How discipleship relationships help us cease from striving
When you read Ecclesiastes there is a common refrain echoed throughout the book. It is tragic, it is without hope, and it is one of remorse.
“All is vanity and a striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14b)
The word ‘vanity’ shows up 30 times in scripture. Of those 30, you can find 27 of them in Ecclesiastes. King Solomon, often lauded as being the most wise King to ever live, begins the first chapter with these words:
“I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem…I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:12,14)
I wonder, how Solomon — wisest of kings and son of the “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22) — misses the mark in life so many times? And how do I avoid making some of the same mistakes? King Solomon’s vast wealth and countless riches and wives led him to a pursuit of happiness that ultimately ended in hopelessness.
“Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. 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 2:10-11)
My life, our lives, can very easily look like Solomon’s. Instant gratification is alive and well in the twenty-first century and our hearts can turn to a hundred thousand pleasures. We can labor with our hands and toil after wealth, retirement, a home, a car, friendships, relationships, and end up exactly where he did… all is vanity and a striving after wind.
And yet we have been given a precious gift, one Solomon did not have, one given to us by a precious Savior, one that gives us purpose.
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)
We know this passage and we memorize this passage, but it seems increasingly rare that we act on this passage. The Great Commission was not meant for just the eleven disciples. How do we know? Because we have been given the power of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus names us as his witnesses:
“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere— in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
So the Great Commission is meant for me and for you because the Holy Spirit dwells in us.
“Therefore go…” The word for “go” (poreuthentes) means “to move from one place to another.” A more accurate reading of the Great Commision then is to read “go” as: “Therefore, as you go…”
However, it’s not the main directive in this sentence. In Greek, the main action in Jesus’ command is mathēteusate, which is the Greek word translated “make disciples,” and “nations” is from the Greek word ethnē, meaning “peoples, ethnicities, or people groups.”
So now, the Great Commission reads: “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore as you go, make disciples of all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”
When we join in this great co-mission with Jesus, he promises us something even more spectacular, he promises to be with us in the going. Making disciples is something Jesus was passionate about–so passionate, that he gave us this as his last directive in his earthly reign. Oftentimes it strikes fear in us, or we think we’re inadequate, or not smart enough, or don’t have the time, but all these excuses pale in comparison to the promise that Jesus gives us!
Oh, but He will be with us.
The few days that make up a lifetime can pass in shadows, just like King Solomon believed. We can live lives where we do not deny anything our eyes or heart desires. “For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 6:12)
Our life’s work ends when we do.
Or, we can spend our days on worthwhile pursuits: making disciples of all people, and our life’s work will continue in their lives, and their disciples’ lives, and in their disciples’ disciples’ lives, and on and on. To put the Great Commission another way: See the masses through the man, build and equip the man to reach the masses. (Downline Institute)
Is there someone at your church who you admire, respect, and is a God-fearing woman? Is there someone at your church who is hungry after righteousness, newer in their faith, and has a servant’s heart? Look for them. Seek them out. Fill yourself up, so you can pour yourself out. That labor and toil is eternally focused. King Solomon, in all his wisdom, could surely not look at this, our toil, and say “this also is vanity and a striving after wind.”
Everlasting God, use us,
We are your people,
Remove vain pursuits from us,
Raise your disciple-makers.
Original Tanka Prayer by Joanna Drake