*Every week during our 12 week series in the book of Ecclesiastes we will post a devotional guide that week 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 3- Ecclesiastes 3
Humans have a peculiar relationship to time. We are always aware of the time, and want to be aware of the time—placing clocks in every conceivable location. But we also hate feeling the pressure of “being on the clock” and racing against it. At times we love the season of life that we’re in and wish we could freeze time. But there are other times where things seem to be at their worst and we wish we could fast forward time, or go back in time to when things felt simpler or easier. We often wish we had more time, and simultaneously we don’t know what to do with the time that is given to us. We know we will die one day and our time on this earth will come to a close, but that knowledge doesn’t impact us daily. We live as if we had endless days to spare, and we often squander or waste the time we have on this earth. Ultimately, we desire to control time, but we often feel as if time is controlling us.
This is the reality for those who live “under the sun.” But our relationship to time changes when we know God. We become able to rightly recognize that He created time and is in control of it. Without God it feels like time, chance, and chaos are all our sinister siblings. But if God is over time then everything that happens to us in our lives comes from His providential hand and is therefore “beautiful” (Eccl. 3:11). God brings about every experience, every season, every difficulty, and every triumph at exactly the right time (Eccl. 3:1-8). And no matter how hard we try sometimes, we cannot change the time or what is happening to us in that moment (Eccl. 3:14). It is appointed by God to happen.
But, knowing the good, gracious, and loving character of God, we should rejoice at this fact rather than rail against it. Knowing God and being rightly related to Him helps us to see that since God is always good (Ps. 119:68), He is always acting toward us in a way that is perfectly good. What He brings us is good and, knowing Him, we can correctly see that the life He has chosen to give us as “the good life” (Eccl. 3:12 CSB). The life you have right now is the best possible life you could have in this moment because your loving heavenly Father has brought it about at exactly the right time.
And yet, we have all experienced times in our lives where our circumstances seemed to be anything but good. How is this the good life when my spouse has been diagnosed with cancer? How is getting laid off with a baby on the way good? These are legitimate questions that don’t have easy answers. But Solomon tells us that there is a time to be born and a time to die (Eccl. 3:2). There is a time to dance and a time to mourn. A time to laugh and a time to weep (Eccl. 3:4). And God is over each of these times. He has appointed them and they are “beautiful.” And while we experience all of the highs and the lows of life “under the sun,” it takes a perspective “beyond the sun” to recognize these truths.
We are able to rejoice in the time God gives us when things are going great, but we tend to question God when our time to weep and mourn comes. Is He really good then? Is He really in control? Is He really powerful? Truly knowing God can help us to declare an emphatic “yes!” to each of these questions. Having an eternal perspective helps us to see every occasion as a time to look to Christ, treasure Christ, and worship Christ, even when things appear to be at their worst.
John Piper wrote the night before he had prostate cancer surgery,
“Satan’s and God’s designs in our cancer are not the same. Satan designs to destroy our love for Christ. God designs to deepen our love for Christ. Cancer does not win if we die. It wins if we fail to cherish Christ. God’s design is to wean us off the breast of the world and feast us on the sufficiency of Christ.” (from Don’t Waste Your Cancer, 10. Emphasis mine.)
Piper rightly understands that God uses both times of triumphs and trials to helps us treasure and glorify Christ. But this requires us to think and live “beyond the sun,” to trust in God’s goodness, and to desire above all else to know and worship Jesus because only in Him do we have all that we need. Controlling time to bring about your idea of the perfect circumstances will never satisfy you the way Christ does.
If we do these things then we reveal that the longing for eternal meaning, hope, and significance that has been placed in the hearts of all people (Eccl. 3:11) has led us to the Author of eternity. Our life circumstances do not cause us to push God out but to draw in near to Him. In doing this we show that we are not merely animals who live and then die (3:18-19) under the sun. But we recognize that while we will indeed die one day, if we’re connected to Christ by faith, our lives are not inconsequential and our deaths are not meaningless. Everything is an opportunity to worship and enjoy Jesus.
May we have eyes to see the truth that God is good, loving, and trustworthy at the same that He is control of all things (including time). May we trust in the time that He graciously chooses to give us and see all things as opportunities to cherish and magnify Christ. And may we pray and advocate for good things to happen and healthy change to occur, but may we say above all else, “Your will be done.”
Given your background (where/when you were born, your upbringing, your life experiences, current circumstances, etc.) how can you uniquely cherish and glorify Christ with your life?
How can you cultivate a spirit that is more inclined to trust and worship God rather than get upset with Him when things don’t go the way you had planned?
How can you use the time that God has graciously given you to best magnify the name of Jesus?
Philippians 1:19-26; 3:8-9
Create a list of everything that God has given to you that you are thankful for (this could even be a running list that you continue to add to). Thank and glorify Him for these good gifts!
Now create a list of things you have experienced that were/are challenging or difficult. Prayerfully consider these things and write next to them how God can use them to conform you to the image of Jesus, to love others well, and to glorify Him. Thank and glorify Him that He is good and loving even in the midst of trials.