“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. For man also does not know his time: … Like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them.” Ecclesiastes 9:11-12
Isn’t it funny how much of what goes on in the world is beyond our understanding and yet we think we can steer and control it? I’m learning that doing so is a great waste of time. There’s so much going on ‘behind the scenes’ in the spiritual realm that would blow our minds if we were privy to it all. God’s only allowed us small glimpses of it. See Job 1:6-12, 2 Kings 6:16-17, Dan. 9:21, 10:11-13, 20-21, Eph. 6:12, Jude 9, and Rev. 12:7.
THE ONE EVENT
It’s part of human nature to be fixated on self. Ironically, it doesn’t matter how rich, famous, beautiful, fit, skilled, talented, or wise one is, the one event that happens to everyone (regardless of status) is DEATH (Eccl. 9:11-12). Man, like a bird caught in a snare, does not know when death will suddenly fall upon him (Eccl. 9:11-12). All the tiresome toils and passing pleasures of this life can be traced back to the nature and fall of man. One wouldn’t be wrong in saying that the consequences of it were life changing as man and woman no longer had access to the Tree of Life. Now bound in time—life subject to limitations—it advances toward the one event that brings them back to the dust that they came from (Gen. 2:7, 17, 3:19, Eccl. 12:7, 1 Cor. 15:47, Ps. 103:14).
GOD’S TIME IS NOT OUR TIME
All’s not fair in this life. Often the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. The question, “Why would a loving God permit evil and suffering in the world?” is a common one. God’s allowed men and women to have freewill, giving each to choose to follow what’s good or what’s evil. God’s already provided a remedy for sin and His mercy and longsuffering are beyond human comprehension (John 3:16, Rom. 5:8, Ps. 86:15, 2 Pet. 3:9). To us mere mortals, ensnared in a fallen world, it may seem like an eternity, but God’s timing is always perfect. His work goes beyond the scope and sphere of our work and His purpose dates back before time began, and continues on after it’s ended. We’re unable to ‘find out the work that God does from the beginning to the end’ (Eccl. 3:11, Rom. 11:33-36, Acts 1:7, Ps. 115:3, Isa. 40:28). So why do we think we can?
The endless cycle of human experience described in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is a faint echo of the mighty purpose of the ages. Whatever God does, it will be forever. Not a thing can be added to it or taken from it (Eccl. 3:14). God works in the way He does ‘that men should fear before Him’ (Eccl. 3:14). This fear of the Lord (reverence) is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). It’s only the “beginning” as Job discovered (Job 42:5-6, James 5:11). King Solomon found that the conclusion of all his searching and testing was to “Fear God and keep His commandments” (Eccl. 12:13).
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MEN NO LONGER FEAR GOD?
When men no longer fear God they sin without hesitation. The fear of consequences isn’t a deterrent when the fear (reverence) of God is gone. Proverbs 19:21 says, “There are many devices (schemes) in a man’s heart, yet the counsel of the Lord shall stand.” Yet throughout the ages man has turned to the creature and not the Creator to seek counsel apart from God using everything from fortune tellers with crystal balls to tarot cards and horoscopes. Even turning to witches, enchanters, wizards—those who use spells, divination or consult with familiar (evil) spirits to seek the dead. These are of no real help and an abomination to the Lord (Rom. 1:25, Ps. 115:4-8, 146:3-4, Deut. 18:10-12, Lev. 19:26-31, 1 Tim. 4:1-3, 2 Tim. 4:3-4, Titus 1:10-16). This in the end led to King Saul’s demise (1 Chron. 10:13-14).
OBEDIENCE LEARNED THROUGH SUFFERING
Jesus’ death and resurrection has given the believer a hope and a purpose to wait patiently and endure this present evil age. If the dead won’t rise then the “Let’s eat, drink for tomorrow we die” mentality would suffice. But that’s not the case. The counsel of the Lord will stand and all works will be brought into judgement (Eccl. 12:14, Ps. 37:1-2, Heb. 10:23). Sin came through disobedience while righteousness comes through obedience (Rom. 5:12, 19). “Though He were a son, yet learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8, 12:2, 1 Pet. 2:21-24). Obedience is the cadence in which a believer must learn to walk in. One can’t bypass suffering in the chain of events that lead to hope (Rom. 5:3-4). Being conformed to Christ’s likeness happens as the believer has faith through trying times, while keeping their eye on the prize (Rom. 8:29, Phil. 3:14, 20-21, 2 Tim. 4:7-8, 2: Cor. 4:8-10, 16-18). Though we may not understand it, God disciplines because He desires for us to be partakers of His holiness. It’s not always pleasant going through it but afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:5-11, Gal. 6:8-9, 2 Tim. 2:11, 2 Cor. 4:17-18).
FAITH IS MEASURED IN STEPS
Our finite minds can only see in part. It’s not for the created to question the Creator. God justifies man/woman when they come to Christ and receive Him as Savior, knowing that it’s not based on any merit of their own. The believer becomes a new creation and learns to live and walk by faith, not by sight (Eph. 2:8-10, 2 Cor. 5:17, 7, Gal. 2:20). Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” God sees the whole staircase. He knows where it’s going. We need to trust and obey His direction and will in our lives. Even when we trip and fall, we need to get up and take the next step in faith, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began (Titus 1:2).
May the poem, “The Weaver”, by holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom, inspire you to see with eyes of faith:
“My life is but a weaving
between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaves steadily.
Oft’ times He weaves sorrow;
and I in foolish pride
forget He sees the upper
and I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
and the shuttles cease to fly
will God unroll the canvas
and reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
in the weaver’s skillful hand
as the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
who leave the choice to Him.”