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.

Get Some Rest!

I went to bed at 9:00 last night. 9:00! On a Friday night! I remember “back in the day” just getting ready to head out for the evening at 9:00 and now, here I am, hitting the sack! Truth is, I’ve had a busy week and I’m tired. I need some rest. I need to sleep.

“By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”

Genesis 2:2 NASB

I find it rather fascinating that the concept of “rest” originated at creation with the Creator Himself. Here, in Genesis, at the conclusion of His creative work, God takes a whole day to rest. What did He do on that day? Why does God need to rest? As I ponder this, my mind fills itself with questions that Scripture does not answer. And I know that the fact that Scripture does not answer them means that those questions really aren’t all that important. Which leaves me with…God’s action. His example. His rest.

Do you ever feel like our society has dismissed the notion of a day of rest; that society considers taking a day to rest a waste of time? I do, sometimes, and that is a huge mistake. Scripture does offer some additional insight:

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work… For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.”

Exodus 20:8-11 NASB

So now we have God’s example and we have God’s command. We are told to rest and to keep the seventh day holy. So, what does that mean? In this busy, 24/7 world in which we live, what are we to do with that?

I remember watching a movie years ago in which a Christian family of 1800’s vintage spent a Sunday afternoon sitting in chairs staring at the walls. They had gone to church, and now they were trying their best to obey God’s command to rest. They were not allowed to speak. The children, if they fidgeted, received a stern look from their father. And there they sat. All afternoon. Is that what God wants? As well intended as I believe these parents were, I think they missed the mark.

Jesus, Himself, was criticized by the Pharisees for “working” on the Sabbath day. First, His disciples had the gall to pluck heads of grain and eat them as they walked through grain fields on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1ff). Wait – Jesus and His disciples are walking on the Sabbath! Jesus rebukes the Pharisees’ rebuke and continues on to the synagogue. Inside, He encounters a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees ask Jesus if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. Jesus answers with a question (I love it when He does that) and proceeds to heal the man’s hand which, of course, sent the Pharisees straight over the edge. (See Matthew 12:1-14)

I think the Pharisees would have liked that 1800’s family. But we see here that, like the 1800’s family in the movie, the Pharisees missed the mark. What we see here is so much bigger than my decision on how to spend my day of rest. Here, we see Law and Gospel. Sin and Grace. Condemnation and Redemption. Jesus, the perfect fulfillment of the Law, provides the answer to my dilemma.

One of the commitments I’ve made for 2019 is to be deliberate in seeking rest; Taking one one day to unplug from work and give my mind a break from what it spends so much time doing most of the week. Just as God gave Himself a break from His work of creation, I am committed to taking a break from the toils of my daily work. I’m not staring at walls. I’m not maintaining silence. I’m doing something different.

You see, I am best equipped to do my best work when I show up in the morning well rested and reenergized. And so are you. Do you get enough rest? Are you able to unplug? It is important. When we rest from our work, everybody wins.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Finding Meaning

Drudgery. Minutia. Routine. Unimportant. Unappreciated. Boring.

Do you ever feel this way about your work? Do you ever wonder why you show up each day to do the same darn things only to have nobody notice or appreciate your efforts? Do you find yourself saying, “I hate my job,” or, worse yet, “My life has no meaning.” I know people who feel this way and my heart breaks for them.

“Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.”

Proverbs 16:3

If you’re feeling this way, I want you to ask yourself who it is you serve. For whom do you work? Had you asked me this question a few years ago I would have answered with the name of a company or the name of my boss. But in reading God’s Word, my perspective has changed. Yes, my employer provides a paycheck. But I work for the Lord.

The masters we serve in the world are imperfect. Executives sometimes make poor decisions. Bosses are sometimes hard to work with. We see unfairness and injustice in the world around us. And when we are touched directly by such things, as I have been, our attitude may become negative and our productivity may decrease. In contrast, the Master we ultimately serve is Almighty. He is kind, gracious and merciful. Always. In every circumstance. We are to approach everything we do as being done for Him. Because it is.

The beauty of this proverb is that its truth extends beyond our employment, and it includes a promise. “Works” here contemplates all that we do – our daily work, our morning routine, our evenings and our weekends. Indeed, this proverb reminds us that we are to commit our very lives to the Lord.

Note the promise: “…and your plans will be established.” The passive verb here is important. God doesn’t tell us that we will establish our plans. No – He tells us that He will establish our plans! Contrary to what many modern-day thought leaders will tell you, life’s purpose does not come from within. It cannot be established by reading self-help books or even through self-determination. Life’s purpose is found in the Lord. When we commit our lives to the Lord, our plans become His plans – actually, His plans become our plans. We are aligned with our Lord. The pressure is off! If that’s not a gift, I don’t know what a gift is! Praise God!

Dear friend, if you are one for whom your life’s work, or even your life itself, is unsatisfying and unfulfilling, ask God to change your heart. To whom (or Whom) are you committed? If your commitment rests with anyone but the Lord, why not consider making Him your life’s focus? Commit your works, indeed your very life, to Him. Seek Him through reading His Word and prayer. There are a plethora of Bible reading plans that can help you get started, including many in your local Christian book store and on YouVersion Bible App.

God is waiting. He is available. He will provide. He will establish your purpose. He will work it out. For you.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com (2019)