Time Given to Us

January 2, 2015 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement | Tags: resolutions, mundaneness, Ecclesiastes, Heaven, Fellowship of the Ring

With the start of a new year, many of us think about goals and resolutions that aim to improve upon our previous year. Such reflection is good and healthy, but we also must remain realistic. The year ahead holds many unknowns. No amount of planning or goal setting can dictate all of the future outcomes. That is the nature of the world we live in, where we are not sovereign.

The writer of Ecclesiastes recognizes this truth about life. In poetic form he observes that there is a cycle to life that progresses outside of our control. He writes:
"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace." (Eccl. 3:1-8)

Some of these "times" we may not choose for ourselves, much like Frodo who, in the Fellowship of the Ring, says, "I wish it need not have happened in my time," speaking about the rise of the dark lord Sauron. The wise wizard Gandalf, much like the writer of Ecclesiastes, replies, "So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

So, what do we decide to do with the time that is given us? The writer of Ecclesiastes gives us some direction after his poem.

1. Do not begrudge the "mundaneness" of life's cycles. "God has made everything beautiful in its time" (Eccl. 3:11). In our thrill-a-minute society, we are under constant pressure to "excel," be "radical," and create memories. Anything less is a disappointment. This sort of discontentment dishonors God, who orders all of our lives. Enjoy the simple beauty of life.

2. Be content, but never give up longing for Heaven. "Also, he has put eternity into man's heart" (Eccl. 3:11). Our longing for a thrill is rooted in a God-given longing for what is eternal. The things (and thrills) of this world are temporal. Whatever goals you set for 2015, submit them to the eternal purposes of God. God's goals for you are eternal in scope.

3. Learn to fear God and submit to his sovereignty, especially in the midst of life's unexpected "times." "God has done it [ordered our times], so that people fear before him" (Eccl. 3:14). God is in control of all things. To fear God means not complaining, resisting the urges to frustration as if our will is thwarted, and trusting in God's sovereign plan for our life.

No amount of resolutions will "fix" 2015 perfectly. We are at the mercy of the only sovereign one. Let us "eat and drink and take pleasure in all our toil - this is God's gift to man" (Eccl. 3: 13).

Happy New Year!


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