Are you weary? Or feeling weighed down from the grind of the world? I’ve had a busy few days and am recovering from a cold, and I feel tired as I write this! But I’ve been reading Ecclesiastes as part of my morning prayers of late, and it continues to encourage me, albeit in curious ways.
For example, take this rhetorical question; ‘What does the worker gain from his toil?’ (3:9). To which the answer is, ultimately… nothing! We live in fallen world, our efforts are often frustrated, and no matter how successful today has been, there is always more to do tomorrow. But I find it oddly refreshing to find this pessimistic observation in the bible! It debunks the myth that we are supposed to feel great all the time and honestly recognises that much of this life is, and always will be, tedious. And that’s OK, because as Christians, life in this world is not our final home, nor is it where we place our hopes.
And yet life is not all bad and God sustains his people as they wait for his return. As Ecclesiastes concludes on the matter of toil; ‘I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God’ (3:12-13).
If you are feeling weary, or are not looking forward to the tasks of this coming week, ask God to sustain you with joy and satisfaction in your work, and focus each day on giving thanks to him for all good things that you do enjoy, despite the toil of this world.
Ben Soderlund – Assistant Minister
If you want to find God, how would you search? Recently at our BAC Thursday service we were reminded of one of the most famous conversion stories of all time, that of Augustine of Hippo in the fourth century.
As a young man, Augustine lived a wild and sinful life. Yet was constantly searching for spiritual fulfillment and was even involved in a number of strange cults. He also had Christian friends and family. But despite much looking, Augustine never found peace, and his heart was restless.
One day while he was sitting in a garden, in the distance Augustine heard what sounded like a child singing ‘take up and read!’. He believed this to be a prompt from God to read the bible. He found one, took it up, and started reading at Romans 13:13-14: Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
As he read the bible Augustine felt that his heart was being transformed. He turned from his life of sin and finally found the peace that he had been long searching for. As Augustine famously wrote later about finding God; ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you’.
Is your heart restless? Then ‘take up and read!’. In some ways it is quite obvious that the place to find God is in his Word… but that is often the last place we look. Primarily, God speaks to us through the bible, and knowing God through his Word is the best single way to find his rest and peace.
Ben Soderlund – Assistant Minister
If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. I often find myself thinking, ‘if only I do this or that, plan this, go there for a year, work there for a time’ it will ‘fulfill’ me and my life will be satisfied, so to speak.
However, James in his epistle says, why do we make such foolish plans for ‘you do not even know what will happen tomorrow’ (James 4:14b). How sober are the words of this apostle. In my 3-year theology degree I never thought I would find my way to little old Berwick in 2016 to work for 12 months, shaping me for future ministry, but indeed God opened doors at just the right time only to close other ones behind me.
The door God opens for us in life often is the hardest one, the one we least expect, and the one regularly with some form of suffering, likely with some type of authority that requires submission to. And what’s worse, what do we do when that authority is sometimes unjust? The answer. To submit with grace, as Jesus did, entrusting ourselves to the Father, our just judge (1 Peter 2:23). For as Christians we live with hope, longing for the ‘Day’ of the Lord where his righteous judgement will reign in all its fullness.
What doors in 2017 will God open and close for you? Remember to be sensitive to the Spirit and allow God to direct you, even when you least expect it.
Every Blessing –
Now that I’ve been at Berwick Anglican for over a year, it is becoming clearer and clearer to me that one of things I most appreciate about our Church is its sound preaching ministry. Do you know what a wonderful privilege it is to have God’s Word proclaimed and applied to us, week by week, through the ministry of preaching? God uses preaching to remind us of the great things of him and his salvation so that we might together truly have their benefit in our lives.
As the great theologian Jonathan Edwards said of preaching: ‘God has appointed a particular and lively application of his word, in the preaching of it, as a fit means to affect sinners with the importance of religion, their own misery, the necessity of a remedy, and the glory and sufficiency of a remedy provided; to stir up the pure minds of the saints, quicken their affections by often bringing the great things of religion to their remembrance, and setting them in their proper colors, though they know them, and have been fully instructed in them already’.
May we ever be a Church that honours God’s Word and the work of preaching! I look forward to great things that God will teach us and remind us of through our sitting together under sound preaching in 2017.