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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

God's Surprising Gift

Ecclesiastes 3:9-13 (ESV)
9 What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. 

Right now someone has bought a lottery ticket and is praying that God will cause him to win. He thinks that a boatload of money would be the best gift that he could ever have. He wants to pay all his bills, buy the big house, drive the new car off the dealer's lot and quit working forever. He believes this will be the end of his worries. He believes that this will bring him all the happiness that he will ever need. The writer of Ecclesiastes would disagree.

Doing nothing means nothing. Anyone with enough money can do nothing. It will not make anyone distinct. Sure, it may bring fame. Relatives you never knew you had will come out of the woodwork. They will all be asking for a hand out. They will hound the suddenly wealthy. Many have lost their wealth because they thought they could buy the happiness of others too. They were wrong. Neither the ones who were "helped" or those who gave them the money had anything to show for it. it meant nothing.

The only real meaning in life comes from doing what God has created you to do. That seldom takes a lot of money. It often takes a lot of sacrifice which means that it also takes a total commitment to God. But it means something because the one who has been faithful has believed God, faced what the world will consider terrible odds and came out a winner. 

Serving God has enduring results too. Those whom God calls you to serve are not merely helped for the moment. They are helped throughout their lives. They have been made better disciples by the example of the one who follows his calling.

Think about it: How long would you follow a NFL team if you knew that they were always going to win no matter if they worked hard? Part of the reason you follow your team is because you don't know what will happen. You follow them because they work hard. The wins have meaning because of the work for winning would mean nothing at all if there was no hard work.

Now imagine your own life as simply the winner of a lottery. Why should you even be proud of the things you would do with the money when you never earned the money in the first place? How can God call you a faithful servant when you never really did anything of sacrifice? No, it is through the hard work that God blesses us. It is the hard work that He gives us that is a gift.

Working hard at what God has called us to do is a gift. God's gift is to supply our every need and call us to do His will. And when it is very difficult and it takes all our faith to see God work through us, then, that is even a greater gift. These are the things that will go with us for eternity.

3 comments: said...

When I was a young believer, both young in age and in the faith, and tried to read this Book called Ecclesiastes, I found that it kinda of presented the meaninglessness of life; and I told myself, I could not be reading this, and be able to see the compatibility of what I already knew of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, promising a meaningful life. And I did leave that Book alone for a long, long time. And of course, I also hardly hear anything being preached from the Book in churches; I supposed for the same reason. I mean the tone of the Book went like, “it is meaningless to do this, and it is meaningless to do that, and it is meaningless to do this other thing, too; everything is meaningless, or to use the word of the Book (of some translations), “vanity, vanity, and vanity”!” That was NOT to be way to start a new phase of life for a young adult who had just stepped out of university and into the working world, and had embraced the faith only recently, then.

Although it, the Book with that tone I described above, had registered in me then, I have put it to the back of my mind, and continued to look at the “brighter side” of the Holy Book. Needless to say, I looked at the Old Testament (books other than this Ecclesiastes book), and there were also accounts and events I did NOT understand, and told myself, perhaps, over time I would receive revelation or understanding, especially if I have had the opportunities to digest more of the “entire” Holy Scripture. I believe I did receive much revelation and understanding over the years as a Christian, spending time on the Word, and of course, through the illumination by the Spirit.

Did I return to this Book? Of course, I did, a little here and a little there; and also as a complete book read-study-over. Still I must say, it is still a very difficult book. Is Revelation a difficult Book? Yes, that too, but the difficulty is of a different sort. Well, I had then, perceived the tone I described above, is it any different over time, or now? By now I have added many years to my age, and therefore, also much life experiences to my biography, and so, from a more seasoned man, I kinda of coming closer to saying the Book was a down-to-earth piecing of the picture of life with spiritual understanding rolled into it. There are lots of gems hidden in there, and like other books, perhaps, more so (than other books), it needs to be reflected upon, with understanding from other books of the Bible, to unearth the gems. Without such “illumination”, gems can be missed out as useless stones or debris. It is believed by some, and that include me, that this Book was perhaps written by King Solomon, a man God gave great wisdom; and it was suggested that he, King Solomon, wrote this book, in his old age, after living much of life.

When it was on the entire life, actually a lot more space was needed for more comprehensive write-up, but Scripture was written in brief, a whole lot of the time, and so, many words and phrases were NOT expanded upon, and when we take them, at face-value, so to speak, especially for this Book, we may end up with the wrong “idea”. There is of course, the culture and time, and language of the period covered, that can also be a hurdle to clear understanding of scriptures, and especially, this Book.

Sorry, I have rumbled on, so much, and still have NOT come to your entry specifically. Here it goes:

Continue... said...

Cont. from above

Eccl 3:12-13 (KJV) - 12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. 13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

NIV: 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.

The earlier verses of Eccl 3 talked about there is time and season for everything. It also means, it meant to cover everything under the sun, that can go on, in the life of a man. It also means that there is much thing that would come to or against you, in their due time and season. It means also, there is a whole lot of things, we cannot control, and a whole lot of things would run like clockwork; or what we Chinese say, “Wu nai” – can’t help it.

So, what verse 12 was saying was that there is neutrality, not, good or not good as such, to these things; something along the line that, on some parts of the earth there are 4 seasons, and each season comes and goes. Summer is good, winter is no good? Now, for those who want sunshine and tan, summer is good, but no for those who want to go ice-skilling on the mount. So, comes summer, you be happy about it, and when winter comes, you want to fret over it? No, what the author was saying, face what life bringeth unto you.

You “happen to be” in the neighbourhood, and a hurricane hits it; face it, overcome it, survive it, if you can. You fly on SIA, and the stewardess surprises you with a free upgrade to the first class; take it, be thankful and enjoy it! Oh! It happens to the other guy, the upgrade; why NOT you? Face it, accept it! So what do we do with all of these? Embrace life rejoicing or with rejoice or joy, and do good, that is what the author was saying. When we take verses 12 & 13 together, “embracing life rejoicing and to do good” are also gifts of God. God created us with the capacity to embrace life rejoicing, and to do good, that is affirmative, yet it is for you and I to live it out. If you can understand this way of putting it, is also gift, then it is gift, too. I have no problem of saying, a gift is in verse 12 when gift is understood that way. I believe many of the gifts of God, the benefit is had only when we embraced them with operative faith.

The author went on to suggest that man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of his labour as that too, is gift of God. So, first, we are to embrace life rejoicing. Some think, what is there to rejoice? Look, we have the every breath of life today, that is giving (a gift) from God; hello, be thankful, rejoice - rejoice that we are alive today! Do good, said the author. Do good, not do bad or wicked things or evil things; do good. Labour, don’t just bask in grace, but labour in good. And we can have the satisfaction from the good of our labour. When we do evil, there is no good from our labour; good come from good – good come from labouring in good. When we labour in good, we don’t have to go hungry, we get to eat and drink, and we can enjoy the good of our labouring in the good. What is that “enjoy the good of our labouring in the good”? It is the same thing, but unlike the physical feeding – eat and drink, we are NOT to go hungry, spiritually; feed your spirit.

Cont... said...

Cont. from above

How do we feed, physically? Silly to ask! Yah, you put food and drink into your mouth, and in they go, and then the blah, blah, blah, the nutrients gets absorbed (and out goes the …). How do we feed our spirit? Read the Word. Yes, that is, but it more than that – we complete it with the good from our labouring in the good. When you read the word, you shaft it down, and it comes out as good works (well, for overly some grace fellows, it goes in, and it stays in, bloated fellows, of no use! Well, maybe they just fart them out), and you feedback the good news from the good works into your spirit. Feed your spirit, say, “This is good, my soul {spirit}”. I suggest people read this with Heb 5:13-14 – “……..the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

At the same time, verse 13 of Eccl 3 does NOT suggest we can lap up the glory due His Name, nor does it mean we can exploit or abuse the goodness coming in, from our ministry of good. Say, I am old fashion or whatever, please, don’t be too quick to assume God is so pleased with you, that it is alright for you to fly around in a private jet or stay only at first class suite accommodations.

In any case, to underscore Ps Prentis noting that we should NOT be idling, 2 Th 3:10-13 said this:
10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” 11 We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions