Below is a sermon outline on Ecclesiastes 9:11. It is inspired by a sermon on the same text by Thomas Manton.
I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, and the battle is not to the strong, and neither is bread to the wise, nor wealth to the discerning, nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.
1. The accurate observation: I again saw under the sun
2. The result of this observation
A. Negatively, in five particulars:
1. The race is not to the swift
2. Nor the battle to the strong
3. Nor the bread to the wise
4. Nor wealth to the discerning
5. Nor favor to men of ability
B. Positively: But time and chance overtake them all
1. Time, God has allotted a certain time to every purpose and action.
2. Chance, i.e., Occurrence. (1 Kings 5:4) Hebrew: pega
The success is such as the counsel of God has foreordained, yet to us it seems to be a mere chance. Things casual to us are counsels to Him.
Two false interpretations of these words:
1. Solomon is not being Epicurean or atheistic. His preface is prefixed to his observations about the vanity of worldly things.
2. Solomon is not teaching Blind Fortune. The word rendered “chance” is better rendered “occurrence. It may be chance to men, but it is providence to God who “works all things after the counsel of His will.”
From the whole we find that those most fitted, prepared and diligent are frustrated of that which they so earnestly intended and hoped for.
1. Ignorance or inadvertency.
2. God can easily place some impediment on the inside or outside to hinder us.
A. Inside: He can damage our powers or obstruct their use. He did not destroy the power of the fire in the furnace, but He suspended the burning.
B. Outside: He can cast in some casual event which we could not have foreseen.
3. The best of God’s servants often provoke Him to disappoint them because they place too much confidence in themselves.
To say and do, or to make a thing to be, is the act and name of Jehovah and He will not share His glory with another. Lam. 3:37 - Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?
This teaches us:
1. The nothingness of the creature and the all-sufficiency of God.
A. This is a great spiritual lesson
1. By way of comparison with God – Only God’s name is I AM. There is none besides Him. All creatures are reckoned as nothing
2. By way of exclusion of God – As all creatures are reckoned as nothing in comparison with God, by exclusion of God, they really are nothing. He not only made them all but holds them in existence. This is true both physically and spiritually.
3. By way of opposition to God – “All they that were incensed against thee shall be shall be as nothing” Isaiah 49:11
B. It establishes our dependence on God. Rom 4:17, 18.
C. It is intended to show us that without God, all is futility. We should not rely on our skills and talents.
2. In the lottery of human affairs we should look after surer comforts.
3. God should be sought in all our plans regarding our future.
A. What good are our efforts without God? Proverbs 16:13
B. When we have done our duty, we can quietly refer the success to God.
4. The wisest and best men must not expect to always be happy, but should prepare themselves for adverse circumstances.
5. We must beware of self-confidence. “The battle is the Lord’s.” He sometimes delights to thwart us to maintain His right when we rely too much upon our own strength.
6. The most able and skillful are hereby kept humble.
A. Before the event
B. After the event
7. To prevent discouragement of those who are lesser talented. “LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many or with them that have no power.” 2 Chron. 14:11. God often passes over the wise and powerful and gets Himself the most glory by protecting the weak.
The sum of this all is – Let us bear all things that befall us as from the wise hand of the Lord’s providence and encourage ourselves in His all-sufficiency in all obstacles and difficulties.