ECCLESSIASTESWhat's Important Now?"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." (Ecclesiastes 1:1)
What was important to us at one time in our lives doesn't seem quite so important anymore in light of national tragedy. What we considered to have been our top priority somehow has slipped a couple of notches down on our list. What we used to consider so important has somewhat lost its flavor.
Solomon, the wisest and richest man who ever lived, said that with all his wisdom and with all his riches, life was meaningless. The entire Book of Ecclesiastes explains in detail why Solomon felt that way. This man had it all: wisdom, riches, pleasure, and power. Yet, he described life in one simple word: Meaningless!
Let's evaluate who we are and what's important to us.
Vanity of Vanities
"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher; "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
Solomon, the wisest and richest man who ever lived, penned the above scripture. "Vanity," a key word defined as "meaningless" is used 37 times in this short book of only 12 chapters. Ecclesiastes is a partial autobiography of Solomon's attempt to find meaning in life. He had it all. He had 700 wives, 500 concubines and everything else in abundance. He had so much money he hired people just to count it, and ordered them not to waste time counting the smaller amounts. They were instructed to throw it away instead.
Solomon was a king who had luxuries, honor, splendor, wisdom and power. Yet in Ecclesiastes 12, he concludes that "all is vanity" . . . life is meaningless without God. Solomon used another recurring phrase . . . "under the sun" 29 times to explain that activities "on earth" will not produce happiness and peace. To view life "above the sun" from God's perspective is "The Way of Life."
When Enough Isn't Enough
"I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind." (Ecclesiastes 1:14)
You have probably heard the expression, "Enough is enough." Have you ever known when enough was not enough for some people? No matter how kind you are to them, "enough isn't enough" in their eyes. No matter how much you give them, you can never give them enough. For some people, no matter how much they accumulate, enough is never enough.
Solomon, the richest man who lived during his day, had it all. And it did not satisfy him. Solomon said, "Everything is meaningless; utterly meaningless! Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 gives a whole list of things Solomon accumulated and the things he did, yet he concluded that "everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind." Some people, like Solomon, are never satisfied with what they have. Having more money is at the top of their list. However, people want more of other things as well. They want more excitement, more recognition, more pleasures, more romance and more love. Until we rise above our want for more, life will be frustrating and unsatisfying.
Solomon, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, tells us that the search for more things will cause us to come up empty; often times losing the little that we have. How then can we enjoy what we have without thinking we will never have enough? Make God a part of what you do have. Life is always enough when God is part of it. Apart from God, enough will NEVER be enough!
A Time For Everything
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Timing is important. Solomon points out that God has a plan for all people. He provides cycles of life, each with its work for us to do. There are seasons for certain things to happen. The way to enjoy perfect peace is to know and accept and appreciate God's timing. It might not be God's plan for you to change careers now. God might be telling you to wait before getting married. Perhaps God is preparing you for something else before He wants you to start a family.
God has a perfect timing for your life. It is easy to become impatient and to want everything now. Getting what you want now could lead to disaster. God knows the best time to act. Wait for His timing for your life. When you feel that God has forgotten you in your troubles, remember that God has a time schedule that we can't see.
The Best Time Is Now
There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Older people think about their age and dread getting older; while some youth think about their age and can't wait to get older. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, advises us to enjoy our time right now. Each stage of life has its own challenges as well as joys and pleasures. When we are connected to God, each stage can be a blessed period.
No matter how old we are, we go through different seasons. There is a purpose for each season. Everything that has ever happened to us happened because God had a set time for it even though we did not understand it at the time. Circumstances have moved us throughout the seasons of our lives, and over time we have experienced both the positives and negatives of life. All of our experiences have prepared us for this season that we are in at this very moment.
So whatever season you are in, embrace it as being the best time of your life because you have never been this way before. As Solomon said, "There is a time for everything under the sun." You are under the sun, and you are doubly blessed if you are under the SON!
You Can't Pray Yourself Out of a Season
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV)
Sometimes you hear something that sticks with you for a long time. It might be a word, a phrase, an expression, a statement, or an entire sermon. When that happens, it is called a rhema word for you. I recently heard a pastor say, "You can't pray yourself out of a season." Wow! That hit me like a ton of bricks.
What does it mean, "You can't pray yourself out of a season"? Just as there are four seasons of the year, we go through seasons of life or seasons of spiritual development or seasons when we are showered with blessings or seasons when we think nothing is happening. We cannot change the calendar and make it summer when it is winter. We cannot speed up the process to make the days go by any faster. No matter how much we want snow in the summer, it is useless to pray for snow. Each season has its own characteristics.
God created the earth to pass through the four seasons. There is nothing man can do to bypass those seasons. God has created our lives to go through four seasons as well. However, our seasons are not paralleled to the seasons of the year. Even though it is winter right now according to the calendar, you might be going through spring, summer or fall. The best thing to do when you are going through a particular season is to know that you are in it for a reason. Instead of trying to pray yourself out of it (which you can't anyway), go with the flow of the season. That way, the season will not seem as long. Also, know that you are being prepared in one particular season for what you will face in the seasons that will follow.
Perhaps this is a rhema word or an "Aha Moment " for you . . . "You can't pray yourself out of a season!"
Got A Second?
There is a time and season for every purpose under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
How many times have you asked someone, "Got a second?" How many times has someone asked you, "Got a second?" Well, all of us will have an extra second this New Year's Eve. The new year will be delayed by a second. This is called the "leap second," the first one in seven years. This delay is meant to make up for changes in the earth's rotation caused by many things including the tides. The adjustment will be carried out by striking an extra second into atomic clocks around the world. Then all the atomic clocks will be synchronized with the earth's rotation.
So you'll get an extra second. What will you do with it? You might say, "It's just a second. What can I do with just a second?" You can do a lot of things with the extra second. You could hold that New Year's kiss a second longer. You could stay on your knees praying to God a second longer. You could continue to praise God a second longer. Or you could say, "Thank you" to God for all the seconds He has allowed you to experience in your lifetime.
Yes, all of us will get an extra second. Let's use it for something special....really special!
God's Timing is Everything
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
God's timing is everything. Solomon, the wisest man who lived during his day, said in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that there is a time for everything under the sun. He gives an outline of opposites: 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. When we stay in one of these situations longer than we should, we do not trust God's timing.
How do we know when the time is the right time to act? If we leave it up to our own minds, we will never know. Having a relationship with God enables us to know when to proceed. He provides guidance for us today just as He provided the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night for the Israelites as they traveled through the wilderness. When our cloud moves, we should move. When our cloud stops, we should stop as well.
There should be some discernment in every Christian to let us know when it is time to act. Our problem is that we try to figure things out on our own. And we settle by staying struck in sameness. It should be a sense of relief to know that we will never know how God will handle our situations. He just wants us to trust Him to do so.
Let's get in sync with God's timing. And let's move when God says move and stand still when He says to do so. The expression, "Strike while the iron is hot" has everything to do with timing. If you wait until the iron is cold, it will not serve its purpose. An iron stays hot only a short period of time, but it is time enough to give you your desired results. God's window of opportunity is much like that iron. God's window of opportunity won't last forever. If there is something you and God are see-sawing about, know that God abides by His time and not yours.
Discerning Your Spiritual Seasons
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Just as there are natural seasons, God has given us spiritual seasons. We will notice changes in every element of our life including marriage, ministry, careers, children, friends, finances, etc.
Winter is a time when you might feel cold and uncomfortable. Winter is not a time to plant but a time to curl up in God's lap for warmth and intimacy. There He will give you directions for planting new crops. It is also the time to exist on what has been stored from previous harvests.
Spring is the time to plant and carry out the instructions gleaned from your Winter experience. From having spent time with God, you will have the spiritual and physical energy to break up your fallow ground.
Summer is the time to water what has been planted during the Spring. It is also time to weed out what shouldn't be there. Summer is the most dangerous season because of the heat (natural and spiritual). Be extra careful during this season.
Provided you have been diligent during the previous seasons, Fall is the time of harvest. Fall is the time when you will see evidence of your hard work. It is a time of harvesting and storing up for the Winter.
Without the ability to accurately discern the season you are in, you will miss many opportunities. If you miss one season, you will have to wait until the cycle comes around again. With an awareness of the season you are in, you will be able to step into new spiritual truths and a greater ability to flow in the power of God.
Recognize the season you are in and act accordingly.
Between the Planting and the Plucking
There is a time for everything, and a season for everything under the sun...a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)
Generally speaking, we are impatient people and we live among a nation of impatient people. We want everything right now if not sooner. Some people say, "I want it yesterday." Most things take time to grow and mature . . . things such as wine, cheese, a lasting relationship, and intimacy with God.
We make a major mistake when we rush something that should take longer to be developed. We fail at what we do when we skip certain steps in the process just to say something is complete. All of us should adopt a farming technique.
Farmers do not use the quick, fast and in a hurry approach. They know there is a season to plant and a season to pluck up that which has been planted. However, there is a critical period between the planting and the plucking. A farmer does not plant and the next day digs up the seed to see how it is doing. The farmer does everything he can do; then he trusts God for the harvest.
Surely we want things to happen expediently, but it is common sense to know that there is a time between the planting and the plucking.
How Do You Reach?
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
As Christians, we must reach others. We are to love and help one another. There are actually four major types of reaching.
REACHING OUT is the act of giving and receiving from someone on your own level. This type of reaching is effortless and doesn't cause you to strain and stretch at all. Anyone can reach out without extending self. It's important to REACH OUT, but it is more important to reach down.
REACHING DOWN is the act of coming down off our high horses to help someone beneath us. It is pulling someone up out of the mud and miry clay even if it means getting some mud on ourselves
REACHING UP is the act of admitting that we are down, and we ask someone else for help. It is putting aside pride to say, "I need you. Please help me!"
REACHING IN is the only type of reaching you can do without someone else. Reaching in is an individual thing that only you can do. In the midnight hour when you are without family or friends, you can reach deep within yourself and ask God to cleanse you through and through and mold and shape you into the person He wants you to be. It is only after reaching in that we can do effectively the other types of reaching!
How do you reach: out, down, up, or in?
The Threefold Cord
A threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
A rope made with three cords is stronger than a rope made with only one or two strands. In fact, three strands twisted together are more than three times as strong as three separate strands.
A true marriage exists when both husband and wife are joined together with God as the third strand. If a marriage is just physical (the body) and mental (the mind), it is only two-thirds complete. The coming together of the Spirit makes it whole.
"A threefold cord is not quickly broken" means those whom God has joined together will not be separated when Christ is also in the midst of them. However, when Christ is left out, there are only two strands. Try braiding your hair or ribbon in just two strands and see how long the two strands will stay together. Not long! Where two are joined in love and fellowship, Christ will by His Spirit come to them, and make Himself the third.
If your marriage or relationship is failing, it might be because you have not allowed Jesus to join you.
Happiness Comes From God; Not From the Power Ball
Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think wealth brings true happiness! (Ecclesiastes 5:10)
People seek to be happy, and they involve themselves with people, places and things they think will bring them true happiness. Obeying God brings happiness; not the lottery power ball that has been the conversation and the expectation of many recently.
Psalm 119:1-3 say, "Happy are those who fear the Lord. Yes, happy are those who delight in doing what He commands. Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed. They themselves will be wealthy, and their good deeds will never be forgotten."
Proverbs 11:23 reveals the secret of happiness. We will find it if we fear and honor God. Solomon, the richest and wisest man who ever lived, says those who seek happiness by accumulating wealth will NEVER be satisfied. Happiness comes to those who obey God. And that's not a lottery. It's a sure thing!
Being Overly Righteous
Do not be overly righteous . . . (Ecclesiastes 6:16)
There are some people who seem to be "on fire" for God for a while. They can talk the talk, and for a while they walk the walk. They go to church, attend prayer meetings, and sing in the choir. They profess to be righteous and spiritually developed. Yet after a few months, they are nowhere to be found. They are like firecrackers that blaze brightly for a while and then burn out.
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, warned us about being "overly righteous" because one could perish in his righteousness (Ecclesiastes 6:15). He warned against doing things to make people think we are so holy and righteous. He says this is a sure way for that firecracker to burn out. So let's not think that those who run around the church, wave their hands or even shout "Hallelujah" are also doing what God requires. See where those same people are years from now. Really spiritual individuals have staying power. Jesus said, "He who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 10:22).
In the words of Solomon, "do not be overly righteous!"
Seize the Day!
Do not say, "Why were the former days better than these?" (Ecclesiastes 7:10)
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said when life is difficult and we are impatient for a change, it is easy to look back and remember the "good old days" when we thought things were better.
Yesterday is past and cannot be changed, and tomorrow may not come; so make the most of today. Horace, the Roman poet, wrote "Carpe diem!" which means "Seize the day!" This doesn't mean we shouldn't learn from the past or prepare for the future, but it means we must live today and not be paralyzed by yesterday or anxious for tomorrow.
Remember, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. So go ahead and SEIZE THE DAY!
All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked. . . . (Ecclesiastes 9:2)
All of us share a common destiny; we all will die. But in the meantime, "in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Throughout our life there are certain things we must go there. These periods are called "Marker Events" and not everyone goes through them at the same time or in similar manners.. There is no set pattern for marker events, but they do happen.
Marker events are those events that mark your life in some way. Marker events include birthdays, anniversaries, graduation, promotions, relocation, marriage, divorce, birth of a child, death of a loved one, retirement, loss of a job, vacation, or purchase of a new house/car. A marker event is so called because it is a clear delineation that something has changed your life.
How you deal with marker events depends on you and your attitude toward the event. Will it make you bitter or better? Will it lift you up or bring you down? Will you see the sunshine in it or only the clouds? A marker event will strengthen you to do greater things if you have a positive response toward it. A marker event can be that break in your life to challenge you to soar higher with God beneath your wings. Remember God never leaves us . . . not even during our "Marker Events."
Is Laziness A Sin?
If a man is lazy, the rafters sag; if his hands are idle, the house leaks. (Ecclesiastes 10:18)
Laziness is inactivity, idleness, or refusal to work. The Bible has a lot to say about laziness and none of it is complimentary. In fact, the Bible condemns lazy people.
It is not just the laziness that's a sin. Laziness invites other sins including procrastination, complacency and refusing to do what is right. In the above scripture, the man refused to fix up his own house. Laziness results in passivity. More than likely, a lazy person is not lazy in only one area. A lazy person is probably lazy across the board . . . lazy in work, lazy in love, lazy in fun, and lazy in serving God. Usually a lazy person is a boring person and has little or nothing to offer to an intelligent conversation. A lazy person's quality of life is dull because it is paralleled to his or her laziness.
Our society has contributed a great deal to our laziness. Our blessings have provided us with the curse of laziness. There is no wood to cut, no water to draw, no fields to tend, no pigs to feed, no eggs to gather and no cotton to pick. There is no more walking to school, mowing lawns for cash, recycling soda bottles or delivering newspapers. There is no longer a need to get up to change the television channel. Taking the time and energy to write a personal letter to a friend is a thing of the past.
Laziness is a sin and must be dealt with just as any other sin. The quickest way to rid laziness from your life is to begin doing something constructive. The more you work, the more you will become accustomed to working, and the laziness will soon depart.
Common Expressions From the Bible
Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say. ("A little bird told me so.") Ecclesiastes 10:20)
Many times we use common expressions without knowing that a number of them are from the Bible.
When was the last time you "raised Cain"? (Genesis 4:8-9) Did you know that "This is the pits" really is in the Bible? (Genesis 37:24) Well, if you knew that, then you just "hit the nail on the head." (Judges 5:26)
When a minister preaches a sermon well, people are known to say, "He brought the house down!" Just know that Samson did it first. (Judges 16:30)
When a person has lost excessive weight people might say, "He is just skin and bones." (Job 19:20) And when you barely escape from something, you do it "by the skin of your teeth." (Job 19:20)
When you learn all these things and people ask you how you know, you can tell them "a little bird told me so." (Ecclesiastes 10:20). Whether you believe this or not, "let the chips fall where they may." (Ecclesiastes 11:3) If we just don't see eye to eye" (Isaiah 52:8) and if you talk about me behind my back, "my ears will burn." (Jeremiah 19:3) I might not be there in person, but only "if the walls could talk!" (Habakkuk 2:11)
Take this quiz to see how many other expressions from the Bible have surprisingly made it into your conversations.
Quiz - Bible Expressions
Where Is Your Bread?
Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. (Ecclesiastes 11:1)
Bread in the Bible is a metaphor of many meanings. In this message, it represents seed. Therefore to cast your bread or seed upon the waters goes against human logic if one expects a bountiful crop. Any farmer would plant his seed in the ground where it has a better chance of growing instead of casting it into the waters. The above scripture represents a spiritual principle; therefore, it goes against our natural ability to understand it.
Solomon tells us to cast our bread upon the waters. The surrounding scriptures let us know that Solomon is telling us to give to the poor and to expect nothing in return at that particular time. The poor cannot repay us, but God will make up the difference with interest. God promises that when you cast your bread upon the waters (give money, goods, services, advice, or a helping hand to those whom you can help), it will be returned to you when you least expect it . . . perhaps after many days.
Where is your bread? Can you chart its location? Did you recently cast it? Or did you cast your bread many days ago? Is it still floating out on the waters? Or is it on its way back to you? Where is your bread at this junction in your life? If you have cast your bread upon the waters, one thing is certain...it will return to you after many days. How long is many days? That's the faith part of this scripture. It doesn't matter how long it takes, just know it will happen!
The worst place for your bread to be is in your hand. If your bread is enclosed in a tight fist, it will never return to you because you have not released it to God for Him to perform miracles. Release it! Cast it on the waters and see what happens after many days! Though it might seem a venture lost, it will bring you profit when you least expect it.
As a personal testimony, I have been casting bread upon the waters all my life. It became soggy. Some of it sank. Some of it floated out into the deep sea. Some fishermen found it and used it for bait. Therefore, the fish ate it. I thought my bread was gone forever. Now as I enter into my sixth decade, my bread is finally finding it way back to me with the help of God and His people. After all these years, my bread is returning to me... not as the crumbs I could only afford to cast, but as king-size loaves. Yes, the return has been slow, but it has been worth the wait of many days. Now my blessings are overtaking me!
You might say you have no extra bread to cast upon the waters. Go back and read the scripture. It is interesting that the scripture did not tell us how much bread to cast upon the waters. By faith, cast your bread upon the waters and then forget about it. It is a promise from God that it will return to you after many days. I am a living witness to this kingdom principle!
Invest in Others
Sow your seeds in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well. (Ecclesiastes 11:6)
The quickest and most effective way for blessings to come into your own life is to invest in others. The word "invest" means to do something now for future benefits. No matter how much we try, we cannot live without investments.
When we invest in others and they succeed, so do we. When we sow seeds into the lives, careers, and ministries of others, we partner with them so whatever dividends they get, so do we. We share in their success. When we give to students, we share in their careers. When we give newlyweds gifts, we are investing in the start of their marriage.
You might be thinking to yourself that you haven't seen any results of many years of investing in others. The results are not always visible or easily detectable, but God in His infinite wisdom does reward you mightily in ways that are not obvious to you. Why do you think your tire didn't go flat when you ran over that nail? It's because you helped someone else change his tire some years ago. Why do you think someone gave you change at the grocery check out? It is probably because you did the same for someone else so long ago that you don't even remember it. Why do you think God is keeping you healthy? It's because you are compassionate and invest in others' health. You probably helped a sick child or took care of an ailing parent.
No act is in isolation. It is either an investment or the result of an investment. Everything you receive TODAY is the result of something you invested YESTERDAY...your time, your money, your talent, your compassion, your friendship, your love, your care, etc.
WARNING: This principle works with the good and the bad. If you have made bad investments, the results will also be bad. If you are experiencing pain and hurt, it is probably because at some point in your life, you have inflicted pain on someone else.
There is ALWAYS a result of an investment. And the result correlates to the thing invested. Continue to invest good things into the lives of others and begin charting the dividends that come into your own life.
In This Stage of Your Life
Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say "I have no pleasure in them. (Ecclesiastes 12:2)
In the last chapter of Ecclesiastes, Solomon makes one last plea: Make use of opportunities now while you can. A time might come when you are older and opportunities will no longer exist.
Solomon continues with a poetic description of old age. He graphically describes what happens to us as we grow old. Since we are mortal, our limbs will grow feeble and begin to tremble. Our teeth will cease to be many and our vision will fail. The things that used to give us pleasure will later cause us pain such as exercising and dancing. Solomon continues to plead with us to "strike while the iron is hot" because it definitely will get cold as we grow older.
So before gray hair comes or falls out, before poor vision and deafness occur, before appetites are lost and before death, let's live to the fullest while we can.
Turning the BITTER Truth Into the BETTER Truth
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
Throughout the entire book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon the richest and wisest man of his day contemplated the meaning of life. At the very end of the book, Solomon records his findings.
The BITTER Truth:
His riches did not make him happy.
His wisdom did not make him happy.
His 700 wives and 300 concubines did not make him happy.
His popularity and power did not make him happy.
Without God life was meaningless.
The BETTER Truth:
"Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, whether it is good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) With God life is meaningful.
The only way to turn the BITTER Truth into the BETTER Truth is to deal with the first person personal pronoun "I." When you can say, "I don't need to be wealthy to be happy"; when you can say, "I don't need to be popular or powerful to be happy"; when you can say, "I have everything I need in God" then you will be able to turn the BITTER Truth into the BETTER Truth.
The Whole Duty of Everyone
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
Solomon, the wisest and richest man who ever lived gives us good advice at the end of Ecclesiastes. Throughout his book, he repeats the sentence: "Life is meaningless!" With all his silver and gold, he admits life is meaningless. With his 700 wives and 300 concubines, he admits life is meaningless. With all his chariots, he admits life is meaningless. With his house made of gold, Solomon admits life is meaningless.
Solomon reiterates that when all has been said and done, the whole duty of everyone involves two things: (1) to fear God and (2) keep His commandments. When we do these two things, everything else will fall into place. Life will be meaningful instead of being meaningless!
Remember what the whole duty of everyone is and let's live accordingly.