Ecclesiastes

Tuesday Devotional: Ecclesiastes 2

bibleRead Ecclesiastes 2

So much of our pursuit of happiness depends on steps we’ve yet to take, goals we’ve yet to reach and places we’ve yet to go.  So much of our pursuit of happiness depends on future things.  But how often have we seen people leave this world earlier than expected?  How often have we witnessed a person die before ever reaching their full potential?  Although all evidence points toward the fleeting nature of this world, we stubbornly commit to finding security in this world and true happiness from that security.

If someone were to come to you and tell you that they’ve found the secret to true happiness, what would you do?  You would ask that person, “What is it?  What is the secret?”  And what if that person responded by saying, “The secret of happiness is simply to submit your life to a greater authority than yourself that can lead you in the way of true happiness.  A life of complete submission and sacrifice of yourself for others, and a complete restructuring of your heart for His.”  Would you continue the conversation?  Would you ask more questions?

The truth is, while happiness will always elude us while we pursue the things of this world, it is obtainable at this very moment in Jesus Christ.  The happiness you feel in having a large savings in the bank account you can have forever, knowing that in Jesus Christ we have been promised security and peace in the Kingdom of God.  The happiness you feel in buying something new you can have forever, knowing that our truest value is in understanding that you are known and loved by the Creator of everything you can see.  The happiness you feel in getting yourself in peak physical fitness you can have now and forever, knowing that our eternal life with God will be in spiritual bodies more perfect than anything we can ever achieve in this life.  Our unhappiness is not a problem that we are meant to or ever will solve.  The problem of our unhappiness has been solved by Jesus Christ.  Our job is to investigate the truth of His claims and once we’ve found it, to believe.  Happiness is meant to be found now, not later.  It is ours to take and ours to own.  Will you take it?  And if not, do you know why?

ASK: Ecclesiastes 4

This update is from a recent meeting of ASK Daegu. Each member contributed something to the message that follows. We pray that our group encourages you in the same way that it encouraged all of us.

Read Ecclesiastes 4 here.

“For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why do we live in a way that isolates us?  Why do we live in a way that causes division?  Why do we live in a way that serves ourselves, all the while fostering the suffering and oppression of others?

From the beginning, the lie of Satan– that we were created not to submit to God but to escape his oppressive presence and in turn be gods unto ourselves– has successfully deprived people of the enjoyment they were created to have, and led them into a life of oppression, toil and friendlessness.  In the position of God we assume the roles of creator and judge.  From this lofty and isolated throne we cast out judgment that only we can meet and create a world grounded in the criticism of what others do and the envy of what they have that we do not.  As God and therefore, Creator, we are left to our own power and will to create for ourselves “joy.”  The lie is that we can.  The truth is that, as a result of sin, our hearts are created to be fulfilled by God alone, and are hopelessly weak and depleted when fed by anything but him.

One goal is achieved and another, slightly higher, appears.  One good day is overshadowed by the new day, which presents the same (or even more) obstacles than the last, poised to thwart yesterday’s satisfaction.  But the persistent, relentless push of this lie convinces us that joy can be be attained, that the problem does not rest in the self but in the distraction of others and that their presence interferes with our attainment of true happiness.

When we take this place of counterfeit deity, the true nature of God is entirely beyond our reach.  The triune God of creation has always known fellowship. He can profess being in His very nature, love.  As creations made in His image, we were created, not only for fellowship with our creator, but also with one another through the love of the Father.  This fellowship is where “joy” is found, the joy that God has always desired for us.  This joy neither feeds the self, nor divides the whole.  This joy does not create toil, oppression or friendlessness, as the lie of Satan ultimately will.  This joy found in the Father and in the gospel of Jesus Christ promises peace, freedom and love.  We, as humans, have never demonstrated that we can hold the place of God.  Why do we do this to ourselves?

Tuesday Devotional: Ecclesiastes 3

bibleThere is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

15 Whatever is has already been,
    and what will be has been before;
    and God will call the past to account.

16 And I saw something else under the sun: In the place of judgment—wickedness was there, in the place of justice—wickedness was there.
17 I said to myself,
“God will bring into judgment
both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
    a time to judge every deed.”
18 I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”
22 So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work,because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?

The older we become, the more complex we find our lives to be.  With each passing year we come to the realization that life as we knew it is far more complicated and delicate than we had once envisioned.  While in childhood we saw one or two directions that life could follow, we come to find out that these two simple directions branch out into hundreds of smaller ones that we often have difficulty navigating through.  However, as we grow older we are also brought into levels of blessing that were unthinkable as a child, and many come to the understanding that life is more precious than we’d thought and far shorter than we’d like.  Throughout life we learn that while we all encounter moments and situations that were less than desirable at the time, all of them held value from a holistic perspective.  If life was simple when we were children, life was also incomplete, lacking the experience of life’s subtle intricacies that include the “good” and the “bad.”  As one comes into a greater understanding of God and how he views our lives and world we live in, we discover that he desires two things for all of us.  First, he desires that we use this life.   If we view only the “good” moments in our lives as useful, we will never understand the journey or the story he has created for us to experience.  For example, if one watches a movie only for the “good” moments that we like, we’ll never finish an entire movie and will never understand the ones we start but never finish.  Second, God desires that we enjoy this creation that he has put us in the middle of.  While we share humbling similarities to the animals that we share this planet with, we will always have something they don’t.  Our hearts long for more, long to reach farther than we see possible in this life because we were created by the One who originally created us to experience and have those things for which our hearts ultimately long.  Receiving joy in this world is not receiving joy about this world.  Receiving joy means finding meaning in the One who placed us here, to be used by Him and to be thankful for what He daily gives us.