Enjoying Life “Under the Sun”

I remember as a boy a commercial jingle for a fast food chain that started, “Eat, drink and be merry!” This chain is famous for its ice cream treats and, indeed, as a youngster it was always a treat when my parents would give in and take us to Dairy Queen to enjoy one of their sweet, sugary concoctions. Truth be told, I still enjoy the occasional visit; drive through almost any small town in Texas and you will likely see the DQ sign somewhere along the main drag. What better way to enjoy the Texas countryside than an ice cold shake (vanilla is my fav)?

“Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.”

Ecclesiastes 5:18

Do you enjoy your work? Do you enjoy your life? Did you know that God wants us to enjoy life? He does. Now, we must be careful here. This is one verse that is easy to take out of context and go way off the rails with how we apply it to life. Pull this out of the context of the whole of Scripture and it appears to be a license for gluttony, drunkenness and “whatever”. Taken within the context of the whole of Scripture and we quickly realize that is not the message here at all. So, what is the message?

Let’s work backwards through the verse. “This is his reward.” According to Merriam Webster, a reward is “Something that is given in return for good or evil done or received or that is offered or given for some service or attainment.”1 What is the reward here? The reward is to “eat, drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor.” Simply put, to enjoy the fruits of our labor. This is not a careless free-for-all; it is, however, an expression of joy.

The writer of Ecclesiastes writes much about the futilities of this life. He goes on about the vanities of life. The lack of purpose of life. But as one reads through this book, the author’s point is revealed: Life lived absent of God is futile. Life lived in relationship with God is fulfilling. Daily toil with no perceived purpose is futile. Daily work with an attitude towards service to God is fulfilling. And in the midst of all this, he tells us to enjoy the fruits of our labor, for that is our reward. It is not a license to sin, but it is a reminder to enjoy life’s blessings.

A fictional young man named Ferris Bueller summed it up quite well:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.2

[Ferris Bueller’s Day Off]

As strange as it may seem to quote Ferris Bueller in seeking to understand a passage of Scripture, I think young Ferris hit this one square on the head. A wise person once said, “Stop and smell the roses.” I think that about sums it up.

So – here are some things I enjoy “under the sun”:

  • I enjoy the relationships of family and friends.
  • I enjoy a Blanton’s bourbon on a large rock after a long day of work.
  • I enjoy a thick steak accompanied by a bold Cabernet Sauvignon at a fine restaurant with family, friends and coworkers.
  • I enjoy a long walk on the beach (yes, I really do).
  • I enjoy the fresh air of the early morning.
  • I enjoy boarding an airplane to travel someplace new or someplace familiar.
  • I enjoy watching an Astros baseball game at Minute Maid Park, and I really look forward to the day when we fans can return.
  • I enjoy reading and meditating on God’s Word. That is partly why I write this blog. In fact, I am enjoying listing things I enjoy!
  • I enjoy live music and dancing a two-step to a good country band.
  • I enjoy reminiscing with my friends from Concordia days.
  • I enjoy singing in the choir.

I could go on. As I write this, I am reminded of how much I enjoy my life and that God wants me to enjoy my life. What a blessing that is!

What do you enjoy “under the sun”?

Soli DEO Gloria!

(c) workisministry 2020

1“Reward.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reward. Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

2Hughes, John, et al. Ferris Bueller’s day off. Hollywood, CA: Paramount Pictures Corp, 1987.

Consecrate My Life?

One of my fondest memories of church is from many years ago. It was 1978 and I was 16 years old. Our congregation in Katy, Texas had outgrown our little church. Even with two Sunday services, the space was cramped on Sunday mornings. We wanted a space large enough that all could worship together in one service each Sunday morning. The unity we shared as a congregation as the construction progressed and we worked towards our first service has stuck with me over the years. It was here that I first began to understand what being the church was all about.

“Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?”

1 Chronicles 29:5b NASB

Consecrate. The first time I ever heard this word was in the context of dedicating our new sanctuary to the Lord’s work. Our first worship service was an Order of Consecration. What does this mean exactly? According to Merriam Webster, to consecrate is to “dedicate to a sacred purpose.”1 Pretty simple, right? That makes sense; we built the building to serve as the place in which we gathered to worship God. It was special, different from any other space. It was to be set apart. It was to be holy. Indeed, it was to be a sanctuary.

As I was reading my Bible a couple mornings ago, this verse from 1 Chronicles hit me right between the eyes. For context, King David had decided to build a temple, a house, for the Lord. God spoke to David through a prophet telling him that he was not to build God’s house. God had determined that David’s son, Solomon, would build the house. So David gathered all the materials needed to build and furnish God’s house. He then anointed Solomon as king, and after doing so, David asked this question of Israel. In response, donations came flooding in, sacrifices were made, and Solomon assumed his reign.

So, here I sit this morning with that question on my mind. Am I willing to consecrate myself, indeed my life, to the Lord? If so, what would that consecrated life look like? The short answer for me is, of course, “yes”. Yes, I am willing. However, I cannot help but feel I am not worthy – not of my own accord.

I hearken back to the dictionary definition of consecrate: to dedicate for a sacred purpose. What is my purpose? My purpose is to honor God by seeking to obey Jesus’ command recorded in Matthew 5:16. I’ve written about this before.

As I ponder this question I begin to wonder how in the world do I achieve this? I think about sins I’ve committed in the past, decisions I have made and later regretted, and things I have said I wish I could take back. Who am I to think that I can consecrate my life to the Lord? As I I think about these things, two words from David’s question leap out at me. Let’s read the question again:

“Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?”

Emphasis Mine

Do you see it? The past is the past. This question today can mark a fresh start, a new beginning, if you will. As I consider my past sins I am convicted; that is what the Law does for the Christian. Jesus died so that my sins might be forgiven. He bore my burden; He paid the price. Am I worthy? Of my own accord, no. But through the blood of Jesus I am made worthy. The burden I felt as I first considered this question is now a feeling of freedom. Through Christ, I am free to live my life to His glory! Through Christ, I can answer this question with a hearty, “Yes, Lord!”

Indeed, the past is the past. In Jesus, no matter what my past or your past looks like, we can leave the past where it belongs: In The Past. And we can move forward, freed from the burden of past sins, free to serve Him in joy and thanksgiving. Will I make mistakes? Yes. Will I give in to temptation? Yes. Will God work through me anyway? Yes! Thanks be to God through His Son, Jesus!

Today, Monday morning, marks a new beginning. I am consecrated to the Lord. I will seek to honor Him in my work, my relationships, my social media posts – everything. How about you?

Soli DEO Gloria!

Images from YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

1“Consecrate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consecrate. Accessed 9 Aug. 2020.