King Solomon writes negatively through much of Ecclesiastes. His view of this life in his first chapter could be downright depressing. He treats human history as an endless cycle of meaningless repetition. Much truth, though, comes through in his musings and it is one of these trues and what it suggests that I am briefly addressing in this article. I am framing my remarks in the context of “leadership” or more accurately, “servant-hood” which is the biblical model that our gracious Lord Jesus left us.
As a student of biblical exegesis and one who appreciates the contextual approach, I understand that the main thrust of Solomon’s argument goes to the urgency of life’s opportunities for in Sheol (the grave to which we are headed) there is nothing that can be done or redone. We who hope in the resurrection to eternal life know that death is not so final but in focusing on the first part of our text, I wish to address a few thoughts suggested by doing with our might what our hands find to do.
What Is at Hand?
That which is nearest us accessible to us and within our reach is said to be “at hand.” We should prioritize our lives based on where we are and what is around us. There are several potential thoughts in this idea—where we are, what’s with reach of the hand, and the need to do those things that present themselves. This is very simple. However, many of us spend a lifetime looking (or waiting for) the next thing, really the next “big” or “bigger” thing to do, something we think more worthy of ourselves, our abilities, or our self-assessed potential. We dream of what we could do if we but had the right opportunity or a more powerful place from which to work. This is heady stuff that generally paralyzes us or causes us to function poorly if at all.
The concept of “what is at hand” has in it, I think, two very powerful, God-oriented suggestions. The first is that we are to be content (if we truly trust God) with the station in which He has placed us. This means that our lives are not accidental. Discontentment with his heavenly status in God’s created order, caused Lucifer to become the devil in his attempt to overthrow or displace God. Likewise, our discontent can lead to the desire (secret though it may be) to overthrow or displace others. It is the kind of self-promotional pride which once it starts, it is never thereafter content. The second very powerful Godly suggestion is that we are to do what is at hand. Hands do not think, aspire to greater things, or contemplate the future. They are simply involved in the “now.” “What the hand finds” is a very humbling phrase. It highlights and reinforces the idea that we are to humbly begin where we are with what is within reach to be done. This phrase also suggests that we are to value where we are and that we are not to treat our occupations as stepping stones to so-called greater things.
We are to let the example of the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5) govern our attitudes. He sought no different station and was content to do His Father’s will. Indeed, in a deep and loving obedience to His Father, He gave up the advantages that were legitimately His. He acted fully and completely in accordance with His station in the form of the absolutely obedient Man (Philippians 2:8).
God Leads As We Willingly Do What Is “At Hand”
Over the years I have heard quite a number of persons (younger and older) say, “I am trying to find God’s will” or, “I am waiting on the Lord to show me what to do and where to go.” Many times this kind of remark is a euphemism for our secret desires to be elsewhere, a kind of cloak for our unhappiness with where we are. I say firmly that our Lord cannot lead us when we do not care to walk through the doors that surround us or are before us, in other words, “at hand.” This attitude of “looking for elsewhere to be” causes us to be stagnant and unjustifiably frustrated. Who owes us a debt of position? No one! Who ought to make way for us so we can succeed or move on to greater things? No one! Is God not a God at hand? Yes, He is! I am convinced that God knows exactly where each and every one is, and that He is poised to lead us along from where we are if we could only keep our eyes off the stage of glory, power, and popularity. In our stations in life, just where we are, God wants to commune with us, teach us about Himself and about ourselves. Wherever we are, whatever our status in life, it is a place of reality and authenticity for God, the mighty Redeemer, is there! O if we could only see this and embrace it! What transformations would occur in our lives even now! We would be flooded with light for God light is indeed all around us. If we let our hands do what is nearby maybe our eyes would see clearer how God work in our present. We can then rejoice in His presence and honor Him as our Teacher and Companion. What more can we want? What more can there be? Is it not God we seek or is it someone or something else?
The first verse of the old hymn, “He Leadeth Me,” by Joseph H. Gilmore (1834-1918), helps to make the point of this writing perfectly:
“He leadeth me, O blessed thought! O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be, Still ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me.
He leadeth me! He leadeth me! By His own hand He leadeth me!”
His faithful follower I would be, For by His hand He leadeth me.
God leads us where we are and it does not matter where that is, for knowing God and His Son Jesus Christ is indeed eternal life (John 17:3).