26 June 2020 - Enjoyment: An Antidote to Discontentment
Read Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:7
During my early years as a Christian in the 90’s, I was often told that enjoyment will cause me to sin. Due to this teaching, I had avoided enjoying myself too much for fear of sinning or that the pleasures of the world would derail me from personal holiness and God. While I am saved by grace I lived by the “law”. It was a flawed understanding of how God’s grace works but that is a topic for another discussion.
How about you? Have you ever felt guilty for enjoying life? Well, what if I told you that God wants you to enjoy your life? What if you were told that you were to live abundantly by the grace of God? Well, he does. God wants you to enjoy life and live it to its full in Him. God who created all things for his good pleasure also created them for our good pleasure.
Let us consider this through the lens of today’s reading in Ecclesiastes 11:9-10:
9 You who are young, be happy while you are young,
and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
God will bring you into judgment.
10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart
and cast off the troubles of your body,
for youth and vigor are meaningless.
A) Permission to Enjoy Life
The Teacher instructs the student to “be happy… while you are young” (11:9). In other versions it says “rejoice”. Basically, he instructs the reader to enjoy life while he still can because youthfulness is fleeting and will be gone. He is also saying; give your best efforts with the best of your abilities when you still got the energy to do so.
Too many people have live in regrets and sorrows because they lived in the “what if”. They regretted because they did not use the best years of their lives to its fullest. Instead they lived worrying about many things. Friend, do not let your years be wasted by the “what if”. Instead, fully live each day by God’s grace. Live in the present, and do not let tomorrow’s worries rob you of your present joy.
B) Why must we learn to enjoy life?
The Teacher tells us why we must learn to enjoy life in verse 10 – “To banish anxiety from your heart and cost off the troubles of your body.” In a sense, he is saying that to enjoy life is to banish anxieties, worries and sorrows of what you can’t control, and to learn contentment.
One reason we ought to learn to enjoy our lives is to prevent the spirit (attitude) of discontentment from germinating. Discontentment in life is a great offence and can lead us to sinful living. It makes us look at life negatively and we begin to compare with other people. We begin to envy what others have and soon enough we let envy fester into prejudice. It takes our eyes away God who is our Provider and Source of joy to others things and people.
Discontentment can cause us to crave for worldly pleasures. Thus, learning to enjoy life today becomes an antidote against discontentment in our hearts.
Allow me to put a “but” here. While we are granted the permission to enjoy this life, we are not given the permission to enjoy it as the world enjoys life. Our enjoyment should come from our desires to enjoy God and to please him. Here we must keep the Teacher’s instruction in verse 9b,
“Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, [but] know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.”
We are often drawn by the earlier instruction to “follow the ways of your heart…” In fact, that was exactly what you and I have been doing all our lives in the pattern of our ancestors, Adam and Eve. We have been following our hearts.
The Teacher is giving permission to the student to follow his or her heart because it is important. Not following your heart will make us suffer and live as hypocrites. However, he forewarns the student that while following his heart’s desire, he is to do it with fear and trembling because God is not blind to our actions. The Bible has many things to say about the heart, but it is good to take heed: “Above all things guard your heart form out of it everything flows” (Proverbs 4:23).
God will judge all of our thoughts and deeds (12:14). So, while we are enjoying our lives, do so wholesomely and in holiness. In your enjoyment do not sin or cause others to sin. Enjoy life to the fullest and give your best efforts in all you do so that you do not ever live in regrets. But, do it also in fear and trembling.
We must learn to maintain the delicate tension of Joy and Fear. If we can do this, you will discover a life that is full of unhindered possibilities. You will grow and develop the joy of the Lord and the fear of the Lord together. And in both his joy and fear, you will find the freedom to be who God has called you to be.
Father, help me to live in the joy of the Lord and to appreciate this life that you have blessed me with by the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ. May I make rejoicing my daily practice so that I can live fully with deep godly satisfaction and hope. Give me the grace to share this joy with others so that they will know you through my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.