"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
December 2, 2015
This week I am writing from Ecclesiastes chapter four:
Solomon begins on a pretty depressive note. "I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless. So I concluded that the dead are better off than the living. But most fortunate of all are those who are not yet born. For they have not seen all the evil that is done under the sun."
Even though much of what Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes seems to be a downer and a tad depressing, there is much truth to his words. It is terribly sad that there are so many people in our world today who are oppressed. Oppressed means: persecuted, down-trodden, abused, ill-treated, browbeaten, subdued, crushed, and underprivileged. It also can mean: depressed, discouraged, saddened, and disheartened. Most of us have either felt or experienced this, or know someone who has.
To compound the problem of oppression is when there is no one to comfort or help those who are dealing with this. At times, it may be a spouse or child who is being physically or emotionally or mentally abused, yet they feel as if they can't talk to anyone about their situation. Perhaps the abuser is threatening them should they tell anyone; or perhaps they feel as if no one would believe them; or perhaps they feel as if they somehow deserve the abusive treatment. At times, they may feel as if the one who is abusing them cannot help themselves, because of mental illness or other behavioral issues. They are going through adverse circumstances alone and cry their tears in private. There is a feeling of helplessness, on top of the loneliness and oppression.
At other times it may not be such a dire oppression that someone is experiencing. It may be discouragement or depression. A person may be saddened by something they've gone through and they can't overcome the grief. Perhaps they feel overwhelmed by a situation or are disheartened. They may feel as if they should be able to handle it by themselves and deal with it without help, yet they find themselves feeling as if they are suffocating and unable to break free from the oppression.
Solomon wrote that he concluded that the dead were better off than the living. In fact, he felt that those who had not yet been born were the most fortunate of all, because they have not yet seen or experienced what evil is.
The truth is, as long as we are on earth we are all going to encounter sin and evil and oppression and all kinds of diverse situations. Life is often tough and sometimes we go through situations that are just downright stinky! But as children of God, we have that blessed hope to hold onto. We have the promise of eternal life. We know that our time on earth is short compared to eternity. Knowing that one day we will see God face to face, experience the splendor of heaven, and be reunited with loved ones makes everything we have to endure here on earth worthwhile. Life doesn't seem quite so wearisome and difficult when we keep our focus on the prize at life's end. In the meantime, while living this life on earth we can communicate with God through prayer and find peace in His word. As we place our trust and faith in God, He gives us a peace that surpasses all understanding. He never leaves us or forsakes us, but His eyes are ever upon us.
Solomon then wrote, "Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. This too is meaningless -- like chasing the wind."
What motivates you? What is your reason for doing the things you do, or for buying the things you buy, or putting your kids in clubs, sports, and various activities? Is it because that is your passion and what you really want to do, or is it to compete with your neighbor? Is it because you feel like a bad parent if everyone else has their kids busy doing all different kinds of activities and you don't do so with your kids? Do you have to have the latest and greatest of everything because that's what your co-workers have? Does envy motivate you? If so, then perhaps you need to do a check to see if your priorities are in proper alignment, and make some adjustments to make sure you are motivated by the right things.
Solomon continues writing on in this same vein of thought. "I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun. This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, 'Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?' It is all so meaningless and depressing."
But then Solomon showed his wisdom when he summed up the conclusion to these verses. Many of us have heard or read these scriptures: "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer."
The last line that he writes to those verses puts it all into perspective: "Three are even better, for a triple-cord is not easily broken."
We have all heard of someone referred to as being a loner; meaning that they tend to shy away from being around other people and are a bit of a hermit. During those years when I was a supervisor at a bank, there were times when I got tired of dealing with people and hearing their problems and gripes and becoming a hermit sounded pretty tempting. But God didn't create us to go through life as loners. He created us to help, encourage, depend on, and need one another. When we have the attitude, "I can do it myself and don't need anyone!" we are not only limiting and hurting ourselves, but also going against how God made us to interact with others.
Solomon writes that two people are good together, for they can accomplish much. But wow, when you add in more people, it's even better! We become stronger and greater and accomplish so much more. God created us to represent a body, with each of us fulfilling all the different roles to function and be healthy. It's when we try and pull away from the body and function alone that we will fail and eventually die emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. That's also when many people get into trouble and give into temptations that are harmful and self-destructive. God created each man and woman as individuals, but each individual then must work together with others to create the masterpiece that God is creating through their lives for that moment in time.
It's kind of like putting a huge 10,000 piece puzzle together. It doesn't matter if you have 9,999 pieces of the puzzle. If one piece is missing, it messes with the overall beauty of the picture that is being created. It's the same with me and you. We can't be loners who neglect to fill in our piece of the puzzle that God is putting together with our lives. If so, then it will mar the masterpiece that He is trying to create. We all have a role to fulfill and it's important that we work together and help one another. Sometimes we may feel like a square peg being squished into a round hole, and life gets uncomfortable. There is no shame in admitting when we're weak or needing help from our brothers and sisters; just as there is no shame in reaching out and helping others when they're in need. God created life to be give and take.
In the last section of chapter four, Solomon speaks of how fickle the affections of people are. "It is better to be a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king who refuses all advice. Such a youth could rise from poverty and succeed. He might even become king, though he has been in prison. But then everyone rushes to the side of yet another youth who replaces him. Endless crowds stand around him, but then another generation grows up and rejects him, too. So it is all meaningless -- like chasing the wind."
God can raise up anyone who is willing to listen and obey, regardless of their background. Joseph comes to mind. He was sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused, and spent time in prison. Yet God blessed the obedience and wisdom of Joseph where he was promoted to being one of the greatest men in all of Egypt, only the king being greater than he. Joseph rose above his circumstances, didn't give up, nor did he set out to get revenge on his brothers who sold him or on the woman who falsely accused him, and God honored Joseph's faithfulness. Even though he was a great man in a powerful position, there came a time when the future generations and the new Pharaoh who was in power forgot about him. Does that negate the purpose that Joseph fulfilled and the great work that he accomplished? Absolutely not! Joseph succeeded and fulfilled his purpose for the time that God place him upon earth.
We read these verses and think, "What is the use of trying to do well and accomplish much and succeed, if it is all meaningless in the end?" While it's true that another generation may grow up and not know who we are or what we accomplished or anything about us, we can make a difference to the generation that is here now. We can leave a legacy to our kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews. Just like Joseph and Solomon and David and Esther and various others, God has us on this earth at this specific time for "such a time as this" to fulfill a purpose.
I'm a bit of a loner myself. Or at least, I much prefer to be alone than in a big crowd, and would rather be with two or three close friends or family than a big group. And as much as I love being with Loretta, I crave being alone for a few hours once in a while.
I remember watching Castaway. I thought that sounded great. The food wasn't as good as I like, but I could live with that. There wasn't any internet, which stinks. But I think I would be okay with that, too. I wouldn't envy my neighbors, because there wouldn't be any. I wouldn't see evil done in the world unless I was doing it, and that wouldn't be easy with no one to do evil to.
It looked pretty good, right up until he had tooth trouble. Then I realized it wasn't the life for me.
I don't recommend waiting as long as Loretta and I did to find each other. But I also don't recommend rushing into a marriage. It wasn't exactly our choice when we would meet, though. I guess it was just how God meant it to work out.
Loretta and I make 2. We're strong, but with God, we are 3, and we are much stronger. Things that could come and break us as 2 won't overcome us as 3.
This month I'm going to be sharing some of my all-time favorite Christmas treats!
Puppy Chow Candy (Not for puppies!)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter
9 cups Crispix cereal
1 cup chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
Combine peanut butter, butter, and chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute; stir. Add vanilla and stir again until well blended. Pour cereal in a very large bowl. Pour mixture over cereal and mix gently to coat. Next coat with powdered sugar. To coat with powdered sugar, put the cereal mixture in a large brown paper bag. Add the powdered sugar; fold down the top of the bag and shake to evenly coat. Store in a tightly covered canister or bowl.
This past Sunday morning my niece and her husband were getting ready for church and had their bathroom door closed. Their 5-year old daughter came and started knocking on the closed door saying, "Mommy.... mommy.... mommy..... mommy.... daddy.... daddy.... daddy.... daddy.... daddy.... Jax and Jaycee keep saying my name over and over and I don't like it!" Oh the irony!!
Vanity causes us to LOOK at a mirror to see the reflection of self.
Humility causes us to BE the mirror to show the reflection of Christ. - Luke Lang
We love you!
Loretta & Jon