While still working, I had written a long, detailed proposal for our company. I had invested a lot of time and energy and was really excited about my work. When ready for a serious review of the proposal, I inadvertently hit the wrong computer keys. I could have been the poster child for reminding folks to back up their data on computers! I lost everything on which I had been working so hard. I was devastated and tried all the tricks I knew to regain what I saw vanish. Fortunately for me, we had an automated backup system that saved my work.
- Have you worked hard to gain something significant that was suddenly taken from you? How did that loss affect you?
Read the Word
Ecclesiastes 2:18-26 (ESV)
18 I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, 19 and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?23 For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.
24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also, is vanity and a striving after wind.
- How did the Teacher feel about his work? Why did he feel this way (vss. 18-19)? How did he react (vs. 20)? Why did he react this way (vs. 21)?
- From verse 23, how would you describe his outlook on life during the day? And at night?
- Bereft of everything else, what suggestion did the Teacher make (vs. 24)? What is the essential ingredient required for true enjoyment (vs. 25)?
- From verse 26, how does God treat those who seek to please him from those who really do not? Do you live as one who seeks to please God?
- In an honest evaluation of yourself, how are you doing in the category of enjoying life to the fullest?
Respond to God
The Teacher worked hard (actually toiled) for things, but he hated knowing that, once dead, his control of his work would be lost. Even getting ahead was no fun; he was irritated and could not rest. Finally, he saw that real enjoyment only comes from God; everything else stems from that. When his focus changed from this world and its resources to connecting personally with God, he could enjoy the moment without being fooled into thinking those successes would provide more ultimate satisfaction than God.
- Ask God to help you set aside anything that impedes your pursuit of him.
- Confess when you find yourself chasing other things first, hoping God will somehow change the rules for you. Instead, turn to him and enjoy life now in all its changes—with him!