Tonight I was moved by the long queue outside the Kowloon City Baptist Church (main venue), and I was told that some transmission locations are full. I am deeply touched by everyone’s spiritual hunger in front of God. I was also reminded that this Conference is transmitted to other countries. For those who are in these transmission locations, I pray to God that He will speak into your heart also. Tonight I will call and invite you for decision, not just for people here, but also for people in other transmission locations. I tell you now so that your heart can be prepared. I believe God will speak to us tonight. I pray that God speak to us personally, individually.
Time management is an important subject nowadays. There are THREE movements in time management thinking. The 1st moment is from the generation of my grandfather – making checklists. They were born in the industrial age. The 2nd movement is from the generation of my father – setting goals and priorities. The 3rd movement is from my generation – we move from efficiency to effectiveness. In other words, we have to determine what is important, of greatest value, and we move to do the right thing. So we move from efficiency – to do in the right way – to effectiveness – to do the right thing.
Christian should concern not only time but also eternity. The Bible teaches use how to use our time. Our time is our life, and nothing is more precious than life. There are FOUR obstacles we would face if we want to have a life well-lived.
A. Failure to Live Life In The Present (3:1-8)
The first obstacle is to life in the present. In Ecc. 3:1, “For everything there is a season…” We must understand that there are seasons in life, and that we have to live well in the present. In the past days I have said that some people live in the past with pains and wounds as burden; some people live in the future with worry and anxiety; but many of us forget to live in the present. But the past cannot be changed, and future has not come yet, so we have to live in the present. To do so, we must learn about the seasons of life.
As a whole, there are SEVEN seasons of life.
(1) From Birth to 20 years old, it is the era of discovery and development.
(2) 20 – 30 years old, it is the capacity-building era. Our life will either be a small basket which cannot hold much knowledge or experience, or be a large barrel that holds lots of knowledge or experience. So it is wise to learn as much as you can in this season so that you and your capacity become a large barrel rather than a small basket.
(3) 30 – 40 years old, it is a give-and-take era.
(4) 40 – 50 years old, it is a giving era. The top levels of managements in large organizations are usually people at this age.
(5) 50 – 60 years old, it is a mentoring era. It does not mean that everyone is able to mentor anyone else, but people at this age are usually mature enough to pass on their knowledge and experience to others.
(6) 60 – 70 years old, it is a new-horizon era. Many people think of a retirement era, but in fact this is the era that people should make a new list of life goals that God give you at this age.
(7) 70 years old and above, it is a finishing-well era, that you should go for your finishing line in a good way with legacy.
However, there will be ups and downs in your life. You have to know your seasons in life so that you can live well in your season. You may be now a university student, a mother having two kids, a retired worker… we all need different discipling directions at different season of your life – “for everything under the sun there is a season”. But no matter whatever season you are in, you must glorify God and live well. To do so, you have to live well today. Do not fail to live well in the present.
B. Failure to Live Life for the Eternal (3:11)
The second failure is fail to live for the eternal. In Ecc. 3:11, “…he has put eternity into man’s heart…” If God put eternity in our heart, we have to live in His way. Don’t live for superficial things but for the things which are important in God’s mind. Don’t live for the temporal but for the eternal. Don’t live for the marks and symbols of success but for the true success in God – because there is eternity in our heart. Eternity does not mean lots of time; it actually means “timeless-ness”. Through the Bible, God have revealed his timeless truth to us so that we can live. I am grateful to see so many of you attend this Bible Conference – today the greatest need of churches is to return to the Bible, the Word of God. In the Word of God, there is timeless truth to live for eternity. I pray that after this Conference there will be conviction and commitment from you to read His Words daily; His Word is foundation, and it will change your way of life and living.
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I would like to show you FOUR Christian views concerning business, four movements to maturity to works.
(1) Business as a livelihood to make money. If you ask young people why they do business, they would probably give you two reasons – “I want to my own boss”, and “I want to make a lot of money.” Nobody wants to lose money in business; everyone projects to gain and make money. In this way, business is seen as a kind of livelihood, and we may pray, “LORD, this is my business, please bless me.”
(2) Business as a calling. We realize that not everyone is called to business, but as for yourself you see this as a calling and you would like to respond to God. Some of these people are school teachers, some may be doctors, or some are professionals in the business world. But the point is, you realize this is a call from God, and you believe that you have to respond to God and God will bless you in responding God.
(3) Someone may then proceed to the third movement, that your business is not just a kind of livelihood, not only a calling, but a platform for social change. This is a major swift of thinking – your prayer would not be “This is not my business but Your business, so please bless me”; instead your prayer will be “LORD, Your business is my business, so I consecrate it to you.” This is a platform of life changing, a platform to make the Kingdom of God shine through.
(4) Although this is not commonly talked about, I think the fourth movement is to look business as a laboratory of God, a place to experiment as a great adventure. Life is a laboratory, parenting as a laboratory, business is also a laboratory. In any circumstances of life, no matter what season your life is in, there is an experiment – to faithfully apply God into your life and see the outcome. We know God is faithful; this is certain. But why chemistry teachers at schools always give experiments to students? The teacher knows the outcome. No science teacher will give an experiment to a high school student and say, “I don’t know the outcome.” The teacher knows the outcome, and he knows that the result would always be the same. But then why students need to do experiments? It is because students need to know the result in unchanging; they need to prove the results to be true always.
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So life and business can be the laboratory in which we apply the Word of God. At last we will see the outcome – and the outcome will never change. In happy times, in sad times; in promotions, in leaves; at birth, at funeral… when we apply the Word of God, the outcome is always true – that God is faithful and true. I am not saying that the results will be shown immediately and problems be solved instantly; sometimes God want us to wait. God’s waiting room is the hardest, because we never want to wait. But wait can make our faith grows. Eventually He will come faithfully. So today we can apply His Words faithfully. No matter where you are at – in the business world, at home, in church – the Words of God apply. That is living for the eternal but not temporal. Word of God is timeless truth.
C. Failure to Live Life From the Inside Out (3:12-15)
The third failure is the failure to life from inside out. In verse 12, “I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.” Notice that this verse has two parts – “to rejoice” and “to do good”. “To rejoice” is the inner condition, and “to do good” is the outer conduct. In His wisdom, “doing good” must flow from “to rejoice”. In other words, we have to live from the inside out. Question is, what is inside of us. For a Christian, the defining feature of his inner life is deep joy in God. What defines a Christian, what distinguish him is inside him – the joy and gratitude to God. The Bible says, “The joy of the LORD is my strength.” But look at today’s Christians; many of us are not joyful. They complain all the time as if it is a spiritual gift. Their faces are sour; the sour faces in baptism look like they are baptized in lemon juice! Where is joy? We are redeemed, we have eternal life; where is your joy? The Christian thinker G.K. Chesterton once said, “For a Christian, joy is central but sorrow is only peripheral, but for the non-Christian it is the reverse.” Joy is central because the fundamental question of life has been answered in Christ. But for the non-Christians, it is the opposite – their joy is peripheral, and their sorrow is central; it is because their fundamental question life is not yet answered. Therefore, we have our salvation secured in Jesus; we all are saved for eternity. So where is your joy?
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Some of us Christians allow joy-robbers to rob us from joy. There are THREE things in our life that will rob us from job.
(1) Worry and anxiety. It is about cares of the world and burdens. Many Christians have worries in their life. But God says, cast all your cares upon me because I care about you. God love us and care about us. Can you not to trust someone who died for you?
(2) Hurts and wounds in the past. It is about hate and unforgiveness. These rob us from joy. The way out is to learn to forgive. But some Christian insists that they would never forgive. They would say, “If I forgive my enemy, I am letting him go free.” That is not true – if you learn true forgiveness, you will realize you are not letting him go free, but you set yourself free from him. You are not a prison of your own soul.
(3) Sin in life. The answer is true repentance in front of God. David says, “Restore to me the joy of salvation.” There is a secret given in Ps. 100:1-3: “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness, come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” The key is to know that God is God, and we are not God. God is in control. So we cast upon Him; He is in control. Our God is a mighty God, sovereign God who sit on His throne – not plastic stools but on the throne. He is in control. That’s why we have joy. No matter what circumstances, he is up there.
The secret of joy is to knowing and correct thinking. The Epistle to Philippians is called the “book of joy”; the word “joy” and “rejoice” appears many times, but the secret of “rejoice” is the same – correct thinking and correct knowledge bring great joy. The Greek word Apostle Paul used means “to think correctly”. When we realize that my God is in Heaven, there will be joy in my heart.
Therefore, when you find yourself in challenging time, remember three things: (1) God cares, (2) God is on the throne and He is in control, and (3) God will bring His redemptive purpose to pass. God will bring the best to my life. If you do that, living water flows from your inner heart. The Holy Spirit fills us and empowers us to see God is in the Heaven and is in control.
James says the same thing. In James 1:2-3, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Correct thinking brings joy. Live joyfully and do good. If you have joy, you have the capacity to do good. Words used in Psalm 100 is “to serve with gladness” but not grumbling and complaining. Serve with joy, since we know God is in control, and He care.
D. Failure to Live Life with a Sense of Accountability (3:16-22)
The fourth failure is to live with no sense of accountability. In Ecc. 3:17, “…God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.” God will judge. There will be division between the wicked and the righteous. It is not a division of good and bad – the Bible tells us that we all sinned and we are all bad. But how can we become righteous? Jesus made us righteous. God sent His son to die for us; so when we believe, we become righteous in Him. The Bible is the gospel of Jesus; gospel is not to make bad people good, but turn the wicked to be righteous. Jesus will judge who believes in him and righteous. And there will be two types of people: those believe in Him and will have eternal life, and those not in Him and will not have eternal life. This is a warning, but it is also a declaration of great news and an invitation – receive Jesus into our life so that we can live our life with joy.
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It is an urgent message to the world that Jesus saves; there is no other name to save. And God has given this command to church to preach. But the church is in trouble. Churches nowadays are in sleep and we are losing ground. Today churches are losing THREE grounds: (1) moral ground, (2) spiritual ground and (3) biblical ground.
We lost the moral ground because we don’t have a moral compass to live, and we will fall to the lies to the world.
We lose the spiritual ground that we don’t have passion in God anymore; instead we have double-love – we try to love God and the world at the same time. Yes, Christians love God; but if a Christian is honest, he may say he loves the world too. You cannot love God and love the world at the same time; you cannot walk with God and walk with Devil at the same time. There is clear separation. If you love the world, you will become lukewarm in God – and it is an offense to God. God want us to live well and glorify His name. You cannot double-love God and the world.
If you live in this way, our next generation will follow the same way. Young people are drifting away from God. On Sundays they go to the church, but their heart is far away. Parents come to the church, but their heart is lukewarm. Worse, they think this is okay and this is normal Christian life. But in other seasons that difficult time comes, they cannot cope with that. They will think God is useless and irrelevant, and they will find the own way and eventually they are spiritually lost. They will lose the moral compass, the spiritual compass and biblical compass.
One of the most important calls God has given to us is to direct our heart back to Him. That’s why tonight I will make this call. The call for you tonight is the whole-ness of your heart to love God, but not a double-love for God and the world, not a divided heart. May our heart be touched and return to Him.
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I use a story of my daughter to end today’s session. When my daughter was a toddler, I taught her our inner organs and their functions. I would touch her chest and say,
Me: “I take away your lung.”
Daughter: “Give me back my lung!”
Me: “I will give you back your lung if you tell me what it is for.”
Daughter: “my lung is for breathing!”
Me: “Okay, I give you back your lung.”
Or I would touch her stomach and says similar things. This is just a simple game.
Later I put my hand on her little chest and says,
Me: “I take away your heart.”
Daughter: “Give me back my heart!”
Me: “I will give you back your heart if you tell me what it is for.”
To my surprise, my daughter says,
“My heart is for loving God.”
Suddenly I felt like I was standing on holy ground.
I went back to my bed that night and cried before God and pray, “LORD, even little kid knows to love you. We adults – even a pastor as myself – always forget: that my heart is for loving God.” Not to be filled by the lies of the world, not to be deceived by the wicked, twisted double-love. Our heart is for loving God.
Tonight, what is your heart for? You want to live wisely before God. You want to live for eternity but not just time. We have a short life to live, so live for the glory of God.
Tonight, I have only one question: what is your heart for?
Our heart is for loving God.
We should pray, “LORD, I give you my heart wholly. My heart is no longer a heart of double-love. My heart is no longer lukewarm. I give my heart wholly to you, to love you wholly.” This is the secret to discipleship, the key to glorify God in life. What is your life for?
Tonight, when God’s Word is preached, God invites you to respond – what is your heart for? It is designed by God to love. He cares for you; he is on the throne and is in control. He can cast away your anxiety and restlessness.
There is one question you must answer: what is my heart for? My heart is for loving God. If you decide to give your heart to God wholly, please pray, “God, I don’t want robber to rob away my joy; I don’t want sin to hurt my heart, because my heart is for loving You.”
Here we stand before you. We are touched deeply so that we want to live well and live wisely. Because we learn that our heart is for loving you. So please help us.
In Jesus’ name.