It’s now time to explore the third and final secret to living a fulfilled life!
First, a recap of the secrets we’ve learned so far:
1. Accept the march of time – be present, lay down expectations of how and when and learn that you are not in control of time.
2. Ask God for the ability to enjoy the gifts he has given you, so you can be content with a little and content with a lot.
The third secret the book of Ecclesiastes teaches us is to accept that we cannot predict the future.
To understand this fully we must first look at the book of Proverbs. This fantastic scripture explores how to live well in the world and provides numerous practical skills in order to live in such a way that honours God and honours others. The wisdom in this book is profound and insightful and often implies that if we live a certain way then we can expect certain outcomes. There is a clear cause and effect relationship between doing the right thing and being rewarded.
Lazy hands make for poverty,
but diligent hands bring wealth.
This is a good way to live. In order to honour God, we live honestly and diligently and this will bring us wealth.
The way of the guilty is devious,
but the conduct of the innocent is upright.
Again, to honour God is to live honestly and purely, seeking justice, which will mean the innocent are upheld.
However… we cannot predict our future! And the reality is that there are people who are lazy and dishonest who are wealthy! The reality is that some individuals who are guilty are allowed to go free, and innocent people are punished.
The American series When They See Us has recently been released on Netflix. It is based on the harrowing events of the 1989 Central Park jogger case and explores the lives of the five suspects who were wrongly imprisoned on charges related to sexual assault. Whether we live an honest or dishonest life, we cannot predict our future.
So, in contrast to the book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes places a high value on wisdom but acknowledges that there is no way we can actually predict and know the outcome of our lives:
Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing
And benefits those who see the sun.
Wisdom is a shelter,
As money is a shelter,
But the advantage of knowledge is this;
Wisdom preserves those who have it.
When times are good, be happy;
But when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover
Anything about their future.
So, we can live according to wisdom, but life doesn’t always turn out that way! There is an element to our lives that is determined by chance. We can’t do anything to guarantee success, we can’t control anything. ‘No one knows what is coming’ (10:14) because life is so unpredictable. The teacher tells us that:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.
This teaching is meant to encourage us to accept this reality so we can be content with our lives. The unpredictable nature of life is not a problem to be solved but a tension to be managed, which means we can learn to hold things with an open hand. Instead of trying to control our future, this reality allows us to rest in God and his plans and TRUST! Because we can only control one thing, our present attitude to our present.
And it definitely doesn’t give us an excuse to live dishonestly and selfishly, because we should still live in God’s ways with wisdom. As the author concludes:
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
OVER TO YOU
Have you ever been disappointed with something that didn’t turn out how you had predicted? How did you feel?
How can you move forward in releasing control of your future?