As we continue our Under The Sun series about living life on purpose, this week we’ll look at how we can spend our time on purpose. Our moments and days on earth are limited, and we want to discover how we can avoid wasting the time God’s given us.
Read Ecclesiastes 3.1–10.
Question: What do you find yourself spending the majority of your time doing? If you could change things, which times mentioned by Solomon would you most want to spend your moments doing?
In these ten verses, Solomon gives fourteen pairs of activities. For each positive and constructive activity there is a time of negative and destructive activity. For each sorrowful and discouraging time there is an opposite joyful and encouraging activity. Each activity listed cancels out the other. The result is a life amounting to nothing—a big zero. Why bother? Sometimes, we feel like it’s just a waste of our time. Whatever we do will eventually be undone.
But Solomon doesn’t stop at verse ten.
Read Ecclesiastes 3.9–15.
God has made everything beautiful in its time. We live in a world that is under the curse of sin; a tarnished imperfect reflection of what God intends for us. And yet, somehow all of our activities—good and bad, positive and negative—fit into God’s broader plan. He has set eternity in our hearts. This means that even in the midst of the painful times, God gives us the notion that there is a bigger reality and a larger story at play.
We know there has to be more than we can see at the moment, but verse eleven also tells us that no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. From our limited view of the big picture, there’s no way we can perceive all that God is up to. It’s like we hold a single piece of a giant jigsaw puzzle and we’re trying to determine what the entire picture holds. We know our piece is important, and the puzzle won’t be complete without it, but we can’t see how. We have to rely on someone with a higher perspective, and this is where Jesus comes in.
Read Ephesians 1.3–12.
With all His wisdom and understanding, God has made known to us the mystery and the puzzle of His will. We can know the purpose that He has for our lives. We can trust in His perfect plan, that when the time comes, our piece will beautifully fulfill its purpose in His story. Time and again, the Bible affirms that all of history, including our lives, is moving toward the one chief end: when Jesus’ glory is everything and is in everything. The book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of His coming glory.
Read Revelation 21.22–24.
Each of our lives, which at times seem meaningless and uncertain, are being woven together by God to bring about this glorious day when the glory of Jesus and the splendor of God will extend everywhere. Solomon told us in verse 14 of our passage that everything God does will endure forever, and that includes what He does in and through each of us. What an exciting promise to know that our lives and how we spend our time have an eternal purpose.
This exciting truth can be tough to hold onto at times, especially when faced with the mundane, repetitive days that life sometimes brings. The repetition of life can seem so inconsequential, but once you realize that the whole point of history, and the point of your life, is to increase Jesus’ glory, it changes how you view even the smallest activities.
Read Colossians 3.23–24.
Whatever we do—even the boring stuff—matters when it’s done for Jesus’ glory. Rather than longing for purpose and asking God to give us something important to do, we need to realize that if we just do what He has given us, we will have all the purpose we could ever want.
Question: What do you have to do that you feel is boring and unimportant? How might God use it to bring Himself glory?
Knowing God’s plan for history not only gives meaning to the boring things of life, but it also changes how we view the fun things. We can often view the fun things of life as a coping mechanism to get through life. But if this is the purpose to our relationships, our celebrations, and our enjoyments then we have demeaned and trivialized some of the best gifts of life.
1 Timothy 4 tells us that everything God created is good if it is received with thanksgiving. The fun things of our lives should lead us to worship and appreciation of Him. The fun things in life aren’t just coping mechanisms, they’re opportunities to worship a God who loves to give His children good gifts. We can let the joyful events of life lead us to an appreciation of the Joy-Giver. When this happens, momentary pleasure takes on the eternal significance of glorifying God.
As much as we might love glorifying God in our fun times, and maybe even take comfort in the fact that our boring activities have eternal purpose, there is one more another area of our lives that God gives purpose to. Knowing that the plan of God is to exalt the glory of Jesus, it changes how we look at the hard things of life. When we think about pain, we usually do whatever it takes to avoid any kind of pain and suffering. But pain is unavoidable. We will experience hardships and we’ll be tempted to feel that somehow we are no longer in His plan.
Read Romans 8.28–29.
God promises that all things work for good, not just the fun or the repetitive, but also the painful. It all fits into His purpose. This passage also gives us a glimpse of how God uses these difficult times in our lives to conform us to the image of His Son. No one likes to experience pain and sorrow. They are a result of living in a fallen world, and they are not the final purpose God has for us. Even in the most difficult times it can be comforting to know that through the tears we can still glimpse His eternal purpose.
Question: When have you experienced painful times in life that have helped you look more like Jesus? Maybe you are going through such a time currently. Spend some time in prayer asking God to show you how He can use it to shape you to fit into His eternal purpose.
Solomon began our passage examining the seeming pointlessness of how we spend our time. But then he pointed out that when we see our lives in the context of God’s plan, it changes everything. We are able to live out what Solomon describes when he says, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.”
When we start living into the plan of God, we find that we are no longer wasting time, but finding purpose and meaning as we play our part in establishing Jesus’ glory. We see every activity—the good, the bad, and the boring—as an opportunity to make Jesus famous.