Ecclesiastes 9:10 - Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol (the realm of the dead), to which you are going.
This devotion pairs with this weekend's Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at lutheranhour.org.
It was the most beautiful night Art had ever spent on the ocean. "Stars appeared that I had never seen before," he said later, "and the wind went to sleep, and the ocean became as smooth as glass." But then, Art's body went into another round of convulsions, the onset of hypothermia. Early that morning, Art and four friends set out on a deep-sea fishing expedition. They were 30 miles off the coast of New Jersey when large waves crashed into the boat, stalled the motors, and shorted the radios. The boat sank, leaving them floating in the ocean. They had no emergency rescue beacon, so they were without assurance that help was coming. And those hours in the ocean felt like a lifetime.
Sometimes people accuse the Christian faith of being naively optimistic. They poke holes in the paper-boat optimism they've mistaken for Christian belief. But actual Christian belief drawn from the Bible is much grittier than many people realize. The book of Ecclesiastes, for example, maintains that this mortal life is like a shipwreck: adrift in the ocean, wearing an ill-fitting life vest that keeps your head just above water, but not enough to know what's ahead of you or behind you, but only the constant shifting cavern of dark waves all around you—that's what mortal life is like, says Ecclesiastes.
The rest of the Bible fills in the picture. God created us to live in relationship with Him, but we rejected His life-giving invitation. We "made shipwreck" of our faith (see 1 Timothy 1:19). Now we are helpless, dead in the water. Whoever said the Bible offers paper-boat optimism hasn't read it. The Bible tells us we are as helpless as a shipwreck. But then it gives a rescue beacon: the word-of-mouth testimony of the apostles and the prophets of the crucified and risen Jesus. He is our rescue beacon, our assurance that help is on the way. Jesus sent out His disciples. They found us in the water—baptized us in the water. They told us the rescue is coming. And that Jesus came to be with us in the water (see Matthew 28:19-20).
Years after those New Jersey fisherman were rescued, two of them—Art Higbee and David Jones—wrote a book about it, titled, Promising Forecast. Promising—that's how those 18 hours in the ocean appeared on this side of things. And what got them through it was the presence of a friend with them in the water. So also, as we await our rescue, Jesus is with us. With Jesus next to you in the water, you can be a friend for others. And as the salty sage of Ecclesiastes says, "whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might" (Ecclesiastes 9:10a). Even more, with God's promise to salvage and restore this beautiful sinking ship we call Nature, you can even enjoy it—now, every starry night. And the Bible reminds us that "our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us." Compared to eternal life in Jesus, this mortal life is like less than 18 hours in the ocean.
WE PRAY: Dear Father, we thank You that this "light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17), through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour.
1. Ecclesiastes 9 is simultaneously comforting and disturbing. Read it aloud. What stays with you?
2. Re-read Ecclesiastes 9:11. Do you have any life experiences that match these observations?
3. Knowing that "time and chance" happens to all, what helps you to "eat your bread with joy" (Ecclesiastes 9:7) and do you work "with your might" (Ecclesiastes 9:10)?
To Download Devotion MP3 to your computer, right click here and select "Save Link As" or "Save Target As" or "Download Linked File As"