Ecclesiastes 7:29 in the Good News Bible, Today’s English Version says, “God made us plain and simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated.” I’ve always felt the latter part of the verse was true about women, and I’ve been told emphatically that the first half is true of men. But I now believe it is all true for all of us. I can complicate almost any problem, regardless of how simple it might be, making it huge and complex. And I don’t like it when someone else tries to trivialize it, or gives me some simple plan to fix it. Somehow, I just seem to feel more important when I have big problems with complicated solutions. I’m an Ecclesiastes 7:29 kind of guy!
We must learn to de-complicate life, in general; but we must especially uncomplicate our relationship with Christ. Paul said to the church at Corinth, “But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3, italics mine). Life can be very complicated; theology can, as well. At times, if we’re not careful, both can get downright confusing. But the Lord impresses on my heart time and time again. There is nothing complicated about relationship with Me.
It was A. W. Tozer who said:
“Now, as always, God [discloses] himself to “babes” and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent. We must simplify our approach to Him. We must strip down to essentials (and they will be found to be blessedly few). We must put away all efforts to impress, and come with the guileless candor of childhood. If we do this, without doubt, God will quickly respond.” (1)
Tozer also said: “There are occasions when for hours I lay prostrate before God without saying a word of prayer or a word of praise - I just gaze on Him and worship.” (2)
Sometimes no words are needed as we enjoy God’s company.
In 2 Corinthians 11:3 simplicity is the Greek word haplotes. Its most literal meaning is “singleness, without dissimulation or duplicity;” (3) or “the opposite of duplicity.” (4) The verse is saying that, in our devotion to Christ, we must not be double-minded. We must guard against anything causing dissimulation, division or a watering down. It is okay to be multifaceted in our gifts and activity, and it is wise to be broad-based in our understanding, but in our approach to relationship with Jesus we must be very single-minded. Allow no other person or activity to crowd Him out. To take Him for granted or allow Him to simply be one of many priorities will weaken us.
“One Yew Year’s Day in the Tournament of Roses parade, a beautiful float suddenly sputtered and quit. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone could get a can of gas.
“An amusing aspect of this was that the float represented the Standard Oil Company. With its vast oil resources, its truck was out of gas.” (5)
Often we who have within us the well of salvation fail to drink from it. And like the Standard Oil float, we sometimes run out of gas. Drink from the well daily. Don’t allow Christ to lose His wonder for you.
In Christianity Today, Philip Yancey writes:
“I remember my first visit to Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. Rings of American, Japanese, and German tourists surrounded the geyser, their video cameras trained like weapons on the famous hole in the ground. (For those of you too young to remember carrying a large video camera around on vacations rather than a small phone, you don’t know how convenient life has become. ) A large, digital clock stood beside the spot, predicting 24 minutes until the next eruption.
“My wife and I passed the countdown in the dining room of Old Faithful Inn overlooking the geyser. When the digital clock reached one minute, we, along with every other diner, left our seats and rushed to the windows to see the big event.
“I noticed that immediately, as if on signal, a crew of busboys and waiters descended on the tables to refill water glasses and clear away dirty dishes. When the geyser went off, we tourists oohed and aahed and clicked our cameras; a few spontaneously applauded. But, glancing back over my shoulder, I saw that not a single waiter or busboy - not even those who had finished their chores - looked out the huge windows. Old Faithful, grown entirely too familiar, had lost its power to impress them.” (6)
I’m afraid this describes many Christians’ relationships with the One we call Faithful and True. We’ve known Him so long, become so accustomed to Him, well, you know…
Don’t ever stop being impressed with Jesus!
Do you ever listen and not really hear? The word “listening” in Greek is the word akouo, which means not only to hear, but to understand. One definition said, “To understand, hear with the ear of the mind.” (7) Jesus repeatedly said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” (Matthew 11:15 and others). This places the responsibility of hearing on us. We must choose to posture ourselves in a way that allows us to really hear. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus commended Mary for listening (akouo), while Martha was busy in the kitchen. He said Mary had chosen the good thing, which would produce lasting fruit.
Interestingly enough, the word for “obey” (hupakouo) comes from the same word. The prefix hupo means “under,” making the literal meaning of this word, “hear under.”) The biblical concept of obedience is: (1) hearing and understanding someone, then (2) bringing your will under what they have said. Mary was truly hearing (akouo) Christ, which would allow her to obey (hupakouo).
May we be more like Mary, having unencumbered obedience, truly willing to listen, hear, and submit.
Pray with me:
Father, life gets complicated at times. Our plates get full and we sometimes say, we “don’t have enough hours in a day.” But You told us in Ecclesiastes that WE complicate things. You have challenged us that no matter how busy and hectic life gets, we must keep our relationship with You foremost and simple - uncomplicated.
We know that if we truly listen, You will speak to us - in our hearts and through Your Word. We choose to listen. We choose to have listening and hearing ears. And we choose to bring ourselves under what we hear from You… we choose to obey. We draw near to You, confident that as we do, You will draw near to us.
We pray now for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We pray for refreshing to those who are weary, peace to those who are anxious, and endurance to those who are tired. We ask You for the Spirit of revelation to intensify among Your people. Holy Spirit, would You lift the veil in order that those who have never known they could hear Your voice would now begin hearing You and enjoying a fellowship they’ve never known.
We ask for these things in Christ’s name. Amen.
We decree that we have ears to hear what Holy Spirit is saying to the church. I decree that I will have ears to hear what Holy Spirit is saying to ME.
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Rowell, Quotes & Idea Starters for Preaching and Teaching, p 181.
Michael L. Brown, From Holy Laughter to Holy Fire (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., 1996), p 186.
Strong, The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, ref. No. 572.
Zodhiates, Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible - New American Standard, p 1808.
Craig Brian Larson, Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993), p 181.
Larson, Contemporary Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers and Writers, p 68.
Zodhiates, Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible - New American Standard, p 1802.