In our latest sermon series, here, we have been examining the massive difference a believer has in outlook on the meaning of life and the valuation of life. As we walk through Ecclesiastes, the author of the book, weaves through different observations about life. He chronicles his vision of life throughout his life. Some days he reasons from an “under the sun” perspective. The phrase “under the sun” occurs 29x in the book. “Under the sun” is a phrase to describe observing life as if God didn’t exist. At other points, the clouds part, and the author begins to consider life again from an “above the sun” perspective. “Above the sun,” in contrast, is when the author begins to think in a wise manner again (Proverbs 1:7) as he considers God is in heaven and he is but a creature on earth, God names all things that have been, etc.
In the year of a pandemic, Christians know that only an “above the sun” perspective can bring us peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Our media and phones continue to point us to danger, we are encouraged to keep our distance from people and fear the unknown, and to cover our faces. In light of the fear and how none of us has made it through this, I have especially been encouraged by reading dead people, especially Christian pastors, scholars, historians, and missionaries who have had to reason from an above the sun perspective throughout their lives, but because they are distant from my current experience, their vision is not as clouded as ours may be. Of course, sometimes ancient authors have blind spots we don’t have. But one of the most refreshing truths in ancient authors is to read things that you expect. God’s truth is God’s truth and it never changes. Fearful Christians have been trusting in the same gospel that I am and made it work. J. Gresham Machen, who died in the 1930s once wrote in his book, What is Faith?, “The world is full of dread, mysterious powers; they touch us already in a thousand woes. But from all of them, we are safe.” Machen was right!
Machen, like all of us, was not shielded from sickness or oppression. He contracted an illness while traveling and died suddenly. Yet, he is safe at home with the Lord, and the Holy Spirit uses the recorded bible teaching and writings he left behind as helps for other pilgrims today. Though we face dread, mysterious, and a thousand woes, we need not fear, because we are safe in Christ. This is faith exercised.