Waiting For The Perfect Moment

Sermon Text– 12.08.2019
[Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 and Luke 1:28-38]
          I love a good proposal story. Guys all nervous, girl’s all excited. Surprise, Ring, happiness, etc, etc. So I asked permission, and I’d like to start this sermon by telling you our proposal story – how I asked my incredible girlfriend to become my wife. Now at this time, I was living in Chicago – I’d already started my first semester of Seminary. Sara was still living in Grand Rapids, we were doing long distance relationship – which was rough. And we’d talked about marriage, so we knew where we were headed as a couple, as a relationship. So I didn’t really have the element of surprise, which is really my favorite part of the whole thing. And I was pretty confident that she would say yes, but I still wanted there to be a surprise. So I organized a surprise party celebrating our engagement, which would start right after the proposal – really banking on her saying yes. Now, in Grand Rapids that weekend there was this huge art festival called Art Prize. My excuse for coming into town was – we’ll go to see the art festival together. She was living with a couple of roommates. And so the plan was we would go out to dinner, proposal, come back – friends and family, big surprise party – lots of fun. I had the ring, I had the parent’s permission – I was ready. So it was supposed to be a big date night. Got all dressed up, got my fedora – cause I’m ridiculous like that, put my suit on – and realized the box is really bulky – she would see it. So I took the ring out of the box and put it in my pocket. For those of you who know my history of dropping rings – this is a bad idea. But we made it. Saw some art, and then we went to Sara’s favorite Sushi place downtown Grand Rapids. And I’ll tell you what – it is so awkward, sitting there with a ring in your pocket. How do you have a conversation when the only thing you can think about is, “when do I do it? when am I supposed to do this? When do I do it?” over and over in your head. Do I put it in her food – that’s gross. Do I put it in her drink – what if she swallows it? Do I get down on one knee – what if I drop it? I kept waiting for the perfect moment, and before you know it, the meal’s over – and I hadn’t asked yet. And I didn’t want it to be rushed, but I really need to ask this question – I got a whole house full of people waiting on us.
          So before we head to the car, I suggest – why don’t we go for a walk? We’ll see some more art displays, walk down by the river – which is really beautiful if you’re ever down in Grand Rapids. So I’ve got all the pieces, but it never felt right – I just kept waiting for the perfect moment. Finally, we get to a stretch of sidewalk down by the river, and it hits me. I know what to say. I turn to Sara and I say, “Do you recognize this place?” She looks around. “You don’t recognize this place?” No, should I? I look at her and I say, “This is the place where I ask you to marry me.” And before that sinks in fully, I’m down on one knee. And here we are today. Waiting for the perfect moment wasn’t going to work – we have to make the moments perfect. Today is part two of our Christmas series called Advent Wisdom. Today we continue our study of King Solomon and his wisdom – today we are talking about timing. Timing is an interesting topic because there’s no limit to our application – this affects every single part of lives. 


          So we get into our scripture lesson for today which starts with, [read v1]. Throw your bread in the water – what? I thought that was sort of an odd thing to say, and so I checked some other translations. One said, “send your grain over the seas, and profits will flow back to you.” – which is way easier to understand. But even still, it’s sort of a weird thing for Solomon to be giving us international trade advice. The writer of Ecclesiastes, we call him the Teacher, some say it was Solomon. The teacher was not a farmer. He was not a trader, a deal maker. Solomon is using the metaphor of trade to make a point. You put something out there, you plant seeds, tomorrow you get the return, the harvest. This is just solid advice for everything we do in life. They could be talking about actual planting, they could be talking about ministry and reaching out to other people, they could be talking about raising your kids, or reaching out to a friend or the actual work you put into your job. Live your life in such a way that tomorrow – or five years from now or 20 years from now, you’ll be grateful to the younger you. It continues, [read v2]. Basically what he’s saying is to divide your profits into different places. Like diversifying a portfolio. This is very simple advice, plant your seeds – but don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Life requires balance. A great example of this is exercise – working out, taking care of your body. If you only exercise one side of your body, that will be all healthy and beefy and muscular – and you will literally be living a lop-sided life. Beyond just exercise, bodily health is not just one category – it’s what you do, it’s what you eat, it’s how you rest. Divide your investments among many places.
          We keep reading, [read v3-4]. It sounds kind of deep and intellectual, but actually this is just really basic wisdom. If you wait for the wind, or the clouds – you’ll never get the planting done. Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. You can’t wait for the perfect moment – you have to make the moment’s perfect. And this goes way beyond farming – think about it, when is the right time to go and change your life? Right now. When is the right time to talk about that thing you’ve been meaning to talk to that friend about? Right now. When is the right time to try and fix your connection to your kid? Right now. If you wait for perfect weather, you’ll never plant. If you never plant, you never harvest. Wayne Gretzky’s famous quote, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” Solomon’s advice – don’t wait for the perfect moment. Make the moment’s perfect. This is huge – I’m not saying don’t consider all your options, take your time and think it through. But after you’ve done the due diligence – go! Don’t wait, get out there and DO something!

          So we switch over to our second scripture lesson for today, and we want to stop in on the story of Jesus. It’s a well known story – the angel telling Mary she’s pregnant, but I want us to read it keeping timing in mind. Because what I found this past week is that God chose the most inconvenient timing ever, and I think he did it on purpose. [read v.31-34]. How can this happen, I’m still a virgin. Not just a virgin, but an engaged virgin. There’s a man in her life, Joseph. If God had chosen her before she got engaged – it would have been a miracle, but Jesus might have grown up without a human father figure. Would Joseph have agreed to marry a woman already pregnant with a mystery father? If it had been a couple months the other way – that would have solved the problem too. I wonder if Mary thought about that, “Oh man! If God could have waited just a couple months, maybe a year – nobody would be suspicious or upset. My fiancée wouldn’t be trying to dump me.” Such inconvenient timing. And not just the whole virgin thing, but why this time of year? Honestly a couple of months one way or the other and there wouldn’t have been a giant census going on at the same time. The timing of this whole story was terrible. They could have had a hotel room, maybe even a doctor – if God had just waited a couple of months. But God didn’t wait for the perfect moment. He took the moment that was there, and made it perfect. Mary’s response at the end of the day, [read 38]. This timing sure seems inconvenient – but God can work with inconvenient.

          The good news for us this morning is that God perfects each moment. Ecclesiastes verse 5 tells us [read it]. Simply put – I do not understand God’s timing. We cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. Let me ask you a question – do you believe in coincidences? It’s a honest question. When I was younger – I believed some things just happen. But the longer I’ve been in ministry – the more I’ve started to realize and watch as all the pieces fall together. Maybe some is coincidence, but man it’s hard to believe in that. Here’s an example. The story of baby Grayson. At my previous church, there was a baby born VERY premature in a really bad place. He was supposed to be born after my son Liam, but instead came two weeks ahead of my son. They had to evac hi down to Ann Arbor, basically since the day he was born with the mother – Kaitlyn. They were downstate for months. Then he needed a heart transplant. And every day he was getting a little bit better – but it was a long journey. One of the toughest things was for that the mother Kaitlyn to be so far away from home. So the family asked me to look into who are the Methodist Pastors in that area? Who could be the support system, to visit or whatever? When they were in the UP they were surrounded by the church and the family – a lot of love. But they were talking about leaving the hospital, but they have to stay close to Ann Arbor. In his condition they couldn’t be far away from his doctors in Ann Arbor. So they found Kaitlyn an apartment in a nearby city called Waterford, Mi. It’s not that close, but it was less than an hour away. There was a Methodist Church in Waterford that could probably help out. They have a pretty good pastor, his name is Pastor Jack, but I just call him Dad. What a coincidence.
          Another coincidence that I hear all the time is these sermons. People ask me all the time, “Did you know about my situation? That I would be here today?” What are the odds that that person’s schedule would free up on this week just so they could hear these words. I realized that some people think the whole sermon speaking to your heart is just me being clever. That’s ridiculous. I am not that clever. I wish. Let me pop that bubble right now. I put my sermon series together a year in advance, because I like to plan ahead. I already have all the sermons from now until June planned out – not written, but planned out. I have no idea what’s going to happen each week. So if you ever think – wow, that what I needed to hear in this time, in this place. That’s not me. I am just not that good at my job. The timing is ALL God. Do you believe in coincidence?

          We cannot understand the activity of God who does all things. Ecclesiastes continues, [read v6]. The core message for today is that God perfects each moment, and what that means for us is that we need to get to work. Don’t wait for the perfect moment – make the moment perfect. We can’t know which things in our lives God will choose to use for his purpose. Indecision will paralyze us. It will keep us from doing anything. A lot of times it’s fear of doing or saying the wrong thing that keeps us frozen, unable to move to help anyone. We are afraid of negatively affecting someone – and so we can’t decide what to do, and so we just do nothing. Indecision paralyzes us. But the teacher in Ecclesiastes says, don’t worry about it. You can’t know if profit comes from one activity or the other – or maybe both.

          In the morning sow your seed and at evening withhold not your hand. Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon. Do something with your life. Let me see if I can explain it like this. Imagine you had a bank that credited your account each morning with $86,000 that carried over no balance from day to day – what would you do? They let you keep no cash in your account at the end. Every night they cancelled whatever part of the amount you failed to use during the day. They give you $86,000 every single day, but you can’t keep anything you don’t use – what would you do? You would draw out every cent every day and put it to good use! Use what you’ve been given! Well there is such a bank, and we call it time. Every morning you get a deposit of 86,400 seconds. There’s no carry over balance, there’s no overdraft. Each day you get a new account. If you fail to use the day’s deposit – to spend your time, the loss is yours. There is no going back, there’s no drawing against tomorrow. Spend your time wisely. There’s this quote out there, but anonymous so I don’t know who to give credit that says, “we master our minutes, or we become slaves to them; we use time or time uses us.” Which would you rather have? Plant your seed in the morning, and keep busy all afternoon. This is our application – get out there and do something with the time you have. We can’t wait for the perfect moment – that’s the path to nothing, to wasting time waiting for something that doesn’t exist. Don’t wait for the perfect moment, make the moment perfect.

          But of course as soon as we say that – the questions start in. But what if…? All the fear and indecisive insecurities – what if I do the wrong thing, what if I say the wrong thing, what if I plant the wrong seed at the wrong time at the wrong place? What if I fail? Yes, that’s very possible. I want take a moment and recognize those fears – that’s legitimate. I do not want this call to action to be a call to careless action. We should move forward with wisdom – don’t be rash or cavalier. Do your due diligence, and once that’s done – act on it. Do your best, and trust God’s timing for the rest. We give it everything we’ve got, and leave the rest to God. There’s this pastor named Francis Chan – and he points out how paralyzed the people in churches are today. Every week we consume knowledge, more and more every week. Like food, we do bible studies, and sermons, and read Christians books and listen to podcasts – we eat and eat and eat – but our biggest need is to do something. We don’t need another feast on doctrine, we need to work off the teachings we’ve already consumed. So many of us – we won’t do anything outside of our comfort zone unless God literally steps out of heaven and tells us to. We are so afraid of doing the wrong thing that we default to negligence. Francis Chan says, “Why not default to action until you hear a voice from heaven telling you to wait?” We do our best, and trust God for the rest.


          [read Eccles v.5] Six years ago, I asked my best friend to become my wife. If I’d waited for the perfect moment, I’d still be standing on that sidewalk by the river – and we’d be really late to that party. We can’t know how far the ripples of our actions will go – we can only dive in head-first and trust God with timing. And so I’ll leave you with this, May you stop waiting for the perfect moment in whatever you do. May you give it over to God, plant your seeds and let him perfect every moment. Amen.

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