Though apparently not everyone agrees, I think the new year provides a perfect opportunity to examine if there are lifestyle changes or attitude adjustments necessary to better enjoy the process (and make progress in Christlikeness). Especially in light of Ecclesiastes 9:7-10, if we’re eating our bread with dissatisfaction and dressing down and wasting life with our wife and loafing around, we may need to reshape our whole modus operandi (or at least tweak it).
Yet in light of Ecclesiastes 9:11-12 and the reality that under the sun the race doesn’t always go to the swift, maybe we wonder why try to get faster? If bread doesn’t always go to the wise, why stay up late to study? And if we might die in 15 minutes anyway, is all the wearisome effort really worth it?
The answer is Yes! It is worth it if we do it for the right reasons and pursue it in the right way. It is proper to work hard at whatever our hand finds to do. We should look for, and take advantage of every opportunity we can. So let’s resolve to do something new or something better. God ordained food for joy, so let’s resolve to get our feast on. We are obligated under God to have fun with our wife. So get one, or if you have one, resolve to stop being a sourpuss.
But–but–we must resolve to improve our joyfulness in the process not just at the end of the process. We might not succeed, but at least we can die happy trying. Fact is, if you don’t enjoy running, you won’t last longer than a few weeks on the treadmill no matter how much weight you want to lose. Achieving the goal is good, but what about the thrill of the chase? It’s easy to miss the joys along the journey because we only think about the destination. The problem is, we might never actually arrive.
So how can we make resolutions keeping in mind both Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 and 9:11-12? Here are three approaches I think Solomon would approve.
1. Seek out opportunities but submit to God.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 is a divine command to do so. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might. Redeem the time because the days are evil. Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord. Commit your work to the Lord. But, don’t forget that no matter how detailed your plans are the Lord directs your steps. If you get upset about that, you’ve crossed the line from serving God to directing God. But start the semi truck moving and trust that He’ll steer you in the right direction.
2. Work as hard and as smart as you can, but rely on God.
It is a sin to be slothful. Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys. Don’t run aimlessly or half-heartedly. The plans of the diligent typically lead to abundance. So work harder than anyone else. Likewise, wisdom does have (relative) value over folly, so get counsel and get wisdom and work intelligently. But, don’t forget that if you work harder than anyone else, it wasn’t you, it was the grace of God in you. Use all the (righteous) means available, but depend on God.
3. Play to win every time but enjoy the process.
Solomon is not anti-competition. He certainly isn’t telling the mighty warriors just to lay down their swords. Winning the race is still the goal, triumphing in battle really is better, obtaining food is important, making a profit can be good, and earning influence has great benefit. He isn’t saying those things are bad, he’s saying don’t depend on those things as your ultimate joy. Pick up the pace to obtain the prize. But remember the breeze on your face as you scamper around the track is intended for your gladness as much, if not more so, than finishing first.
In light of the fact that we don’t have the power to control the present or the wisdom to predict the future, we should fear God, work hard, and ETP. If we do that, we’ll not only have joy on the earthly road but eternal joy will be our destination. Fearing God is the only sure way to have our best life now and forever.