Today’s Bible Reading: Ecclesiastes 7-9:18; 2 Corinthians 7:8-16; Psalm 48:1-14; Proverbs 22:17-19
The teacher makes a stunning statement in Ecclesiastes 7:1 when he says that the day of our death is better than the day of our birth. For people who live their whole lives without Jesus and also die without Him, that is certainly true. But for a believer our day of death is a wonderful day. It means the struggles of this life are over forever as we start our eternity with Jesus. Of course, we should also be glad to be alive on this earth and be thankful that God created us at all.
We very rarely learn anything about life when things are going well. It is only in the difficult times that our character is revealed and refined (Ecclesiastes 7:3). That is why we should embrace trials. If we do then we will come out of them better than when we went into them.
Rejecting criticism is one of the worst things we can do. Don’t look for foolish praise to stroke your ego. Surround yourself with people who will be honest with you and who will point out your flaws for that is the only way to identify them and work on them (Ecclesiastes 7:5).
Many people reject Christianity because they look at Christians and see sinners. That is no surprise – no one is without sin (Ecclesiastes 7:20). That is why we have embraced Jesus – He came to seek and save those who are sinners and are willing to admit it (Matthew 9:11-13).
Isn’t it interesting that when God created humans we were upright (God called us “good” in Genesis 1:31). But we have chosen to go in a different direction. Not such a good idea, was it? God lets us choose our actions. He gives us the power to hurt each other (Ecclesiastes 8:9) if we choose.
If there is nothing beyond death then why bother being good? That is the question the teacher asks in Ecclesiastes 9:3. And it is a fair one. It is one of the major questions I asked myself when I was an atheist. If there is no accountability for our actions after we die, then why do we have all these rules to govern society? If there is no one to answer to then why bother? And if there is no one to answer to then where did these rules come from?
Everyone agrees that humans have an inherent understanding of right vs. what is wrong. We may not all agree the “rightness” or “wrongness” of every activity. But in general we agree on much of what constitutes right and wrong. Where does that understanding come from? If existence is really just a brief life then an eternal death shouldn’t society be a free-for-all? The reason it isn’t is because God has placed a conscience in each of us. The very fact that we know right from wrong is one proof that God exists.
Paul had written a letter to the Corinthians between 1 and 2 Corinthians in which he had sternly rebuked them for their behavior (2 Corinthians 7:8). While it wasn’t easy for Paul to do this, he was ultimately glad he did because it caused the Corinthians to change (2 Corinthians 7:9). Too often we sugar-coat someone else’s problems, if we address them at all. But that is not biblical. Love gets involved. But it must get involved in a godly way – with truth and compassion.
Likewise when someone confronts us about our sin we need to respond in a godly way. We can feel bad about our sins, but there is a worldly sorrow and a godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10). Godly sorrow leads to repentance which is just a fancy bible word for “change”. Godly sorrow causes us to change. Worldly sorrow does not.
Worldly sorrow arises because of what our sin cost us. Godly sorrow arises because of what our sin cost Jesus.
Notice the result of Paul’s letter. The Corinthians had an earnestness to clean themselves up (2 Corinthians 7:11). Imagine if Paul did not have the courage to confront these people. They never would have been convicted of their sin and who knows what would have happened to them. Instead, because of Paul’s brave action born out of his love for these people, their eyes were opened, they were convicted, and they changed.
The Christian life is not about self. It is about relationships. It is about living for others and looking out for their interests instead of our own. This type of life involves risk taking. This is exactly how Paul lived when he wrote this lost letter to Corinth. Paul could have played it safe and said nothing. But he took a risk and reached out and affected people’s lives.
Notice Paul concludes with a word of encouragement and praise for these people (2 Corinthians 7:16). When we see people change we should encourage them. That will keep them moving in the right direction.
One important factor in spiritual growth is Bible verse memorization and meditation (Proverbs 22:18). I carry around a stack of index cards with Scriptures on them and refer to them often at home and at work. Being able to recall a biblical truth via a verse, story, or parable is very valuable. These are the types of things we should fill our minds with (Philippians 4:8)
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