God’s Timing and Purposes – Ecc. 3:1-8
Pastor Vicky MootsKingman, Kansas
Ecc. 3:6b: “…a time to keep, and a time to cast away.” My mother lived during the Great Depression, and she used to keep everything just in case she might need it later or because it was too good to throw away. That included saving all the bread wrappers, plastic cottage cheese containers, etc., anything that she thought might be useful for something.
Many of us tend to do that to a degree with some things, such as clothing that no longer fits, since we hope to lose weight and be able to wear it again. Unfortunately, after a while we end up with a lot of clutter and overflowing closets, and we have to start discarding some things or donating them. The “time to keep” sooner or later becomes a “time to cast away.”
Spiritually, even after we are born again and become a new creation in Christ, our old nature (our “old man”) wants to hang on to and “keep” some of the things of the flesh, the old creation, things that are displeasing to God and detrimental to us. Paul admonishes us in Eph. 4:22-24 to “…put off concerning the former conversation [manner of life] the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And…put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
We are to cast off the old garment (lifestyle) of the old creation which is “no longer fitting” for a Christian, as Paul tells us in Rom. 13:12: “…let us therefore cast off the works of darkness…” and in v. 14: “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.”
In addition to casting away the works of darkness, we must also cast away our self-righteousness, which is nothing but filthy rags in God’s eyes, according to Isa. 64:6: “…all our righteousness are as filthy rags…” Paul described his own self-righteousness as “dung” in Phil. 3:8, which certainly must be cast away and exchanged for Christ’s righteousness, as he says in v. 9: “And be found in him [Christ], not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Now is the time for us to clean house and to take out our spiritual garbage; it is a “time to cast away.”
Besides the garbage in our lives, we find in Heb. 12:1 that there are other things which we, as runners in the race, must cast away in order to win: “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” First of all, we must cast away all the burdens and cares of this life that weigh us down and hinder us from running to win. How do we do that? We cast them upon the Lord, and let Him carry them, as Peter urges us to do in I Pet. 5:7, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”
Now, what about the “sin which doth so easily beset us”? Is this referring to a specific sin in each of our lives over which we have been unable to get the victory? Possibly, but I believe it is most likely referring to the sin of unbelief, failing to lay hold of God’s promises by faith. It was unbelief that kept some of the children of Israel from entering into the promised land of Canaan (Heb. 3:19). Unbelief keeps our eyes focused on ourselves and the circumstances instead of on the Lord. We must cast away our unbelief by crying out, “…Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief,” as the father of the child with the deaf and dumb spirit did in Mark 9:24, so that Jesus could heal him.
A time of casting away is obviously necessary, but there are also some times in the Scripture where we have been advised “to keep”, or to “hold fast” certain things which are important to us spiritually. Let us first look at Prov. 4:13: “Take fast hold of instruction: let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.” This is, of course, speaking of the wise instruction which can only be found in the Word of God, and is able to bring life. Not all instruction which we are given is wise, and so it must be measured against God’s Word, as Paul tells us in I Thess. 5:21: “Prove all things; hold fast [keep] that which is good.” It is not good unless it agrees with God’s Word. If it does not agree, then it must be “cast away.”
Paul warns the young minister, Timothy, in II Tim. 1:13-14, to shun such false teaching and to “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me…That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” We, too, must be sure to hold fast and “to keep” securely the sound words of the apostle Paul, for they will instruct us in the path of life.
And lastly, Jesus Christ, Himself, the Righteous Judge, who was seen by John in Rev. 1:13-18, warns the overcomers in Rev. 3:11 to “…hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” To what crown is He referring? Paul declares to Timothy, shortly before his execution, in II Tim. 4:7-8, “I have fought a good fight…I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
It is therefore “a time to keep.” A time to keep running the race, to “hold fast” to the truth of the Word of God, and to the promise of the coming of the Lord, so that we, like Paul, may also receive our crown.