I love starting a new series. There’s so much wonder in the anticipation of new challenges and stepping into a new understanding of our God. As we start our new series in Ecclesiastes, Steve has asked us to sit in that anticipation and to start asking ourselves the difficult questions that Ecclesiastes brings to the forefront. These are some of the toughest questions we as human beings ask about life and death and everything in between, but as Steve pointed out, they’re asked more frequently in bars and coffee shops than in the church. So we’re going to spend the next several weeks engaging these questions.
While it’s not so much a question as a paradox, our starting point this week was the reality that we live in a world filled with both pain and privilege. This is insanely obvious in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. The desperately poor men and women of Skid Row are just blocks away from shiny glass high rises filled with six figure suits. Suburban neighborhoods are filled with beautiful terra cotta homes and fresh, manicured lawns; but those homes are filled with financial crises and broken marriages. In the midst of this reality, we have to ask ourselves, what motivates us? What motivates us to skip the snooze button and go to work? What motivates our ministries? The answer to that question will determine how we deal with the paradox of pain and privilege.
Steve talked about this question in terms of our service to God. In the church, we challenge ourselves by talking about what we’re going to do for God. What will your act of service be? How will you serve him? This can so easily become a competition, wherein all we do is try to outdo ourselves and others in the service of the Lord. The solution to this is clearly not to stop serving God. We should serve him in everything we do! But what if, as Steve suggested, we step back and think about it not as something we do for God, but as something we do with God? This kind of perspective shift requires that we slow down and take a view of our ministry that has less to do with us and our accomplishments and more to do with what God is doing.
Before the service, my attention was drawn to Proverbs 1:1-7, which talks about growing in wisdom. Verse seven in particular caught my attention, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” At the heart of this wisdom is a willingness to slow down and to listen – to pay attention to what God is doing and to allow him to plant in us the wisdom that comes only from him. This requires a motivation that comes from doing things with God instead of for him. It requires that we allow our ability and our motivation to come directly from him, instead of some inner well of strength.
As we enter this new season of teaching and learning, can we start by slowing down and listening for the wisdom that God has for us? Can we spend time in “the fear of the Lord” and in awe of the work he is doing in and through us? Let’s dive into the wisdom and instruction to be found there!