Embracing God's gift of joy

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Helicopters and yachts

You know… when I was in my early 20s I had this whole plan laid out that would enable me to accomplish my dreams. It consisted of getting out of the United States Air Force as quickly as I could, stack 50K in bread within 5 years - that’s cash if you aren’t up on the slang - and drop a rap album. I mean, who didn’t want to be a rap artist when they were younger? And while I did leave the military and flex a pretty exquisite library of bars to release music you’ve never heard, my life went in a totally different direction than I expected. Oh, and my emcee name was 2009. Why? For no other reason than the fact I just liked how it sounded. I know, weird.

And while my life took some crazy twists which jettisoned me into a world of indulging into technology and product design my will to succeed beyond measure never left. I hate failure. And when the years went by and I was in my thirties sinking in debt, never reaching that 50K I was pretty upset. It seemed that no matter how much or how hard I applied myself life would always go in a way that was unexpected, leaving me to wonder why God gave me talent only for it to waste. It was always as if the finish line would move back 100 yards every single time I caught up to it. There was nothing natural about it. And the desire for success, no matter the failures, kept me up at night for many, many years. I’m sad to say that I spent most of those nights questioning God’s love for me as well as the point of life.

Growing up I never would have thought that the creativity God gave me as a child would ravish my soul like a hungry wolf after a kill for decades to come. For years I attempted to conquer this hunger. I thought to myself, that if I could generate enough wealth to buy a helicopter and a yacht I’d be satisfied. The crazy thing is, I don’t really care about either of those things. But being able to acquire them would be a clear sign of success to me. A sign that I could conquer the hunger and win. It was the pursuit I was after. Not the items of pursuance.

In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t own a helicopter or a yacht. But I still dream of beats and bars. And my creativity and drive cause me to be a perfectionist with my work. It also means I get bored quickly when not challenged daily. This drive has bled into my ministry projects. Even as I sit here and type, desiring to give you what’s been bottled up in my soul for so long it’s still not enough. I have a hard time articulating it all. The drive, the pursuit, the work, the thoughts, never cease. There are no words that can describe the feeling I have knowing that I will most likely never unleash what seems to be a twisted mesh of creativity, philosophical thought and passion for being quickened to life by God. Perhaps this is also you. If not now, maybe it will be in the future.

Never enough

I must say though, it’s a breath of fresh air to know you’re in good company when you’ve believed for so long that you’re alone. Our dear friend Solomon chased after everything he put his mind to as well. He amassed wealth and power we can’t even dream of. He built houses, gardens, vineyards, acquired slaves, great possessions, treasures, many concubines and more wisdom that anyone before him. When it was all done this is what he had to say:

11 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. - Ecclesiastes 2:11 (ESV)

To be completely honest with you, most of my life has felt this way. Striving after the wind. Never able to catch it. All things fleeting.

Fortunately, I have learned that through all of the toil and hardships God has been with me. Even when I thought He’d abandoned me, He was always there. My life now is much different than I thought it would ever be. God has been very good and blessed me with more than I could’ve dreamed up. And that’s the rub.

See, I had great plans for my life. I’ve always had an incredible drive to learn and accomplish anything I put my mind to. The chief reason I left the military was because I felt like it was slowing me down, regardless of how much I was learning. Truth is, I was bored and I was outrunning it. That’s been my life; outrunning and getting bored. In fact, I’d run to the point of endangering my health. While I’m still known to work harder than most people I know, my wife no longer has to remind me to eat, drink water or go to bed instead of working, chasing, pushing, solving and building. But over the last few years I’ve learned that my insatiable appetite to create, to build, to learn and to accomplish would never be filled. At least not on my own or through my own hands. Because my own hands lead to works of vanity. No matter how hard we work or how much we chase, our hands will always be empty. No matter how skilled, popular or wealthy you may become, in the end it’s all vanity.

God is enough

Here’s what else I’ve learned. I’ve learned that it was never my creativity or desire to succeed that kept me pushing. It wasn’t my incredible God given talent, big headed intellectualism or even pride. No, unbeknownst to me it was my attempt to overcome vanity and futility. Things that I didn’t know existed in my earlier years. I thought I was warring against the beast in my belly which was myself. But I was really warring against the futility of life itself. Many people - Believers included - are asleep to the futility of life, thinking they are warring against the beast inside of themselves, chasing, pursuing and trying to catch success in life. I pray you don’t spend your years doing the same— warring against yourself before finally coming to the same conclusion that you’re really warring against life’s futility.

In Solomon’s later years he realized that what he was really after was God. But I’m not talking about just knowing of God. I’m speaking of something much deeper than that. Solomon came to meet God in everything that he did. His soul only became whole, his insatiable appetite quenched, after he realized life was futile and at the center of it was the necessity to do everything at the feet of God.

24 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, 25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 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 2:24-26 (ESV)

Throughout my years - and much like my earlier self - I’ve watched and listened to many people struggle with attempting to define their purpose in life. They struggle with obtaining success and meaning. Countless books have been written on this topic. Every day people cry out to God in prayer asking for a silver bullet of an answer. Not realizing it’s futility that they’re really wrestling with. Today, I have incredible joy in my toil. I’ve learned that while God blesses us with talents it’s easy to fall victim to worshipping them in an effort to find success and meaning in life. But, we don’t find God through our talents that we use to toil. Instead we find Him inside the toil itself. True success, happiness, meaning and joy comes from the Lord. Without God, everything is vanity, futile and utterly meaningless. Which is by design.

As we’ve seen in previous editions our current reality sits in futility. This was purposely done by God. So it must beg the question as to what can our lives be about in a world that is futile? How can we find true joy in vanity? The answer, is in God. It’s not in wealth, popularity or what the world deems as success. It’s not even in what we deem as success. Because all will be forgotten anyway (Ecclesiastes 2:16).

12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. - Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 (ESV)

We can not bring ourselves relief from the anguish of toil. For the Believer will pursue with the talents given to him or her by God, but will never fill the void unless God becomes the object of focus. And the unBeliever will toil and accumulate only for God to distribute his or her earnings to others when that person meets the grave. Everything belongs to God. Know this and know vanity. This means that all that we do, we must do with a focus on God, no matter how small the task. Yes, even eating and drinking! As it is God that gives meaning and joy to any and all things that we do.

Let today be the day, that you begin to see God in every task you set your mind to accomplish. Meditate on God in what you are endeavoring in. Find happiness in the fact that He’s allowed you to be part of His creation, using the gifts and talents He’s blessed you with. Find peace in knowing that God is pleased when He becomes your object of focus instead of your accomplishments or abilities. Find solace in God’s wisdom, which gives you sight to see the true realities of life and God’s amazing grace and love for you. I hope you can see that God truly desires your heart.

There is so much more I could write on this topic. But just know, that all that we do will never be enough. But our God is enough. So do all things unto the Lord and you will be filled with joy. That is His gift to you so you may still enjoy Him while living in a world that has been placed in futility.

Written by Terrence Covin
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