Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 30 August 18:
1. Ecclesiastes 7:2 — “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” We live in a world of denial and escapism, which is based on fear, doubt, an inner sense of hopelessness, and a lack of knowledge of God — “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32) Life is short, and it is often very challenging, but it is not without purpose and meaning, which is revealed in God’s word. The Bible calls us to live victoriously in the knowledge and hope of Jesus, which is our testimony. Jesus has overcome the world and death. We will still suffer and die, but our suffering is our sanctification, our ministry, and our fellowship with Christ; and to die is to be with Christ in eternal joy. Philippians 1:18-27 – “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ….” Endeavor to live victoriously but also acknowledge that at times we are all weak and need help from others. The Bible tells us to live in mutually supportive community so that the strong support the weak during their times of personal crisis. Support others with the strength you currently have, and accept the support of others when you need it.
2. Ecclesiastes 7:5, 6 – “It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity.” Ecclesiastes encourages us to enjoy life but also warns us to take life seriously. Surround yourself with other committed disciples of Christ who get it, and journey with them.
3. Ecclesiastes 7:10 — “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” There is no sense talking about how great things once were. There is an old adage, “The older I get, the better I was.” We tend to magnify the good memories of the past and minimize the negative memories. From that distorted perspective, we can become cynical about the current state of things. Even if things truly are worse now than they were before, talking about the past doesn’t fix anything. Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.
4. Ecclesiastes 7:13 – “Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked?” Anything you’re trying to do that isn’t from God is pointless.
5. Ecclesiastes 7:29 — “See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” God only intended you to do the good works He prepared in advance for you. We are so easily distracted by the worries of the world, and we needlessly complicate our lives.
6. Ecclesiastes 8:6, 7 – “For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him. For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be?” The limits of our human knowledge cannot be over emphasized. The very simplest of God’s works are far beyond our comprehension. We cannot walk securely in our knowledge, instincts, or strength; we must be guided by the Holy Spirit, and we must trust God in what He has not revealed to us. God said to Abram, “Go… to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) More often than not, God tells His servants to walk in faith to a place prepared for us by God that will be revealed when we get there. And in that journey, God will not always clear our path of challenges and tests. Didn’t God corner the Israelites in at the Red Sea before opening it up? Didn’t God make the Israelites step into the raging Jordan River before stopping the waters? Didn’t God make Daniel face the giant? Didn’t God make Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego go into the fiery furnace? Didn’t God make Daniel go into the Lion’s Den? Didn’t Jesus have to endure the cross before is Resurrection? Through all of these circumstances, weren’t there opportunities for doubt and fear? But didn’t God use all these events to reveal Himself in a way never seen before? Don’t waste too much time asking God to reveal the future to you. Trust Him, obey Him today, one day at a time, and watch Him work in mighty ways.
7. Ecclesiastes 8:8 — “There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.” We cannot escape or opt out of our responsibilities to God, and all of our decisions have consequences.
8. Ecclesiastes 8:10-11 – “Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.” The world is unjust because man is corrupt. Even the church fails to hold people accountable. Justice will come from God but in his timing. Because many seem to prosper in sin, pride, arrogance, and doubt grows. Do not be deceived. God will not be mocked. Jesus promised that His followers would be persecuted in this evil world. Do not lose heart. God will bring all things into account, and if you are a disciple of Jesus, you have already entered into eternal life (John 17).
9. Proverbs 30:5, 6 — “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.” Walk in God’s word.
10. Proverbs 30:8 — “Remove far from me falsehood and lying.” We take falsehood far too lightly. There are many forms of deceitfulness, many we justify, but all are serious and damage our character.
11. Proverbs 30:20 — “This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I have done no wrong.’” We make light of sin, but God certainly doesn’t.
12. 1 Timothy 5:3, 4 – “Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.” God expects Christians to care for their elderly parents and grandparents so they don’t require the resources of others. Too often people expect the church or the government to fulfill their responsibilities to their families. This should never be.
13. 1 Timothy 5:8 — “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Questions?
14. 1 Timothy 5:21 — “I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.” Everyone must be held accountable equally and must also be cared for equally.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 30 Aug 18: Don’t worry or lament about the way things were – it is a waste of time and energy; focus on making today what it should be. Today is your day, make the most of it. You cannot do anything about the past, and the future is in God’s hands. Be faithful with whatever God puts in front of you today, especially the little things – “Everyone wants to change the world, but no one wants to help Mom with the dishes.” Obey God’s commands of love now, and trust God with the outcomes. (Eccl 7:10)