward Howe and she had the future kingdom in mind as she looked at the Civil War. "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord". That was her hope. We live in an imperfect world -- I'm looking forward to the next.

Second, we should make the best with what we have. Verse 15 might seem odd in the midst of this discussion but, I assure you, it's not: "So I commended enjoyment because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry. For this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun." Now, this is the fourth time in the book of Ecclesiastes that Solomon says, 'Enjoy life and the fruit of your work, your labour.' It's one of the themes of the book. Your goal may be to fix the problems of the world with government. Nothing wrong with that -- you should try, we should do our best with the imperfect world that we live in. Get involved, submit, pray, but -- take a little time, not just to look at the goal, but enjoy the process. Enjoy your life. "Eat, drink, and be merry". This isn't the 'eat, drink, and be merry' of the unbelieving hedonist who lives for himself, this is the 'eat, drink, and be merry' of the person who realizes, "I live in a fallen world, it is not perfect, but I'm going to enjoy what God has allowed me to have where I am." Anybody can do that. You know how you do that? You stop complaining about what you don't have and you start thanking God for what you do have. It changes one's perspective.

And third, we should realize that God is working behind the scenes. His purpose, His will -- we don't see it, we don't understand it, we can try, but He's working behind the scenes. Look at verse 16 and 17: "When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth even though one sees no sleep day or night, then I saw all the work of God that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun for though a man labours to discover it, yet he will not find it. Moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it."

We live in an imperfect world, we are imperfect people, we have an imperfect government -- everybody does -- but, there is a perfect God. Who works out His strange but inscrutable will behind the scenes. And though things aren't perfect, God is working. Be assured of that -- relax a little bit. God's behind the scenes. You know, I've traveled around the world and I've seen different forms of government and I've got to tell you, once again, we live in, I think, the best form of government on earth. The democracy of the United States of America -- it's a privilege, it's a great privilege to live in this country. Having said that, however, let me say this, having a good government is not a necessity at all to the spread of the gospel or your spiritual growth. God can move in the worst forms of government, in the most tyrannical forms of government and I'll tell you the best example of that is China. For hundreds of years, western missionaries went throughout China to preach the gospel and we found out that they yielded about 800 thousand converts in that huge country of China. Then, in the 1940s, something wicked we thought was taking place, and it was from a governmental standpoint. It was horrible -- a cultural revolution took place in China. Communists brought in a despotic regime to control the people and western missionaries were kicked out of the country. None were allowed in, the church went underground, the church was persecuted, many were killed. And we're here in the West, biting our nails, wondering, "Will the Christians survive?" When the door opened and we got to peek into China several years later we found out the church didn't just survive -- it flourished. There weren't 800 thousand converts, now there were 50 million. In some estimates, up to 100 million converts in that kind of regime. So you see, the political climate has little to do with the spread of the gospel and spiritual growth.

So, realize we live in an imperfect world, imperfect government, make the best with what you have and realize God is working behind the scenes. All the while I hope it causes you to yearn for another kingdom. Is Jesus Christ your King? Are you part of His kingdom? Does He rule and reign your life? Does He call the shots? Then, if so, realize this is just temporary. There is something far better that is eternal. That should cause you to yearn for it.

I read a story about a couple on their honeymoon. They got to their hotel late at night, hoping that the room would be ready, pull up in the parking lot, got the keys in the lobby, went up to their room, opened the door and they were sorely disappointed. It was a tiny, tiny little room, no windows, no view, no bed -- just a pull-out couch. Tiny and cramped and they retired for the night, woke up the next day hurting and mad. So, they walked into the lobby, "I demand to see the manager," he said. "We wanted the honeymoon suite, you gave us this crummy little room." The manager said, "Oh? You didn't open the door?" The guy said, "What?" "The room that you walked into was the foyer of the honeymoon suite. Didn't you see the door?" The husband said, "I thought that was the closet and didn't even bother to open it." So, he went upstairs and showed them a spacious honeymoon suite.

Well, the guy who conveys the story writes this way: "We understand what Paul meant when he wrote 'we groan inwardly as we wait for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies' Groan, that's the word -- an inward angst, the echo from the cavern of the heart. The sigh from the soul that says, 'This world is out of joint, awry, misspelled, limping, something's wrong. The room is too cramped to breathe, the bed is too stiff for rest, the walls too bare for pleasure and so we groan. It's not that we don't try, we do our best with the room that we have, we shuffle the furniture, we paint the walls, we turn down the lights, but there's only so much you can do with the place. And so we groan. But maybe you do need for me to tell you that it's okay, it's alright to groan, it's permissible to yearn. Longing is a part of life, it's only natural to long for home when you're on a journey and we aren't home yet. We are orphans at the gate of the orphanage, awaiting our new parents. They're not here yet, but we know they're coming - they wrote us a letter. We haven't seen them yet but we know what they look like -- they sent us a picture. And we're not acquainted with our new house yet, but we have a hunch about it, it's grand -- they sent a description. And so what do we do? We groan, we long for the call to come home, but until He calls, we wait. No sickness, no suffering, no struggle. We stomp our feet, we shake our fists, forgetting it's only in heaven that such peace is found. We must be patient, but not so much that we don't yearn. We must be eager, but not so much that we don't wait. We'd be wise to do what those newlyweds never did -- we'd be wise to open the door. We'd be wise to stand in the entryway, gaze into the chambers, gasp at the beauty. And then wait. Wait for the groom to carry us, His bride, over the threshold." That's what we're waiting for, isn't it? Isn't there a yearning in your heart for home, for heaven? The kingdom of God has come in our midst because Jesus rules in our hearts but as wonderful as that is, that peace, we long for its ultimate fulfillment. When all human government gives way to one perfect government. That ought to cause us to be great citizens right here. Responsible here, but looking forward to what's ahead. If Jesus Christ is not governing your life, it's time to give Him permission to do that. Is He your king? Are you His servant?




Additional Messages in this Series

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11/5/2000
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What's The Point Of It All
Ecclesiastes 1
Skip Heitzig
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In the book of Ecclesiastes written by Solomon, the bell of disillusionment tolls over and over again. It is a book often quoted by unbelievers because it strikes a chord of familiarity. The deepest questions about life are probed by one of ancient society's most brilliant thinkers. Modern men and women would do well to consider this man's journal and especially his conclusions so as not to make the same mistakes.
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11/12/2000
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Common Paths On A Frustrating Journey
Ecclesiastes 1:12-2:11
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"The pursuit of happiness" is written into the script of the American dream. As a culture we take it literally and go for it wholeheartedly. Have you ever stopped to observe those on that pursuit? Have you ever met someone who stopped pursuing it because they found it?  Solomon, the king of Israel was able to create and finance his own dreams. He walked down many roads to find the illusive golden pot of happiness at the end of the rainbow.  But what was it he found?
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11/26/2000
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How An Uplook Can Change Your Outlook!
Ecclesiastes 2:12-26
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Solomon didn't have a sight problem as he looked around at his world to find fulfillment. His was an insight problem. He saw a world full of allurements that all promised to satisfy but could never produce. For a long time Solomon failed to gain the needed insight, because things on the horizontal plane aren't the source of enjoyment.  It was then that he momentarily turned his eyes upward and, with a flash of perception, had balance brought to his pessimistic perspective.
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12/3/2000
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Caught Between Time and Eternity
Ecclesiates 3
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"Man is the only animal that worships." one observer noted. Have you ever wondered why people always seem to be groping for more than they have?  No matter what our lot in life, no matter where we find ourselves, we want to know what's on the other side of the wall! Is there more? We have the strange predicament of living in time and yet longing to outlive it. Here we discover one of the great truths of Scripture - God is sovereign over both time and eternity.
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12/10/2000
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How's Your View?
Ecclesiastes 3:12-22
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Solomon was a torn and conflicted individual. He spouted a cynical glumness as he observed life, then he would lapse moments of optimistic spirituality in his journal. Perhaps that's nowhere better seen than in these paragraphs. Within the span of a few verses his divergent viewpoints can be seen. What Solomon faced is what we all face how to maintain a spiritual outlook while living in a skeptical world!
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12/17/2000
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The Case For Companionship
Ecclesiastes 4
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God said it from the very start and it's still true today: "It is not good that man should be alone" (Genesis 2: 18). Loneliness and isolation are formidable forces in our fast-paced culture. Separation is easier than integration. Seclusion is easier than assimilation. But these are not better! God created us to be comfortably knit together n meaningful relationships, sometimes in marriage, and at other times as friends.
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1/7/2001
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You've Come To Church...Now What?
Ecclesiastes 5:1-7
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Think about it: Its 2001, and here you are in church...again! Why? What are you doing here? Now, I'm not trying to discourage you from attending, nor do I want you to turn on your heels and high-tail it out of here. But I do want you to think about why you're here, what happens to you while you are here, and what happens afterwards. The beginning of this New Year is a good time to consider the value of commitments we have made.
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1/14/2001
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Money Matters
Ecclesiastes 5:8-20
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Look again at the title, Money Matters. Most of us would say a hearty Amen to it. Money does matter to us: it pays the bills and buys us food to live. But how much is enough and how much will bring us happiness? Can we be trusted with money? Will we use it for the right purposes? In the end what will money profit us?
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1/21/2001
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All That Glitters...
Ecclesiastes 6
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Living in a prosperous country has its advantages. It also has its problems. Solomon understood this since his own nation was experiencing economic growth through free trade and low unemployment. But he was willing to see both sides of the economic coin. Today we consider the personal problems that prosperity can bring and solutions to those problems.
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1/28/2001
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Seven Ways To A Better Life
Ecclesiastes 7:1-14
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Steven Covey, the guru to the business community, wrote his best-selling book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and outlined a strategy for making life count. King Solomon wrote his own list, but by balancing over it you can readily see that the majority wouldn't accept these biblical directives. Let's follow along with this wise king as he takes us on a tour of these seven ingredients:
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2/4/2001
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Building A House Or A Home
Psalm 127
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The reason this psalm is important to us today is because of its author-notice Solomon was the one who wrote it. Here, the master philosopher-builder-entrepreneur reflects on the central core of human life-the home. The Christian leader John Henry Jowett wrote, "Anyone can build a house: we need the Lord for the creation of a home." I believe Solomon penned this psalm during the upswing in his outlook described in the second half of Ecclesiastes.
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2/11/2001
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Life: A Realistic View
Ecclesiastes 7:15-29
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Solomon has graduated: Rather than tipping the scales completely towards pessimism, he balances out with realism. This is a realistic view at one of man's most puzzling problems. we will explore the nature of man with undiminished realism and find out what it means to us here and now.
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2/25/2001
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A Matter Of Life And Death
Ecclesiastes 9:1-10
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You are alive! You will die! Those two absolutes are as basic as it gets. But how many people really live well? And how many really die well? Solomon's deep probing of the human condition and plan of God drives him to consider these two irreducible certainties. Concerning these two absolutes, there are some things we can't change but some that we can:
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3/4/2001
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Certain Truths For Uncertain Times
Ecclesiastes 9:11-18
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Have you ever felt like life is a violin solo and you're wearing mittens? Things can get pretty frustrating from time to time, can't they? In fact how often have you heard (or said), "It's just not fair"? With this seemingly precarious nature of things we must bank on the certainty of other things-divine sovereignty and biblical authority.
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3/11/2001
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Four Common Follies
Ecclesiastes 10:1-10
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The old saying goes, "Man is pretty much a fool: when it's hot he wants it cool; when it's cool he wants it hot-always wanting what it's not!" That might sound simplistic but folly is simply think of and living for the short-term. Solomon in his unique and pithy style points to several areas where folly is demonstrated in life:
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3/18/2001
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Watch Your Mouth!
Ecclesiastes 10:11-20
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An old proverb reads: "The ability to speak several languages is an asset, but the ability to keep your mouth shut in one language is priceless." There are times when that is true. The tendency to let our mouths rule, whether in a conversation or at a meal, can get us into trouble and harm others. Solomon, in poetic style, considers three foolish ways our mouths can be used:
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3/25/2001
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What Are You Doing With Yourself?
Ecclesiastes 11:1-6
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When Dr. Karl Menninger was asked, "What advice do you have for someone feeling a nervous breakdown coming on?" Astonishingly he replied, "Lock up your house, go across the railway tracks, find someone in need, and do something to help that person." I think Solomon would agree. In this section he is winding down his journal with this advice: Give yourself away!
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4/22/2001
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Living Life To The Brim!
Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:1
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A wise pundit once wrote, "Your life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you wish, but you can spend it only once." Each of us is assigned just one shot at this thing called life. There is an eternity that we are all moving toward. So much of that eternity is shaped by how we live our lives right here and now, and that is one of the sobering thoughts with which Solomon chooses to close his journal. His theme is: Life should be enjoyed to the fullest-within proper boundaries!
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4/29/2001
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Is That Your Final Answer?
Ecclesiastes 12
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Solomon has run his course. His journey is completed. Years have passed since he began his search for meaning in life. After wearing several well-trodden paths of experimentation he now gives his final conclusion-his final answer as to the purpose of life. Boiling all of life down to its unavoidable terminus he leaves us with a few salient truths of guide our course through life.
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There are 19 additional messages in this series.