Have we traded pleasures which come from the hand of God, for pleasures which we try to create with our own hands? Is this why we work so hard and feel so empty? Is this why we get more, but are left only wanting more?
Really, how long are you satisfied with today’s Amazon delivery before you start shopping again? Are you guilty of opening the box, liking what’s in the box, then immediately wondering what other colors it might come in? Girl … that’s a trap!
Sis, you were uniquely fashioned to desire the pleasures brought into your life by God’s hand. The enemy twists those desires into selfish pursuits and tricks us into chasing after all that leaves us feeling unfulfilled. And you, unfulfilled, is you ineffective. You unfulfilled is you busy. You unfulfilled is you distracted. You unfulfilled is you living less than you could really live. And honey, if the devil can’t take your life, he will try to complicate your life.
Today, on the Venetian island of Murano, I met with a man who sells handmade glass. This island is known around the world for the glass made here, called Murano glass. We became friends with this kind man, and he took us through the velvet ropes, upstairs to the private gallery to show us the masterpieces. He explained we could have any thing we wanted shipped to our home. Chandeliers, jewelry, vases, wine glasses, sculptures, absolute works of art, all made of the most beautiful glass, here on this island.
I explained to him we don’t have a home. He looked surprised and said, “You have no home? But where do you live?”
“We sold everything, and we travel. Wherever we are today is where we live today. Today, we live in Murano, Italy.”
Then he understood as much as I loved the vase, I have no where to put it.
What a shame, right? No, what a blessing!
He then shared with me how his greatest desire is to live on a small piece of countryside in Italy, and grow his own garden. He would then sell his vegetables to the restaurants in Venice. His desire is for the pleasures from God’s hand, not the $1200 vase he sells.
As we said our goodbyes, he says “Congratulations on understanding life and not needing anything more to make you happy.”
I learned from him that Southern Italy, the locals are very poor. They have nothing, yet their lives are fulfilling. They aren’t sitting on couches watching TV. They aren’t walking down streets staring at their cell phones. They are gathered around kitchen tables, enjoying good food they have likely grown themselves. They’re savoring life and all they have today, not overwhelmed with the troubles of tomorrow.
Ecclesiastes 2: 24-25 “So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?”
The author of Ecclesiastes is believed to be Solomon. Yes, King Solomon. A man who is referred to as wiser than any other man to ever live. A man who had everything and the ability to get anything else on top of that. He experienced the extreme earthly pleasures, and at the end of his life he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes as a look back with lessons to live by.
And what he has to say is the pleasures from the hand of God will fulfill you, the earthly pleasures will leave you chasing more and wasting your life. Looking back on his life, Solomon tries to point us to a better, simpler life, living in alignment with God’s design for our allotted days.
Ecclesiastes 5:20 MSG “We should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now.”
Truly, are we enjoying the food and drink we have today? Or are we scrolling on our phones as we mindlessly eat, never tasting our coffee, but constantly thinking we need more of it.
I’m learning here in Italy, the birthplace of the cappuccino, it’s not the size of the mug, it’s the ability to sit and taste what God has given us in the magic of the coffee bean and the blend of the fresh, steamed milk. (And I’m learning, their mugs are pretty darn small by American standards.) So simple, but we’ve modernized it with our venti cups and fake caramelo macchiato flavorings, where more is never enough and we miss what God gave us to enjoy.
Oh, what bounty has God given you, and have you clouded your capacity to enjoy it? Can you accept what’s given and delight in work, or are you dreading what you have to do, always looking for the easier way, and seeking more than you already have?
We are here today with God’s gifts. Girls, lets be so overwhelmingly grateful with all he has given us to enjoy, and stay here in the present to savor it.
Today, the Italian man showing us the glass pieces said, “I grew up with nothing, but my mind was so at peace enjoying our work and being grateful for everything. And now, we’ve lost it. Now, our minds are burdened.”
Yes, as I’m standing in a gallery with the most beautiful glass art, I’m reminded being here is pleasure from God’s hand … feeling like I would only be happy if I could take more home with me is seeking pleasure from my own hands.
Can we be here and be satisfied? Can we enjoy our work instead of dread our work? Can we simplify our lives to need less so we can enjoy more. Not more stuff, more living. More of the bounty God gives, and the capacity to enjoy it.
The enemy tries to steal our capacity to enjoy God’s bounty. Has he been successful in your life? Has the devil complicated what God intended to be a simplified life of living from His hand? Has sneaky ol’ Satan gotten his hand in the way and stolen what only God can give?
Has he stolen your joy?
Has he stolen your pleasure?
Has he stolen your presence?
Has he stolen your right now?
Oh Lord, help us to get back what you have given us. Help us to take Solomon’s words as a lesson on living this one life you have given us to live.
Father, we want to enjoy our life and find satisfaction in our work, instead of stress and worry and dread our way through the allotment of days you have offered us. We want our pleasures to come from YOUR hands, not our own hands or the hands of the enemy. Return to us the capacity to enjoy your bounty. Help us to see what we have, and accept what we have with delight.
As I read these scriptures of Ecclesiastes written by Solomon, I think of the story I heard many years ago of a fisherman and a businessman. Have you heard it? It goes like this:
One day a fisherman was lying on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole propped up in the sand and his solitary line cast out into the sparkling blue surf. He was enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the prospect of catching a fish.
About that time, a businessman came walking down the beach trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was fishing instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family. “You aren’t going to catch many fish that way,” said the businessman. “You should be working rather than lying on the beach!”
The fisherman looked up at the businessman, smiled and replied, “And what will my reward be?”
“Well, you can get bigger nets and catch more fish!” was the businessman’s answer.
“And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman, still smiling.
The businessman replied, “You will make money and you’ll be able to buy a boat, which will then result in larger catches of fish!”
“And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman again.
The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the fisherman’s questions. “You can buy a bigger boat, and hire some people to work for you!” he said.
“And then what will my reward be?” repeated the fisherman.
The businessman was getting angry. “Don’t you understand? You can build up a fleet of fishing boats, sail all over the world, and let all your employees catch fish for you!”
Once again the fisherman asked, “And then what will my reward be?”
The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the fisherman, “Don’t you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting on this beach, looking at the sunset. You won’t have a care in the world!”
The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, “And what do you think I’m doing right now?”
Oh how the enemy tries to trick us into crazy schemes and quests for more, when God’s hand has already given us every great pleasure in life. Oh how Satan tries to steal our capacity to enjoy our bounty as we chase a greater bounty. So what … so we can eventually savor what we have when the truth is, we already have it.
Hasn’t God’s hand already given you everything you need to live well today? Hasn’t he already provided in miraculous ways? Hasn’t he offered to fulfill you here, if you will only stop chasing what is next?
Yes, yes he has.