You Only Live Once
You Only Live Once
Ecclesiastes 11 and 12
In this series called, Did God Really Say That?, we’re looking at 8 statements that sound like truth, but aren’t. A lot of these sound like they might even be in the Bible, or maybe you’ve always heard them from a friend or relative or mentor as if they are gospel truth. Last week, we talked about the line: “God just wants me to be happy”, and the answer to the question, Did God really say that? Is No. God didn’t say that. But sometimes we live as if he did, and we just want our lives to be happy and fun.
When you’re a kid, you just want to have fun. Work is dumb, right? You don’t want to do chores around the house. That’s not fun! Give me something entertaining to do – a movie, a video game. I don’t want to clean my room again.
When you’re a teenager, having fun usually revolves around friends. It doesn’t even matter what you’re doing, as long as it’s with someone. So when it comes to happiness, it’s all about what’s happening right here in the moment. But that can get you in trouble. My point is that we all do dumb stuff when we’re young. But then as we grow, maturity tends to weed out that level of dumb stuff. Sometimes.
But when you grow into adulthood, and get into college and beyond, those kinds of actions become justified by a phrase you hear every once in a while: Well, you only live once. Or we just shorten it to the acronym. YOLO. You only live once. Which is usually what you say right before you do something stupid.
That’s the lie that sounds like the truth that we’re looking at today. You only live once. Now remember, every deception has an element of truth to it. That’s what makes it a deception.
First, there’s a positive side to that. Psalm 90, one of my favorite Psalms, was written not by King David like so many, but was written by Moses. And he says in Psalm 90:12, “teach us to number our days carefully – help me to remember that there is an end to my life. That I will have a funeral. That I only have a certain amount of days to be alive – teach us to number our days carefully, look at this: so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. That’s a positive, biblical view of You Only Live Once. You will die someday, and since death is unavoidable, make the most of the time you’ve been given. You don’t get to respawn like a video game, or reincarnate and do it over again, so make the most of your days.
That’s the positive side; that’s the truth. But like all of Satan’s deceptions, he takes that truth and twists it.
So, for the negative side, turn with me to the book of Ecclesiastes. We’ll spend most of our time here this morning, so if you’re new to the Bible, open to the middle, or near the middle and find Psalms. From the book of Psalms go to the right, past Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes is right after Proverbs.
And let me set up Ecclesiastes for you. This book is one of the books we called Wisdom Literature in the Bible, along with Job and Proverbs. That simply means, it’s not written as narrative history or a story. It’s not written as prophecy, where the author is speaking as a mediator between God and people, communicating a certain message. It’s not a letter addressed to a group of people. And it’s not really poetry, although there is some poetic language in it. Ecclesiastes along with the other wisdom literature, is advice and counsel on how to view life, and how to live as a result.
And if anyone embraced the twisted view of “You Only Live Once” it was the author of Ecclesiastes. In chapters 1 and 2, you can read all about how he tried everything – fame, money, enlightenment, sexual pleasure, fun experiences, comedy, alcohol, accomplishments, and on and on he goes, but in 2:11, he says “I found everything to be futile and chasing the wind.” Whether you are homeless or the CEO of a major corporation, at the end of the day we all end up six feet under a headstone. And it seems like death wins. Even the wisest or healthiest person among us still can’t outsmart death.
And he records throughout the book that it left him frustrated, angry, disillusioned, and it’s not too much of a stretch to say, even suicidal.
So that’s the setting for Ecclesiastes, and by the time we get to the author’s conclusion, starting in chapter 11, you might expect him to say, “You only live once. So live it up. Pack as much fun as you can into the one life you have, and get after it. Nothing really fulfills you, but since you end up dead anyway, just do what you want – nothing really matters in the end. Make all the money you can. Buy what you want. Go where you want. Make sure you’re taken care of.”
And that’s the deception Satan would want us to buy. That’s the twist that would make him happy, because with that view, life is all about you. It’s about your experience, your feeling good, you being in control.
But the author’s conclusion might actually surprise you.
Let's look together at Ecclesiastes 11:1-10 that Lucy read a minute ago:
 Send your bread on the surface of the water, for after many days you may find it.  Give a portion to seven or even to eight, for you don't know what disaster may happen on earth.
Some biblical commentators say to send your bread on the surface of the water references investments. A merchant ship from Palestine back then was a dangerous but also profitable enterprise. If the ship made it to Italy and back, there was a lot of money to be made, but the sea can be unpredictable and dangerous. So, one way to take verse 2 is that if you spread out your investment over 7 or 8 ships, don’t put all your eggs in one basket so to speak, then you have a better chance of success, and that fits with what most investors and insurance companies will tell you. Create a nest egg, or a stockpile because you don’t know what disaster may happen on earth. Emergency fund.
But the biblical view of finances is that the money you have isn’t just for you. There’s wisdom in having some set aside, but the better way to live, since you only live once, is with open handed, fearless generosity. That as courageous as you are with your investments and savings, you should be equally as courageous in your generosity.
Why? Because, the author says, in 11:2, you don’t know what disaster may happen on earth! Be generous, and don’t just give to one place. Give to a lot of places. You never know what will happen next! Then he gives some illustrations of what you don’t know:
 If the clouds are full, they will pour out rain on the earth; whether a tree falls to the south or the north, the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.  One who watches the wind will not sow, and the one who looks at the clouds will not reap.  Just as you don't know the path of the wind, or how bones develop in the womb of a pregnant woman, so also you don't know the work of God who makes everything.  In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hand rest, because you don't know which will succeed, whether one or the other, or if both of them will be equally good.
If we sit around trying to figure things out, we’ll never get anything done. But in the morning, meaning in the early years of your life, plant good seeds. Make eternal investments, storing up treasure in heaven not just financially, but in all of life, and in the evening, when you are tired and your life is nearing the end, don’t just lay down on the beach somewhere, but continue to run the race to the finish line. Maybe there’s a lot about our lives we don’t know, but 2 Corinthians 8:9 tells us what we do know: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
I have been blessed to have several older men in my life who are using their retirement, their evening years, for incredible kingdom focus. One who uses his free time to do men’s Bible studies, and go into Oakdale Prison to work with incarcerated men there – and he’s seeing people come to Jesus, seeing people learn to read the word, people growing in their faith. Another guy I know retired a while ago, bought an RV, and he and his wife travel the country working in camps. South in the winter, north in the summer, but putting his hands to work in serving others. We’ve even got a couple of retired folks here at River City, Doug and Clarine, Gail and Jo Ellen, who have been tremendously generous with their time and energy here with the church, finishing well, running hard to the finish line, making their life count until the sun goes down. So if you’re sitting near the Crowes or the Koedems in your Satellite today, or you can see them on your screen, give them an air high five or something to say thank you.
And I know they aren’t the only retired people at River City, and maybe some of you others that I don’t know as well are doing similar things, and I’m not trying to leave you out. But it is so good for us younger folks to see older people finishing well.
But watch out, because here comes the lie: If you only live once, what’s the motivation? What’s the point? Why not sit back on the easy chair and say, I’ve worked my hours, it’s time to let others do the work and I’ll just spend the last 15-20 years relaxing.
What’s the motivation for you teenagers to think about the fact that one day you will die? That the next time you leave your driveway could be the last. Why should you do everything you can to become wise at the earliest age possible? The lie Satan brings to you is, “Hey, don’t worry about getting too serious about all that God stuff now. You’ve got plenty of time to sort that out. Read your Bible? Eh, you’ll get to it someday. Pray? Eh, maybe later. Give some of my summer job money to church or to missions or the poor? Eh, I’ll do that someday when I have plenty. Right now I’m saving for things. And the funny thing is, once that lie takes hold, it doesn’t let go very easily. And there are a lot of 30, 40, 50, 60 year-olds still giving those same excuses. Eh, someday.
And the author of Ecclesiastes has something to say about that:
 Light is sweet, and it is pleasing for the eyes to see the sun.  Indeed, if someone lives many years, let him rejoice in them all, and let him remember the days of darkness, since they will be many. All that comes is futile.  Rejoice, young person, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. And walk in the ways of your heart and in the desire of your eyes; but know that for all of these things God will bring you to judgment.  Remove sorrow from your heart, and put away pain from your flesh, because youth and the prime of life are fleeting.
His conclusion is, Go ahead, do whatever you want, but know that for everything you do God will bring you to judgment. Look again at verse 9 – Rejoice, young person, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. And walk in the ways of your heart and in the desire of your eyes;
And right there is where You Only Live Once stops reading, puts down the book, and looks for buddies to do something with. I told you this series is based on a book by Jared Wilson, and he puts this in a really good picture for us: “You only live once” gets in the car because he wants to do something fun, something a little risky, and enjoyable, and it’s not all bad. He’s setting out to make the most of his days, enjoying the fullest. But when he stops the car, and his buddy “No Regrets” jumps in, YOLO starts to lose his wisdom. And then, when they stop and pick up their friend, “only God can judge me”, now you have a car full of stupidity.
People who say “only God can judge me” usually live as if he won’t.
People who say “no regrets” are basically saying, I refuse to learn from mistakes. If I do something that hurts me, or hurts you, well, that’s unfortunate. I refuse to admit my failures, and you shouldn’t bother pointing them out.
To put them in the car with “You Only Live Once” is all about maximizing the experience of pleasure for you. Making life all about you.
And the rest of verse 9, where YOLO stopped reading, says know that for every decision you make to make your life about you, God will bring you to judgment. You will answer to him for everything you’ve said, done, thought. When you say “only God can judge me”, don’t be surprised when he does.
So in closing, what does the author of Ecclesiastes recommend?
Chapter 12:1 – So remember your Creator in the days of your youth: Before the days of adversity come, and years approach when you will say, “I have no delight in them”...
This is so good coming on the heels of the Story of God!
Ecclesiastes basically says, remember the Story of God! Remember your Creator – the one who made you with purpose and significance, to be his representative, his ambassador, not your own. Remember how the earth and everything in it, heaven and the skies above are his handiwork, made for his glory, and everything you see belongs to him, including your life. Remember that he’s the one who breathed into your nostrils the breath of life, and even the fact that you’re sitting here breathing right now is a gift from him. Every beat of your heart, every gulp of your lungs, every time your stomach or brain or intestines do what they’re created to do is a gift of God. Every ray of light that the rods and cones in your eyeball interpret into shape and color and contrast, every sound wave that comes into your ears are all upheld by the word of God’s power, and since it’s his, he can call time whenever he wants to. So remember your Creator! Remember Genesis!
And remember Revelation! Remember the promise! Hope isn’t dead, even if you are! The good news is, if you’re a Believer, if you’re a follower of Jesus, You don’t only live once – you were born, and then by God’s grace through the work of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, you’ve been born again! There was an old way of life, when YOLO meant do whatever makes you happy, but now there’s a new life that’s been born inside of you, that says, oh no, you don’t only live once, you can live twice! There’s an old me – he died with Christ at the cross, he’s been buried in baptism with Christ in the grave, and I’ve been raised with Christ, a new person, into a second life that is eternal, and yeah, this tent I’m living in might die, but I’ll only die once. And once I die that one time, there’s no more death for me. It is over! The race is won, I made it to the finish line where living really begins.
And speaking of Revelation, chapter 21 verses 1-7 talk about what this new life will look like, as Jesus makes all things new, giving freely to the thirsty from the springs of living water, and welcoming home those lost sons and daughters who have been dressed in the righteousness of Christ, but 21:8 says the cowards, the faithless, the detestable, the murderers, immoral, idolaters, etc, those who were not born again into a second life will find their share in the lake of fire along with death and the enemies of God, which is the second death.
So to live your life by the phrase, You only live once, to stay completely self centered on your own experiences of fun and pleasure, is to set yourself up to die twice, once physically, and once spiritually, separated from God and his gifts forever. And Satan would like nothing more. So he lies. He tells you that if God wants you to be happy and you only get one life before death steals it, go get yours. You only live once.
But the resurrection of Jesus Christ uncovers the lie. Jesus didn’t only live once. For the death he died, he died to sin once for all time, including the self-centered sin of YOLO; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.