Thursday, September 1, 2011

Guess What? We Get To Enjoy Things

Ecclesiastes is a comforting book for the Christian, or should be. It can seem different from other books of the Bible (and of course it is) but its message is the same as the whole message of the whole Bible. Like Proverbs, it offers unique insights for gaining true skill in godly living and thinking. For it is a God-breathed collection of Solomon's observations concerning those things in life that are futile, vain and a "striving after wind"; on those things in life that are meaningful and eternal; and on the blessings God has given us in this difficult and fallen world (honest work, the ability to trust and know God, peaceful sleep and freedom from worry). The conclusion of all these observations is to "remember your Creator in the days of your youth... fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). We need this book. It is as necessary for our training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17) as any other book of the Bible.

I love it in part because being inclined to want to worry about tomorrow and miss the blessings of today, it corrects and reproves me in a unique way for doing that. One of my favorite passages:

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart (5:18-20).

These verses come to me as "good news from a far country" (Proverbs 25:25). They are refreshment to my soul, because I have also tended to struggle against accepting my "lot". Even though I profess to believe strongly in the doctrine of a good and wise Creator's providential guidance of my life, my worry and dissatisfaction have often given the lie to the claim of my lips. In addition, I've kept myself so often from the simple enjoyments God so kindly provides.

There are many problems, vexations, sorrows and difficulties in life. There are problems in society and problems in the Church. We should do all the good we can while we have opportunity. Yet these problems always have been, always will be, until the King returns to at last subdue this planet's mad uprising against his good Rule and to take up his throne on a New Earth. Until then, the good news from the far country, the gospel of Christ, gives me rest. It means that because he has given me the gift of knowing God, fearing God, being made right with God and believing God, I can find enjoyment in all the toil with which I shall toil (and I must toil!) under the sun the few days of life he has given me. I won't much remember the evils of life because God keeps me occupied with joy in my heart--if I take this good news seriously.

Yes, Ecclesiastes is a rich book. It describes the reality that is, both the weary futility of a life lived pursuing vain things and the great potential of life when one closely follows the true words of the Preacher. Its truths, when embraced, give rest in the present and hope for eternity to come. Live a faithful life now in the humble fear of the Lord; don't miss and disdain the comforts and joys of the lot in life he has provided you; and wait patiently for the great things to come, for "better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit" (Ecclesiastes 7:8).