I recently did a sermon on Ecclesiastes.
I’ve been trying to challenge myself to preach less traditional Christian books, so I’ve been pushing myself into the Old Testament more and more.
I have to admit that I had a couple of #ahamoments through this study of Ecclesiastes.
First, besides being a deeply depressing book, it’s actually a lot of fun to teach.
Second, the word in the book translated as “meaningless” or “vanity” is better translated as absurd. It’s meaningless, not in the sense that it has no meaning, but in that it is sometimes impossible to make meaning out of something. In other words, life doesn’t always make sense.
Third, the word for “toil” is not the same word used to describe the goal-oriented work that God created us for. It’s a frustrating kind of work.
Amidst all of this talk of meaningless and toil, the author Ecclesiastes offers one simple advice. You can read it in 3:12, 3:22, 5:19, but I think it’s best summarized in 8:15
So I commend enjoyment, for there is nothing better for people under the sun than to eat, and drink, and enjoy themselves, for this will go with them in their toil through the days of life that God gives them under the sun. -Ecclesiastes 8:15
In other words: you can’t control the future, and you might not always make sense of the past, but you can decide what you do with the present. You can choose to enjoy what is in front of you.
I should never stop hoping for the good things God has for me next. Yet, at the same time, I need to stop waiting for those things to begin. Whatever God has for me in the future isn’t a prerequisite for living today.
As Paul says, generations after Ecclesiastes was written:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. –Philippians 4:11b-13
You might have heard this verse quoted before: I can do all things through him who gives me strength. When you read it in context, knowing what Paul knew, and what the teacher Solomon knew, it certainly takes on a slightly different meaning.
I can do all this because God gives me the strength.
There is no promise that life and work will be easy. But there is a promise that runs deeper than the comfort and ease of work.
It’s this: that no matter what season or work you find yourself in, that God is willing and ready to give you the strength and power to find contentment. When I realized this, it was a true #ahamoment.