How to Avoid Unnecessary Pain | Timothy "TA" Ateek

Dust to Dust

As Christians, the Bible tells us trials are inevitable — but what if you're putting yourself through additional, avoidable pain? This week, Timothy "TA" Ateek takes us through Ecclesiastes 10 and lays out what the Bible says about seeking wisdom to keep us off a path that leads to hurt.

Timothy "TA" AteekAug 15, 2023

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How to Avoid Unnecessary Pain | Timothy "TA" Ateek
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What's up, Porch? How are we doing tonight? It's good to see you. Welcome. I'm so glad you made it. If this is your first Tuesday ever with us, thank you for trusting us with your Tuesday night. I'm so glad you are here. The Porch exists to help any and every young adult see Jesus and surrender fully to him, and I hope that is true for you tonight. I want to say "Hello" to everyone watching online and at all of our Porch.Live locations. I'm thinking about Porch.Live Fort Worth watching tonight, Porch.Live Tulsa, and Porch.Live Midland. Thank you for tuning in. I hope all is well wherever you are.

So, about four years ago, I got a phone call from my wife with some bad news. Now, let me preface and say that I asked my wife if I could share this story, so, check that box off. She called me and said, "Hey, I hit a car in the parking lot of H-E-B in College Station." She had hit a parked car. So, I went up to H-E-B to the parking lot. It turned out that all of the parking spaces were slanted because, you know, it's only one way, so all of the spaces are slanted.

Well, instead of reversing out of her space to leave the lot, she decided to pull through the open spot in front of her and turn right. The problem was she cut it too short, and she totally caught the end of the car that was parked slanted. She cut it too close, so the entire back half of our minivan got crunched and the back corner of the car she hit got mangled. The worst part about this story is the car she hit was a Maserati. If you don't know anything about cars, she hit the most expensive car in the parking lot, and she did $7,500 worth of damage to that Maserati.

I tell you that because what my wife thought in the moment was "This is a good path forward. This will work. It's not the right way to do things, but it's the way a lot of people do things. So I'm just going to pull forward in a way that I'm not supposed to, but most people do it anyway, and it's not a big deal." In the end, that choice, which seemed like a small choice to go the wrong way, led to a lot of unnecessary pain.

I tell you that because I wonder if, as I'm describing my wife hitting a Maserati, I'm describing you. There can be this tendency in us to find our way to unnecessary pain. I want to draw a distinction tonight between unavoidable pain and unnecessary pain. Unavoidable pain is the pain that will normally and naturally come from living in a broken and busted world. You will not have to go looking for this pain. It will just find you. There will be days and weeks and months that are very painful, not because of anything you've done but simply because that is the reality of living in a broken and busted world.

Unnecessary pain, on the other hand, is 100 percent avoidable. Unnecessary pain comes from making what seems like small decisions to head in the wrong direction, but you head that wrong direction because you look around and everyone else is heading in a wrong direction. Because everyone else is heading in a wrong direction, that must make it a right direction. But in the end, it leads to unnecessary pain.

This is a topic I'm very passionate about, because after I graduated from Texas A&M University, the two years post-college that I was living in Dallas, I would say I found my way into significant unnecessary pain because I made a lot of compromising decisions that, at the time, seemed right because a lot of other people make decisions just like those, but in the end, it was like pulling through a space and cutting the corner too tightly, and it was costly.

If you're like, "Well, what does that even mean?" what I mean is I was actually working at this church, and I had to confess sin to a staff of 50 or 60 people. I lost my job. I stepped off staff because I was living a life that was not congruent with what I proclaimed to believe. My beliefs and my behavior didn't match. It was extremely costly. My life, I would say, hit rock bottom in a lot of ways.

So, what I want to do tonight is I want to step back into the book of Ecclesiastes. I hope you've enjoyed journeying through this book. What I hope Ecclesiastes has been for you is a pleasant surprise, where you're like, "I have spent zero time in Ecclesiastes, and now that we've been studying it, I see just how relevant to our lives it is."

Ecclesiastes, chapter 10, is where we're going to be tonight. I can't think of a better chapter that is more relevant to the lives of people in their mid- to late-20s or early 30s. This chapter is for you. We're learning from King Solomon who was, in a lot of ways, the richest and wisest person to ever walk the face of the earth. He's writing Ecclesiastes later in life, so we're basically reading his journal entries as he looks back and speaks from his experience.

Solomon was a guy who experienced some unnecessary pain in his life. So, my hope tonight is that this might be a defining moment for some of you, that as we talk from Ecclesiastes the Lord might grab hold of your heart and say, "Don't take another step forward in that direction." It's not worth it. You think it's going to lead to life, and it won't. It's going to land you in a place where you find yourself saying, "What was I thinking?" It's not worth it.

You don't want to get to your late-20s or your mid-30s and look back at your mid-20s and say, "What was I thinking? I needed a mentor. I needed someone who could have spoken into my life and just said, 'Nope.'" So, I want to be that person for you tonight. I want to take the Word of God, because I believe these are God's words to us. He speaks to us.

When we open up this book, it's like we are opening up his mouth. God spoke through an imperfect person named Solomon to us. So, if you have a Bible, turn there. My premise tonight is simply this: unnecessary pain is 100 percent avoidable. As we look at this text, I'm going to show you several steps to take to avoid unnecessary pain.

  1. Sweat the small stuff to avoid unnecessary pain. Listen to what verse 1 says in Ecclesiastes, chapter 10. It's very interesting imagery. "Dead flies make the perfumer's ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor." What a picture. I just want you to think about dead flies floating around in your bottle of Le Labo Santal 33 or Tom Ford cologne.

Just imagine. You pull it out and look in it, and there are flies in that thing you dropped a lot of money on. It's no longer the fragrant scent you thought you were purchasing. There's a stench to it. Solomon's point is a little bit of bad in your life can actually ruin a whole lot of good. I don't know if you saw his wording. Look at the end. He says, "…so a little folly…" Folly is a term that means to lack sense. He says, "…a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor."

He says, "Guys, I want you to picture a balanced scale. You drop honor and wisdom on the scale, and it drops because that's a weighty thing." Then he says, "But you drop a little bit of folly, and it tilts the scales," which is really surprising, because you would think wisdom and honor always outweigh and they're very valuable, yet Solomon is saying that is how powerful folly is. Just a little bit of bad can ruin a whole lot of good.

We moved into a house last September. We bought a house that had been completely gutted and redone by a guy who does excellent work. We moved into a house that felt completely new. I mean, the walls were perfect white. It was immaculate. He did such an incredible job. So, we loved stepping into this brand-new space. Then one day, I'm walking down the hallway that goes to the garage, and there's a big puddle of water on the floor in our brand-new hallway.

So, I am very unsettled. I'm like, "Where is this water coming from?" I'm like, "Is it coming from the washing machine?" It's not coming from there. I'm trying to locate where this water is coming from. I open up the door to our laundry space, and I can see on the trim of the door there is a small bead of water coming down the trim and onto the ground.

I called the guy who remodeled our house and said, "I don't know where this thing is coming from." He came over to our house, and do you know what he found? What he found was there was one nail that was missing from a shingle on the roof, and when it rained, the rain was slipping through that one small nail hole. Over time, enough water was coming through the attic into the laundry space, down the trim, and onto the ground.

Because the water worked its way into the trim, the brand-new trim was cracking apart. I tell you that just to say all it takes is one small hole in your life. It just takes one small leak to crack really good character. A mentor of mine… It might sound cheesy, but I will still never forget this. He said it in college. He said, "Small holes sink big ships." For some reason, that stuck with me. I wish I had heeded that advice post-college and, honestly, in college.

Do you know what the small leak was for me? I was a guy who was pursuing the Lord. I was chasing after the Lord. I was spending time in his Word. I was leading in ministry in college, but do you know what the crack in my character was? The crack was I had this insecurity in me, and I would fill that insecurity by leading girls on. Now girls are like, "I hate that guy." Well, the Lord has changed my life, and I've called those girls and apologized to them.

But that was my tendency. I would be extremely flirtatious, and then when I knew a girl was interested, I was just done with it. What happened was it cost me my reputation. I still remember calling this girl to apologize. She answered the phone, and she was like, "Now, TA, why would you be calling me?" I could hear the bitterness in her voice. I said, "I just need to ask your forgiveness because I led you on."

What happened was there was a stench around my name even though I considered myself a good Christian guy. True story. One of my closest friends who's a girl actually warned my wife about me before we started dating because she said I was… Get this. I didn't even know this was a thing. She was like, "He's kind of a Christian player." What? Those two words should never be put together. If that's you, come down front. You need a mentor. I'd love to help you.

The problem was there was a slow leak in my life, and that slow leak led to major cracks in my character. So, I just want to ask you: What is it for you? Where is there a slow leak where you keep pushing "play" on it, thinking it's not a big deal? If you let that leak go, at some point you're going to find the house of your life flooded. It might not be next week, it might not be next month, it might not be next year, but at some point, you're going to wake up underwater and look back and think, "How did I get to this place?"

To come back to the point, here's my point: sweat the small stuff. Sweat the small stuff in your life. Don't just explain sin away as it not being a big deal. "You know what? It's just a little bit of porn every once in a while when I'm feeling lonely" or "It's just a little bit of weed on the weekends" or "It's just a little bit of hooking up every once in a while" or "It's just a little bit of credit card debt" or "It's just a little bit of lying or exaggerating because I'm trying to establish a friend group here" or "It's just a little bit of starving myself before special occasions."

I'm just letting you know those little bits turn into a lot of pain. I want to lovingly tell you: sweat the small stuff. Jesus Christ left heaven and came to earth. In John 10, Jesus said, "If you want to know why I came…" If you don't know what Jesus is about, here it is. Jesus actually said, "I came that you might have life to the full." Jesus actually left heaven and came to earth so we could be made whole so we could experience fullness of joy and fullness of peace, so we could flourish.

We kind of want to pull through the parking space, thinking it's an okay way to go, but the Scriptures say there is a way that seems right to man that in the end is the way to death. Jesus came to save us from even the small things. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, why would you run back to the things Jesus had to die for? So, let me encourage you: sweat the small stuff.

  1. Surrender your heart to avoid unnecessary pain. Look at what Solomon says in verse 2. "A wise man's heart inclines him to the right, but a fool's heart to the left." He's saying, "Look. People who walk in wisdom and people who walk with no sense in folly go in two different directions. One goes to the right; one goes to the left."

Just so you know, if you're not familiar with your Bible, the right is the position of favor in the Bible. Going to the right is always the right way to go in the Bible. For example, Jesus is said to sit at the right hand of the Father. In Matthew 25, at the final judgment… It's a parable where God separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep, which are those who inherit the kingdom of God, are put on the right.

Solomon is saying, "Look. Which way you go in life, whether you walk in wisdom or walk toward unnecessary pain, is actually a heart issue." That's why he says, "A wise man's heart inclines him one direction, and a fool's heart inclines him in a different direction." In the Hebrew, that idea of the heart is all-encompassing. It's a reference to your thoughts, your desires, your motivations, your emotions.

There is very dangerous counsel out in the world today, which is simply, "You know what? Follow your heart. The heart wants what the heart wants. So, if that's what your heart is longing for, you should probably follow your heart." I don't know if you should follow your heart, honestly. Before you follow your heart, the question is…Have you surrendered your heart to Jesus Christ?

When you surrender your heart to Jesus, he actually gives you a new heart with new desires and new motivations, but if you're operating with the old operating system, then Jeremiah 17:9 explains it this way: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" Do you hear what that's saying? It's saying this idea of following your heart…

Your heart will lead you to do some really dumb things. Your heart will tell you the wisest thing to do is to call your ex, and you know that ex is super toxic to your life. Your ex is toxic. Not all of your exes, but some of them are. This is me lovingly saying, "Don't call her. Don't text him. It's not worth it. Unnecessary pain."

Your heart will also encourage you to hold on to bitterness and anger toward someone who has hurt you. Your heart will convince you that is your right, that what you deserve is to hate them, yet that bitterness will swallow you up and rob you. Your heart will tell you that you need to spend money you don't have so you will be happy. Here's my point: before you follow your heart, you need to surrender your heart. Surrender it to Jesus.

When I say, "Surrender your heart," you might be like, "What do you even mean by that?" Well, I just told you that the heart in Hebrew refers to the mind, the heart, and the emotions. It's your being. It's to say, "Lord Jesus, you're a king. You're not just Savior. You didn't just come to save me from hell. You came because you have watched me be ruled by sin, and you love me too much to leave me in that place. So, instead of watching me be ruled by sin, you want to come and rule my life. I say yes to that. You can rule my life. You're a good king. You came that I might have life to the full, so take my heart and have your way with it."

Be honest with yourself. I just want to ask you: Which way has your heart been going this summer? You can't run to the right and the left at the same time. If you feel like you've discovered some hybrid of Christianity where you can run in two directions and you can kind of dabble in the small stuff, certain sin…you can drive in the wrong directions yet still feel like you're in lockstep with Jesus…I would say you've found a form of Christianity the Bible says doesn't exist.

Galatians 2:20 puts it this way. When you have surrendered your heart to Jesus… Paul expresses it this way: "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." He's like, "I realize Christ gave his life for me on the cross, so now I give my life to him, and he has control of my heart." So, if you want to avoid unnecessary pain, surrender your heart. Surrender your heart to avoid unnecessary pain.

  1. Listen to counsel to avoid unnecessary pain. Look at what he says in verse 3. "Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool." This is so interesting. Just imagine you're at NorthPark. You're walking down one of the hallways of NorthPark, and here's a guy like, "Everybody, I just want you to know I'm a fool. I just wanted you to know. Hey, what's your name? Christina? I'm a fool. I just wanted you to know that. Have a good day."

It's a picture of someone walking down the road declaring to everyone they're a fool. He's not literally saying someone is walking down shouting it. He's just saying the way a person is living is so obviously foolish everyone is able to look and see, like, "What are we doing here? What is happening?" There was a time in my past where I was in college and got into a relationship with a really sweet girl. It was just the wrong relationship. I'll tell you how it didn't go well.

She did not like how I looked. I know that because she told me that. That's how you know that. So, she had to make a decision: Did she want to break up with me or did she want to change me? She chose to change me, and I chose to let her. So, we drove from A&M to Houston, and she bought me all new clothes and got me a new haircut and new shoes. (Don't judge me, people. That was a long time ago. I'm being honest with you.)

Along the way in that relationship, she told me she hated my name Timothy because it was weak. I might have told y'all this before, but the real kicker was she said, "You could be a male model if it wasn't for your legs." I was like, "Thank you?" Now y'all are like, "What's wrong with your legs?" Well, you'll never know because I only wear pants now. Truly. I swim in jeans. I see some people are like, "Oh my…" It's okay. I didn't marry her. It's fine. She's a great person.

When that relationship ended, all of my closest friends were like, "Yeah, dude. We knew that was not a good relationship for you to be in." I was like, "Why didn't you say something?" But what were they saying? They were saying, "It was so obvious. You were walking in the way of a fool. You changed everything about yourself."

That relationship began to dabble in impurity, and they were looking and saying, "What is happening? You're in a relationship that doesn't make sense. You're changing yourself. You're compromising your standards in the relationship, and this thing isn't right. It's obvious." Fast-forward to life after college. I did have some guys who stepped into my life when I was making compromising decisions and said, "We want to encourage you. This is not the right way to head," and I ignored them. I didn't listen to them. The result was unnecessary pain.

This past week, I watched the Johnny Manziel documentary, Untold: Johnny Football. I went to A&M. I love Johnny Manziel, and he was a really great thing for A&M. But I watched the documentary and, if you haven't seen it, my heart kind of broke for him. I just wanted to put my arm around him and say, "Dude, don't pull through the parking space. Don't do it. You are on a path that only leads to brokenness."

Some of you are here tonight, and you are bent on doing things your own way. I want to tell you what I have told young adults for many years. You are on a path that, in the end, will only lead to brokenness, and I will be here for you to help you put the pieces back together when you're ready, but you can make the decision right now to turn and pursue wholeness in Jesus.

So, let me encourage you. Some of you are in a place where you have friends speaking into your life, and they're doing it lovingly. They're saying, "Look. I don't know if she's the right person for you to be dating." "I don't know if he's the right person for you to be dating." "I don't know that it makes sense that you're cutting corners at work like you are. You're quiet quitting, and it just doesn't make sense with who I know you to be. I see what you're doing on the weekends, and I know that is, in the end, not who you say you are as a follower of Jesus Christ."

What they are saying when they tell you that is "I love you enough to tell you that your life is shouting, 'I am a fool!' right now." They're just trying to say, "I love you, and I want more for you." Don't despise their rebuke. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, one of the beautiful realities of the gospel is that we've been saved into a family with brothers and sisters. God speaks to his people through his people. God uses his people to speak to his people. Do not despise their rebuke. Do not reject the voice of God in your life through your friends.

Now, I want to speak to a very specific group of people in this room through verses 8 and 9. Look at what Solomon goes on to say. It has everything to do with the point we're in right now, which is listen to counsel to avoid unnecessary pain. He says in verse 8, "He who digs a pit will fall into it, and a serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall. He who quarries stones is hurt by them, and he who splits logs is endangered by them."

Solomon is talking about someone who is bent on doing wrong. How do I know that? Well, I know that because of this reference to digging a pit. Psalm 7 actually gives us the commentary that helps us understand it. In Psalm 7, the psalmist says, "Behold…" Listen to the wording. "…the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made."

What is the point? He's saying, "Look. Do you know who digs the pit? It's the person who's full of mischief." They're bent on it. They are bent on doing wrong. So, I want to speak for a moment to a group of people in this room, and you will know who you are. I have seen some young adults who have been hurt by other people, whether they've been hurt by their parents or whether they're bitter because of a deep pain they've experienced in their life.

Maybe you're bitter at God. Maybe life has been really, really painful, and it seems like your life has been more painful than other people's lives. You've just kind of leaned into it, and because you're hurt, your aim is to hurt, because hurt people hurt people. You're on this mission right now to get back at your parents. You're on a mission to get back at that guy, to get back at that girl, to get back at the people who spoke ill into your life.

The way you're doing it, though, is you are driving your life into the grave. You're making choices that, in the end, the person getting hurt the most by your choices is you. You're sleeping with everyone you can sleep with. In the end, you're trying to numb your pain and, at the same time, prove something to someone else. Or you're drinking yourself to sleep, and you're doing it as a demonstration to someone who has hurt you, and at the same time, you're trying to numb yourself.

Let me lovingly tell you: listen to counsel to avoid unnecessary pain. There is healing found in Jesus. You might never get justice this side of eternity for whatever hurt you're carrying, yet I love… I've heard pastors talking about moving from being a victim to being a victor. That can be your reality. You don't have to live in that hurt. You don't have to drive your life into the ground to get back at somebody.

I would imagine the majority of people in this room are like, "He's not talking about me, and I don't know who he's talking to," but I would imagine there are a few people here tonight, and it's like a phone call from heaven to your soul. God is just reaching and saying, "I love you, and I can bring healing. I can be the Father you've never had. I can be the parent you've never had. I can satisfy the longings of your soul."

  1. Seek wisdom to avoid unnecessary pain. We're going to skip over to verse 10 now. Look at what Solomon says. "If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed." He's saying, "Look. If you have a blade that's really dull, you're going to have to work a lot harder to cut something." Smart people take the time to sharpen their tool so it will be most effective when they're cutting.

Solomon is comparing wisdom to a sharpened blade. What he's saying is "Take the time to seek out wisdom." What do I mean by seeking wisdom? The good news is Job 12 actually tells us where wisdom is found. Listen to what Job 12 says. "Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days. With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding."

So, let me encourage you. One of the best things you can do during your young adult years is to spend time seeking out older men or older women who are a few stages ahead in life. Buy them lunch. Buy them coffee. Come prepared with a list of questions and a pad of paper and a pen, and sit there and utilize the time they have.

Recently, there are some older men in the church who I've reached out to and said, "Look. You've been at this church for a long time. I'd love to get to know you." What I've done is I've showed up with a list of questions, because I don't want to waste their time just shooting the breeze. I hate small talk, so I don't want to just show up and talk about the weather. I have a list of questions. I can learn from somebody who's a few stages ahead in life, in marriage, in parenting, in leadership.

I want to encourage you to do the same. Seek out older men or women. Just say, "Can I buy you coffee? Can I have an hour of your time to come with questions to learn from you?" Then here's what I would tell you. Solomon says, "With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding." God has made known his ways through his Word, so one of the best things you can do is develop a really sweet relationship with this book.

If you're like, "I don't even know where to start," you need to know tonight, in the Loft, right after The Porch, I am teaching a 30-minute course on how to study the Bible. Come. Come spend 30 more minutes with us on how to study the Bible. This is how we find wisdom. We find it in knowing God through his Word.

Solomon says something interesting in verse 11. He says, "If the serpent bites before it is charmed, there is no advantage to the charmer." What's his point? He's like, "Look. If you don't do the work to charm the snake before it bites you, what's the point of honing a craft of charming snakes?" The point is don't wait until you get bitten by unnecessary pain. Seek out wisdom now so you'll walk in wisdom. You'll find a path that leads to joy and flourishing instead of to pain.

  1. Watch your words to avoid unnecessary pain. Solomon says in verse 12, "The words of a wise man's mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him." Another translation says it this way: "Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious…" His point is the way you talk will either show whether you're full of wisdom or full of folly. If you want to avoid unnecessary pain, then pay attention to how you talk.

When I was a kid, there was this PSA by this animated character Smokey Bear. Smokey Bear was famous for saying, "Only you can prevent forest fires." There was this commercial that came out where you see this forest fire raging. There's this fire raging, and then it's almost like someone hit the rewind button, and all the fire and smoke come back to one moment, and it's to one match.

The reason I tell you that is that one small match can burn a whole forest to the ground, just like your one small tongue can burn your life, your relationships, and your career to the ground, more today than ever before. I am amazed at the keyboard courage people have. What people are able to type and post or hit "send" and then go to sleep and sleep like a baby is crazy to me.

News flash: you can lose your job because of your social media. People will look at what you post. They'll look at what you say. I'm amazed sometimes. I've taken my kids to sporting events, and young adults were standing around us cussing like crazy, knowing there were little kids right by them. What it shows is this searing of the conscience and the heart. "This is just the way we talk now." People use the tongue to lead people on, just like I did.

I think about a friend who consistently lies or exaggerates, says things that are not true. Words destroy friendships. They destroy families. They destroy marriages. So, Solomon's point is, "Look. Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious." You use your mouth to bring glory to God. You use your mouth to praise God for his gospel, that he would love us so much he would send his Son to die for us, to make a way for us into the family of God through his death, burial, and resurrection.

We use our mouths to encourage those who need encouragement, to lift up those who are weak or hurting. That's what the mouth should be used for. So, I just want to ask you: Is there anything you have set on fire lately with your mouth? Do you know what the good news is? By the power of the Spirit at work in you, you can use the same mouth to make things right. I'd encourage you to do that.

Solomon says, "The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is evil madness." He's saying, "When you start talking it's foolish. When you finish talking it's just plain evil." It's like your mouth is unraveling. I tell you that to say: pay attention to which way your speech is moving. The words of a fool spiral downward. They become more and more negative, more and more sarcastic, more and more sexual, more and more vulgar, more and more manipulative, more and more exaggerated, more and more gossipy.

Verse 14: "A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him?" He's saying, "Do you know what a fool does? A fool talks about the future with certainty when there's no clarity." This is great advice. Don't talk about the amazing vacation you're going to take until it's actually booked and you have the money to pay for it and you're certain you're going.

Don't talk about the relationship you're in when you've only gone to coffee once and you don't even know each other's last name yet. Don't talk about the car you're going to buy with the promotion you're probably going to get. Wait until you get the promotion to actually pull the trigger. The point is fools talk about things they know nothing about. So, I encourage you. Watch your words to avoid unnecessary pain.

  1. Grow up to avoid unnecessary pain. I tell you that, lovingly, because Solomon says it. Listen to what he says in verses 16-17. "Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, and your princes feast in the morning! Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of the nobility, and your princes feast at the proper time, for strength, and not for drunkenness!"

He pictures two lands. One where the king is an adult but acts like a kid and just wakes up in the morning and starts partying with his friends. Then he pictures a king who has owned his responsibility, so he feasts at the right time, and the reason he does it is for strength so he can guard and protect his country.

Then Solomon says in verses 18-19, "Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence **[inaction] the house leaks. Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything."** He's like, "Look. If your roof is caving in and you do nothing about it…you don't take responsibility…good luck with that." Then he says, "Do you want to know when you have bread to eat and wine to drink and money to buy things? It's when you work and you take responsibility and you move forward."

I don't know who needs to hear that, but it's time to get going. It's time to own the fact that you're 27, that you're 31, and you can't keep acting like a 16-year-old when you're a 27-year-old or a 31-year-old. I say that because you don't want to get to 40 and look back like, "Why did no one ever tell me?" One of the best ways to avoid unnecessary pain is by growing up and taking responsibility of where you are now.

Do you want to know how things played out in the parking lot of H-E-B? Do you know what's interesting? I'm not proud of this. I showed up, and I looked at how the woman parked. She parked over the line, and it was a parking space for parents with little kids, but this woman was by herself. So, I showed up, and I was like… I didn't take ownership. I was like, "Well, you know what? You see here you're over the line. That's really not right."

I was trying to excuse the decision that had been made to pull through in the wrong direction. So I started digging myself a hole. Then, finally, I snapped into reality. I called the lady and said, "Look. We will do whatever we need to do to make this right." The great news is a month or two later, we got a letter from our insurance company, saying, "We have paid out all the money."

I tell you that just to say the worst place to be is in a place where you keep trying to dig yourself out of a hole. You keep trying to explain why what you're doing makes sense or why it's right, and you try to justify your behavior. The best place to be is where you come to a place before God where you say, "Look. The way I'm going is wrong. I've pulled through the space in the wrong direction. I'm heading in a direction that leads to brokenness. The way I've gone is wrong."

Do you know what the good news is? The price has already been paid for all of your failures. Jesus Christ came. He went to the cross. He paid for all of your failures to make a way for you and me to have a relationship with God. This whole passage is encouraging wisdom over folly. Well, the writer of Proverbs, who happens to be Solomon, says in Proverbs 1:7, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." He's saying, "Do you know where wisdom is found? It's found in fearing God."

Then the apostle Paul clarifies who that wisdom is. He says in 1 Corinthians 1:30, "And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption…" Do you know what true wisdom is? True wisdom starts with you coming to a place where you realize that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through him.

If you will put your faith in Jesus Christ, if you will surrender your heart to Jesus, Jesus Christ becomes to you redemption where all of your failure, all of your folly, is taken from you. It's paid for by his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead, and you are given his righteousness so you can live in a real, enjoyable, flourishing relationship with the God of the universe. If you don't know him tonight, that is where wisdom starts. That's where unnecessary pain stops and joy begins. Let's pray together.

Lord Jesus, if there's anyone here tonight who doesn't know you, I pray that right now, in this moment, they would find you, Lord Jesus, to be true wisdom, the wisdom their soul has been longing for. God, I pray that no one would leave here tonight feeling beat over the head. If anything, I pray that people would leave feeling loved, that they've heard truth from you, God, through Solomon. God, I pray that unnecessary pain would decrease and joy would increase in the lives of the people in this room. God, we need you, and we love you. Do a work in our lives for your glory and for our good. In Jesus' name, amen.

About 'Dust to Dust'

From ‘Dust to Dust’ we are invited to enjoy life and fear God while prayerfully considering the cost to doing life with Jesus. Ecclesiastes will awaken young adults to their own mortality, showing them their need for God and the abundant life that comes from full surrender to Jesus.