Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Ecclesiastes 7:13-18

Having been considering wisdom, what it is and what it looks like in practice - Solomon now turns to consider God.

Ecclesiastes 7:13-18

People ask me how I'm doing or about what my week's been like and often my response goes something like - 'It's been a mixed bag.' Actually these days I don't say it as much because it started getting on people's nerves and became a bit of a joke. I meant it though. Life always is a mixed bag of good and bad. Even every day has good things going on and at the same time people (including us) are making mistakes and suffering in some way too.

As Solomon considers God, he notices that God has ordered events and allows bad things to happen to good people. This makes us want to ask all sorts of questions but one thing we can be sure of is that we are powerless to make our lives completely good. Sure, we can make headway on certain things and we can drop bad habits and learn good ones. We can become more like Jesus, by the help of the Holy Spirit and that's awesome. But while we're in this world, our lives will always be a 'mixed bag.'

Bearing this in mind, Solomon's advice is to enjoy the good times and to humbly consider God also in the bad times (v14). We don't know what will happen next. We can't change the 'mixed bag-ness' of life by trying to be really good or really bad (v15). The unpredictable mixture will still be there even if we gain much wisdom (v16) or if we throw away wisdom and go nuts (v16). Solomon knows we can't change the fact that life will deal us good and bad things whilst we're in this fallen world. God is still here but sin is here too. We won't change things by going for extremes. Our best way forward is to love God and get a sense of balance in this life (v18).

Solomon's not saying that we shouldn't try to change things for the good. Of course we should and God will help us to make real and miraculous changes. The point is that we shouldn't expect this to set everything right and make this world perfect again. Sin is still here and we will have this mixed bag of good and bad as long as we continue to live in this world until Jesus returns.

By considering God's authority over everything we experience, we stop striving to make everything right and we have to realise that we need to trust him. The following prayer really finds the same perspective that Solomon is talking about...

The Serenity Prayer (by Reinhold Neibuhr)
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.