“The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd” (Ecclesiastes 12:11).
The goad was a rod with an iron spike, sharpened at the end and used for driving oxen (Judges 3:31; 1 Samuel 12:21; Acts 9:5). The words of wise men, like a goad, can rouse one to action, “promote reflection, restrain from error, impel to right; if they hurt and sting, the pain which they inflict is healthful, for good and not for evil” (Ecclesiastes, P.P. Comm., p. 3-4). “The purpose of goads is to prod the sluggish to action. Good proverbs do that. They bear in them power to give a mental and spiritual stimulus” (Ecclesiastes, Leupold, p. 295). “They spur the will and stick in the memory” (Ecclesiastes, Kidner, p. 106). The verse infers that we all need a good “goading” now and then (2 Tim. 4:2; 3:16-17).
“These collections” refer to the words from wise men, and the book of Ecclesiastes is one such collection. The words in these collections are like well-driven nails: “For nails fastened give a definite point on which all manner of things may be hung, so stable words of the wise give a man something to hold and to tie. They furnish a kind of mental anchorage” (Leupold, p. 295). The origin of such words, the reason for the unity behind such words, is that God is the true Author and Editor of Scripture, that is, the “one Shepherd” mentioned in the verse (Psalm 23:1; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4).
Your Desires: James 1:13-15; 4:1-2
- If you don’t want your desires leading you in directions and into things that are not good for you, then you must learn to order them.
- Remember the failures recorded in Scripture and in most cases, such as with Cain, Samson, the unbelieving Israelites in the wilderness and Judas, their downfall was due to a failure to order their desires.
- Any bad habit, if left alone, will attempt to form the world in its own image.
- It is very easy to get rid of your positive emotion. Getting rid of your negative emotions is a lot harder.
- No meaningful goal in life equals no positive emotion. Something will eventually get you in your safe place. So make sure that God is your refuge.
The Benefit of Scripture: Hebrews 5:14
- On our own, we are limited and fallible and will often come to the wrong conclusions about what is true, what is real and what is best for us (Jeremiah 10:23). The Bible can help you think out things that you cannot think out for yourself.
The Bible and My Motives
- On my own I can fool and deceive myself. I can really think or feel that a path, course of action, relationship, etc… is the best for me, and be completely wrong (Proverbs 16:25). “What makes you think you are a reliable judge of what you are up to?” (Jordan Peterson).
This is a great question! Just do not assume that “you are a good person”, or that your “motives are good” or that you are even being “honest”. Let the word of God reveal how “good” or “honest” you are at the present. Peterson also observed that “modern people think of themselves as beyond good and evil”. Many people today think of themselves as being either superior to “old” moral standards, beyond them or in no need of them.
- Only the Bible can really reveal “what you are up to”. That is, what is your real aim, goal or motivation? (Hebrews 4:12-13).
- Without the Bible, I can completely fool myself into thinking that I am a very good person with noble motives and yet be someone who is lawless (Matthew 7:22-23).
The Ultimate Question in Life
- According to some, the ultimate question of life is “What is your aim?” “What are you up to?” Is it self-preservation and self protection at all cost? There are things worth pursuing that are far more valuable than the pursuit of “self”.
- Is it personal glory? Comfort? Wealth? Paul, in writing to Timothy spoke of some who “want to get rich” (1 Timothy 6:9). Getting rich was their central focus. In like manner, Paul will also speak of people who are lovers of self and lovers of money (2 Timothy 3:2).
- So what is my goal or aim in life? Am I being honest about what my real aim is? What am I really up to? Hopefully, I can say the following:
- “Trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10). “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent to be pleasing to Him” (2 Corinthians 5:9).
- Consider how Jesus had one central focus as He lived His life, that is, to do the will of the Father (John 8:29). This focus impacted or colored everything He did. That is the real significance of a single aim or focus. So be careful about what you choose as your focus in life, because such a focus will arrange every area of your life (Matthew 6:21).
Get Rid of the Dead Wood
- Do not cling at all cost to the parts of you that are dead. Do not be proud of what is worthless or useless in your life.
- “Stop saying things that make you weak” (Jordan Peterson). Rather, say things as true as you can express them. This means, if you are lazy, then say “I am lazy”. Then take the steps necessary for repentance and change.
- “Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
- “In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). This means being comfortable and honest with what you do not know.
- When you try to pretend that you are competent or knowledgeable, you don’t learn and you don’t grow. The Pharisees and the Scribes were pretending and they were dead on the inside (Matthew 23:25).
- Stop trying to fake your way through life, rather, ask for help!
- You are not everything you could be and you know it, so work alongside God to do something about it.
Be Authentic and Real
- Refuse to spread any information that is not true. Be determined to only spread the truth. Reject false and easy theories (2 Timothy 4:3). Beware of theories that shift the blame to others, remove the responsibility off your shoulders and make you feel good about being in sin.
- For the next 10 years if you didn’t avoid doing what you need to do, what would you or your life be like? What will your life be like if you do nothing and keep wasting opportunities?
- Are you at 51% of your capacity? How many hours a day do you waste?
- Never underestimate your ability to turn a blind eye, especially to your own faults.
- Being braver is not the same as being less afraid. There are things to fear. There are “monsters” that lurk in the dark (1 Peter 5:7-8). So do not wait to do something until you are no longer afraid.
- I can grow and even thrive in a stressful situation (1 Peter 1:6-8).
- What you do is what you really believe. So what is your life, the use of your time, and your priorities saying about what you really believe?
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017