Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ecclesiastes 7-8: Don't Worry-Be Happy

Most of us remember Bobby McFerrin and that ridiculously catchy song, "Don't Worry, Be Happy."  Oh, yes.  The whistle.  The rhythm.  The melody.  If you've clicked on the link, you're hearing it now, and it'll be in your head all day long.  I'll probably be humming this song as I listen to the sermon this morning in church.

I thought of this song as I read through Ecclesiastes 7 this morning.

Solomon writes, "When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.  Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future."  

When times are good, be happy.  When times are not so good, you might as well be happy then too.  God is still God.  No matter what's going on, God is still good.  He's working things out for His good, for the good of the kingdom of God.  

It's not about you.

The thing is, when times are good, we tend to get a little self-righteous.  I'm financially successful because God has blessed me.  Because I've serve him well.  Because I've made good decisions.  Whatever.

I remember listening to a conversation back in 2006.  My friends were talking about how much their houses were worth and how God had provided for their retirement.  How they had made really good investment choices and were basically set for life.  (They each owned more than one house.)

And then the real estate market crashed and it didn't look so good for their futures.  

When all three of my kids attended church every weekend and did all the things "good Christian kids" are supposed to do, I thought Duane and I were amazing parents.  It was our wisdom, I assumed, our commitment to discipline and home schooling.  They would serve God wholeheartedly forever and ever.  

And then our oldest crashed.  Big time.  

I recently heard about someone who was leaving the church.  I'm okay with that.  Newbreak isn't the only place to worship.  Except that this person wasn't just leaving Newbreak, but was leaving God.  

Times were tough, and the question that stood out was:  Where is God in all this? 

We think God's present when things go well, and we think he has abandoned us when things don't go well.  

But it doesn't work that way.  Solomon says, "Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?"  

I think of so many Scriptures passages as I write this: 

In Romans 5:3-5, Paul admonishes us to rejoice in our sufferings because as we walk through them, God produces perseverance and character in our lives.  Which brings about hope in Christ--who is our only hope.

James 1:2 tells us to consider it pure joy when we experience trials of many kind.  

1 Peter 1:6-7 tells us to rejoice in our salvation in spite of the trials around us.  Because our salvation is far more valuable than anything else in our lives.  

Three different writers.  The same message.  Suffering produces beauty in our lives.  

And so where is God in this?  When we look directly at him, focusing on his love, on his character, we see him in the pain of our lives.  

The writer of Hebrews tells us to set our eyes on Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our lives.   After all, Jesus suffered to the point of death, something none of us reading this passage have yet done.  His suffering was for us.  

And so, the writer concludes, we should "endure hardship as discipline" because God is strengthening us for his purposes.  

It does seem that I've traveled quite a ways from Ecclesiastes, but maybe not.  

When times are good, be happy.  
When times are bad, don't worry.  Look into the face of Jesus, see his love, his sacrifice.  Remember, he will do something incredibly valuable in your life if you will let him.

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