By Caleb Nelson
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; Walk in the ways of your heart, And in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, And put away evil from your flesh, For childhood and youth are vanity. Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, "I have no pleasure in them". . . (Ecc. 11:9-12:1 NKJ)
God commands you to have a good time.
That’s right. God calls you to really enjoy these grade school and high school years. Notice all the different ways this passage says it. You are supposed to
- Let your heart cheer you
- Enjoy the blessings of your heart and eye
- Get rid of sorrow
- Get rid of discomfort
Does that surprise you? If it does, then you are not as wise as Solomon. Solomon realized that serving God is supposed to be something enjoyable.
I graduated from CHESS with the class of 2007. I don’t know whether you, Class of 2018 students and beyond, think this way, but in my day it was at least possible, and maybe even tempting, to see our Christian faith as one of the biggest drags on having a good time in high school. If only I didn’t believe in Jesus (or have parents who believe in Jesus), then I would really be having a great time. I’d be going to parties, watching movies, mouthing off to my mom, doing things with my boyfriend/girlfriend – all things that I can’t do right now because I’m supposed to be a Christian.
What’s wrong with this kind of thinking? How do we know that serving God is actually more fun than serving our own pleasure?
We can find many lines of evidence. Let me mention two. First, you might go down the street to Greeley Central High School and ask four or five students what the worst part of their life is and what they would change about their lives if they could. You will hear from their own lips that living for pleasure isn’t very rewarding, and that they are largely disappointed with their pursuit of a good time. (I’m serious! You’ll be amazed by what they tell you.)
The other line of evidence lies in the truth of what you are. You are a human being, and thus you exist to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Do you see that? You were made to enjoy. But you weren’t made to enjoy pleasure for its own sake, or primarily to enjoy parties and excitement and Marvel films. You were made to enjoy God. What does that mean? Well, think about the human beings you enjoy. You delight in being with them just because of who they are. And that’s a dim reflection of what enjoying God means. It means that spending time with Him is not only one of your favorite things to do, but the whole reason that you do anything. It’s literally what you live for.
Solomon adds something to his demand that we enjoy life: a reminder that God will bring you into judgment for your way of life. God will force you to stand before Him, and He will evaluate you on whether your life measured up to His vision for what a human life ought to be. Keep in mind that this will happen whether you are a Christian or not, whether you rejoiced in your youth or not, whether you recognized the short, temporary nature of life or whether you thought you would live on Earth unchanged forever.
Oh, and the other reason to enjoy life now is that life is going to get a lot harder. Years (not just minutes or hours) are coming when you will say, “I really don’t enjoy this.” I read last week that 40% of Americans think they won’t retire until age 70 or later, but only 4% actually keep working until age 70. The days are coming when you won’t be in good enough shape to work. The ability to carry a heavy backpack and work algebra problems won’t remain with you forever. Just spend an hour at your local nursing home, and you’ll see what Solomon means.
Youth and the dawn of life are vanity. That doesn’t mean that they are pointless, silly, or worthless. It simply means that they pass quickly. That’s what “vanity” means all throughout Ecclesiastes. It is a reference to a breath, a vapor, which appears for a short time on a frosty morning and then vanishes away. In other words, before you know it, you will be reaping the rewards of your lifestyle. If you think that entertainment and fun is the sum of what life has to offer, then all too soon, you will taste the joyless fruit of those vain pursuits. If you think that the purpose of your existence is to make yourself look good and to enjoy yourself forever, you will soon find out that you simply aren’t as interesting as you thought you were. There’s not enough of yourself for you to enjoy yourself forever. You’ll get bored with you!
To fulfill the biblical demand that you actually enjoy these school days, you need to remember your Creator. That means not only reminding yourself of His existence and His character, but responding rightly to that reminder. If you’re talking to Mrs. Nelson on Tuesday afternoon, and she says, “You have a paper due for me tomorrow and it’s worth 10% of your grade,” you’ve been reminded of your Lit teacher. But you haven’t remembered her unless you make sure that paper is all written, printed out, and in your backpack ready to be turned in before you go to bed on Tuesday night.
You get reminded of your Creator every week at CHESS, every week at church, every day in private worship and family worship. Take those reminders and act on them. Remember your Creator today, while you’re still a CHESS student, because Solomon says it’s the best time to enjoy yourself.
Caleb Nelson is the Pastor at Harvest PCA in Gillette Wyoming.