Ecclesiastes 2 & 1 Timothy 4

Ecclesiastes 2

    I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man.

    So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

    So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done. Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.

    I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.

    There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

(Ecclesiastes 2 ESV)

1 Timothy 4

    Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

    If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

    Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

(1 Timothy 4 ESV)

1 Timothy 4: Training in godliness is the only kind of training that promises pure joy in this life and the only kind of training that has eternal value beyond this world. One specific way in which we train ourselves in godliness is to study the Word of God and then do what it says to do. This is how we grow in our faith and this is what leads us to be used by God for His purposes.

So why is this so hard for us? Why is it easy for some of us to go to the gym and train for hours but so difficult to find time for prayer and reading our Bibles? If we could take a step back and examine our own lives, would our current approach to studying Scripture be considered sluggish? Are we lazy in the way we express our love for our Lord?

One condition we face because of the fall and our inherent sinful nature is this tendency to drift away from the things of God. Without an intentional effort to pursue godliness we will always begin to casually drift back into a state of self-centeredness and selfishness. We will never find ourselves just casually drifting toward godliness.

However, God is a gracious God and therefore has not left us on our own to overcome our sluggishness and our sinfulness. Our Lord said that if we love Him, we will obey Him; but then He promises to send a Helper to also help us obey. This Helper is the promised Holy Spirit sent to dwell within the heart of every true follower of Christ. And it is this Holy Spirit that helps us understand the Word of God, and the One who empowers us to do what it says. We're never growing in godliness on our own.

The original disciples followed our Lord for three years, and then they turned the world upside down. They had no formal training. They didn't attend the seminary of their day. And they were just simple blue collar fishermen.  

And many might say, "Come on. That was them. Those guys experienced what it was like to be with our Lord on a daily basis." 

However, we too can experience our Lord on a daily basis, but we often choose not to meet Him in prayer or to be taught by Him through His Word. Therefore, we don't have a good excuse for not growing in our faith because we do have the same Spirit willing to work in and through us for our own radical growth in godliness.