A great joy of studying the Word is looking into hard books and finding unexpected treasures there. For me, it’s been that way throughout Ecclesiastes. A year ago, when I was planning out the 2020 preaching schedule, I had no idea how relevant Ecclesiastes would be to our current moment. As we close out this series, here are three insights from the book that have blessed and challenged me, concerning life, the world, and God. First, according to Ecclesiastes, life is a blessing from God. It may be hard to see God’s kind hand at times, but life is still a blessing we should not take for granted. As a blessing, it is a gift of grace, not something we earn. In our “pull overselves up by the bootstraps” culture, we can forget that all of life is a gift. Remembering that life is a blessing helps us remain grateful — we may work hard, but the fruit of our labor comes from God. As well, it reminds us to use our blessings properly. Dr. Craig Barnes says this about blessings: “You can’t earn a blessing. But you certainly can screw one up. The way you do that is by insisting on prying it from the hands of God. Again, they are only given by grace.” This Christmas season, remember that your life is a gift: don’t take it for granted, be grateful for all you have, and use what you have according to God’s ways. Second, according to Ecclesiastes, the world is meant for our enjoyment. Creation is delightful. In the Westminster Shorter Catechism, we’re reminded that our “chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Sometimes we struggle to reconcile enjoying God and enjoying His creation; Ecclesiastes doesn’t force us to choose between them. When our loves are properly oriented through Christ, our delight in the world is actually part of our delight in God. If God made life beautiful and gave it as a blessing, the only proper response is to delight in it. As Joe Rigney says, “a gift is incomplete until it is thankfully received and glorified in and through the delight of God’s people.” This Christmas, please delight in the good creation and good life God has given you. But all of this assumes that our loves have been properly ordered. As Ecclesiastes exhaustively unveils, too often, our love is more attached to the world than God; we try to use the world to fill our vast longing for the Lord. This is the third insight I’ve been blessed and challenged by. According to Ecclesiastes, our main hunger is for God. When we’re not in right relationship with Him, we turn to the world for fulfillment, which never satisfies. So, this Christmas, let us take our desires to the Cross. God graciously offers to fill our hunger for Him through Christ and through the Spirit. This Christmas, make sure that your heart is right with the Lord. Draw near to Him in prayer, confession and Scripture. Once your heart is filled by Him, you’ll be able to go out into all the blessings of this life and world, and enjoy them as an act of praise. For reflection: — In this busy season, where and how will you make time for God? — In this busy season, where and how will you make time for godly enjoyment? — What were a few of your big takeaways from Ecclesiastes? Where did God challenge or encourage you personally?
For a great book on the question of godly enjoyment of the world, check out Joe Rigney’s The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts.