JeremyHouck.com

High Risk / High Reward Living

Ecclesiastes 11:1-10


The story is told about a University professor that took great pride in being difficult. Every student had to attend his Freshman Orientation class and the professor made sure that everyone who took his class would understand that they were no longer in High School. His reading list was immense and his tests were difficult.  But the students knew that if they could make it through his class then the rest of their academic experience would be a breeze.


One day during the class the professor began a discussion about courage and the need for the students to boldly take a stand for what they believed and what they thought. “You are no longer allowed to have your parents beliefs or think what your friends think you must be your own man you must be your own woman.” The professor barked. “So what do you believe, what is your opinion?” He asked.  No one dared to say a word.


After a few minutes of silence the professor told the class that they needed a reminder of what true courage really is and before they left class that day they all had to turn in a 5 page paper describing the best example of courage that they had ever witnessed. They had 45 minutes to complete the task and it would be for a grade. The students began writing feverishly.


At the end of class the professor called for the papers and one by one the nervous students filled out placing their papers on the professor’s desk. The last student to approach the professor placed his paper on top and said this is the greatest act of courage either of us have ever witnessed. The professor looked down and saw that the student turned in five blank pages; he received the only A.


Boldness and courage are admirable traits in our society. We admire those who had the courage to take a risk, to do what no one else was willing to do or try. In the military we give medals for courage, on the playground our children look up to those who stand up to the bully or can walk across the top of the swing set. When we see someone bold we give them honor and respect, because it is a trait that we all desire.


This morning I wonder if you can remember the last time that you did something bold? When was the last time you colored outside the lines, refusing to play it safe?

 

There’s a sign along the Alaskan Highway that reads, "Choose your rut carefully, you’ll be in it for the next 200 miles." A lot of folks live their lives like that sign. As we get older, we tend to play it safe. Some settle for comfortable and predictable lives. Very few of us live out the phrase Carpe Deim or Seize the Day. Regardless of what we long for we would rather do what is safe and predictable.

 

I would like to remind you this morning that a life of faith is anything but tedious. While death may be certain, you and I were called to an abundant life. Too many Christians accept boredom as if somehow that makes them more spiritual. But life is not meant to be monotonous, it is meant to be an adventure!


Look with me at our text this morning it is found in Ecclesiastes 11.  You may remember that Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon at the end of his life. In our text Solomon describes the risks taken by merchants in his day. (Read Verse 1)


Solomon said we are to "cast our bread upon the waters." What a wonderful object lesson. In those days they would put their merchandise on boats to be shipped to foreign ports, hoping that they could see a profit "after many days."

While that may not sound like a big deal to us, think about how risky it was:

In Solomon’s day, an awful lot of ships wrecked. And if the ship wrecked you would loose all of your merchandise and have to suffer a total loss.

Pirates were not just the stuff from books and movies, they were real and very often cargo was stolen.

But if you made it through the sea and past the pirates then you had to rely on the honesty of the ships captain. Thievery is not a 21st century invention. Many captains were dishonest.

Today we have life insurance, fire insurance, flood insurance, and there is even earthquake insurance.  But in Solomon’s day there certainly weren’t any insurance policies to cover losses. And if you made it through the sea, past the pirates and ship captains, and finally to market you still had to wait a long time to see if you were going to make any money. But these merchants would take the risk because the reward was great.


Solomon was a great object teacher. Over and over we see Solomon teaching spiritual principles by considering an ant or a broken wall or a creaking gate.  This time Solomon uses the imagery of a merchant shipping out goods to encourage us to not just take a risk, but to take a high-risk.

And when we hear that we immediately protest. It’s like last week when we noticed that God only commended those who gave between 10 and 100% of their prospering in a tithe. I knew when I said that you all though I was off my rocker.  I heard all of you clear your throats and chuckle. We were raised to think of all the reasons not to take high risks. But I need you to look in the text this morning and try to understand what God is saying. If we are willing to take a big risk and trust that God is telling the truth then He will reward that faith by providing a big reward. 

This morning I want us to look at the words of this wise king and see if we can find 5 principles about taking risks and receiving the reward.  The first high risk/high reward principle is: Give Over and Above Expectations. Look at Ecclesiastes 11:2 (read text)


Because many of us have lived through difficult times like the depression, or the .com fallout or your 401K has bottomed out, we have taken to the belief that since the future is uncertain we should hoard our material possessions. After all Will Rogers said the best way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket.

Now I understand that conventional wisdom teaches us to save for a "rainy day". But the Christian life is anything but conventional. Think back to what Jesus taught in The Parable of the Rich Fool". You remember the Parable in Luke 12 don’t you.


A farmer produced a terrific crop. Since his barn wasn’t big enough he decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. He thought that since he had an abundance built up he would just take it easy and have the time of his life!’ But do you remember what happened next? God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods, who gets it?’ 


If you always hoard what God has blessed you with and don’t share with others you’ve totally missed the point of what being rich toward God is all about. God has blessed us so that we in turn can bless others.

When Solomon says "give a portion to seven, and also to eight." He is saying give until it hurts and then give a little more. Take the high risk! Go ahead, cast your bread upon the waters! You see in the unconventional life of a Christian you are not rich because of what you have; you are rich because of what you give!

The next high risk/high reward spiritual principle: Don’t Make Excuses. Ecclesiastes 11:3-4 (read text)

 

You can guarantee it, if you are breathing and your heart is beating then there are going to be some bad days. Job 14:1 says Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. If your mom was a woman you can be sure that it’s going to rain, trees are going to fall, and money is going to get tight. Solomon says some folks won’t take risks because they are afraid, they won’t sow their seed because they fear the wind might blow it away.

 

You know what? Those folks are right. The wind could blow their seed away. It might rain while you are trying to harvest your crops. There are sometimes when you go to get something positive done only to have something negative get in your way. So I guess that we are just supposed to sit on our hands throughout our entire life just because bad things sometimes happen!

Don’t get married because they might be too selfish for it to work out.

Don’t have kids because they might get hurt.

Don’t buy that house because it might need to be repaired.

Don’t take that job because you might get fired.

 

But we don’t let fear keep us from these things. People get married every day, children are born every day, homes are bought and jobs started every day. I can remember a time when we had a baby, got fired, and had to move in 4 months. It was not the ideal time and the conditions weren’t right. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. We got to see God do some pretty remarkable things in that time span. We don’t wait for ideal conditions to do those things so why do we feel it is necessary to have the ideal conditions to take your spiritual risks?

 

We need to remember that no matter what precautions you take, there are some things you have no control over, that’s why we are called to live by faith. Take the risks and leave the results with God.

Our third high risk/high reward spiritual principle: Expect Things Beyond Your Understanding. Ecclesiastes 11:5-6 (read text)

Solomon touches on some of life’s great mysteries in this part of the text. First he mentions "the path of the wind". Meteorologists have learned a lot about the weather but still there is a lot of mystery in things like tornadoes and hurricanes. Why do they start, how do they start, when and where. We can see the evidence in hindsight but there is still so much left that we cannot even begin to comprehend.  

But if you really want to get deep into life’s great mysteries consider how the human body develops in the womb from a tiny fertilized egg. We have been able to duplicate some aspects of God’s gift of life but we can’t create life!

I am sure that you have heard the story about the group of scientists that got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him. The scientist walked up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we no longer need you. We're to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so we think it’s time for you to retire."

 

God listened very patiently and kindly and after the scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well, how about this, let's say we have a man making contest." To which the scientist replied, "OK, great!" But God added, "Now, we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam." The scientist said, "Sure, no problem" and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt. God just looked at him and said, "Go get your own dirt!"


There is so much that we cannot understand in this world, but that does not give us an excuse to sit back on our hands and quit taking risks. Look back at Solomon’s advice in verse 6 Plant early in the morning, and work until evening, because you don’t know if this or that will succeed. They might both do well.

 

Get busy and do something for God even if you don’t know exactly how it will turn out! We have no excuse for leading a dull, passionless life! Don’t worry that you may fail if you try. Failure is only certain if you don’t try!

Solomon’s fourth principle for spiritual high risk/high reward: Plan On Dark Days. Ecclesiastes 11:7-8 (Read Text)

 

We all love the sunshine, but there are going to be some dark days in everyone’s life. The only difference between sunny days and cloudy days is how you look at them! We could all agree that the story of Job is a story of one bad day after another.  As a matter of fact we have 37 chapters of bad days. But every bad day was met with Job’s faithful longing for God.


I am not going to belabor this point.  We all know that we have had dark days in this life.  But the difficulties of this life should never cloud our vision of God. The risk of following God is high but the reward is that we never have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death alone since God walks with us.


Finally, the fifth spiritual principle for high risk/high reward: Keep Your Eyes On The Big Picture. Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 (Read Text)

These last two verses serve as a wake up call. The big picture here is that eternity is forever! We tend to go from the extreme of not thinking about the consequences of our actions to the other extreme of playing it so safe that we end up living a comfortable and predictable life.

Too many of us have become so comfortable with God that we forget the power that He possesses.  We understand that at one time He had the power to create man from the dust of the earth, and part the Red Sea. We even believe that He had the power to raise His son from the dead and cause a revolution through the work of a small band of men. But when was the last time we saw any of that?

 

Because the waters haven’t parted, and the storms still rage we tend to look at what we can see and become nothing more that religious dust collectors. We don’t forgive, because we forgot what it was like to be truly forgiven. We don’t evangelize because we forgot what it was like to be on fire for God.

 

And we don’t give freely of our time, talents, and treasures because we have forgotten what it was like to trust in God for everything. Many of us have walked so long with God that the notion of giving Him everything causes more of a chuckle that a stirring in our souls.

 

This morning I want you to remember the big picture. Cast your bread upon the waters! Don’t let fear, pessimism, and paranoia rule you! Stay spiritually awake! Remain spiritually active! Find that abundant life that Jesus offers. Take the high risks for Him. Any individual or church that will practice these principles will find the rewards to be great!

  

 

Questions to Consider

 

What does the term “cast your bread on the water” mean?

From our text this morning, what is Solomon’s view of life?

Are good deeds worth doing if we are not repaid for them?

How should we react when we encounter things that are beyond our control?

Who is in control? 

How different would your life be if we really believed that God was in control? 

Why is it easier to make excuses than commitments?

What is the high risk in giving God your time, talent, and time?

What is the big picture in all of this? 



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