This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.
As we moved into our tenth week studying Ecclesiastes last night, the general theme of the book has become very clear. Solomon makes the case that all of life is meaningless and vain unless viewed through the lens of God and lived for his glory. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about why that is and breaking down Solomon’s points, but last night we looked at verses 1-13 of chapter 7 and talked about exactly what a life focused on God looks like. Once we’ve established that only God can give life meaning and we desire to live for his glory, how should we do it? What does such a life look like? We examined the answers, which are reflected in a series of proverbs that open the chapter.
The first thing we need to live lives of Godly wisdom in the right mindset. In verses 1-6, Solomon contrasts the wise man and the fool – a common theme in his proverbs. What is surprising, however, is the mindset that he says characterizes each. Solomon paints the fool as in a state of revelry and happiness, but says that the wise are marked by mourning and sadness. This seems strange to us. Is happiness a bad thing? Are we to be some kind of spiritual masochists, seeking out pain and eschewing pleasure? I don’t think that’s what the text is saying at all. What it is saying is that we need to have a sober mindset when it comes to this life. We need to be people who take serious things seriously, and think deeply about what this life is all about. What are the times in life that tend to cause us to think deeply about what’s really important? It’s usually the painful times. Think of how our nation’s culture changed, albeit briefly, in the wake of 9/11. Suddenly, there was a deeper sense of community among people, church attendance rose, and most people started to think more about what really matters. Sadness and pain tend to have this effect on us, while good times tend to lull us into coasting along without a thought. Solomon says that it a wise person, a Godly person, will think deeply about life and have a sober and focused outlook.
In verses 7-13, we see that once we have the right mindset in place, we need to have the right heart. What sort of things highlight the person who is living a life of Godly wisdom? We examined five characteristics from these verses. The first is integrity, which is seen in verse 7. Solomon says that the corrupting influence of sin can drive mad the wisest man. We need to be people of character who do what is right regardless of whether or not someone is watching. As James 1:26-27 points out, true faith in God is demonstrated by actions. Second, we need to be people of patience in both our actions and our attitudes. In verses 8-9, we see Solomon teaching that it is better to see something whole from the end than to make rash judgments at its beginning, and he warns of the danger of letting anger easily take up residence in our hearts. James warns about this as well in his famous admonition to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” Third, we need to have a spirit of contentment. Unlike the man Solomon describes in verse 10 who longs for the good ol’ days, we need to be people who rejoice in whatever circumstances God places us in and seek to learn from and glorify him in the midst of those circumstances. Like Paul in Philippians 4:11-13, we will likely face times in our lives when we have much and times when we have little. We need to have the same attitude of contentment in each. Fourth, we need to display wise judgment. Verses 11-12 talk about how wisdom is a guard, helping us to use what God has given us wisely. Coming at the heels of our thoughts on contentment, no matter our circumstances we should strive to use what God has given us to his glory – including our possessions, yes, but also our time, talents, energy, relationships, and every other aspect of our lives. As Jesus parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 shows, God has blessed all of us for a purpose, and he calls us to use our gifts in his service. Finally, we need to be people of obedience. Verse 13 tells us that fighting against God is futile. If we truly want to live wise lives that are not wasted, we will bring ourselves into conformity to God and his word rather than seeking to live by our own rules.
So, how does your life stack up to this calling? Do you have the right mindset, seeing this life with sobriety and a focus on what is truly important? Does your heart reflect the virtues that God says come from wisdom? No doubt, we can all see failings in our lives in these various areas. Thankfully, God promises to give wisdom to all who ask for it. Draw near to the throne of grace, seeking wisdom for a life that’s not wasted, and thanking God for the cross of Christ, which ultimately triumphs over our failures and brings us to the Lord.