When you’re looking in all the wrong places, it’s hardly surprising that you end up on some dead end streets.
Money, influence and backing can get you so far but sooner or later the cynicism of having “arrived” will blunt our lives, stifle our growth and destroy relationships. We can’t have it both ways: either we get on board with God or we side with the world.
Our relationship with God will take root only when we are prepared to remove any competing idols we might have. The roots bring fruit only when we are ready to listen and to put into practice what we hear.
It’s never easy when our worst fears are realised. Whether the bottom falls out of your world or not, it can produce the kind of personal reaction which viewed later in the cold light of day is hardly proportional to the circumstances.
There’s a strong precedent for some people to go off on one. Jacob doesn’t want to face up to his problems, so he runs; the elder brother is as unhappy as the fatted calf as half of his potential inheritance has been blown by his younger brother. Now there’s Jonah, sitting under a bush in the desert getting all miserable and pouty because God has been true to his word.
Sulking is never attractive – and never more so than when the person concerned knows better. It all goes to remind us that we can neither second guess nor ignore God. Things are in His hands and He’ll always be loving even if we don’t like the people he’s loving towards.
Millennials are the most connected generation to have ever lived. At the same time, they are also the loneliest.
It’s not just millennials either. If we are older, on our own or perhaps going through life’s struggles we are highly likely to be lonely as we will be facing these things on our own. Despite all opportunities that social media and real life bring there remains a deep seated need for community, realism and a sense of self value.
There’s a deep longing in Ecclesiastes’ words here. Is he, like elsewhere in his writing, speaking from direct experience of being or feeling alone? It seems so but it also means that he’s ready to say: it doesn’t have to be like this and, it really doesn’t.
Fight or flight? What do you do when the pressure gets too much or the bar is pushed too high?
Our reaction will depend on our circumstances and/or our state of mind. That stubborn streak may come to the fore or demands are just so great that there’s only really one choice: bail.
Jonah began running because he knew God. It wasn’t the mission that was the problem it was the implications that would arise from a successful delivery of God’s message. Taking this example to heart, let’s not try to second guess or even to outwit God – let’s simply get on with the work he’s given us.
What holds us back from realising your dreams or fulfilling our ambitions? Is it a question of our own restrictive horizons or do we have to recognise that our life has to be lived in community and often parallel with others?
Ecclesiastes wakes us up to the harsh reality of life. we are not in control. At the same time there is a glimpse of a bigger picture which remains, frustratingly, beyond our grasp. How, then, can we discover our true identity in Christ?
Accident or design? Pure chance or deliberate choice?
Whatever the cause we will all have found ourselves in a place we shouldn’t be, where a “No entry” sign denotes the personal dangers ahead or around us. It may be that we are (or have been) exposed to things we struggle to resist because they tap into a part of us which is persuasive, insistent and unlikely to go away without a great deal of personal resolve.
It’s a battle of the will to overcome such trials. It is one that is fought from the point of view of our spiritual standing and understanding. It’s a fight to the death and one we have to deal with personally – but that’s not to say that help isn’t available: it is.
Our messages today based on Genesis 39 and Psalm51 take us across the spectrum from temptation and avoidance to sin, repentance and forgiveness. We can stand firm, but, even if we fall, there is always a way back.