The start of a new year customarily produces reflection, introspection and resolutions for the days, weeks and months that lay ahead of us. What do we envision for our lives? What steps will take us there? How will our objectives be accomplished? The advice gurus, life coaches and motivational experts are all offering their strategies and opinions.
Allow me to add another by appealing to the ancient, yet relevant, wisdom of king Solomon. In Ecclesiastes 9:10, He offers this advice, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might: for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.”
After studying various aspects of life and behavior, the wise man draws several conclusions in Ecclesiastes, and makes a profound recommendation in this verse. First, we are all endowed with certain abilities that enable us to work, serve or lead. This allows us to realize that we have purpose, meaning and a call to our lives, and are not here by accident. “Whatever your hand finds to do” speaks to those abilities that enable us to make a living, as well as a significant contribution to the lives of our fellowman.
Next, Solomon reminds us that we have a limited time within which to live and fulfill our purpose. We don’t like to think about it but we are all headed for the grave. When the soul and the body separate at death, we’ve run out of time to affect anything in this life. “There is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave.” We should so live as to make the best use of the time we have left, and perfect what we are able and skilled to do.
This brings us to the essential focus of the verse, “do it with your might.” Give it your best effort. Put your all into it. Strive to excel. Why be mediocre when you can be exceptional? Why walk if you can run? Why run if you can fly? Someone once remarked that our abilities are God’s gift to us. What we do with them is our gift back to God. Why not give Him your best?
On Oct. 26, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was speaking to students at Barrat Junior High School in Philadelphia. Part of his speech captures the essence of what Solomon sought to communicate — “And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better. If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or you fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”
Aim to make 2017 your best year by giving your best effort at what you are gifted and called to do. May God’s word inspire you and His hand guide you to a life of excellence and service. Amen.
Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.