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Biding Your Time (Part 2)

Have you ever been let down by something that you anticipated with high hopes? The blind date that seemed promising, or the exotic vacation that you saved for, or that new next-generation electronic device?

Anticipation can make our imaginations run wild. We hope for something better, something more, something that matches our highest of expectations.

The Bible indicates that there’s an innate sense of anticipation that we all possess. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says God “has put eternity in man’s heart."

In our last blogpost we started looking at what the Bible says about time in the book of Ecclesiastes. And one of the clear themes of Ecclesiastes is captured with the phrase “under the sun” or “under heaven.” It’s meant to sum up the worldview of those who have little or no regard for God. They are focused on life in the here and now, life under heaven, with little concern about any life beyond this one.

But Ecclesiastes also has an interesting way of showing that there’s more to life than just what we experience in our fleeting days on earth. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has made us in such a way that we cannot find ultimate satisfaction or joy under the sun. He has put eternity in our hearts so that we will anticipate something more above the sun. In other words, there’s a God-given sense inside of you and I that rightly looks around and says, “This can’t be all there is. There must be something more.” And there is!

I love this line from one writer: “We feel like aliens in the world of time and yearn to be part of eternity” (Duane Garrett). That is God’s design. We are bound in time, always facing the pressure of the clock. We can’t see the whole sweep of life and death, only what’s come before and what’s happening in this moment. But, our Creator has made us to long for eternity, to believe that there is life after death, life above the sun.

That’s why, when Ecclesiastes provides some of God’s lessons for time management, we are told, on one hand, to rejoice in the moment. Or, as Ecclesiastes 3:13 says, “…everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil – this is God’s gift to man.” Give thanks for God’s good gifts today, in the here and now. Acknowledge His rule over life. Enjoy what God has given.

But, remember this: “I perceived that whatever God does ensures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before Him” (Ecclesiastes 3:14).

The ultimate goal in God’s design for how we use our time and how we think about tomorrow and the rest of the future is to get us to see Him. God wants us to see how all that we have is a gift of His kindness. Our time is in His hands. Therefore, we should look to God and stand in awe of Him. He is the one who brings value and beauty to the feeble work of our hands.

But that’s not all. This long-term, eternal perspective on life, also allows us to rest when it comes to matters of injustice. That’s one of the chief lessons in the remainder of Ecclesiastes, chapter three. We see injustice all the time. People suffer from evil perpetrated by others. And we’re tempted to wonder when victims will be paid back for their suffering.

People suffer and are oppressed under the sun. But that’s why the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us again that we are bound in time. We can’t see the end from the beginning. We see the injustice, but we don’t always see the recompense. But, Ecclesiastes 3:17 says, “God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.”

While the old saying may be that “Justice delayed is justice denied,” we who belong to the just God of the universe can rest in this: the righteous judgment of an eternal God will stand. Our God is sovereign and His rule will not be thwarted.

But, let’s finish this meditation on God’s rule, especially over our time, with these words from Ecclesiastes 4:4-6

4 Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
5 The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.
6 Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.

Your response to God’s rule over your time and your life can easily go in wrong directions. You can respond like the foolish person of verse four who believes that the main takeaway from the reality of a short life here on earth is that I need to strive for everything I can get, while there’s time. The under-the-sun, forget-God approach boils life down to a mad rush to accumulate stuff.

Or, you may respond like the fatalistic person of verse five who says, “My times are in God’s hands, so I’ll just sit here and fold my hands and do nothing. God can do whatever He wants. I quit.”

But, the best response is the one given in verse six: rather than grabbing for everything you can get in life, or giving up, like all of life is hopeless, Ecclesiastes 3:6 says the answer is quiet contentment. Instead of being restless or agitated, the person in verse six is at ease. He or she is able to stop in each moment and savor it as a gift from God. This person trusts in God’s sovereign rule.

Our great God longs to give us strength to serve Him in life, to use our time well. But, in the end, He wants us to find perfect rest in Him. He wants us to work hard underthe sun, but not to make life on earth the sum of all of our goals. Instead, we are to live in awe of Him and to know that there is life in His presence beyond the sun. God has made us to enter into an eternal rest that can only be found by trusting in Jesus Christ and resting in the rule of our sovereign King.