Another day, another year! As last year we could hear the annual catch-cry, ‘I don’t know where the year has gone’. The Latin words, ‘tempus fugit’ (time flies), says it all.
Ecclesiastes 3 paints a word picture of the times and seasons of life: For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;… (Ecclesiastes 3:2-8).
The rhythm of the lines gives us a sense of the passing of time and of the seasons. There will be summer and there will be winter. There will be a time to weep, and there will be a time to laugh.
PASSAGE OF TIME
Ecclesiastes tells us there’s a beauty about everything in its time. There is a beauty about summer and there is also a beauty about fall and winter. There’s a beauty about time at College, a beauty about work and a career. There’s a beauty about being single and a beauty about marriage. And there’s a beauty about Thursday night because we know that Friday is coming and with Friday that relaxing Saturday morning and a long cappuccino with family and friends. Everything is beautiful in its time.
But as the seasons come and go, Ecclesiastes asks: ‘How do we make sense of time? How do we use the time? What’s the point of it all?’
Indeed Ecclesiastes wants us to know that there is a purpose about the times and seasons of life. Nothing is wasted. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says: God has made everything suitable for its time;
And it adds: …Moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. God has hard-wired us with the knowledge that there is more to life than simply time now: He has put a sense of eternity into our minds…
Many philosophers acknowledge this. Goethe in Faust commented, “Everlasting!–for the end would be despair. No. No end! No end!” And even Friedrich Nietzsche observed, “Joy wills eternity; wills deep, deep eternity.”
Throughout history men and women have always sensed that there is more to life than our present existence. The questions that tantalize us are these – ‘What is life really all about?’ and, ‘What does the future beyond space and time hold out for us?’
Ecclesiastes’ answer is this: Fear God and keep his commandments… For God will bring every deed into judgment… (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14).
What gives life meaning? Why is it that we’re not satisfied with the thought that the here and now is all there is? Ecclesiastes says it’s because God has put eternity in our hearts.
If Ecclesiastes is right about the seasons of time, the times of injustice now and the time of justice to come, what are we doing about getting our relationship with God sorted out? And, what are we doing to help others do the same?
The practical wisdom of Ecclesiastes is really quite simple. We can’t afford the luxury of enjoying all that we can in this present time without regard to a future time – a time of accounting to come.
In 2 Peter 3:10-11 we read: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief… Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God…?
‘WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE OUGHT YOU TO BE?’
Peter is asking. It’s an important question to ask at the beginning of a New Year. One day we will all stand before God without any material props on which to rely – our degrees or investment portfolios, our carefully constructed career, our pampered complexions and fit bodies. All these will be destroyed with the old order. Only one thing will stand on that day: our relationship with God.
The practical wisdom of Ecclesiastes 3 and 2 Peter 3 is quite simple. We cannot afford the luxury of idleness or laziness or apathy in spiritual or moral matters. Skepticism about the return of God’s king is dangerous because it can lead to laziness. The reality is that God has fixed a Day. Soon we shall find while traveling on, time gone.
May you know the Lord’s grace, courage, and strength this New Year as you live with the sense of eternity in your heart!
© John G. Mason