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346 – Solace through Surrender

Comments Off on 346 – Solace through Surrender 17 April 2014

Most of us would like a little peace and solace in a world of conflict and confusion. Each morning we awake with new hope only to watch the morning news and have our hopes dashed by reports of rising health care costs, a Federal Government out of control, unrest in areas of vital interest to the United States, political bickering between the parties while the debt ticker is running wild on the national debt, the signs of threatened inflation are ever increasing, and millions of us are still without work. How can we find solace in that kind of world we live in? I am finding the answer is where I have always known it to be, in surrender of some key life events to God! That is why I have entitled these remarks, “Solace through Surrender.”

There are some things that are a regular part of life. In the face of these events, it is good to know that we have a sovereign God who is in control of them. God has established some natural laws that maintain stability in the universe. Science and theology are not in conflict, they are actually complements one of the other. God’s hand is at work through His natural laws that science discovers and proves so that we can make more sense of what is happening around and to us. In all of that God is bringing His purpose to fulfillment. In each moment of our lives, God is accomplishing His will. To help us understand what He is doing, God inspired Solomon to write some important verses in Eccl. 3: 1-8. These life events are the things I have learned must be surrendered to God in order for us to experience personal solace.

We must surrender these events to God to experience solace:

1. Our births and deaths Solomon began his discussion about the seasonableness of important life events by saying, “There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth: A right time for birth and another for death” (Eccl. 3:1–2 The Message). A lot of people think that these events are just random or determined by happenstance. Abortion, euthanasia, surrogate parenthood, and other things make it look like these events of birth and death are in our hands. That is not true. God’s Word through Solomon says that these events are not human accidents or the result of human intervention. They are all by divine appointment. God is in control. If He chose to He could abort every attempt of the abortionists hand. He would reverse every cancerous formation. He is sovereign. But, He has established some natural laws which teach us that when certain conditions are met certain phenomena occur. There are no accidental pregnancies. Every conception is a result of God’s handiwork. The psalmist said, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Ps. 139:13–16 NIV). Our genetic structure is the result of God’s work. We may choose to foolishly tamper with the timing of our death, but we cannot prevent it when the time for it comes. The psalmist said, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Ps. 13916 NIV). That settles it for me. I need to surrender the time of my birth and death and everything in between to God, and that will bring me solace in a stressed world.

2. Our planting and plucking up – “A time to plant and a time to uproot” (Eccl. 3:2 NIV). I grew up in central Florida where we had to take agriculture in order to graduate from high school. I chose as a project each year to plant a garden. I learned firsthand that you have to plant in cooperation with God’s natural laws. There is a season to plant. What an important life lesson that teaches us. We must learn God’s principles and laws and cooperate with them to be successful. I also learned that I could plant the seeds, but I could not make them grow. I had to cultivate, fertilize, water, and prune the plants, but only God could and did give the increase. I also learned that there was a time to pluck up. We always planted more plants than the garden spot could nourish and make productive. So, I had to go through and pluck those that were not productive and those which were in the way of others that seemed to look like they would be more productive if they were given more space. After we do all we can, the harvest is in God’s hands. “You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The river of God has plenty of water; it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so”  (Ps. 65:9 NLT).” God works with us when we work with Him.

3. Our killing and healing – “A right time to kill and another to heal” (Eccl. 3:3 The Message). It seems Solomon has in mind a reference to war. We have learned that firsthand following 9/11. We have had to fight terrorists in other lands and ward off their planned attacks on the homeland. In a world where killing and injustice and conflict occur there is a time to kill. It is true that God allows some to die and others to live. In the ever expanding capacity of the medical community to do heroic things to prolong life there are ethical questions being raised in ever increasing numbers. God uses amazing advances in medicine to prolong and to give comfort in the loss of physical life. But, the bottom line is that God is never surprised by the beginning nor the ending of a life. “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live”  (Acts 17:26 NIV).

4. Our building and tearing down – Solomon referred to building and tearing down. “A time to tear down and a time to build” Ecclesiastes 3:3 NIV). What a fit metaphor for the life of a human being who passes from death to life. God has to tear down the old and replace it with the new. Solomon was a builder, and he would have known well the process of demolition and construction. An old traditional barn adorns a field near where we live. It is a reminder of days gone by. It is part of the historical landscape of the area. But, on our way from church recently we saw that a significant portion of the barn had fallen down, and then we saw that it had been demolished. There is a time to tear down old structures and old habits and old traditions and replace them with newer, better, and wiser ones.

5. Our weeping and laughing – God has so ordained life that there are opposites that make us aware of one another. Without one the other would not have meaning. “A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:4 NIV). One is the antithesis of the other. There are events of life that naturally evoke opposite responses. For example, a wedding evokes laughter and joy and happiness. I have officiated for two or more on multiple Saturdays. They were occasions of great joy! I have officiated for hundreds of funeral services where I observed people I loved grieving over the loss of the daily relationships they had enjoyed for many years with their loved ones. The latter of these was a time for weeping, the former a time of laughing. We need to learn to yield those events to God’s control. Through that yielding we will achieve solace in them.

6. Our scattering and our gathering – Verse 5 is a challenge to interpret. Scattering stones on the field of one you didn’t like was practiced by some of old. Supposing that to be the intended meaning, I like one commentator’s idea that if one were to scatter stones on our place we should not throw them back, but build something with them. It would appear the simplest way to understand the words as of clearing away debris and stones and preparing to build something constructive. “A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain” (Eccl. 3:5 NIV). It seems that “the use of the stones is the key.” Use what you have for some good and constructive purpose. That will bring solace. And, the last phrase probably has reference to the habits of people in the Near East to express their feelings with hello kisses and hugs and the same on good-bye. So, it may be a reference to meeting and parting. There is a time for both. One brings joy, the other sadness.

7. Our getting and losing – In life there are times of great ingathering. There are times when we will earn good money and times when it will be taken away. There are times as in the recent years of real estate crisis when people who had great wealth have lost a significant portion of it, and there is a time in which they may lose what they have gained. We all have experienced the hurt and pain of loss as well as the joy of gain. Solomon’s view was that there is, “A time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away” (Eccl. 3:6 NIV). There are also times when it is prudent to give up things that are no longer of value to us, and there are times when we need to keep the things that are treasured.

8. Our rending and our mending – “A time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak (Eccl. 3:7 NIV).  This may be a reference to the time of mourning loss. It is okay to mourn. It is natural and it is important to get that done when we have experienced a significant loss. Mourning, grieving, crying, do not change the situation, but they do change us. There is a time when grief must be shared and reckoned with and eventually overcome. But, there is a time when the life without grief must be rejoined. We have to mend the brokenness, and we have to be open to God’s new possibilities for our lives. We have to prepare and move on when circumstances change beyond our control, yet in God’s control. For those of us dealing with others who are grieving or on the mend, it is important to know when to keep silent and when to speak. Be sensitive to God’s Spirit’s prompting in this matter.

9. Your loving and hating – You might rightly ask, “Are there times when a Christian should hate?” Yes. There are. God is our Example in this: “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers” (Prov. 6:16–19 NIV). Certainly there are also times to love. Jesus taught that we must do more than those under the law. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:43–44 NIV). Jesus lifted the demand above the written law and attached it to the law of love. He commanded us to love like He loved when He said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Matt. 5:43–44 NIV). It is good to remember in reference to these antithetical statements in these eight verses, that Romans 8:28 still works to keep balance and symmetry and to make sense of life. Paul said, “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans” (Rom. 8:28 TLB). Knowing that, if you will surrender each of these life situations and events into God’s loving hands you will find solace.

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“Redeemed”

The painting in my logo is by an artist named Kelly O'Neill.



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