During spring break of my freshman year in college, I traveled to Guyana, South America, and my eyes were opened. I met Guyanese Christians for whom it could be said their whole lives were rotten from birth, at least compared to American standards, and yet they were praising God with joyful hearts like nothing I had seen before. How could this be?
This post is the second part of my story. If you haven’t read part one, you can do so here. In that first part I explained how during my freshman year of college, I felt so empty inside. Through a series of events, I started reading the book of Ecclesiastes. If all that the author of Ecclesiastes, the Teacher, pursued was fleeting, what then was meaningful?
When I came to Ecclesiastes chapter 12 verse 13, the Teacher’s words hit me like a thunderclap: “Fear God and obey his commands, for this is the whole duty of man.” That was what I was looking for! That was the truth. I was reading from the same Bible I still preach from every week, and I decided to draw a line in the sand. It was May 17, 1993, and I signed my name to the page, with a note saying this is my pledge. There was no turning back.
I had no idea what God had in store. All I knew at that point was that I wanted to serve him, come what may, and I needed to stay put and learn more about the Bible and ministry. I’m not saying that you need to read those verses as if the Teacher is saying that you need to become a pastor or missionary. Not at all. You might, of course, but what I do hope you have is similar thunderclap from God like I did. The Teacher meant this for everyone.
It is one sentence that should guide our lives. Fear God and obey him, for this is our duty. Has that simple straightforward sentence become diluted in your life? Invite someone in to your life to do a thorough evaluation to tell you if your life is one of fearing God, to determine if you are in awe of who he is and all that he stands for, and if you are obeying him. Do not assume that you are already doing that. We can so easily let ourselves off the hook, especially when we look around in our church family, or Christian neighbors, or Christian friends and family and the kind of discipleship that they practice looks pretty much like our own.
When I saw the Christians in Guyana (which I wrote about here), they were a shepherd’s goad to me. A shepherd’s goad? The Teacher, earlier in his final section, said that wisdom is like a shepherd’s goad, a tool meant to corral, guide or direct. You can read what I about that here. Prior to that spring break trip in Guyana, my understanding of being a disciple of Jesus was very selfish. Those Guyanese Christians opened my eyes with how they lived their lives. Other students on campus, especially the older ones, the ones who really loved Jesus, were also a shepherd’s goad to me. That mission conference speaker was too. And finally, the word of God through The Teacher in Ecclesiastes. How about you? Do you need that kind of push?
The Teacher has one final warning for us. As I mentioned in an earlier post in this series, this is truth that might hurt, but he means it as a corrective. The Teacher gives us his warning in verse 14: God sees everything we do. We can’t hide from him. God knows all that happens. This might be seen as the Teacher using a scare tactic, but not if we remember that God is love. He is a loving judge. The Teacher is not saying that God is salivating up there in heaven, just waiting hungrily to judge us and punish us. No…not at all. God is love.
God takes sin seriously, and he wants us to rid our lives of sin, but he does so with a heart of love, because he cares deeply for us, and wants the best for us. This gives us good reason, then, knowing that God is watching, to pursue a life of honoring him and obeying him. We love him, because he first loved us.