As I read Ecclesiastes 5:1-3 this morning, I could not help but feel this was timely in the light of our current cultural and social environment. Ecclesiastes 5:2 was especially instructional, Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. To all the Christians out there, remember who is in control. Nothing you can say outside of love will ever change someone else’s opinion. Only God can truly change people through the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Prayer and trust in God is more effective than yelling at someone on social media. God is in control no matter what you think and feel.
As I was reading this morning, I allowed myself to get caught up in a very distracting issue. It annoyed me and instead of walking away, I decided to engage. Two minutes later I read Ecclesiastes 4:6 and was immediately convicted, Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind. Reaching for your pound of flesh when things don’t go your way will ultimately result in little to no satisfaction. It is much more fruitful to reach for peace than it is to get the last word. I recently turned 50, but it is apparent I have along way to go before I am truly wise.
Our significance comes from God. All of us start the same way and none of us get out of this life alive. In Ecclesiastes 3:20 Solomon says, All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Even the richest man to ever live ended up returning to dust from which he came. This is not said to discourage, but to encourage us and remind us that the impact we have in this life lives on when we trust in God and follow his ultimate plan. Our impact lives as we take part in His perfect plan and are willing to be used by him.
There is a saying we are all familiar with, “Timing is everything”, and in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 Solomon clearly gives us hope to know God has a perfect plan for those who believe and follow Him.
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
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 from embracing,
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.
God’s plan and timing are perfect. The key is to learn to find peace and comfort in waiting on God’s plan. It may not be what we want at the time, but it is perfect.
It is interesting to think about what satisfies us. Is it our accomplishments? Or maybe it is in our relationships. But if we are honest, any satisfaction we feel is only temporary. In Ecclesiastes 2:11 Solomon says, Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. When you survey where you invest your life (time, energy, and money), how long does the sense of accomplishment last? Are we chasing after something we can never truly grasp, like the wind? Our only true sense of satisfaction and self-worth comes from God and His love for us. At the end of our lives let us look back with satisfaction that we made a difference and impacted lives for the kingdom of God.
As we begin the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon shares his mindset in Ecclesiastes 1:2, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” These words came from a man who literally had everything. Even after he had mastered everything anyone could every want, he realized it meant nothing in the end. I think one of the biggest realizations for Solomon was what really mattered in life is not new. The desires of our heart are the same throughout all generations. The requirements we all have to live our lives and be happy are the same. In Ecclesiastes 1:9 Solomon says, What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Truer words have never been spoken. We all want the same thing whether we lived 3,000 years ago or today. We all want to be loved and respected and feel like our lives mean something. In the end, our lives are meaningless unless they mean something in the light of eternity. Without God and living in accordance to His perfect plan, our lives take on lesser importance. Francis Chan mentions in his book “Crazy Love” that most of us may be remembered by our kids and grand kids. We may even be mentioned to others by our great grand kids. But very few of us will be remembered beyond that. Our hope should be that our lives have an indirect impact on others and the only way that can truly happen is through service that bring people to salvation and an eternal relationship with God.
We finished Ephesians yesterday after several month of leisurely study. I have been thinking about which book of the Bible I would like to study next and Ecclesiastes came to mind. The first time I read the book was while I was reading through the Bible in a year. When I came across this book, I was in awe by the overall theme Solomon was trying to convey to the reader, which is that life is meaningless apart from God. This coming from a man, a ruler, who by all accounts (and even in today’s dollar), would be considered the richest man to ever live. By some calculations Solomon would have been worth over $1.2 Trillion, $40 to $60 Billion in gold alone (depending where you place the value of gold at the time). Somehow, even this man, the wisest and richest among all men clearly states throughout the book of Ecclesiastes that everything is “Meaningless”. I hope to learn more about Solomon and hope to understand his perspective as a man who had everything, but realized all he really needed was God. I’ll begin this study on January 1, 2018.
We can learn a lot from Paul’s final words in his letter to Ephesus. In Ephesians 6:19 he asks for prayer, Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. We all need prayer; even Paul needed it. When we talk about leading a bold and fearless life for Christ, it is important to note it doesn’t come easy unless we have the Holy Spirit helping us. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your fear and ask God to help give you strength. Through Him we can do anything.
In all we do, no matter how small or insignificant, we should approach it with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 10:11 to Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. The Armor of God is outlined in Ephesians 6:14-18, 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Let us remember the importance of including God, through the Holy Spirit, in all we do. His plan is perfect and the more we are guided by God, the smoother the road and understanding of our path.
In today’s passage, Paul references the relationship between a slave and master. While no one wants to think of this type of relationship, the interaction and expected behavior translates well to that a boss/leader and their employees. In Ephesians 6:6 Paul’s instruction to the slave works just as well to an employee, Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. It is less about showing your boss what you are doing right, and more about doing what is right in all circumstances because it shows obedience to Christ. Paul goes onto to talk to Masters and how they are to treat their slaves. Again, this translates well to bosses/leaders. At the end of Ephesians 6:10 Paul reminds them that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. There is not difference in God’s eyes between a master and slave. We are all subordinate to Christ and are all expected to be a reflection of Him.