“This is good for a man: Eat well, drink a good glass of wine, accept his position in life, and enjoy his work whatever his job may be, for however long the Lord may let him live.” (Ecclesiastes 5:18 NLT)
Throughout my life, I’ve heard a lot of “theme verses” for individual people, families, and churches. But in all of my years of ministry, I’ve never encountered someone who made Ecclesiastes 5:18 the anchor verse for his life. And yet, for King Solomon, the simple wisdom to “work hard and enjoy life” seemed pretty central.
Lay Down Your Messiah Complex
Solomon’s seemingly common sense wisdom is astoundingly rare today. For about 17 percent of the people reading this, the advice to “enjoy life” will be ignored. Why? Because 17 percent of us live with a messiah complex, and we can’t let ourselves relax, take breaks or—God forbid—vacations, or slacken the pace at all. We think, If I don’t get this done, it’s not going to get done. How can I rest when there is so much important work to be done?
(For those of you hung up on that 17 percent number, I would just remind you that precisely 84.2 percent of statistics are made up on the spot.)
Living with a messiah complex is particularly dangerous for those of us in ministry because other people stoke that fire so readily. I remember a time in my Christian life when I felt like every cause had to be mine. I would hear someone speak about the nations, and I felt like I had to go. I heard about adoption, and I was convinced my family needed to take in orphans. I listened to someone challenge me to live more sacrificially with my money, and I was convinced that it was sinful for me to have any money at all. Not only did this paralyze me and prevent me from freely pursuing any of these God-given opportunities, but it also made me feel constantly guilty. I never felt like I was doing enough.
I was struggling through this season when a mentor of mine recognized that I had picked up the messiah mantle and put it on. He gave me one of the wisest corrections I’ve ever received: “J.D., not everything that comes from heaven has your name on it.”
The flip side of that statement is that something from heaven does have my name on it. And God expects me to put my heart, mind, and strength into it. That’s what the other 83 percent needs to hear. Sure, it’s not up to us to save the world. But God’s got a job for you. It may be fostering or planting a church or creating a business marked by integrity. If you don’t know yet, ask the Spirit to guide you to it, and when you find it, put your hands to the plow!
If You Aren’t Happy Now, You Won’t Be Happy Then
When you realize that God has a specific role for you in his kingdom, it frees you up to actually enjoy life along the way. No longer are you desperately trying to define yourself by what you’re accomplishing. No longer are you working to earn your rest. Instead, you begin from a posture of rest before God—and out of that rest you are given the strength to work with all your heart.
Happiness, you see, is only something that can be experienced in the present. The irony is that most of us live as if it is something we hope to obtain in the future or something we mourn because we left it behind in the past. Blaise Pascal, the 18th century philosopher, captures this well in his Pensees. He wrote,
We seem never to be able to be happy with the present. Either we yearn for the future and wish it would hurry up and get here, or we mourn the past and wish it had had not flown by so quickly. … Are not all of your thoughts occupied with the past or the future? We scarcely ever think about the present, for it is mostly painful to us. We conceal it from our sight, because it troubles us. And if it happens to be pleasing to us, we only focus on the pain of it slipping away.
Most of the time, we only think of the present to plan for our future. The present is never our end. The present is our means; the future alone is our end. So, we never live, we only hope to live someday. Because we are always preparing to be happy, we never are so.
If Pascal is a bit too heady for you, take the same wisdom from Andy Bernard of The Office: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good ole days before you’ve actually left them.”
Where Andy Bernard and Blaise Pascal meet, there you find wisdom.
Most of us live under the illusion that we can be happy if we experience a certain change of circumstance. But what Solomon tells us is that happiness is a gift that God gives to us in the present.
Most of us don’t actually believe that. We think that a little more money or a better relationship or a career advancement or some great success will turn the tide. But how many times do you have to watch other people get those things and be miserable before you realize it’s a lie? If you aren’t happy now, trust me, you won’t be happy then.
I fear that for many people, you will grow old and realize that you gave away the greatest moments of your lives to an elusive future that didn’t deliver what it offered. I’m not talking about sacrifice for the mission (which we can—and should—joyfully embrace). I’m talking about yearning and endlessly working for that ethereal something to fulfill you somewhere out there in the future.
The Apostle Paul told Timothy that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6 NIV). The greatest wealth and happiness God can give, regardless of our background or socio-economic status, is within reach to all of us. So reach out and grasp it today. Happiness only exists in the present, and God is eager to give it.
This post is from JD Greear Ministries and the original post can be found here.
Once a year South Carolinians gather alongside one another to experience the annual South Carolina State Fair. Oh, the flavor and aroma of fried Oreos, donut hamburgers, savory mushrooms, sugar coated funnel cakes, and the famous Fiske fries. Who can resist the bright lights of amusement rides, the laughter of kids, smiling faces of families, and the carnies who work with immense pride for their trade. This is an opportunity families take once a year to engage memories of the past and create ones for the present. The state fair is such a neat picture of how we often imagine the Christian Life.
Once you enter the gates of the South Carolina State Fair you are bombarded with opportunity. You see show schedules, food vendors, concert staging, and of course the adrenaline infused rides that roar with screams of excitement. Just as the entrance of the fair offers great opportunity so does the Christian life. You have the opportunity to pass by every vendor, every ride, every concert, & every person and simply check the box of attending the fair. You can do the very same thing as you walk through the Christian life. The opportunities for service, discipleship, worship, prayer, etc. are all present, but all to often we bypass each one. Some would rather attend the Christian life rather than participate in it.
You’ve already parked the car and have ventured seemingly miles to the front ticket booth to pay for your admission ticket. You've committed to the decision of attending the South Carolina State Fair. Once you swipe the card or slide the cash across the desk you’ve paid the price, you've checked the box of attending the South Carolina State Fair. Essentially, you could then turn around and walk back to your car, get in, crank it up, and drive home. You could even post on Facebook or whatever your favorite social media outlet is, about how you attended the fair. You would absolutely be speaking truth, you have the ticket and the receipt to prove it. That seems a bit odd though, that someone would show up, commit, and yet walk away without participating in the events of the fair. Yet, to often we find ourselves simply attending the Christian life. We show up, we attend worship, we attend bible study, we attend “gatherings”, yet we don't engage and participate. Why would we invest our lives to such a calling as the Christian life to simply go through the motions or “check the boxes” and not be obedient to the teachings of Christ? What is holding us back from being participants in the Christian life?
I’ll be the first to tell you that you will never find me on a roller coaster again. Ive been there and done that, and know that the good Lord wouldn't want that for my life. But my fear of roller coasters or most rides for that matter doesn't stop me from participating in the other options at the fair that “tickle my fancy”. I love the vendors, the shows, and some rides that are slower in nature. I love the people we encounter, and the atmosphere that were surrounded by. I feel that all to often we let our fears dictate our pursuits of God. We often sit on the sidelines and walk by great opportunities because our fears blind our ability to see what lies around us. I must be transparent in saying, I get “black out” scared when I'm on a ride that has some sort of drop in it. When I became a Christian I knew that the life i vowed to live wouldn't be a lazy day on the chair lift. I knew that there would be roller coaster rides awaiting me. I knew there would be times that I would be terrified to take the next step. Its in those times i heard the sweet voice of God telling me, “It’s ok son, take the next step” and I did.
Is it true that we often attend the Christian life because we are afraid of the next step of participation? God calls us to be a servant of Him, to walk in faith knowing that everything will be taken care of. God payed for your ticket at the entry booth, he simply wishes for you to participate in the growth and development of His kingdom. It cant get any more exciting than knowing you are an heir of the king! A king who's granted you a kingdom in heaven, a king that simply wishes for us to engage in the pursuit of Christ living.
So how do we go from attendees to participants ? What would that look like as we parallel the state fair with the Christian life? As a Christian, you've already committed your life at the ticket booth. You've offered your heart to God in return of being an heir of the King. (Mic Drop) As you walk through the fair imagine your life. Imagine opportunities you miss daily to share the gospel with others that haven't yet heard it. The fair is packed with people, I'm certain not all are going to heaven. Now, don't let this seem as though I'm expectant of you to become the state fair evangelist. This is simply an illustration on how we often operate. The roller coaster’s, slides, haunted houses, stage designs, lighting, etc doesn't do itself. Neither does the work that needs to be done for Christ. As bible study leaders, Awaken Kids volunteers, custodial volunteers, production volunteers, etc. give their time to pursue the calling of God in their life, so should you. Have you found an outlet to serve? Not an outlet to “check a box” but to actually serve as a servant of Christ? The concert is about to begin, just before the show the band takes a moment to remain still, a time of reflection prior to giving their all. When was the last time you took time to pray? When was the last time you time to offer thanksgiving to the God who provides the next breath? There is a tremendous need for electricity at the State Fair. Everything is in need of a power source for their success in operation. In worship, are you really listening to what God is saying to you? Are you becoming energized in his power and grace? Its ok to take the safety cover off your outlet and really get plugged in!
As the crowds dissipate and people begin to head home for the evening we sense a somber tone amongst the state fair grounds. We then see the lights shut off one by one, and the movement of each ride begin to slowly stop. The beauty of those moments is that those rides, those vendors, those concerts, don't leave until their called home. That gives us hope for the next day, hope for the next opportunity to punch our ticket and get to work. God will not fail you. He gives you hope for the next day, he provides endurance and courage to continue. You may not like all the rides the fair has to offer and I'm certain you wont like all that you encounter in your Christian life. But just as those fair lights grow dim, there is hope for tomorrow when they are brighter than ever. Be encouraged to know that each day offers new hope. Be encouraged to know that God provides the courage needed to participate in the Christian life.
As we venture together in our walk with Christ, i commit to serving alongside you. I commit to experiencing the things that terrify us most (not roller coasters) and battling against them. For us to merely attend the Christian life would be a travesty. Participating in the Christian life, is more than showing up!