The Futility of Trying to Change the Order of Your Life’s Events

Ecclesiastes 3

Jerry A Collins



¨ What does it mean to say that everything has it’s time?

How is God in control of all of life’s events?

What should be my response to God’s sovereign control?

Consider whether you were able to determine the following factors of your life: The date of your birth? Your parents? Color of skin and eyes? Gender? Height? Era of history you were born? Your gifts, abilities or lack thereof? Genetic defects? Socio-economic environment you were born? The circumstances that flow thru your life? The answer to all of these is ‘no’. Here is a list of things you did not decide? That which you control is very limited! This section revolves around the concept of ‘time’. Solomon argues that God has appointed a time for everything. All of this is part of his eternal, immutable, inscrutable providence of God. God maintains control while we have so little as an expression of His grace. People frequently resist the gospel because they do not want to lose control of their lives, they do not want to submit them to God. In truth, they are not in control now and never will be. So, from his search for meaning in life, we discover that the proper response is not to resist God and try to maintain whatever control we perceive we have, but to fear God and enjoy the life He gives to us.


A. The statement vs 1: By using the word ‘event’ or ‘activity’ the meaning is peoples deliberate and willful acts. Each of these acts have an appropriate time and duration. Have you ever laughed at the wrong time? (Like the only one laughed at a joke that was not funny) Have you ever been silent at just the rite time? (Like when you wanted to defend self but would have looked guilty). This is true for life under heaven or here on the earth where the visible things are that we see and touch. We must realize that God has determined this about all things here. We are responsible to discern the rite times for the rite actions and doing so we can expect that our lives will be joyful.

B. The illustration vs 2-8: Here we have 14 opposites each of which happens in its time. Tho the exact meaning of some of these events is uncertain we can affirm that all a persons activities, positive or negative, and all responses to people, objects and events happens in their times. Generally speaking these pairs can be broken into three categories.

(1) The first 4 pair (2-3) apply to the body or the physical life. This list begins with the beginning and the end of a persons life. 2 events over which we have no control. We did not ask to be born nor to die (birthdays and funerals). It is something done to us by God (Psa 90:12). Here then are the boundaries of life in which all of our activities take place. The big picture already tells us God is in control. The next pair deal with the supply of food. Agriculture has its own time. Try to plant a crop in the middle of winter. Try to grow oranges in Alaska. God has already planned the schedule and place. We cannot run the schedule ourselves. There is also a time to kill and to heal as well as tear down and build up. We do things in a regular pattern so there is order and design. So birth-death, plant-pull up, kill-heal, tear down-build up we tend to go in cycles the same basic thrust--life is an endless duty.

(2) The next group (4-5) apply to the realm of soul, thinking, feeling, choosing. No one is going to escape the hurts and sorrows of life. While people experience weeping and mourning their opposites, laughing and dancing, convey the concept of joy are also experienced. All of them in their own time and from the hand of God. The imagery of stones vs 5 says there is a time to break things down and to build them up again. Like WW 2 during and after the war in Europe. To embrace and show support and not to embrace lest support be misunderstood and even complicit in some evil.

(3) The final grouping relate to the realm of spirit 6-8. The inner decisions, ambitions, values, hopes. Search and lost 6 to seek work, friends, marriage. Also to curtail certain friendships, change jobs, leave the past. Keep and cast away 6 there are values must never be surrendered other times when habits, resentment, grudges and attitudes need to be thrown away, forgiven. Tear apart and sewing 7 when bad news came appropriate for Solomon to rip front of garment displaying grief and with passing of it proper to sew torn clothes together again. Silence and speaking 7 times when we know something like piece of gossip we ought not speak. Times when you ought to speak up. Love and hate 8 the two most basic decisions of life. Hate sin. Hate what God hates. War and peace 8 when tyranny destroys people’s lives and a time when war must give way to peace. There is a divinely appointed time for everything in life. Yet the question persisted, what is to be gained from the whole scene?


A. Since everything has its time from God, all labor of man by itself cannot change the times, circumstances, control of events 9.

B. God has made all events and relationships in life beautiful 10-11. While we occupy ourselves here under the sun we can appreciate the beauty inherent in the whole work of God. God in his providential plans and control has an appropriate time for every event and activity. As God’s creation we are intimately integrated into this total work of God and as such yearn in our deepest longings desire to trace God’s providential governing from beginning to end vs 11 yet we cannot. We are not omniscient and so can never figure out the plan of God. This quest, this drive, this pursuit, this inquisitiveness to comprehend the universe and how day to day living, the realm of the ordinary, has meaning in it will only frustrate and not enlighten.

C. So take life and its goods as gifts from the hands of the living God 12-15. (1) Recommendation: Enjoy life as God enables 12-13. Since we ae ignorant of God’s plan and since cannot be sure of appropriateness or lasting significance of my labor recommend the present enjoyment of life. One can find joy in his work and in the product of it as a gift from God. (2) Purpose: that man may fear God 14-15. The work of God is eternal, it will remain forever. His plan remains intact. His work is also unchanging, we cannot add to it or take away from it. God has sovereignly and independently set up the plan of life in a way that we cannot interfere with it. God can take the past and connect it with the future vs 15. Time is never lost with him. There is a day of accounting before God. The response to all of this must be to fear God! Most struggle in life comes from wanting to play God, wanting to be in charge of what happens to us. Fear is not just an emotion that paralyses but an element of understanding and reason that is the product of understanding the character of God. Man is never told to ‘fear not’ God. Jesus says and fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt 10:28). So, fear God rather than your temporal well-being.