“Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is for one to eat and drink, and to find enjoyment in all the labor in which he labors under the sun all the days which God gives him—for this is his [allotted] part. Also, every man to whom God has given riches and possessions, and the power to enjoy them and to accept his appointed lot and to rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God [to him].” Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 ->me: Before this verse there are 8 verses (10-17) that characterize the secular pursuit of wealth -> self-damaging, sorrowful, days of vexation, and loss of sleep. God gives a different kind of wealth and power -> the wealth and power of enjoyment. Our choice rests in the acceptance of the style of life God apportions to us and the God-given nature of all wealth. I must be in control of my attitude to wealth rather than my attitude of wealth being in control of me (Philippians 4:12-13). The worldly person may live a life of drudgery; but for the God-centered man it will be very different. It is not that a God-centered life will be so quiet that nothing memorable happens but that life will be so preoccupied with hope in eternity with Him that the vanity of life will be almost forgotten. Not entirely forgotten since life’s brevity is still kept in mind, but not so much so as to lose sleep. God, help me to control my attitude toward earthly provisions. You have blessed my family and I with so much – help me to continually stay engaged in your plan to gather to yourself the lot of nations before your Son returns. My problems are so small compared to the solution of Your grace and mercy.
Ben’s QTVOTD – “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver, nor he who loves abundance with gain. This also is vanity (emptiness, falsity, and futility)! When goods increase, they who eat them increase also. And what gain is there to their owner except to see them with his eyes?” Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 ->me: Wow – this is super applicable to the discussion I was having with a co-worker who also happens to be a great friend, and man of God. We were talking about the struggles of pursuing desires in our career in a self-sufficient way rather than leaning on the Lord to show us the path He has set before us. We were thinking back to our early careers and how we push push push for the next promotion only to find that the next promotion was almost within reach. We also talked about the difference between God given desires of the heart and covetousness for what we see in the experiences, skillsets, or activities of other people. Contentment is not the absence of desire but the absence of ‘the need for more’. Have you ever played with a magnet to see how close you could get it to a ferrous object before it snapped to it? I believe our desires are like a magnet – they are set and ready to married to the purposes and will God has for us but we can get reckless with how close we get that desire to things this world pushes in front of us. Once that desire is snapped to a worldly option it may block the super ferrous nugget God had for you. Hold onto your desires but don’t let the over aggressiveness of fulfilling those desires clog up your magnet before the Lord has brought along what He has for you.
“When you vow a vow or make a pledge to God, do not put off paying it; for God has no pleasure in fools (those who witlessly mock Him). Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.” Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 ->me: I did a lot of reading across the Thompson Chain reference on ‘Vows’ (Examples of, Sacred, etc.) A couple of things are very clear. Vows are voluntary. Vows are a sign of dedication to the Lord and acknowledgement that He is Lord of your life. Making vows is serious business and when you make a vow to the Lord, you must pay it and pay it in short order; as this passage warns. God takes pleasure in those who make and return on their vows to Him. A vow can be a promise to do something. It can be a dedication of my children or fruits of my labor. It can be a statement of allegiance to do something in my life for God (think of the call and answer to be a pastor or missionary). I must be careful -> I must know and believe the vow I am making is something I can complete. There is a danger in using vows as bribery to the Lord for Him to do something. However, I have seen examples in the bible where someone has said -> Lord if you do this I will do that…and it happens (Numbers 21:2). The one time I did this was when Marianne was in the hospital and not is good shape with the Hanta Virus. I made some vows then that I am just now following through on.
“For a dream comes with much business and painful effort, and a fool’s voice with many words.” Ecclesiastes 5:3 ->me: This verse follows yesterday’s verse on being concise in your prayer and in reverence of Who God is. Today’s verse caught me off guard because the first part about ‘dreaming’ is exactly what I do!!!! What the first part of this verse is saying is that it is likely that impatience in prayer can be due to a ‘multitude of business’ going on in one’s mind (causing daydreaming). Heavy responsibility is going to hinder a person’s concentration and lead to impatience in prayer. When I recognize this most, in my own life, is when I am driving home from work. Usually I listen to a John Piper or Tony Evans sermon on the way into work and then ‘try’ and pray on the way home. However, there are days (many) where I can’t concentrate on my prayer to save my life. My mind keeps jumping to this and that; right in the middle of me praying. I catch myself saying ‘Stop it, Ben!! Concentrate! Lord, please forgive me for not giving You my full attention.” Moving forward I plan to swap these things around -> pray on the way to work and listen to a sermon on the way home. This has the added benefit of saturating my mind at the beginning of the day, in communion with the Almighty, so that I can be prepared by putting on the full armor.
“Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter a word before God. For God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:2 ->me: Careless words are a reflection of the inner life; it is the heart that speaks forth a word. Heaven is a reminder to us of God’s greatness -> the location of His glory. Even the Lord’s Prayer in Mark 11:35 says to pray “our Father Who is in heaven…”. Thinking before I pray is huge and I also try to correct immediately if I sense I am being different with my words than what I feel in my heart. Here are the things I ask myself -> Is what I am saying in my prayer true to what is in my heart and what I know to please the Lord? Am I using wit or buzz words to impress God or others (…put a hedge of protection around…rather than the normal way to say -> God please protect them). Am I limiting God by questioning His actions or allowing something to happen? So, here are my thoughts on prayer: Let the Holy Spirit do the intercession on my behalf. Get the words as close to the truth (good or bad) of what’s in my heart. Humble myself in acknowledgement the He is so much greater and all-knowing than me. What is best for me is what God wills. I should make requests but acknowledge that what He chooses is ultimately what I want.
“Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.” Ecclesiastes 5:1 ->me: First…I love this verse. When I read it to Marianne tonight the first thing she said was, “now you have done it; you have read it. Now you are responsible for it…” and she is right. In the time of the Preacher Jesus had not come as the ultimate propitiation for our sins yet so going to the house of God literally meant the tabernacle or the temple where sacrifices were offered. For us, 1 Corinthians 6:19 says – “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” The literal translation of ‘walk prudently’ is ‘guard your feet’, the demeanor and preparedness that I should reverently have when coming to the Lord in worship; particularly readiness to obey. Listen refers to heeding as well as hearing – 1 Samuel 15:22. The warning is a great follow to yesterday’s verse – don’t come to the Lord out of obligation or tradition rather than out of repentance and reverence. The fool is the one who does not FEAR the Lord when they approach Him. The fool is the one who does the ‘Christian’ things seeking approval of those around them. They do not understand the gravity of their error. Luke 10:27 “I must love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength and with all my mind”…at all times.
“Better is a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive counsel (friendly reproof and warning)” Ecclesiastes 4:13 ->me: The Preacher has such a great warning for us. Through verses 14-16 he talks about the fact that even though the poor wise youth takes over the reign of the kingdom from the old and foolish King; the new King (the youth) will undoubtedly follow in the old king’s footsteps and become foolish and isolate himself as well. This is the path of those ‘under the sun’. A never-ending churn of deprecating self gratification and pride that results in alienation towards others. When God is our Treasure and King, we grow in wisdom, compassion, and selflessness. We can avoid the pitfall of turning inwardly and rebuffing the wise counsel from our brothers and sisters in Christ. I must not let the good days of plenty force me to take my eyes off the One Who wants my entire reliance on Him. It’s the times where everything is going right that I must be the most vigilant and self-checking; staying out of my self-reliant stupor. God, through Your Holy Spirit, please help me to lean on you in all times, both highs and lows; that I might have the steady peace, rest, and open heart to do Your work.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good [more satisfying] reward for their labor; for if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie down together, then they have warmth; but how can one be warm alone? And though a man might prevail against him who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ->me: All my mind kept running to when reading these four verses was…YOU! You are on this journey with me. Men of my Life Group -> you are the ones where we help each other in regards to support in the pitfalls of life. Marianne, your companionship keeps my spiritual thermometer HOT and of course warmth at night is wonderful. All of my close family and friends, we provide each other a protective barrier so that none of us is robbed of the feeling of being loved. What is the coolest is that even if I was physically alone, I have the companionship, protection, and peaceful warmth of the Son of God. When any other brother or sister in Christ is added to that mix we become an earthly cord not easily broken.
“So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, set Barabbas free for them; and after having Jesus whipped, he handed [Him] over to be crucified.” Mark 15:15 ->me: Today I read Ecclesiastes 4:7-8 but ever since yesterday’s message from Pastor Steve, I have been consumed with Barabbas’ role in the mock trial of Jesus before His crucifixion. Barabbas was a troublemaker, a robber, and outright sinful person who probably didn’t give a second thought to a man named Jesus…until the day he was suddenly released without warning. My whole life I have understood the acceptance of Jesus as a gift to be received and not earned and the fact that as a sinless sacrifice He bore the weight and wrath of God for my sin. However, I really never thought of this process from the perspective of Barabbas. In a moment, Barabbas’ punishment was lifted by someone else, who was undeserving of the consequences – in this case Jesus…but! In order to attain spiritual freedom, Barabbas needed to acknowledge who Jesus is, the Son of God Who came to save the world from the penalty of sin. Will we see Barabbas in heaven? I hope so. We are just like Barabbas; Jesus has already come and traded Himself for us, but we still must accept Him for Who He is before the Father credits our sin to the Cross purifying our spirit. I can only hope that through the bewilderment of his release, Barabbas sought to understand Who this Jesus is and believe in what Christ came to do.
“Better is a handful with quietness than both hands full with painful effort, a vain striving after the wind and a feeding on it.” Ecclesiastes 4:6 ->me: Why don’t we listen to the writer of Ecclesiastes?? His observations are timeless. 4:1-3 describe a life ‘under the sun’ (without God) as a life without an Ultimate Comforter; a life that has disappointment, evil and wickedness that force many to suicidal thoughts; in their minds…maybe better to have never been born at all. Then 4:4-6 talks about the root of all toil and ambition being envy and human rivalry. Beneath the surface of human energies is the restless desire to out class others. Tell me this is not the description of everyone you know who is not grounded in the word and following the example of Jesus everyday…conversely, the drop out with their total indifference just end up consuming themselves (destroying their own flesh) with idle “folded” hands or seeking the drug/substance that allows them to sit idle in bliss. When we have our minds and hearts fixed on an eternal hope, we no longer cup both of our hands to possess as much of this world as possible; instead we grasp the gift of God with one hand and hold out the other to rescue as many to the Kingdom as possible.