Daily Reflections April 19, 2017
As we reflect on the sixth chapter of Ecclesiastes, it is helpful to consider the closing thought of chapter 5.
Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 5:19 ESV)
It is good to enjoy the things that God has entrusted to us. The wealthy Christian should, of course, be careful not to make an idol of his riches, and the believer who has food to eat should, of course, avoid over-indulgence. And yet, Christians are not called to live in a perpetual state of self-loathing for the perceived sin of “not living in poverty.”
We need to be wise and biblical in our consideration of money. The prosperity gospel – the notion that God’s ultimate desire for you in this life is wealth and happiness – exists as a ditch on one side of the road, yet it is also true that self-deprecating asceticism exists as the opposing ditch. Our job is to stay in the middle, neither idolizing nor loathing wealth and comfort.
The opening verses of today’s chapter accentuate the challenge that success and money pose for man. This reflection resonates in our North American context. We are a culture of excess and leisure that only puts our celebration on hold for long enough to take our anti-depressants. There is a very real sense of dissonance in our world: We have everything that was supposed to bring us joy, and yet we are still dissatisfied. The author of Ecclesiastes summarizes our problem when he writes:
There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: 2 a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil. (Ecclesiastes 6:1-2 ESV)
The problem is restated and amplified in verse 7:
All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. (Ecclesiastes 6:7 ESV)
Our culture is exhausted. We believed the American dream and we idealized the accumulation of wealth and privilege. Workweeks extended, houses expanded, investments multiplied, but it was never enough. We have the world at our fingertips, but only God can give us the power to enjoy it.
This chapter is worthy of extended consideration. If we are honest with ourselves, does this not address one of the primary reasons why we are reluctant to share the gospel in our culture? We ask ourselves, “Do our wealthy neighbours even sense a need for anything more in their comfortable lives? Do people with cottages and skidoos really need Jesus?”
The answer, of course, is yes. Ecclesiastes 6 reminds us that the pleasures of this world can never fully satisfy. Only God can bring true joy, and true joy is what this world is looking for – in all the wrong places. Or, as Augustine would say,
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”1
Assistant Pastor Levi denBok
1 The Confessions of Saint Augustine.
2 Timothy 2
Paul loved his son in the faith. In this chapter he instructs Timothy about three issues. Timothy is to pass on to others what has been entrusted to him. He is to share in suffering for the gospel as a faithful servant of Christ (see 2 Timothy 1:8). Finally, he is to lead with integrity.
First, we have been saved by the grace of God, through the life and witness of others who have shared the gospel with us. None of us are here forever. We come and we go. Others will follow us. A baton has been passed to us and we in turn are to pass it to others. Timothy was to fulfill his ministry by entrusting it to other faithful men who in turn would teach others.
…and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2 ESV)
Second, Paul experienced desertion by those in Asia who gave up in the heat of battle (1:15). In verses 3-6, Paul gives Timothy three metaphors to help him stay faithful. Like a loyal soldier we are to endure suffering as those who seek to please our commanding officer. As an athlete we are to endure pain as we run to win. Finally, like a farmer we are to work hard that we might share in the coming harvest. After the hardship, there is reward!
Following Jesus is a high calling requiring wholehearted devotion. It is a call to self-denial and endurance (see Mark 8:34). Timothy was urged on by both the sufferings of Paul and the Lord Jesus:
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. (2 Timothy 2:8-9a ESV)
Third, Timothy is reminded that character counts. Integrity matters. Followers of Christ are to depart from iniquity and conduct themselves in a godly manner (verse 19). We are to be set apart in holiness for honourable purposes.
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22 ESV)
It is helpful to remind ourselves why we must make disciples, work hard, endure suffering and guard our integrity. It is because there are people all around us who need to be saved. We are compelled to share the gospel that the elect might be saved.
Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10 ESV)
In this high calling will not be successful unless we abide in Christ. Paul instructs us in verse one to “be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” This grace saved us and also enables us to daily walk in the will of God. Therefore, in this grace and power, found in Christ, we will be ready to work hard for the gospel. We will be able to endure the cost of following Christ as we anticipate the joy that awaits. We will make disciples and be prepared to give up our lives for the gospel. Suffering leads to glory. The cross leads to a crown. By grace we will soldier on, run on, and keep working in the harvest.
Associate Pastor Jody Cross