Get an Eternal Perspective | Josiah Jones

Dust to Dust

When you have an eternal perspective, the way you live your life should change. This week, Josiah Jones takes us through Ecclesiastes 7 and highlights Biblical truths that will help us live in the present, with the end in mind.

Josiah JonesAug 22, 2023

In This Series (8)
Do Future You a Favor | Timothy "TA" Ateek
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Get an Eternal Perspective | Josiah Jones
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How to Avoid Unnecessary Pain | Timothy "TA" Ateek
Timothy "TA" AteekAug 15, 2023
Where is Your Treasure? | Timothy "TA" Ateek
Timothy "TA" AteekAug 8, 2023
Worthy of Our Worship | Timothy "TA" Ateek
Timothy "TA" AteekJul 25, 2023
Who Are Your People? | Timothy "TA" Ateek
Timothy "TA" AteekJul 18, 2023
The Beauty of God | Josiah Jones
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Nothing New Under the Sun | Tommy Nelson
Tommy NelsonJun 27, 2023

All right, all right! How are we doing tonight, Porch? Let's go. Hey, I want to welcome everybody tuning in online and all of our Porch.Live locations around the nation…Porch.Live Boise, Idaho; Indianapolis, Indiana; the Porch.Live Tulsa; Des Moines; Midland, Texas; and our friends right down the road in Fort Worth, Texas.

I have a question before we get going. What do you want to do before you die? Like, your bucket list. If you had a bucket list, or if you don't have one, now is your chance to make one. What do you want to do before…? It's called a bucket list because it's what you do in life before you kick the bucket of life. So, what's on your bucket list? Come on. It's not rhetorical. "Skydive." What else? "Go to Launch," he says. Okay.

What else? "Go to Europe." "Go to Israel," the Holy Land where Jesus walked. I've always wanted to do that. What else? "Get married," she says. Come on. That's a noble one. The Bible says, "He who finds a wife finds a good thing." She who finds a husband finds a good thing. Anyone else? What do you want to do before you die? "Backpack through Europe." "Go to all of the NFL stadiums." Okay. We have a big NFL fan in the house. "Go to all of the national parks." I love that. "Flash mob." Okay. We might be able to make that happen one night.

Here's what's on my bucket list. I want to sleep in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora. I want to go to Fenway Park and watch the Boston Red Sox play. (All of my Texas Rangers fans out there… We're on a four-game losing streak. Tonight they're going to break it.) I want to walk my daughters down the aisle if the Lord would have them get married. I want to zip-line in the Amazon rainforest, go on an African safari, backpack through Europe, run with the bulls in Spain, run a marathon, and go skydiving.

Isn't that what the great theologian Tim McGraw said? He wrote a song called "Live Like You Were Dying" back in 2004, and I think he was on to something. Something in that song resonates with us. We know that to be true, but sometimes we don't believe it, and we don't really live from that truth, live like we were dying.

I remember not too long ago getting an unexpected phone call from a good friend of mine. He said, "Your roommate from college died." I remember going to the funeral, and my teammates at the time all showed up, myself included. We played college baseball. I just remember we were at the funeral, and these guys who I watched party over and over every weekend (and I was part of it…BC days, before Christ)…

I remember watching the funeral play out, and then we got together after, and we were talking about spiritual things, things we had never talked about before. I saw these men contemplating life in a way that I never saw them contemplate life. I start there tonight because I'm not really telling you anything new. You know that. But I think sometimes we just need the quick reminder of, "Hey, this life isn't all there is." We're going to die. Ten out of 10 people are going to die. Nobody has escaped that.

So, tonight, we're pulling up on a familiar passage of Scripture, if you've studied the Scripture at all. Solomon is going to say in Ecclesiastes 7 it's better to go to a funeral than a party. It's where we contemplate death. It's where we start to live with a new perspective, this perspective that the Bible would say is wisdom. It's where we start to think about what's really important in our lives and why we were created. James says it like this in James 4:14: "…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes."

This past week, I was in the yard mowing. I have a 2-1/2-year-old. His name is Caleb. We were just out. He has the little Fisher-Price mower, and he's mowing behind me. You know, we're just doing our thing. Like father, like son. I'm doing some yard work. It's kind of what I do. I sabbath with my hands because I always work with my mind.

So, we're out there, and all of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye… I'm in the garage getting something, and he's on the edge of our driveway, practically in the street. I remember seeing… As I looked, and I was about to call his name, a car came flying down the street. I'm like, "Oh no! I think my son's life just flashed right before my eyes."

I know that car didn't see him, because as he passes… He's on the edge of my driveway, practically in the street. From where I'm standing to where that screen is right there, you know, about three feet, four feet at the most, this car passes by and almost hits my son. I share that with you tonight because in that moment, it gave me a perspective I didn't have. It allowed me to see that this life is but a vapor. It's here a little while, and it could be gone for my son.

So, what do you do when you have that perspective shift? What do you do when wisdom begins to invade your heart? You look up the Texas Rangers schedule, and you say, "Hey, I'm going to take my son to a Texas Rangers game even though he's 2-1/2." So we pull up Sunday afternoon. We go to Rally House. We get him a jersey. I get some Texas Rangers swag, and here we are at the game.

What is he holding in his hand? A foul ball that your boy caught. That's crazy. I'm 40 years old, and I've never caught a foul ball. It's almost as if God was saying, "Hey, life is short. Live it." That analogy breaks down, because it's not about Rally House and getting him the Corey Seager jersey. (What's up, Corey? Come on, baby. You can come to The Porch anytime you want.) It's not about that jersey. It's not about the game, because all of those things are temporal.

When Caleb almost got hit by the car, God had me draw closer to him in my worry and my stress, and he started using that pain for his purpose, for me to draw closer to him, as I laid in bed that night worried about my son, concerned about "What if he really did get hit?" God uses those moments in our lives to draw us close to him.

So, how do you gain that kind of perspective in your life? Because let's be honest. In the room tonight, you're not going to get this… Most of us aren't going to go to the doctor and get a diagnosis that we have a few months to live or almost get hit by a car and get taken out. That's not really how it works for most of us. Maybe for some, but for most of us, it's subtle. It's things like this.

For example, he seems like a good guy. He seems like someone you want to take home to Mama, but then you find out he's a creeper. You know what I mean? Is that nervous laughter? It seems like the job of your dreams. You interviewed for it, and you got the job. You're texting your friends, and you're like, "I'm never going to have to work a day in my life." You pull up in your power suit and your power tie, and you're ready to go. Four months later, you're like, "It's not what I thought it was. I need to start looking for another job." Right?

It seemed like sex was a really good idea. "I thought he was the one." "I thought she was the one." Then you're left brokenhearted. Perspective and wisdom begin to invade your heart and your mind. As Christians (I'll just start out here), followers of Jesus Christ, we should be the wisest people in the room because we have a direct line to the Creator of the universe through the Word of God, his Bible that he has preserved for centuries.

I always say that God's Word is God's voice. So, if you don't have a Bible tonight…shameless plug…you can stop by the welcome desk on your way out. That's a free gift to you on us, because we want you to get into God's Word. That's where we're going to be tonight. We're going to be in Ecclesiastes 7, if you have your Bibles. We're going to read from the wisest man who ever walked this earth other than Jesus.

Solomon has this unique encounter with God in 1 Kings 3 and 2 Chronicles 1. God shows up to Solomon and says, "Hey, you can have whatever you ask for." Can you imagine that? Can you imagine God saying, "Hey, you can have whatever you want"? "You can have that girl. You can have that job. You can have a billion dollars. You can have that house. You can have that car…anything you want." So, what does Solomon say? "God, I want wisdom." True story, historical account.

So, he begins to run this experiment for his life where he gets all the wisdom. God just pours the wisdom out on him. He begins to be one of the richest men ever. Look it up on Google. His net worth was $2.1 trillion. He begins to have these amazing parties, and he has 700 wives and 300 concubines, live-in girlfriends. The Playboy Mansion is at his house. He runs this experiment, and he tries everything under the sun (we learned a few weeks ago that under the sun means apart from God), and he comes up short.

Tonight, he's going to show us how to gain an eternal perspective, that we would loosen our grip on this life, and he would teach us that this world is not our home. Let's dive in. Ecclesiastes 7:1: "A good name is better than precious ointment…" Another translation says, "A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume." I could literally spend the entire night talking about this one verse. It will preach.

He's saying your reputation is better than costly perfume. Perfume is something you would put on in that culture. It's still something you put on, ladies, to make you more attractive. How? By the way you smell. Don't miss this. Do you know what Solomon is saying? Something is better than your attraction. It's your character. It's your reputation. It's my first truth tonight. To gain an eternal perspective, you have to believe that character is better than charisma. If you don't leave with anything else tonight, this is the one thing you should latch on to: good character is better than charisma.

Ladies, you would be a woman who would find a man who has really, really good character, not just really good charisma and can woo you and tell you what you want to hear and whisper sweet nothings in your ear. Men, that you would look for a woman who has incredible character, and the reputation follows her character, that when you ask the people around her who she really is, they would tell you she's a woman of character.

There are a lot of good-looking dudes out there, but they're ready to ruin your life. Some of them are right here tonight. They're in this room, and they carry Bibles. You think I'm playing. It's the phrase "They're wolves in sheep's clothing." They might even know some Bible verses. They might even be in a Community Group, and they will wreck your life. They will ruin you. The same is true for women.

Solomon reiterates this truth later on in this chapter in verse 26. "I find more bitter than death…" Solomon, what's more bitter than death, bro? "…the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare." Do you know what he's saying there? He's describing a woman who is a snare and tries to trap guys with her body, with her smooth words, with manipulation.

We talk about this a lot here…Proverbs 31:30. All of the women roll their eyes, but it's true. It's not any less true. I don't share this to shame you. I just share this as "Hey, this is a great standard to run to." Not that you're going to be perfect, but it just says, "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." That's what you're looking for: a woman of good character, a man who loves Jesus more than his sin.

So many of us men… Let me get off the women for a minute. We sit around, and we use our thumbs to go after kingdoms that are fake and false realities in these video games. We just sit there and act like we're accomplishing something. Nothing wrong about video games. I'm not here to have a tiff with video games, but so many of us never engage in the real battle at hand, that there's heaven and hell, that there's evil and good, that there's a conquering King in Jesus who came on a rescue mission, died on the cross for your sin, and rose again on the third day to defeat sin and death.

Some of you spend more time investing in false realities on a video game than you do investing in that kingdom that's going to last forever and ever and ever. So, tonight, what are you living for? What are you after? Here's my word of caution with online dating. It's not a moral issue. It's not right or wrong, but just be careful. Never trust a profile because profiles lie. You hear that all the time up here. We're out for your good. Trust their character, not their charisma.

Don't trust their smooth words. Watch and observe. Dating is for observation and edification, that you would observe their life over a period of time. What should you observe? Here are some things to observe. Do they keep commitments even when it hurts? Do they cut corners at work when no one is looking? Do they rationalize sin and make excuses for it? Do they spend their 20s and 30s serving others so they can come to know Jesus? Do they use their time to know their Bible and memorize Scripture? Is anyone investing in their life?

If no one is investing in their life, if they don't have a mentor or somebody to disciple them, do not date them. Point blank. That is a red flag if I've ever seen one. If no one is investing in their life, if they're not investing in other people's lives… It's a two-way street. You have someone discipling you and you pour that out to other people who need to be mentored and discipled. Are they secure with who they are in Christ or are they constantly looking for the world to affirm them?

What are their hearts feeding on? "The heart wants what the heart wants." No, that's not true. The heart wants what you feed it. What are they feeding their heart? So, that is how you test. "Is this woman…? Is this man a man of character or are they just a man of charisma? Do they have woo, but it falls short when the rubber meets the road?" God says he wants us to have a good name. Meaning, he wants us to become men and women of nobility and righteousness.

He doesn't want just to bless us; he wants to change us. Like TA talked about last week, he wants us to grow up in Christ so that we reflect his image. We were created in his image. In the image of Christ he created us, male and female. Reflect his image wherever you go. How does God bring about this change? How does he build character and produce a reputation worth following? Through pain and suffering. "What did he just say?" Through pain and suffering. Here we go.

The second part of verse 1. What's better? He says, "…and the day of death than the day of birth." What does he mean? It's like he's talking in code tonight, like we need to take a deep dive and discover the truths of Scripture. He's saying the day of birth and the following days are when you discover your character and your reputation, but the day you die is when your character and your reputation are fully revealed in totality.

You know, you go to a funeral, and there are people who usually get up onstage. They get up in front of that funeral and begin to say nice things. There are people who nod when they say nice things, and then when people say nice things, there are people who know they're lying. You've been there. I've been there at those funerals. You're like, "What they're portraying is not how that person really lived their life." What do you want to be tonight? What are you pursuing?

He goes on and says in verse 2, "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting…" Do you know what he's saying there? It's better to go to funerals than parties. "…for this is the end of all mankind…" "Everyone is going to die," he says. "…and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad." He's saying pain has a refining influence on our lives.

He goes on and says, "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth." In other words, a wise person thinks a lot about death while fools only think about having a good time. Sometimes a funeral is better than a party. Why? Because pain makes you real. Pain gets your thinking straight. Pain allows you to see that you weren't made for this world; you were made for another world.

Pain refines you. It shows you what's important. It's an important part of the process. Why? Because good times can fool you, which is my second spiritual truth tonight. To gain an eternal perspective, we have to believe that good times can fool us. I was talking to a friend of mine who is the chaplain for the Dallas Mavericks. He was doing a chapel service for the Indiana Pacers. He was just sharing about God through the person of Jesus Christ and eternity.

Someone on the Indiana Pacers blurted out, "Bro, what does this have to do with me?" Just point blank. He said, "Hey, you have to be quick on your feet, because you never know how people are going to respond in that room." He looked at him and said, "Hey, bro, you have everything the world offers. You have fame. You have status. You have money. You have cars. You have houses. You have women. You have everything the world offers.

Everything is at your fingertips, but there's still something. Everybody has something. Everyone is not perfect. Everyone is going to die. Everyone is going to stand before their Creator, and they're going to have to give an account for that thing in their life. What's your thing, bro?" Do you know what he was saying? He literally was saying, "Good times can fool you." Good times can keep you from trusting in God because everything is going well for you. You don't need God. You're doing pretty good on your own.

Plenty of people in America face this reality that everything is good. When it's not, they numb themselves with drink or a drug so they don't have to deal with the reality of pain, to which this Indiana Pacer said, "My thing is women. Thank you." They engaged in this incredible dialogue in the middle of chapel, and it was a beautiful moment where he was ministering to this guy who has everything at his fingertips, but he knows he has that thing. He knows that's not right. He knows it doesn't end well for him.

Proverbs 14:12 says, "There's a way that seems right to man, but that way ends in death." What's your thing tonight, that if you go throughout your life, and you leave that thing unchecked, it's not going to go well for you? See, I can go preach at a bar, but no one is going to listen to me because they're laughing and having a good time.

I can go preach at a funeral, and I have a captive audience. People are focused on the things of eternity. They're open to the reality of God. They're open to the reality of the gospel, the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Every funeral is a reminder that one day you're going to die, that each of us has an expiration date and only God knows when that is.

The wise person also recognizes the benefits of pain. It humbles you. It gives you a sobering reality about life. It says when a person's face is sad, the heart may be happy. Why? Because that pain has taught them some things about life, that there's more than meets the eye. Pain is a reality for all of us because we live in a broken world cursed by sin. All suffering is a result of the fall, sin.

Pain is the best teacher we have outside of God himself. C.S. Lewis said it something like this: "Pain is God's megaphone for a deaf world." Why? Because it wakes us up from our sleeping slumber. The mentality that the Christian life is all about health, wealth, and prosperity, and God is going to bless you… It's not wrong to pray for healing. It's not wrong to pray for blessing. It's just wrong to believe that's always God's best for you.

So, tonight, where are you at? I know there are young adults in this room and all across the rooms that are occupied through the Porch.Live locations and people listening online at a later date who are dealing with some really hard things in their lives, painful things. God wants to use that to refine you, to cause you to depend on him, to strip you of the things you think are going to give you life, satisfaction, and fulfillment.

I was thinking earlier today about some of the pains in my own life. The first real pain I experienced was when I found out my parents were getting a divorce at a young age. When I didn't make the basketball team in high school. (White men can't jump. That's true. Well, maybe some of you can.) When my high school crush broke up with me. (You can laugh. It's cool. It's behind me.) When I found out my roommate from college passed away. When I was 30 and still not married. When my sister-in-law got a life-threatening colon cancer diagnosis. When I found out our first child might have a genetic disorder. When my son Caleb almost got hit by a car.

I get it. We can compare lists. I don't think that's always helpful, because there are some things going on in this room that… My list pales in comparison to your list. That's not the point of this. The point of this is saying, "Hey, there's pain." There's pain in your life, there's pain in my life, and God wants to use that pain to cause a deeper dependency on him. Pain is God's megaphone to a deaf world.

Could it be that the pain you have experienced and are experiencing is there for your good and God's glory? Last time I stood up on this stage, I quoted a verse in Romans 8:28 that says God causes all things, good or bad, to work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

I believe God is going to cause whatever is going on in your life, whatever has happened to you, for your good and for his glory and for people to look at your pain and watch you run to Christ, not the things of the world. They're going to take notice, and they're going to begin to ask questions, and they're going to begin to be curious about your God. I believe that's true for some of you in this room. I pray that's true for some of you in this room.

Verse 4: "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning…" He just keeps punching this. He keeps throwing this out, as if we didn't get it the first three verses. "…but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth." In other words, a wise person thinks a lot about death while the fool only thinks about having a good time. To gain perspective you have to believe it's good. To gain an eternal perspective, you have to believe God is using your good times and your bad times to refine you into the man or woman he wants you to be.

The mind of a fool is wasting their years at some bar, looking for a temporary high. The mind of a fool is in the house of feasting, in the house of pleasure…the next party, the next drink, the next purchase, the next toy they're going to buy, the next restaurant they're going to go to, the next vacation they're going to take, the next person they're going to date…whatever it is. Fill in the blank. Then your life is over, and you stand before your Creator who gave his life for you on the cross.

Verse 5: "It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools." Proverbs 27:6 couples this verse really well. It says, "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." To gain an eternal perspective, you have to believe the third point: wounds from a friend can be trusted. The mind of a fool only hangs out with people who will tell them what they want to hear versus tell them what they need to hear.

We talk a lot about community here at The Porch because The Porch is Watermark Community's young adult ministry. Community is our middle name. We believe the men and women you hang out with are important. Show me your friends and I'll show you your future. This idea of "Who are your people? Who do you run to?"

Have you ever had someone you really respect say, "Hey, we need to talk"? It's that "Hey, we need to talk," and on the other end you're like, "Oh dear. What did I do? What happened?" They pull up a seat at the table, and they begin to look at you with kind of those piercing eyes. It's someone you respect. Maybe 80 percent of the room are probably like, "Yeah, I've had this happen to me, and it didn't go well, bro." Okay. Well, let's talk about that. We will.

But for the 20 percent of us who maybe have had that happen in a way where that person began to point some things out (we call them blind spots) in our lives that we can't see but maybe they can… They're things that are inconsistent with the character of Christ. So, they begin to share some things about our lives that aren't adding up to what we say we believe through our actions. They just don't line up. Those things aren't congruent. I've had it happen to me. Actually, I have it happen to me almost every Friday morning when I get together with my guys at 6:00 a.m.

Do you know what happens sometimes in those moments? I'm like, "Can we just go have a drink, just share a beer together and not worry about this? Can we just go to NorthPark mall and buy a new pair of clothes? Can we just plan the next vacation? Can we just go eat some good food, bro? I don't really care for you to look at my life and start pointing things out that are inconsistent to the character of Christ and how I talk to my wife at times and how I'm sharp-tongued with my kids and the lusts I have in my heart."

It doesn't feel good, and I want to hit the Easy Button. I want to hit reject, but I know Proverbs 27:6 is so true that wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. I know if I just go to people who want to suppress the areas of my life that aren't consistent with the character of Christ, I will never be God's man. So, I just ask: Where are you today with your community? What does that look like for you?

If you don't have it, then I'm pleading with you through the text, through the Word of God, that you would find that, because sometimes, instead of receiving a good rebuke, we run to the songs of fools. We're like, "Bruno Mars, will you teach me?" He's been locked out of heaven. Why are we going to listen to him? We're like, "What about T. Swift?" She's still got bad blood because Band-Aids don't fix bullet wounds. What are we doing?

Amy Winehouse said, "Don't go to rehab," which is pretty sobering, because she didn't go to rehab and she's not here today. That's not so funny, because it's true. So, we run to the song of fools, it says at the end of verse 5, and we wonder why our life is still on the crazy train, and we're not getting off it. We keep doing the same things over and over, expecting a different result. Culture would say that's the definition of insanity.

Tonight, you have a chance. Every single week, there's a team of people down front. There's Next Steps in the Loft that you can go and say, "Hey, I'm tired of suppressing my sin. I'm tired of not having the right people in my life. The men I'm running with are really not pointing me to Christ. The women just want to talk about things that don't really matter for all of eternity. I know I'm not really being God's woman. God is calling me to step up. God is calling me to grow up. God is calling me to run to people who are going to wound me and be faithful in that."

Listen. I know there are people in this room who have tried community. You've confessed some things, and people have mismanaged information about you. I am sorry. That is not the church. That is not from God. This should be the safest place on the planet to be real and to confess sin to. If this isn't the safest place, then where are we going to go? If that has been your experience, I'm sorry, and I want to talk to you. We want to talk to you, and we want to help you find the people in your life you can do that with.

Verse 6: "For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity." This is what he's saying. Thorns burn fast and make a loud noise. At this time, you would cook your food under kindling. There would be thorns, and they would burn fast, and they would make a noise. He's saying, "This is what fools do. They just laugh off their sin." They're like, "I really don't have a drinking problem. Listen, man. It's just a little bit of porn. It's not really going to matter."

All the while, you know that two-dimensional image you keep running back to is only feeding variety in your life so you never love one person alone. The repeater cheater in you is just going to come out anytime you have a lustful desire. You're just telling the person you're dating, "Hey, I'm an adulterer. I'm just waving my hands right now," because an adulterer is someone who does something with someone else who is not their spouse.

You're just waving your hands up in the air, saying, "Hey, I'm an adulterer. I'm just letting you know right now that if we get married and I have a lustful thought or I have a lustful desire, I'm going to do the same thing I trained myself to do when I was single and when I was dating you." That's what you're telling them. You keep saying, "Hey, this is going to be the last time," and there is broken promise after broken promise that you make to your special someone who you're dating, and you're still living in the same crap. There, I said it.

Listen. I'm not here to shame you. I was a porn addict for a decade of my life. But at some point, you draw the line in the sand, you nail a stake in the ground, and you say, "Enough is enough. I'm done. I'm done being that guy. I'm done being that girl. I'm going to run to Christ and his people, and right there I'm going to find a safe place to be God's man and to be God's woman." You don't just laugh it off. It's not just "No big deal. It's going to be fine." No, it's not going to be fine. Your life is a train wreck. Get off the crazy train. Who are your friends who will faithfully wound you and say, "It's not fine. Enough is enough"?

Verse 7: "Surely oppression drives the wise into madness, and a bribe corrupts the heart." It says extorting people for power and wealth turns wise people into fools. The mind of a fool says, "Hey, what's in it for me?" It's all about "What's in it for me?" It's "Hey, if you can do for me what I want, then I'll be your friend." Where are your friends who love you for who you are and not what you can do for them?

They love you enough not just to… If there's sin in your life, they're going to call it out, but they're going to say, "Hey, I'm going to walk with you through this pain, this sin, this hardship, and I'm not going to bail when everyone else around me says it's okay. It's not. I'm going to stick with you. I'm going to walk with you, and if you keep falling, I'm going to help pick you back up." Where are your friends? Where are those people?

Verse 8: "Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools. Say not, 'Why were the former days better than these?' For it is not from wisdom that you ask this." This is what he's saying: Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride. Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool.

It's saying in the context of life not working out the way you want it, don't mock God. Don't flip God off. God is doing something in the pain. Don't get angry at God. Get angry at sin. Get angry that sin is the result of suffering and the fact that every time we suffer, you can remember that this world is not our home. It's saying, "Hey, this is not wise." "God, why aren't you working in my life like you did before? Why am I struggling financially and with my job? Why did that person die? Why does that person have to go through cancer? Why am I still not married?"

To gain perspective, you have to live with the end in mind, which is my last spiritual truth. Live with the end in mind. I'm discipling a guy named Tanner, and I'm excited because he just got engaged. It has been a long time coming. I've been walking with him for some time. I'm about to do his wedding in October. I love this brother. He's my boy. We get to meet every other week, and the weeks we don't meet we just do life together.

I texted him this in light of his wedding coming up. I said, "Hey, bro, what is louder…the beginning of something or the end of it? The beginning always makes more noise. Weddings are big, loud, and fun. 'I will love you faithfully until the end of your life' as the music is playing. You and Lauren are going to make a beautiful couple, but let's check back in 30 years after y'all have hurt each other and cried; raised some kids, Lord willing; and each gained about 40 pounds. Hopefully not, but life gets lifey, bro. [Emojis]" I should just put the text on the screen.

I went on and said, "Hey, I guarantee the end won't be as loud as the beginning, but it's sure a lot more important. The end of the matter is more important than the beginning, because the beginning is all talk. I love weddings, and I can't wait to officiate y'all's, but what's even better is when you see an older couple in public holding hands, sitting close, opening the door for his bride, kissing. Why? Because they're being faithful to the end. There isn't a lot of fluff. It's just glorious.

The beginning is just words. Vows are good, but they're just good intentions of what you think you will do. It's a whole lot better to actually make it to the end. Praying that you two will continue to fall more in love with Jesus so you make it to the end. Can't wait to celebrate y'all in your wedding, but even more so 30 years from now."

Commitment. That's what he's saying here. How are you going to be a man or woman of commitment? You live with the end in mind. How do you do that? You need to start with where you hope to end up. All commitments start with the end in mind. Know where you are and know where you want to be and get your community together and let them help you game-plan for where you want to go. It's your path, not your promises that take you to the place you end up. Do you know that? Live with the end in mind.

I'll close with this. From time to time, I like going to cemeteries. Yesterday morning, I started the week off, and I grabbed another guy in my discipleship group, and we went out to a cemetery close to my house. I get it. It's morbid, because it is. What I love about going to cemeteries is it begins to refine your perspective. I mean, even me. I get it. I don't want you to prop me up to an unhealthy place. I'm fleshly, bro. There are things in me that are not of God, and I need God to refine those. There are times when I just want to live with a temporal perspective and not an eternal one.

So, I get out of my car, and the first grave I walk up to had this on it. That's my last name…Jones. There's a cross right behind it. It was as if God was saying, "Hey, Josiah…" I get it. I think about the brevity of life all the time. I'm a pastor. But even in that moment, I needed to be quickened to the reality that this place is not my home. God began to sober me up, and he began to show me things in my life.

You might ask, "What does that mean, 'sober you up'?" Frustration and anger when things didn't go my way last week; quick-tempered with my wife to respond in a way that isn't helpful and isn't loving; sharp-tongued with my kids; wishing I made more money, that people would recognize me more, that I would have more fame and more status.

It was just sickening things that God began to reveal as I'm walking from grave site to grave site, tombstone to tombstone, looking at the dates and looking at what people said about these people's lives. There are people who lived for a day and lived for 100-plus years, but even 100-plus years are a vapor. It's here a little while, and then it's gone. What it began to do was sober me up to the reality of "Man! What do I want my life to be about?"

I began to write things out in my notebook and say, "God, thank you for revealing this to me. I needed this." I shared this with my community. I went home and talked to my wife Cathy that night and said, "Hey, will you forgive me for the way I've come across this past week with my anger and my words and my tone?" I got my kids in the living room and sat them on the couch, my 6-, 4-, and 2-1/2-year-old, and I said, "Hey, you've seen Daddy not at his best. Will you forgive me?" That's what it does when you live with the end in mind, when you don't just go through life thinking this life is all there is.

Solomon is saying, in closing, "Live with the end in mind." Embrace the pain we experience. It's going to grow wisdom in us. What if your character is shaped by God every time pain enters your life? Then you're a guaranteed success that you're going to look more like him. That's what God is after. God loves you and sometimes has to use pain and showing you that death is not far off to get your attention, to let you know he's God and we're not, to let you know there's something outside of the sun.

There's the Son who came on a rescue mission for you and me over 2,000 years ago. He didn't see fit to leave us in our sin. There's no other message out there like it. God left the comforts of heaven for a cross here on earth so we could be made right with him. Our sin separates us from a holy God, and when he hung on that tree, he bridged the chasm of separation. The Bible says, "For the wages of sin is death." He died the death you and I were supposed to die.

He lived the life you and I could never live. He was perfect in thought, in word, and in action. No other person has claimed that, which made him the only eligible one to die on the cross for your sin and my sin. On the cross, he soaked up every last ounce of God's judgment and wrath, the wrath and judgment that should be poured out on you and me. He got what you deserve, and you get what he deserves. It's called the great exchange.

He says now the ball is in your court and my court. What will you do with Jesus? How will you respond to the greatest message in human history that he didn't just stay dead in the grave, that three days later, Scripture says and history records, he burst forth from the grave to defeat sin and death? Now he gives you wisdom to navigate through this thing called life. In a culture that is hostile to the things of God, you have a guide. You have wisdom. You have life at your disposal.

How will you respond? What will you make this life about? Will it be about you or will it be about him? This message never gets old, and God will stop at nothing, even pain, to try to get your attention so that you see and believe this message. It's the greatest message in the world that man can be forgiven and united with his Creator. Let me pray that you are. Let me pray that you will tonight. Let me pray that you will see and have a perspective that is eternity driven.

God in heaven, I pray that at the sound of my voice, there wouldn't be a man or a woman in this place who wouldn't know you, who wouldn't see you tonight, who would love you and who would bend their knee if they don't, that you would meet them in their sin and in their destruction and, God, you would forgive them and make them whole, not through their work but through your work on the cross.

And through that, God, we would begin to walk and live and move and breathe and make decisions from your wisdom, from the wisdom you gave Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes. God, would you have your way in this place? Would we be free to worship now? Would we be free to sit and ponder? Would we do whatever you are calling us to do? Would we not leave this place and just go about our lives and not leave changed? In Christ's name we pray, 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.