Updated: Apr 17, 2019
*Every week during our 12 week series in the book of Ecclesiastes we will post a devotional guide for the passage that was preached on the most recent Sunday. We encourage you to engage this book of the Bible more fully by walking through this devotional each week after having listened to the sermon on Sunday.*
Week 1—Ecclesiastes 1:1-11
Are you weary? As the new day dawns do you find yourself thinking, “here we go again”? As you meet a deadline only to have a new one replace it, do you sigh with exhaustion? Do you find the joys of a new device, product, experience, opportunity, or relationship fade far too quickly and you need something new or seemingly better to replace it? Does the weight of trying to prove that you are worthy of love and acceptance online wear you out? Does life sometimes feel like toil without progress? I can relate.
We can all at times agree with the words of the Teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes, “All things are wearisome, more than anyone can say” (Eccl. 1:8 CSB). We all experience these difficulties to varying degrees “under the sun”—in this fallen world where toil, trials, and trouble abound. Because of the presence of sin these frustrations affect us all. But we also at times have our own special brand of weariness that we choose for ourselves when we pursue meaning, purpose, fulfillment, significance, and satisfaction in the things of this world. This often leads to the refrain, “Absolute futility. Everything is futile” (Eccl. 1:2). Our efforts amount to nothing because, “The eye is not satisfied by seeing or the ear filled with hearing” (Eccl. 1:8). But rather than take this truth to heart we deceive ourselves by thinking that all we need is something new or better.
If any of this has struck a chord with you then I’ve got some good news: you’re going to die (Eccl. 1:4, 11). Not the good news you were expecting? Sorry. The reality of death is a given, but we rarely, if ever, truly reflect on this reality or allow ourselves to feel the weight of it. We know our days are numbered but we live as if our future on this earth will stretch out forever. But the brevity of our lives is good news. Not because our weary toil will come to an end, but because recognizing the reality of death will give us a better perspective of how to live our life. David Gibson in his recent book on Ecclesiastes calls this “Living life backward.”
Our lives on this earth are but a breath—short and elusive. We don’t have much time and we can’t seem to find meaning, significance, and satisfaction in this world. Think of the smoke that exists for a moment after a candle is blown out. We can see and touch it, but we cannot grasp it, and before we know it, it is gone. Life is like this. But recognizing that we will die one day helps us to wisely live our lives today (Ps. 90:12).
It helps us to stop focusing on life “under the sun” and look to life “beyond the sun.” Because even though life at times seems pointless or meaningless (and the Teacher in Ecclesiastes will point this out frequently), it isn’t. But we must look to the One who created the sun and all things to find meaning. We must look to Him who has promised us that this world will not always be like this because He will make all things new (Rev. 21:5). We must find eternal hope in the only One who can give it. We must look to Christ who alone can provide the meaning, purpose, fulfillment, significance, and satisfaction that we long for. Recognizing that we will die helps us to find answers to the “big questions” of life and existence, which will always lead us to Jesus. And knowing the truth of the gospel and the full, eternal life that Christ brings helps us to better live our lives in the present, and to enjoy the things this world has to offer as good gifts from a loving heavenly Father instead of treating them like little gods, asking them to fulfill desires they were never meant to fulfill.
Knowing Christ replaces our weariness with joy and our toil with eternal purpose. It can help us to truly enjoy the things of this world instead of worshipping them, because we can only truly enjoy them when they point us to the One who alone is worthy of worship. It allows us to make the most of our short lives for the cause of Christ instead of pretending like we will never die. It helps us to stop trying to control life and make it give us something it was never designed to give us and relinquish control to our good Father who was already in control. And instead of trying to gain anything by our efforts under the sun (Eccl. 1:3), we can shift our gaze from what is temporary to what is eternal and rejoice that "our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17).
Take some time this week to reflect on the reality that you will die one day. How do you find yourself responding?
Where are you trying to find meaning, purpose, significance, and satisfaction? Christ or elsewhere?
What things, responsibilities, practices, etc. in your life bring you weariness? Ask God to reveal these things to you and then hand them back over to Him.
2 Corinthians 4:7-18
Spend a few minutes each day this week in kneeling prayer with open hands. The kneeling posture reflects humble submission to, and reliance upon, God. The open hands simultaneously reflects relinquishing control of everything in our lives and receiving all of the good gifts God has for us.