REPOST Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on September 15, 2014; it has been updated. Mark is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.).
Devotional Thought for This Morning
“Turning the Blessings of God into a Curse”
Ecclesiastes 6:1-6 (ESV)
There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: 2 a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil. 3 If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. 4 For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. 5 Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he. 6 Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to the one place?
In reading Ecclesiastes, you realize that the more things seem to change, in reality they stay the same. From the beginning of history, worldly success has been measured by the triumvirate of wealth, long life and children. Children? Regardless of how few children we may have today, their behaviors, their involvement in sports and other activities, and their academic progress constantly preoccupy our minds. But, as some of us already know, wealth, stable children, and optimal health are still no guarantee of a good and happy life. In fact, the worst thing possible is to be unhappy despite possessing these things. Where then can we turn?
For this reason, Solomon writes that it is better to have been a stillborn child, to never have lived than to live without being able to enjoy the wealth and the family during the length of years that God has given us. Somehow, we humans will find a way to turn the blessings of God into a curse: squandering our financial wealth so that someone else enjoys it; after raising “successful” children, they have become so embittered towards us that they will not be at our bedside in death. Moreover, to live 75 years, not to mention 2000 years, is an interminable amount of time if we are filled with constant discontentment. Some of us continue to live in the same way as the man who confessed, “I hate life but I am afraid of death.”
Thus, it isn’t hard to see why this chapter is deemed as one of the darkest in the Scriptures; but there is a glimmer of hope. Solomon, led by the Spirit, correctly diagnoses the solution to this dilemma: God is the one who gives us the power to enjoy everything we have in life, whether it’s a lot or a little. Christ, who had no wealth, no children, and a life shortened to thirty-three years, reveals that our life is so much more than these three factors, that the abundant life is not dependent on having these things checked off on our list of accomplishments. In fact, if our soul is not first satisfied in our relationship with God, then we will find no satisfaction in anything that the world offers.
So today, refocus; realize that “for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee” (Augustine).
Prayer: Father, we have been created with eternity in our hearts but yet we try to fill that void with so many temporary and material things. Help us to see that a heart that is not satisfied in you, can never find ultimate satisfaction in anything at all. Thank You that you give us the power to enjoy the gifts of wealth, family, and life itself. In Jesus name. Amen
Bible Reading for Today: Acts 12
Lunch Break Study
Read John 10:7-15 (ESV): So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
Questions to Consider
- How does Jesus give us the abundant life?
- What is the enemy of the abundant life?
- How can we personally learn to live abundantly?
- Jesus teaches us that He is both the gate and the shepherd through which we can enter into the safety of the fold and the plentiful forage of the pasture. All other philosophies of life apart from a relationship with Christ ultimately lead to death and destruction. Only Jesus can lead us to streams of living water and to a life in all of its fullness.
- Sometimes the enemies of the abundant life are disguised as self-help gurus or even teachers of religion. There are many who advertise themselves as guides to life but the only path to true life is found in the person of Jesus and his teaching.
- We can learn to live abundantly by growing in our knowledge of Christ and learning to trust him as our good shepherd.
Can you describe your life as being abundant? How has Jesus been a guide to your life? Can you recognize the dangers of following other ways of finding satisfaction in life? Spend some time reflecting on what it means for Jesus to be your shepherd.