Living in the Present – September 29, 2023

I can probably assume that everyone reading this article has driven in a really bad snowstorm. Being from Upstate New York, I’ve had my share of driving in blizzards. I can remember driving to school my senior year in almost a foot of snow because they didn’t cancel. Yes, you read that right. If New York canceled every time we got a foot of snow overnight, then I’d still be in high school. So how should you drive in a snowstorm? Most of us would not say, “speed up and take sharp turns.” That would not end well! When caught in a blizzard it’s wise to slow down, turn on your flashers if it’s hard to see, and never stop in the road. The truth is, living in an uncertain world is like navigating a snowstorm. It’s dangerous and we must be careful. Ecclesiastes 11 continues the topic of why we need to submit our lives to God. Solomon has taught us that life is short, and this world is full of uncertainty. In this chapter, we learn two facts about life and the proper responses.

Although tomorrow is uncertain, we should be diligent today (Eccl. 11:1-6). In verses 1-4, Solomon gives some proverbs about planning for the future. The message is- be diligent today because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Solomon alludes to seafaring trade. Israel wasn’t known as a seafaring nation. However, this trade peaked during Solomon’s reign. The sea is a dangerous place, especially in a world without motors, life jackets, and the Coast Guard. Nothing is certain on the sea. The winds could be still or wild. The waves could be crashing one minute and calm the next. A capsized vessel was a death sentence. Solomon is encouraging us to take advantage of the opportunities that we have. There may be risks, like in seafaring, but there are also great rewards. We never know what disaster may come, so we shouldn’t put all our eggs in one basket. It’s wise to use the gifts that God gave to you and trust Him with the results. 

Again, Solomon reminds us in verses 5-6 that we can’t comprehend God’s works, so we should be diligent with our time. Solomon illustrates this point with the mystery of human life. Man is composed of two parts- immaterial and material, or body and soul. Our physical nature comes from our parents’ DNA. But where does the soul come from? Ultimately, we know it comes from God. But how does He put the soul in the baby in the womb? This is a mystery to us. Likewise, we can’t understand all God’s works. The response to this fact is found verse 6, “In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” Basically, we don’t know the outcome, so we should be diligent with the time that we have. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, we can’t comprehend all of God’s works, so we should be committed to using our time for good. 

Although death is certain, we should enjoy the life we have (Eccl. 11:7-10). Solomon gives us the facts- life is short, death is certain, so rejoice in the time that you have. We should enjoy the life that God has given us, but we also need to remember that death is coming. Our days are numbered. All that we have in this life will be lost to the grave. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the life that God has given us. This concept may seem crazy to an unbeliever, but Solomon understands that there is life after death (cf. 3:17; 12:14). Although this world is broken and offers no hope, God gives joy and hope to those who fear Him. 

In verses 8-9, Solomon commends joy. He tells us to enjoy our youth but remember that God is the Final Judge. So don’t use your life for wickedness, don’t pursue the vain pleasures of this world, because God will hold you accountable. This brings up a very important fact for us to consider- life can be enjoyable without sin. Often we fall into the trap of thinking: “Christian stuff is good and worldly stuff is fun.” But that’s not the whole truth. Solomon has taught us that true joy and pleasure are found when we trust and obey God. David declares in Psalm 16:11, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Did David have an easy life? Certainly not! But did David enjoy his life? Yes, because he understood that only God offers true joy.  

The final verse is a plea to remove the frustrations and evils of this life because they’re vanity. Solomon’s message in this book has been- if you seek meaning and purpose in this world, then you will only find pain and frustration. So put off that pursuit and live a life that pleases God. The vanity of this world will only bring pain. So remove them from your life. Instead, submit your life to the Creator and Final Judge.  

God wants you to be happy. But the happiness He gives is pure. The fact is, lasting happiness is only found in God. We need to submit our work and desires to God because He controls all things. Although life is like driving in a snowstorm, we have to keep moving. We can’t control the future, but God does. We can’t control death, but God does. And God is the Final Judge. So submit to Him and He’ll give you true joy.