READ: Ecclesiastes 3-5
THINK: Do you ever feel out of control-like life is just taking you for a ride? Throughout life we're subject to changes over which we have little or no control. However, God has an eternal plan that includes the activities of every person on earth. If we devote ourselves to Christ and reserve our lives for God's purposes, avoiding evil activities and motivations, the Holy Spirit will work in and through us to accomplish God's perfect plans for our individual lives. Regardless of life's ups and downs, joys and difficulties, we will fulfill God's plans for us in His perfect timing as long as we keep trusting Him with control of our lives and circumstances.
RESPOND: In what ways do we have control and in what ways do we not have control over life's changes? What comfort can we have despite our lack of understanding and control? (See 3:1-8 note.) What are the implications of the fact that God "has also set eternity in the hearts of men"? (See 3:11 note.) What assurance do we have even though evil and injustice may seem to prevail (3:16-17)? (See 3:16-17 note.) How was the writer affected by the oppression he witnessed in the world (4:1-3)? Why can we have hope despite the world's evil and oppression? (See 4:1 note.) In what ways do people's efforts and achievements often stem from their envy of others? (See 4:4-6 note.) How can trusting God bring contentment? What are the advantages of working with others? (See 4:9-12 note.) How should you "guard your steps when going to the house of God" (5:1), and why? (See 5:1 note.) In relating to God, why is it more important to keep an open ear and receptive spirit than an open mouth (5:2-3)? How can this affect your time in prayer? Why are those who love money never satisfied and frequently troubled? (See 5:10-17 note.) How should we view honest work and anything we get from it? (See 5:18-20 note.)
PRAY: Express trust in God regardless of what you can't control or don't expect. Praise God that His justice ultimately prevails. Take time not only to speak to God, but to listen for His answers and peace as you pray.
ACT: If you're doing anything out of competitive envy-to keep up with or outdo someone else-back up and do only what God expects of you, and do it for the right reasons. Depend on friends who have proven to be dependable.
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