Joyfully Enduring Life's Inexplicable Mysteries.

We are learning from Solomon how to live simply in the margin of mystery created by the unpredictability of life. Ecclesiastes 9:11-18 warns us not to trust our personal ability or opportunities.

Personal Ability

Ability cannot hold you up when life gets too heavy. Only God can. Solomon knew this, as he wrote Proverbs 3:5-6, yet he still tried several skills. They are listed in Ecclesiastes 9:11: swiftness or speed, strength, wisdom, discernment or brilliance, and learning. None of these help us figure out what is out of our control. Relying on these to make sense of our life will result in doubt and fear.

Personal skills only last as long as life does. We can pursue them as tools to help us persevere. We must pursue our spiritual responsibilities above all, while enjoying the life God has given us and trusting Him to handle the mystery.


Ecclesiastes 9:12 gives two pictures for when evil times come upon us. Yet our ability to live joyfully and simply can never be taken away. There is a bigger story with an infinite entity authoring the plot of life for our good and His own glory, which we cannot, would not want to, and could not comprehend if we tried. And that's okay. No matter what happens to our circumstances, we still have Jesus and we still have people around us who need Him.

"Those without Christ often abandon themselves to eating and drinking because sometimes it looks as if that's all there is to do before we die; but those who love Christ cherish eating and drinking because it looks a little like what we'll do after we die. All of these simple gifts come from a real country. They smell and taste and feel like Heaven." – Gibson

We must guard how we view opportunity. Our legacy will not be about our skillful contributions at church. What people remember is relational investment and faithfulness.

Ecclesiastes 9:13-18 shows that there are limits even to wisdom's opportunities. Grammatically, the text says the poor man "could" have saved the city, but is unclear whether or not he did. Regardless of what opportunities are realized in our lives, God never forgets and will reward.

Application Points

  • Your life is not about busy performance. Whatever you do pursue, do it with eternal purpose in mind.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • 1 Kings 3:5-15 – Solomon's wisdom.
  • Proverbs 21:30, 2 Chronicles 20:15 – The Lord's plans prevail.
  • Matthew 6:25-34, 1 Peter 4:19 – Do what you can do to enjoy life while trusting God with what's out of your control.
  • James 1:2, Jeremiah 10:23, 1 Samuel 14:6, Proverbs 16:9 – A wise response to "evil times."
  • 1 Peter 3:15, Matthew 5:16 – Living simply with joy for eternal purposes.