By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort
Looking Beyond the Bucket List
Ecclesiastes (Selected Scriptures)
“What do you want to do before you die?” Someone posed this question on The Today Show (03/26/12) followed by a segment on a group of men who were checking off things on their bucket list. After viewing this segment, it occurred to me that the movie became a movement. The phrase “kick the bucket” means to die. Therefore, the bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you die. Dr. Ray Pritchard notes, “John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, used to say about his people, ‘Our people die well.’” [I wonder if he could say that today about Christians in general.] Dr. Pritchard observes, “In earlier generations Christians talked about death a lot more than we do now. The Puritans actually wrote books to help one another learn how to die well. Dying well was considered to be a Christian virtue.”
Peggy Noonan states, “Our ancestors believed in two worlds, and understood this to be the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short one. We are the first generation of man that actually expected to find happiness here on earth and our search for it has caused such unhappiness.” If Solomon could read Peggy’s statement he would likely say, “Tell me about it.” Remember, Solomon wrote a book about this very thing called Ecclesiastes. In it, he reveals the findings of his grand experiment.
I. Solomon shares about the human desire for prosperity.
Health, wealth, and prosperity are more desirable than sickness, poverty, and adversity. We read in 3 John verses 1 and 2, “The Elder, / To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth: Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”
God-given desires may only legitimately find fulfillment according to the will of God. We read in the Bible about the prosperity of the wicked. Therefore, we know that all prosperity is not in the will of God.
The opposite of prosperity is adversity. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 7:14, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, / But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, / So that man can find out nothing that will come after him.”
Paul writes to Timothy, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:1-4). Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:10-13, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
II. Solomon shares about the happy diversion through frivolity.
Some give themselves almost entirely to entertainment and amusement. While God is not opposed to all entertainment and amusement, we must not allow these things to cause our life to be out of focus. Dr. R. A. (Reuben Archer) Torrey (1856-1928) shares many helpful insights in an article on “Worldly Amusements and Pleasures”.
Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 2:1-11, “I said in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure’; but surely, this also was vanity. I said of laughter—‘Madness!’; and of mirth, ‘What does it accomplish?’ I searched in my heart how to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives. I made my works great, I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards. I made myself gardens and orchards, and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made myself water pools from which to water the growing trees of the grove. I acquired male and female servants, and had servants born in my house. Yes, I had greater possessions of herds and flocks than all who were in Jerusalem before me. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and of the provinces. I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds. So I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, / For my heart rejoiced in all my labor; And this was my reward from all my labor. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done / And on the labor in which I had toiled; And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.”
The opposite of frivolity is sobriety. We read in Romans 12:1-3, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” In 1 Peter 5:8-11 we read, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
III. Solomon shares about the hidden danger of vanity.
Do you remember “Vanity Fair” in John Bunyan’s (1628-1688) classic The Pilgrim’s Progress first published in 1678?
Recently, I found the following, “William Sheppeard Glass (born August 16, 1935 in Texarkana, Texas) is a former American football defensive end who played eleven seasons in the National Football League, beginning with the Detroit Lions and finishing his career as a standout with the Cleveland Browns. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1985. . . . Bill Glass also published a memoir called ‘Get in the Game!’ this biography is the viewpoint and life story of ‘The greatest Defensive End of the Cleveland Browns.’
Glass spent several off-seasons attending Southwestern [Baptist Theological] Seminary. He worked with Rev. Billy Graham, who encouraged Glass toward a life in the ministry. He founded Bill Glass Ministries in 1969. Since 1972, his efforts have focused on prison ministries, bringing the gospel to inmates across America.” In a message titled “Your Bucket List”, Bill Glass confesses, “I’ve searched for fulfillment in sports, and I certainly wouldn’t say it wasn’t fun or even satisfying to win a World Championship or play in the Pro Bowls. But I’ve also found even more genuine joy and fulfillment in serving in prisons on ‘death row’ with criminals.”
The opposite of vanity is humility. Isaac Watts (1674-1748) penned these words “All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.”
Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 12:8, “‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher,
’All is vanity.’” We find this sad refrain throughout the book of Ecclesiastes. Here, Solomon expresses sorrow over what he thought would make him happy. He issues a warning about the hidden danger of vanity.
IV. Solomon shares about the holy duty concerning morality.
Solomon is not promoting a morality without God. He concludes his findings affirming biblical morality. It is extremely helpful to discover the statements in the Bible that clearly state, “This is the will of God.” He is not encouraging a godless goodness as some might suggest. Since the prefix “theos” refers to God and “ethnos” refers to man, when we say the universe it theocentric not ethnocentric. In other words it is God centered not man centered. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, / For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, / Including every secret thing, / Whether good or evil.”
God records Solomon’s experiment in His Holy Word so we can gain from Solomon’s pain and not repeat the same process of searching for happiness “under the sun”.
V. Solomon shares about the helpful doctrine involving eternity.
We read in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” When I read this verse I think about a book by Don Richardson titled, Eternity in Their Hearts: Startling Evidence of Belief in the One True God in Hundreds of Cultures Throughout the World. The following is from the book description: “Has the God who prepared the gospel for all peoples also prepared all peoples for the gospel? Don Richardson, author of best-selling Peace Child, demonstrates through compelling stories from many different cultures how the concept of a supreme God has existed for centuries in hundreds of cultures throughout the world. From deep in the jungles of Burma to a majestic fortress in Peru and in countless other civilizations, people have exhibited in their histories terms and concepts that have prepared them for the gospel. Eternity in Their Hearts shows how God uses redemptive analogies to bring all men to Himself, bearing out the truth from Ecclesiastes that God ‘has also set eternity in the hearts of men.’”
Jesus warns in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” We are unprepared for eternity outside the will of God the Father in heaven. Jesus said to [Thomas], “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
While the movie about the bucket list might be a comedy, it would be a tragedy to follow the movement of merely doing what we want before we die. John warns in 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we must continue looking beyond the bucket list.
Ray Pritchard, Fire and Rain: the Wild-Hearted Faith of Elijah (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2007), p. 206
R. A. Torrey, “Worldly Amusements and Pleasures”, Available from: http://www.bible-topics.com/Amusements-and-Pleasures-worldly.html Accessed: 03/27/12
Bill Glass, “Your Bucket List”, Available from: http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Encouragement-on-the-Run—Your-Bucket-List.html?soid=1103595147022&aid=6cgUH1b8KKM Accessed: 03/27/12
Don Richardson, Eternity in Their Hearts: Startling Evidence of Belief in the One True God in Hundreds of Cultures Throughout the World. (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2006) http://www.amazon.com/Eternity-Their-Hearts-Startling-Throughout/dp/0830738371
By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527
Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on Amazon.com and WORDsearchbible.com
e-mail: email@example.com / (251) 626-6210 © June 3, 2012 All Rights Reserved