Sssst! Can you hear it?
OK…Let me explain.
There is this nagging voice that in the midst of our activities, toils and occupations, that sometimes tells us that there must be something more to life than just cruising through…Well, that ‘voice’ is there for a good reason. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us this:
“He (GOD) has made everything beautiful in its time. ALSO, He has put eternity in their hearts.”
Wow. Did you get that? In God’s eyes everything in life is beautiful. Now, obviously, when you are sick, downcast, worried, suffering or grieving over a loss, this is not the first thing that comes to your mind. You don’t say to God: “OH thank you so much God for giving me this wonderful sickness!” or “Great, God, I am so happy that _______” (fill in the blank yourself). That really isn’t our default attitude towards pain and problems. Not even close.
Yet, in God’s sight, who is eternal and can in one moment oversee our past, present and future, He looks at us humans and still sees the beauty of everything.
I think that’s why the apostle Paul can say to give thanks to God in everything, not FOR everything (Philippians 4:6). It reveals an attitude of the heart that says that life truly is a gift. But it can only be fully appreciated in the context of a relationship with God.
Why do I believe this to be that true? Well, simply because of this. God has put eternity in our hearts. What does that even mean?
It means that we are born and when we grow older, we are very much aware of two things:
Life will end one day…
Yet, we were made not for life to end one day but for eternity. That was our Created Value.
Without God life doesn’t make sense. I remember the funeral of my great-grandmother who died at the age of 96 years. Even though she lived her life and it was ‘her time to go’, there was also this voice again that told me that I didn’t want to say goodbye. Why did it need to end here? Why death?
We have the capacity to overlook our lives and understand till a certain degree that our daily stuff we do need to be seen within the perspective of eternity. That’s why someone dies, we don’t remember the great things he or she gave to us. It is ultimately about the relationship we had (or perhaps didn’t have) with the deceased that matters most.
Human beings are the only living creatures on this little planet that have that capacity. Animals are not able to do that. It’s this notion of eternity part of who we all are as creatures that are made in the image of God. God is eternal and humans were supposed to be eternal as well.
It brings me to this. We understand that this new year, 2019, is another little piece of the bigger puzzle called life. What do you expect from it? What do you long for? What do you hope to see different? Where would you like to be in life by the time it’s December 31?
The writer of Ecclesiastes doesn’t leave us in agony as if life’s activities don’t have meaning. They do. In fact, life, despite its ups and downs has purpose and it can be enjoyed, but is not a joy based on “make the best of this life now, because it’s all you have” or “have fun, because you only live once”. Those life mottos still contradict that soft voice inside that tells a different story…
Back to Ecclesiastes. He has something to say here.
He says it like this: “I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him. That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been; and God requires an account of what is past.” (Ecc. 3:14-15)
It sounds almost cryptical or mystical, but basically it boils down to this. Nothing is really new. God knows our lives and what God really wants from us is to fear Him. That is not to say to be afraid of HIM. It’s not fear of judgement itself. No, we can know that we are OK with God. We can have peace with God and know it (Romans 5:1). The Fear of the Lord is actually leading us to live godly lives, not fearful lives of worry and terror. The fear of the Lord is knowing that life has meaning, but also that we are in the end accountable to God for how we live that life. Judgement shouldn’t strike us with fear, but it is good to keep in mind that we don’t just live for ourselves. We are still accountable to God.
That sounds like alien speech from another planet. To give account to our lives lived to an entity we can’t even see? Some interpret this as if religion is all about avoiding the stuff summed up in “THOU shall not”. It’s about sin management, because that’s what God requires from us, right?
Well, not really. It’s not about trying really hard to be good. We can’t. That’s why we need salvation. Salvation basically is the antidote to self-improvement. I am not against New Year Resolutions. Not at all! As a matter of fact, I made it a goal for this year to take up Spanish as a new language to learn. I will try hard in some ways. Yet, with life itself, it’s NOT about self-improvement or 7-steps-to-a-better-version-of-you.
What is it then?
The easiest way to explain it is this. It’s about having God-fidence instead of self-confidence. It’s about trusting God more in your life than you trust yourself. It’s about knowing that ultimately the things we think we control are not so controllable after all. Either that leads you and me to trust God more or not. That’s the bigger picture that Ecclesiastes paints before our eyes.
Life has in the end two major choices. Do I trust God enough that He really takes care of me and that He is in control of my life or not?
There is this amazing scene from the movie “Paul: Apostle of Christ”. Paul, the prisoner, soon the be executed draws an analogy that is so profound. It goes like this:
“Imagine yourself looking out at the vast sea before you. You reach down and put a hand into the water, and you scoop it up towards you. Immediately, the water starts leaking through your fingers until the hand is empty. That water is a man’s life. From birth to death it is always slipping through our hands until it’s gone along with all that you hold dear in this world. And yet, the Kingdom I speak of, that I live for, is like the rest of the water out in the sea. Man lives for that cup of water that slips through his fingers. But those who follow Jesus Christ live for that endless expanse of sea.”
How tragic it is to live just for yourself or to live for goals that, in the end, slip through your fingers, like the water in this metaphor. Ecclesiastes gives us all a simple, yet profound choice. What do I really live for?
Jesus came to us because He understood that human beings lost the original relationship with God. They lost intimacy with their Maker and although the remnant of the Image of God was not lost, they still had a notion of eternity, death was also a reality to reckon with. The water kept slipping through their fingers and there was nothing they could do about it themselves. Jesus came to overcome the devastating effects of that severed relationship with God. He became sin so that we might become sons (and daughters) again. He became unrecognizable so that we might be recognized again as Image bearers of God. He became nothing, so that we might become everything again in God’s eyes.
What I hope for you for 2019 is this that it will not be simply a year of toil and meaningless activities. God gave you life and life is really a great gift from Him. But it can only be fully appreciated in the light of eternity. Perhaps there are things that you know that you need to let go off. A superficial New Year Resolution won’t cut that. We are all creatures of very strong habits and before you know it you are back to square one. It’s not all about great will-power. No, we need help and it’s not self-help, but God-help.
It’s my prayer that you can discover that God is good and that He really has got your back. Yes, there may be some dark days this year ahead of you. Uncertainty, financial strain, relationships under pressure. But there is also much beauty and truth to be enjoyed. In the greater scheme of things, it is not about the balance between the good things and bad things in life. We all know that life can throw us a curve ball, give us a bad hand or sometimes pleasantly surprise us with a kind gesture or unexpected love. No, it’s not making up the balance between good and bad hoping that the bad will out-weight the bad. In the end of the day it’s about a perspective. Seeing that God has a plan for our lives and 2019 is part of that plan. That plan can only be understood from the perspective that we were not made just for this life.
The good thing is that we know the end of the story of life. We know that love wins. He has already won. Jesus calls you and I today to trust Him and live with Him and for Him. Why? Because He gives us purpose and meaning. Without Him life doesn’t add up. With Him, even when life is hard, 2019 doesn’t give us a free-from-problems-wildcard at all. Yet, in everything we can be thankful.
The apostle Paul said it beautifully while he was in prison (talking of a difficult life situation) that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
So, let me ask you one more time: what do you really expect from 2019? What would you like to see different? What frightens you perhaps a bit? Perhaps you buried a dream a long time ago or stopped making life adjustments at all because things will never change anyway.
You can do all things THROUGH CHRIST who will strengthen you. It’s a promise and God doesn’t break His promises. There is a time for everything. What will 2019 be for you?
Enjoyed my blogs? Perhaps you’d like to see the scene of the movie Paul: Apostle of Christ, that I referred to. It’s awesome!
Or dive deeper into the Book of Ecclesiastes…