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.
Have you ever read something in the Bible and had absolutely no idea what it was talking about? How did you respond? If you’re honest, you’ll probably admit that there have been times when spiritual laziness took over and you just skipped on to something easier to understand. We’ve all likely done it, but it’s a grave mistake. If we believe that the Bible is God’s word given for our benefit, then we should be willing to diligently search to see what it says. Think of it this way – if I asked you to bring a shovel and meet me in my backyard this Saturday to dig for gold, how likely would you be to show up? What if I told you that a geological survey team had done imaging of my backyard and found conclusive evidence that there was gold buried in it? Would you be likely to show up then? If the Bible is God’s word - then we know that there is treasure to be found, we just have to be willing to dig for it.
That was the attitude that propelled us into Ecclesiastes 11 last night. We took a passage that starts out puzzling at best and looked at three very practical lessons we can gain from it if we’re willing to do the work of searching and meditation on what it says. The first lesson that we see, from verses 1-4, is the importance of living wisely in this world. Solomon’s charge to “cast your bread upon the waters” sounds ten degrees south of bizarre to most of us today. However, what he’s talking about here is actually a very simple principle with far-reaching implications. At the most basic level, he’s simply offering sound financial advice here, as evidenced by the parallel command in verse 2. The text is telling us not to hoard wealth, but to use it wisely to protect against disaster. As one of the guys from our group pointed out, if you stash all your money in a wad under your mattress and your house burns down, you’re in quite a bit of trouble. We should seek to be wise in the way we use the gifts (from financial and material to talents, time, and relationships) that God has given us. Rather than clinging to what we have, we should use it with the attitude of a steward (for a great illustration of what that means, check out this recent post by Tim Challies), seeking to bless others and in doing so demonstrate the love that we’ve been shown in Christ.
The second lesson, from verses 5-6, is to worship God in both thought and action. In verse 5, we’re reminded of the fact that God and his works are beyond our comprehension. We know that which he has revealed to us, but there is so much about this life and God’s perfect plan that is mysterious to us. When was the last time you contemplated the “bigness” of God. When was the last time you marveled at the way he is weaving all things together for his glory and our good? Even more, are you ordering you life with those truths as a driving force? Do they affect your priorities, your values, your joys? Flowing out of that, verse six tells us to act, to work, in light of God’s providence. How do we do that? By working diligently and leaving our future in his hands. Faith in a sovereign God is not a fatalism that sits back and waits for God to do everything for us. Faith works – it follows the commands that God has given us in his word, goes about his work, and trusts that the results are in his hands. As a quick example, think of the implications of this principle on your evangelism. I’m sure you can think of one person in your life who seems to be a spiritual “lost cause.” There’s no way they’ll ever come to Christ, you think. So, you don’t even bother sharing the gospel with them, or making an effort to show them Christ’s love. This lesson shatters that ridiculous thinking as the stupidity that it is. Our task is to do the work of the gospel by living it out to all people that God puts in our path and to leave the work of changing hearts to him. When we’re worshipping in thought and action, we won’t see any lost causes.
Finally, in verses 7-10, we see a charge to make your life – and your youth – count. So often, we take for granted the wonderful gift that this life is – and the incredible opportunities that God has set before us. We fail to take joy in the blessings of each day, and put on blinders that dim the light of God’s glory that is shining all around us. We treat youth as a time of little consequence, and we set incredibly low expectations for the teenage years. As Alex and Brett Harris put it in their book Do Hard Things, if a kid simply refrains from getting into trouble and does decently well in school, we view that as a success. I told my students last night, and I say to any who might be reading this: there is so much more there for the taking in your youth. Do something big for the glory of God. Make an impact on the people he has put you around. Like Timothy, set an example for other believers, even those older than you, to follow.
All of that comes from an obscure, tough-to-understand chapter in the Old Testament. Put that wisdom to use in your life, and let it at the same time be a reminder to you that there is treasure to be found in the field of God’s word. You’ve just got to be willing and ready to dig.