How to make the most of life: Ecclesiastes 9

Today’s reading: Ecclesiastes 9-12.

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.

It’s possible to be so focused on eternity that one fails to enjoy the present. “He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good” goes the old complaint. But wait, isn’t it just as big a mistake to ignore death and live as though there is no God and no judgment? Of course it is, and God tells us through Solomon that death should inform our living, making each day more precious and worth savoring.

For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun. Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. Let your clothes be white all the time, and let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun ; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going. Ecclesiastes 9:5-10

The value of life. Solomon doesn’t tell us much about what death is, but instead makes it clear that in death we lose our opportunity to participate in the experience of mortal life. In this way he exalts the value of life on earth – its distinct thoughts and actions, passions and work, pleasures and love.

The pleasures of life. Good food and good company are meant to be a foretaste of the joys of  heaven. We shouldn’t be humorless and always serious. Let the temporary nature of these pleasures make them even more enjoyable. If you want to see a cinematic portrayal of this theme, watch Babette’s Feast.

God’s approval of life. We can enjoy earthly pleasures which God has made available to us. By his grace he has given them to us for our benefit. He’s set down limits to protect us, but within those limits we can participate with gusto. And we can glorify the LORD by thanking him as we happily enjoy his gifts.

Celebrate life. We celebrate what is valuable and worth preserving. God encourages us to make life a celebration; it’s that precious. Put on your party clothes. Break out the perfume and cologne.

Share life. A good meal, a good view, a good life are best enjoyed with someone you love. It’s great practice for the communion we will share with God in heaven.

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,” refers to works that are possible. There are many things which our heart findeth to do which we never shall do. It is well it is in our heart; but if we would be eminently useful, we must not be content with forming schemes in our heart, and talking of them; we must practically carry out “whatsoever our hand findeth to do.” One good deed is more worth than a thousand brilliant theories. Let us not wait for large opportunities, or for a different kind of work, but do just the things we “find to do” day by day. We have no other time in which to live. The past is gone; the future has not arrived; we never shall have any time but time present. Then do not wait until your experience has ripened into maturity before you attempt to serve God. Endeavour now to bring forth fruit. Serve God now, but be careful as to the way in which you perform what you find to do—“do it with thy might.” Do it promptly; do not fritter away your life in thinking of what you intend to do to-morrow as if that could recompense for the idleness of to-day. No man ever served God by doing things to-morrow. If we honour Christ and are blessed, it is by the things which we do to-day.  – Charles Spurgeon

Image by reway2007 on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0

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