A PARTNERSHIP WITH PURPOSE – Strength in Numbers
Ecclesiastes 4:8-12 (p. 463) October 30, 2016
Ecclesiastes starts out “The words of the teacher.” The Hebrew word that’s used there is “Koheleth.” The NIV translates it “teacher.” “The KJV and New American Standard translate it “Preacher.” Koheleth comes from the word “Gathering” so both translations come from One who leads the “Gathering” and both are pretty true to the original meaning.
Solomon is the Son of the King David…the 3rd King of Israel, and he writes these words in Jerusalem…the pulpit for the Jewish people…with the temple He’s built to honor God in the background.
Ecclesiastes is written by a leader of the gathering that chose wisdom from God when he was given the chance to choose anything he wanted. But it’s also written by a man who conducted his own empiric research with his life…by that I mean, he sought fulfillment in everything that he thought would gratify him…Here’s what he said:
ECCLESIASTES 2:10-11 (p. 461)
The phrase “this preacher” uses over and over again “meaningless, meaningless…utterly meaningless. Everything is meaningless! Everything he built…every passion he indulged…everything he possessed…worthless.
Summed up in my country boy verbiage… “Satan has you and I chase worldly carrots on a stick…only to find out…“Sin always takes you farther than you want to go…Sin always keeps you longer than you want to stay…and sin always costs you more than you want to pay.”
As we talk about our mission here on earth we will always be tempted by Satan’s carrot on a stick to find self fulfillment…self satisfaction and comfort…He’ll say, “Chase this…this is solid…this is what you want…and so we do, and only discover too late…it’s the wind…and we’ve lost a lot…and gained nothing.
And God calls…“Come to me all who are weary and burdened with this life.” Satan the thief has only come to kill, steal and destroy your life and I have come to give you abundant life…That abundant life means “the end of me” and the resurrection of Christ who lives in me. The meaningless now has meaning…my life now has a purpose…and it’s not about self-fulfillment…now it’s about Christ fulfillment.
By the way here’s how King Solomon ends Ecclesiastes:
ECCLESIASTES 12:13-14 (p. 467)
“It’s all about God…worship Him…follow His plan…That’s our purpose…He only is the all knowing Judge.”
Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength…and the second is like it…love your neighbor as you love yourself…all the law and prophets hang on these 2 commands.”
Love God…Love People…Serve both.
Solomon also made a discovery about this life and it’s purpose…
I. IT’S LONELY TO NOT SHARE YOUR LIFE WITH ANYONE…AND FOR ANYONE
“There was a man all alone, he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth…‘For whom am I toiling he asked…this is meaningless…it’s a miserable business.’” (v. 8)
Here are the questions…who do you work for who do you work with…and why?
Anyone here that doesn’t think these are tragically sad words…There was a man all alone? I hear Three Dog Night singing in the back of my head, “One is the loneliest number there’s ever been.” If there is no one to work for…no one to work with…no one to share your life with and to share your life for…and you spend it only on yourself…what meaning is there…it’s a miserable business.
My mentor Wayne Smith gave this plaque to Brewster McLeod on August 29, 1999…Brewster led me to Christ and discipled me for 2 years before I left for Bible College…
Here’s what is says:
ACHIEVEMENT comes to someone when he is able
to do great thing for himself.
SUCCESS comes when he empowers followers
to do great things with him.
SIGNIFICANCE comes when he develops leaders
to do great things for him.
A LEGACY is created when a person puts his organization
into the position to do great things without him.
Your lasting value will be measured
YOU are a hero, a legend, a model, and mentor.
You have NO peers.
Thank you for the LEGACY you leave behind.
There are no eternal buildings…There are no eternal bank accounts…There are no eternal toys…and even though it’s painful for me to say with my worldly understanding…there are no eternal managers…but there is an eternity…and people will spend it in a very real heaven or a very real hell…and although I believe each of us individually are responsible for accepting or rejecting God’s plan for us in Jesus…I don’t believe we’ll walk into either of those eternities alone. Jesus said the Pharisees made “disciples twice as much a child of hell as they were” (Matt. 23:15) And he told His disciples “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourself to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)
I remember Brewster telling me “Everyone has a witness…the question is whether it’s a good one or a bad one.”
Evil and sin always have a crowd….but there also will be no true followers of Christ that walk into heaven alone either…Every Christ follower will have a brother of sister they’ve shared life with and there will be a son or daughter because of their marriage to Christ…Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commands.” And the last one he gave was about His plan for the Church, “Go into all the world and make disciples.”
Mike Faust said this: “Disciples has been diminished because modern evangelism strategies have taught people how to share their faith instead of sharing their lives.”
The New Testament Church was never a place you went to get what you want…It was always the family of God you shared your life with…a resurrected life through the Holy Spirit…The family’s focus was always about those who were broken and in need…especially those who needed salvation. The fellowship, called “Koinonia” existed not because of “similar likes and preferences.” It existed because each family member thought of others before themselves. The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved because each member took the “Great Commission” of Christ seriously…and personally…They didn’t bring their friends and family to the Apostles so that they could share the Good News and teach them what it meant to follow Christ…They shared the Good News…They taught their friends, family and neighbors. They partnered with God and with each other…no miserable life here…They had joy in the will of God, their was gladness as the family grew…and they were sincere in their sin and brokenness. This was strength in numbers…no clergy and laity here….Just a family with Godly leaders and brothers and sisters following their Father.
What are the benefits of sharing life like this as God planned?
II. WHY ARE TWO BETTER THAN ONE?
ECCLESIASTES 4:9 –
1. First, “Because they have a good return for their labor”
My dad used to say, “It’s more productive for 10 people to do their jobs than 1 person trying to do all 10.”
Churches get healthy when people move from the sidelines into the game. When each member gets involved and serves as the Holy Spirit enables them…and sometimes just because it needs to be done…It’s an attitude of willingness…because God has called you to serve and you say yes.
2. Second, “If either of them falls down, One can help the other up…but pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
We all fall down…We all get down. Physically, emotionally, spiritually…and where do you go if you’ve not shared your life with people. Do you expect them to care because it’s their duty? Do you expect the ministers to “take care of it?” Even if they don’t know about it…or you’ve been so peripheral in your relationship that they don’t really know you? Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7) Those who are loving and kind in their relationships will tell you…when they fall…when they’re down…the people they’ve shown mercy to…or many of them…pick them up.
3. Third, “If two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?”
There’s nothing improper here…it’s the illustration of 2 or more soldiers camping in the enemies territory and it’s winter! It’s an illustration of encouragement. How are you going to survive in the winter of battle if you lie down by yourself?
Satan would create diversion and disunity because he knows we freeze to death without this partnership…no wonder the writer to the Hebrews said, “Encourage one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)
[I’ll tell you personally, serving on the front lines is difficult at times…you expect the bullets to come from in front of you, but when it’s so called “friendly fire” it’s no less painful or deadly. I’m not sure there would be any minister still in ministry if it wasn’t for those who kept us warm in the cold nights of the battle.]
Maybe that’s exactly why Solomon put this one last:
4. Fourth, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”
The church is not a bunch of individuals that get together on a Sunday morning…it is a family, it’s a “band of brothers” and a “band of sisters” involved in a battle for eternity.
Randy Frazee has written a book called “The Connecting Church.” He has a son who was born without a left hand. One day in Sunday School the teacher was talking with the children about the church. To illustrate her point she folded her hands together and said, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple; open the doors and see all the people.”
She asked the class to do it along with her – obviously not thinking about his son’s inability to pull this exercise off. Then it dawned on her that the boy wouldn’t be able to join in.
Before she could do anything about it, the little boy next to his son, a friend of his from the time they were babies, reached out his left hand and said, “let’s do it together.” The two boys proceeded to join their hands together to make the church and the steeple.
Frazee says, “This hand exercise should never be done again by and individual because the church is not a collection of individuals, but the one body of Christ.
Let’s pray together as one.