1. How would you describe the current phase or season of your life? Not only what it entails, but how you feel about this phase. Consider writing down a few sentences answering this question.
2. Is there a particular phase of life that you can look back on now that was particularly difficult or challenging and see beauty in it? What did you learn during that season and how did it change you?
3. What do you think you complain about the most in your current season? What step can you take today to stop complaining about it and start finding joy in it?
Good morning Hope City! How are you guys doing today? Summer is winding down, but apparently no one told the humidity! I hope you all are enjoying these last few days before school starts up. Except, I know that some of you have been saying ARE WE THERE YET? Is it back to school yet?
Here’s what we know. Everyone asks the question, “ARE WE THERE YET” at some point in time or another. We want to know, when are we going to get THERE. Here’s the universal problem though… The moment we start breathing, the moment we start growing, we are also moving towards the end of our life. We don’t know how long that is, or what that looks like, but let’s for a minute imagine that this rope represents the span of our life. We all start out on one end of the rope, right? And yet, we all want to get THERE. But there is a problem, and that is that THERE is a moving target. It starts off with, I can’t wait to Drive, and quickly becomes I can’t wait for College. Which turns into I can’t wait to get a job. Get married. I can’t wait to Buy a House. Have Kids, get the Kids in School, When will they Graduate school, and finally you’re saying, “How much longer till they’re out of the house?” See, how getting THERE is a moving target?
We all want this to matter and to be enjoyable, and memorable.. And yet we still find ourselves asking, ARE WE THERE YET? We know we’ve got one life, one shot. And to borrow the Phrase from Hamilton, none of us want to “Throw Away Our Shot”.
This past week I took an old backup hard drive that we’ve had for years and I plugged it in and found pictures that we took from when our kids were toddlers. What an experience that was, going back through those pictures. I found some pictures that made me almost tear up… I’d forgotten that phase. I forgot about the little footie pajama’s, and the different moments of those early days of being a new parent. Of course I found some really funny pictures too. Like, there was this phase I went through… This is what I liked to call the Layering Phase. Everything was layered. A collared shirt, with a t-shirt both under and over it. Very cool, very edgy…. J
Then of course there is the Baggy Jeans Phase. They weren’t the baggiest, but there was enough material there.
And of course, we can’t forget about the Plaid Fedora Hat Phase.
When I showed Tiffany these pictures that I found, she looked at me and said, THANK GOD IT WAS JUST A PHASE.
There are many of you who find yourself stuck in a phase that you may not be totally thrilled with. Or maybe you keep looking for the next phase, or wondering when you’ll arrive at the dream phase, or desired phase. A phase is PHASE= a distinct period or stage in the development of your life.
Some of you are Single, and ready to mingle, or single again. And you have been waiting for this phase to come to an end.
Others of you are newly married and you are trying to figure out how this phase works. For some reason it seems to work a little differently than the last ROM COM I saw in the theater.
Maybe some of you are like me, and you’ve got middle schoolers,, or you’ve got high schoolers. We’ll pray for you. Because man… it can be tough to navigate that phase, right?
And then there are those of you in this room who we’re all looking at like, how do we get to that phase? I’m talking about the Empty Nesters. I’m just kidding. But seriously, there are some of you Empty Nesters in here who are saying, I wish that I could go back to this phase or that phase.
Too often we find ourselves asking the wrong question… We end up saying things like, “ARE WE THERE YET?”. And God has something that He would like to say to us this morning, and through this series, no matter what Phase of Life you find yourself in.
I’d love for you to turn with me to Ecclesiastes chapter 3, starting in verse 1. That’s page 456 in the Bible’s around you. Ecclesiastes is the book that we will be going through this entire month in our step reading plan. You’ll see those bookmarks in your programs today. Don’t forget to jump in there and spend some time reading this week. While your turning there, let me give you a little background. Ecclesiastes is written by King David’s son, Solomon. He took over the throne of his father, and inherited a kingdom that was largely well established. This allowed Solomon the opportunity to grow and develop not only the kingdom, but also himself. Guy’s we’re talking about self care and personal development here. Solomon’s figured out his Enneagram number and is now writing the book on it.
Solomon has been considered one of the wisest men in the world. He wrote the book of Proverbs and has studied wisdom. And yet, Ecclesiastes is a different kind of book. It is Solomon taking a look at life, all of life. And you’ll find that he has a pretty unique view on this life. But today we are going to find that Solomon has some wisdom that you and I can apply to the phase of life that we are in. Let’s jump in right here in Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes.
3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
In other words, another way of interpreting this is, there is a PHASE for everything.
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. 
Here we find Solomon writing about 14 opposing ideas, which can be categorized into 6 big ideas. There is a time for Life and Death. There is a time for Emotions, of all kinds. There is a time for Friendship, and Discord. There is a time to Give, and Receive. There is a time for Creativity, and also Destruction. And yes, lastly, there is a time for Love, and Hate. There is a time for EVERYTHING!
Solomon writes all of this within a certain set of parameters though, he says, that these things all have their place, their time, or their phase under heaven. So, the phase that you and I dwell under the heavens, or apart from God’s heaven is where these actions, and feelings are appropriate. It’s a different story when we are present in heaven with God.
Some of you need to hear me say this, that, yes… it won’t always be the way that it is here on earth. One day, when we are in heaven with our Lord, God is going to change everything… the Bible says in Revelation 21 that there will be no more tears, no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, and no more pain. Yes, we long for that day, it is good to long for that day. And yet, we are as Solomon says, in this season under heaven.
And yet, we still have hope. Look at this in verse 9…
9 What does the worker gain from his toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 
Did you catch that? Who has done all of this? Who has established everything under the heavens? God has. Which is why we can confidently say, as Solomon shows us, PT. 1 EVERY PHASE IS GOD’S GIFT. Wait, you’re telling me that me going through financial hardship, losing my business is a gift from God? Or that this phase of teething, slobbering toddlers is a gift from God? It feels a bit more like the awkward sweater your great aunt bought you for Christmas. You’re casually looking around for the gift receipt. How do I exchange this one… right?
Solomon accurately points out that who can fathom what God has done from the beginning to the end. It’s hard to put it into perspective, when we think about the entirety of the universe working at the same time. We have a hard time managing our own calendar let alone the entire universe.
This may require a shift in your outlook. If we believingly accept life as a gift, we will have a better attitude towards life’s burdens. However, if we grudgingly accept life as a burden than we will most certainly miss the gifts that come our way. We’ve said this in the past, and yet, it is so applicable here too… Outlook helps to determine outcome.
Solomon must have learned this from the pages of his father David’s journal, which you and I call the Psalms… Look at what David wrote in Psalm 90:12
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
In other words, God help us see that every day is a gift from you, and that way we can look at things with the proper outlook. Too often we take a look at each of the phases, and we say, Well I’m a pretty good mom, or I’m a pretty good employee, or I’m a pretty good student, and we say I’ve mastered this phase, and yet, why am I still in it? I almost feel stuck. Well let me remind you that you can master many things, but time will always be a master of you. Change your outlook, consider EVERY PHASE A GIFT FROM GOD.
And yet, it’s as if Solomon knows that we are going to have a problem with that. Which is why he reiterates this concept in Verse 11,
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
There are things that are made beautiful in time. The phase of life that you’re in is not only a gift, it is beautiful. PT. 2 EVERY PHASE IS APPROPRIATELY BEAUTIFUL. It may not look beautiful right now, but it is a work in progress. You may say, Peter, this phase is the worst. I’m divorced, single parenting, and overworked… where’s the beauty in that? The beauty may not be revealed yet. It still may be taking shape. Remember, we’re the ones asking the question, Are we There Yet? God isn’t wondering when we’re going to move on to the next phase. We are!
As I was looking through the hard drive of pictures I came across this picture here. This was my first youth group that I had the privilege of pastoring. But do you know what, it didn’t feel like a privilege. It was a small church, made up of mostly retired people, and I was supposed to be the YOUTH PASTOR. Where all the Youth’s at? My office was a closet in the hallway that they kept the old copier in that didn’t work. I used to use the drawers of the copy machine as my desk drawers. At least it was good for something. It had old wood paneling and carpet that hadn’t been cleaned in 30 years. I remember complaining… waiting for this phase to be over. When will I have a respectable job where people respected me?
Well after 11 years of doing student ministry I applied to be a campus pastor at Liquid Church, and I was hired… … to be an associate campus pastor. L I served at the Broadcast Campus of the church under the lead pastor, and the teaching pastor there. So, it was pretty safe to say, my job was to put bible’s out on chairs, and make sure that someone collected the offering.
Again, I found myself in a place where I wanted this phase to be over. I wasn’t getting along with my boss, and I actually couldn’t stand him. Pretty sure, he couldn’t stand me either to be fair. We went through some significant ups and downs together. When is this phase going to be over? Oh yeah, do you know who my boss was? None other than the Big Hair, Don’t Care… Tom Kang. Let me tell you what is significant about this.
Many of you know Pastor Tom not as the Former Liquid Church Teaching Pastor; or the New Story LA Lead Pastor, but even more closely connected to Hope City as one of our Overseers who help govern and lead our church. If you want to talk about how every phase is appropriately beautiful, let me point you to this story. The moment I got out from under Tom’s authority, I ran baby. I didn’t look back. And here we are 6 years later and I’m inviting him to once again be in authority over me as an overseer here at Hope City Church. There are few things more beautiful to me than this picture right here. (Tom & Peter) God can take any phase and in HIS TIME make it beautiful.
Some of you need to stop rushing the clock, and let the beauty reveal itself to you. Don’t miss out on the beauty because you’re trying to skip ahead. How long will it take? I don’t know, but you can trust the one that does know, and the one that is in control.
Remember, PT. 2 EVERY PHASE IS APPROPRIATELY BEAUTIFUL. Here’s what I’m not saying… Don’t worry, be Happy. We’re not basing our theology on Bob Marley… Relax… What we are saying is that we need to have faith in someone, not something. Not faith in beauty. Not faith in happiness. We are placing our faith in the Lord, because faith is only as good as the object of that faith, and the greatest object of faith is God. Some of you are placing your hope in the wrong things. You’re placing your hope in your own strength and abilities. Your ability to advance in your career is not going to necessarily equate to advanced joy. Trust God that He has made every phase appropriately beautiful.
Solomon writes the entire book of Ecclesiastes and gets to the very end of it and reveals something significant, and I want to bring us to the end of the book because it helps us get perspective on the whole book. He says,
13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 
Here’s a guy who studied every aspect of life, every phase of life, and has said, there is a time for everything, there is a season for everything, or a phase for everything. And here’s why… He boils it down to 2 things… to Fear God, and Keep His Commandments. In other words, PT. 3 EVERY PHASE IS PURPOSE FULL.
It doesn’t matter what phase of life you’re in, it is FILLED with Purpose. To those that are single in this room, or single again… this phase is filled with purpose! You are not more important when you are married, or in another phase. To our newly weds, you better believe that God has put purpose in your life and it’s not just to be fruitful and multiply!
You parents, what greater purpose can you imagine than loving, training, and encouraging this next generation to know and love Jesus and follow in His ways?
All of you empty Nesters, Double Incomes No Kids, Grandparents, and Retirees… Your phase doesn’t get a pass on purpose. EVERY PHASE IS PURPOSE FULL, it is filled with purpose!
Solomon says that we should fear God… not like run and hide out of fear, but Fear God out of awe for who He is and what He has done. The more you move through the phases of your life, the more you recognize just how incredible God is. So cultivate a healthy fear, or awe for the Lord. Practice this…
The other thing Solomon says fills our Phase with Purpose is to Keep God’s Commandments. Sometimes we wonder why our lives feel so mundane and meaningless, I wonder if it’s because we’ve minimized God’s influence and His voice in our lives. There is nothing greater, nor more exciting than following the voice of the Lord, and His instructions.
It all boils down to this. LIFE IS JUST A PHASE. DON’T MISS IT. Here’s the reality… You life, and mine… is just a fiber in this rope stretched across this stage. This rope represents days past, and days in the future. Imagine what God has been doing from the beginning. Solomon reminds us of that. Our minds can’t comprehend that, and yet God has put Eternity in our hearts. For some reason He has put in us the idea that we are going to live on forever. It just won’t be forever here on earth. Life is just a phase… DON”T MISS IT!
If you want to know how to not miss it, try doing these three things this week.
- Stop Complaining about your phase. What if we stopped complaining about what we don’t have and enjoyed what we do have and were grateful for it! Can you imagine what would change in us?
- Start Finding Joy in your phase. Joy isn’t hiding, but it is waiting to be found.
- Seek Opportunities to Benefit Others through your phase. The most meaningful times of life are when you are meaningfully connected to God and others. And what better way to do that than by serving, and benefitting others?
Life is a series of Phases, God given, Beautiful, Purpose Full phases. Don’t Miss It.