There are just two approaches to living in a material world. You could be a restless grabber for more … never satisfied, and always disappointed. Or you could be a thankful recipient of God’s kindness. Then you can be rich with nothing.
Just when you thought the Teacher’s cry of “meaningless” (NIV) was reserved for those who ignore God, today he takes up his clipboard, pen and voice recorder and shows up at church. And he finds meaninglessness even there. Here are four tests of whether your worship has real substance:
- Do you hear God?
- Are you hushed by his holiness?
- Do you say ‘Amen’ on Monday?
- Do you fear God?
From the riddle of time (chapter 3) to the riddle of human loneliness. You could be lonely because you’re a powerless victim of injustice, or because the rat-race of life has killed your spirit, drawing you away from the image of God in community. A partial solution: recognise that humans are meant to be in relationship, and so find, join or create a community – the church being the best place on earth. Full solution (of which the partial is but a shadow): the final satisfaction of the friendship of Christ, who laid down his life for those he called friends.
A series of conversations between Jesus and, first, one man, then two groups of hearers. We learn that eternal life is not a reward for the self-made, but God’s gracious gift to the open and empty-handed.
After the riddle of life’s seeming monotony in chapter 1, and the dead-end non-solutions of philosophy, wealth, pleasure and achievement in chapter 2, “the Teacher” now turns to the great riddle of time. We so wish we could control our time; but rather time seems to control us. Ecclesiastes offers little clues to what the answers might be, along the way. Here are two:
- Receive life with thankfulness to God the giver;
- Only God himself can truly satisfy the hunger of the human spirit.
Beginning a series from the Old Testament wisdom book of Ecclesiastes. Wisdom literature is about life and how to live it. Neither life in general nor your life in particular will make sense if viewed only in terms of what your five senses can apprehend. But wisdom, wealth, pleasure and achievement can all mean something if we recognise them as gifts from God, pointing us ultimately to him.
Most people in our culture believe instinctively that a place in God’s kingdom (roughly equals ‘heaven’), something they desperately want for themselves and for their loved ones, is something a person must qualify for on their merits. Heaven, in other words, is awarded on interview. Jesus’ illustrative story of two people who went to God’s temple destroys that deadly myth in a few lines. It’s not your merits; it’s God’s mercy, freely given to those who seek it.
If you’ve said ‘yes’ to Jesus in the gospel, then right now you are standing in God’s dwelling place, in the heavenly Jerusalem. This means being very intentional about living heavenly lives now. Every member’s spiritual health is the concern of every other member. Be proactive in both encouraging and challenging any ungodliness or spiritual drift detected in any of God’s people, before it infects the community. In all things, allow God to work in you what pleases him. For it’s for that that you’ve been saved.
Chapter 11 of Hebrews is about Christian perseverance, when God seems to delay – as he most commonly does (by our standards). Faith is the means by which Christians persevere, and it started with Abraham. If the faithful people of the Old Covenant could inspire faith in the Christ they never knew, how much more should our lives inspire others, knowing him who made God visible!
As the Easter season continues we return to the Letter to the Hebrews, as the letter itself now moves from extended teaching on the perfections of Christ’s priesthood, covenant and sacrifice, to practical application. Today — two exhortations and a final warning:
- Draw near to God with confidence and persistent hope.
- Be consistent in encouraging one another.
- Don’t be among those who shrink back through impatience, and fail to receive all that God has promised.