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March 29: Living in the Shadow of Death (Ecclesiastes 9:1-12)

We hope that you will find this guide helpful as you worship alone or together with others. 

Call to Worship

We begin by remembering why we have set this time aside: we come to worship God. As people of the risen king, we delight to bring him praise. Hear the word of God from Psalm 92.

Psalm 92:1–5 A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath.
            [1] It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
                        to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
            [2] to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
                        and your faithfulness by night,
            [3] to the music of the lute and the harp,
                        to the melody of the lyre.
            [4] For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
                        at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
           [5] How great are your works, O LORD!
                        Your thoughts are very deep!

The works of God are full of steadfast love and faithfulness. And the height of his work, the best of all the works he has done, is the work of forgiving sinners through the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus died, taking the punishment for our sins so that we might live forever in the joy of God’s presence. It’s in this hope that we sing of the great work of God together. Let the people of God give him praise!

Pray Together

Our Father in heaven, your name is holy! We come to you because Jesus has brought forgiveness and accepatance with you. Thank you for the forgiveness that may be ours through him. You, O Lord, have made us glad by your work.  Your works are great! You have created all things and by your power they are sustained.

But even though you are high above us and exalted in glory, you think about us, you care for us. Our world is full of brokenness, disease, anxiety and despair, but when we remember you we are full of gladness, hope and certainty. You are our rock and our refuge. So as we sing, move our hearts to love you more. As we read your word and hear it preached help us to understand and to obey, that we might bring you glory. We pray in the name of Jesus, which is the same yesterday, today and forever. Amen.

Sing Together

The video below is a playlist including all three songs.

     Be Thou My Vision
     Lord From Sorrows Deep I Call
     I Will Glory in My Redeemer

Give

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Pray Together

O Lord, high and holy and exalted, we bow before you in humble fear and adoration.  You are the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. You govern all things well. Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from you. You alone have immortality and you dwell in unapproachable light. Your face is like the sun shining in full strength.  Your glory is the longing of our hearts, for you are infinitely worthy of worship. The hungry soul you fill with good things. And so we bow and render our due worship, with grateful hearts.  

You have lavished your love on us, though we can find no reason within us for such kindness. You have faithfully, tenderly led your weak and wayward people. We confess our sins of distrust, inordinate fear, and an over-concern for our material welfare. Surely our bodies and wealth are to be stewarded for your glory, but we confess a fixation on the things of earth, while neglecting the things that are above. You who said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” are worthy of our complete confidence. We confess our wavering hearts in view of your proven goodness.  

Father, we thank you for what we read in your word that if we confess our sins, you are faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. You are just to do so because we have an advocate with you, Jesus Christ the righteous, who stood condemned in our stead. Thank you for his body broken and blood shed. What immeasurable grace! What news to the hopelessly indebted that their every debt has been paid! Gone. Vanished. Forgiven. You have tread our iniquities underfoot and cast all our sins into the depths of the sea!  

So with boldness we draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Many are in need at this hour, O Lord. We ask on behalf of our brothers and sisters who suddenly find themselves without work. Please see them through this time of crisis. Provide for the payment of bills, for food on the table, and restored employment. Glorify yourself by meeting the needs of your people.

We ask Lord for opportunities to explain how sinful men and women can be made right with God, to our neighbors and friends. We ask Lord that you would use the current time of emergency to cause people to ponder the state of their souls and the reality of death.

We ask that you’d strengthen the saints at Midtown Community Church during this time of crisis. We pray for their pastor Lindsey Williams and the elders there as they provide leadership & care to the congregation. Strengthen them for this work.

We ask Lord that you would halt the spread of this virus. Provide healing to the sick, protection for doctors and nurses working long hours and wisdom to our governing officials making very difficult decisions. We thank you for the common grace of medical care and a functioning authority structure. We ask for your grace on these servants, for the sake of your glory.

We also look beyond our borders and the immediate concerns regarding this virus and continue to pray for the spread of your gospel to every tongue, tribe, people and nation.  We plead for the Ansari in India who are today without a faithful witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. Please send laborers there, even fellow Indians who follow Christ, who could befriend and love these Muslim neighbors.

We long for the day when your glory will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea and “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore.”  Come quickly, Lord Jesus. In his name we pray, amen.

Read the Bible

Ecclesiastes 9:1–12, [1] But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. [2] It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. [3] This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. [4] But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. [5] For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. [6] Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.

[7] Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

[8] Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.

[9] Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. [10] Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

[11] Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. [12] For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.

Watch the Sermon

Summary: In spite of the struggle to understand God's ways on this earth, we are encouraged that the righteous and the wise are in the hand of God. Is there a better place to be as you look at life under the sun? For when you consider this world, the uncertainty of the events of tomorrow and the certainty of death, we might question the sovereignty of God. These are the issues the preacher examined and considered. Have you given thought to the unpredictability of this life? Do you know what will happen next week? Have you considered the reality of your death? What would you do differently if you knew you had only six months to live?

In an age of fear, where we want to control all things related to life, these are troubling truths. What should we do? How do we live in the shadow of our own death. Perhaps not surprising, but the preacher calls us to rejoice over God and his gifts in the days he gives us. Our rejoicing is not the joy of a hedonist or nihilist, but a Christian. The Christian rejoices because Jesus has come eating and drinking, making the most of his days. Yet our rejoicing is not simply in his modeling how to live but in his dying that we might live in spite of death. Jesus has come to give life through his life and for the Christian we enjoy this life, even now, while yet in exile. In these days of limited travel and interaction, examine these ideas. Redeem the time by considering your lives before God that you might rejoice now and before him.

Pray Together

Having listened to your word, our hearts are bowed in reverance before you. We ask that as you have spoken to us by your word, so now would you strengthen us by your Spirit to respond in obedience with joy. We have come to you in worship and in prayer through the name of Christ, by whose blood we enjoy eternal cleansing. Amen.

Review and Apply

What prevents you from examining your lives and considering things in deeper measure?  How can you carve out time to contemplate?

How has the uncertainty of COVID-19 changed how you view the predictability of life?

What strategies do you or others use to control the uncertainties of life?  

How well do you enjoy food, drink, celebration, work, spouse, and friendships? How does knowledge of your death change the way you live?

What does 'enjoying life in the days he gives you' look like?