The older I get the more I realize how right King Solomon was. Given that he was the wisest person to ever live that shouldn’t surprise me, but I see so much of my own life in what he wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes.
If you’re not familiar with Solomon or Ecclesiastes, the Reader’s Digest version is this: Solomon was King David’s son and inherited the kingdom when David died. God asked Solomon which he wanted, wealth or wisdom. Solomon chose wisdom and God granted Solomon both because he made the right decision. Then Solomon pretty much goes off the rails, spending his life doing all the things God told him not to do.
At the end of his life, Solomon is reflecting on his accomplishments and realizes how badly he blew it. In his review that we call the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon says he built cities, acquired great wealth, had hundreds of wives and concubines, and did “everything under the sun” and it all meant nothing. It was just “chasing after the wind.” He realized that the only thing that mattered was the fear of the Lord. In other words, nothing he did mattered except his faith, admitting he pretty much wasted his life on meaningless stuff.
As I look back on my life, it’s funny how things that were so important to me at the time really meant nothing. When I was in high school I played the trumpet. Music was so important to me. And while I still like it, I rarely touch my horn anymore, which is blessing to anyone within ear shot! In college and in my first career, being a newspaper reporter and editor was everything. But when I look back I don’t think I made one bit of difference in the seven plus years I spent doing it. Then I got into politics. That was my life! Running campaigns, working in the legislature – I was going to make a difference! Not so much. I don’t think we did very much at all in hindsight. Then I worked as an intelligence officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency. Now if there was anywhere you could make a difference it would be there, right? I like to think that some of the work I did mattered, but in the big picture it really didn’t.
Through about the first 25 years of my professional life I can’t really say any of it mattered. But that changed when I came to understand that the only thing that really does count is your faith.
When I left DC and came back to Oregon I eventually took a job with the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs. I decided that instead of focusing on me and my career goals that I would approach my new job as a ministry and work as if I were working for the Lord as scripture says. I would serve others instead of trying to serve myself. The most amazing thing happened: what I did started to make a difference.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not me patting myself on the back. All the glory goes to God because I finally got what He has been trying to teach me – my job was to be an instrument in His hands instead of being self-centered trying to fulfill my own goals through my own actions. God did amazing work in those days – He helped give hope to those contemplating suicide. He helped others gain financial stability through their disability claims. He helped homeless veterans gain independence. And I was blessed that He even used me as a spiritual counselor to my colleagues. Heck, we even passed a bunch of bills at the legislature that actually mattered to veterans as well! Who would have thought that was possible!
I recently wrote a post on my Facebook telling my friends that when it comes to politics I take the long view. The fact is that I take the long view in everything these days. The reason is simple: when I look back at all the things I did in the past that I was excited about at the time it seems as if they had little substance. So, I try to learn from that. When I look at what I’m doing today I judge it not based on how excited I am about it but on its lasting impact for the Kingdom of God. When I look around the world Psalm 103:15-16 comes to mind: “As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer.” There’s not much that has a lasting legacy out there when you really think about it is there?
The only legacy we really have in life is living for God and sharing Jesus with others so that they, too, can receive the gift of eternal life. No amount of money, wealth, material possession, influence, power, reputation, relationship or anything else will really matter, which is the message Solomon tried to teach us in his book.
Youth truly is wasted on the young! Imagine if we all could be young again and know what we know now! Oh, how our lives would be different and what a difference we could have made for the Lord in those days!
Yet, God gives us whatever days we have left to get it right! I know for me that I will spend the rest of my days serving the Lord and doing whatever He commands me to do. Jesus will be my focus because my faith is the only thing that will truly matter when my time comes to an end.
What about you? Here’s something to consider: Think about your life – have you made a difference in anything you’ve done? I hope so! But if you’re like me and spent most your life doing the normal life things you may want to regroup and start living your life for the Lord so that you’ll have something to show for it before it’s too late!