Edward Mote (1797-1874) was a hymn writer who grew up without religious training and whose parents were pub owners. He was apprenticed at a young age by his parents to a cabinetmaker but found faith when he heard the preaching of John Hyatt at the Tottenham Court Road Chapel in London at age 15. He penned the words to the hymn ‘On Christ, the solid rock I stand’ while on his way to work. He would forsake his commendable carpentry vocation to become a preacher. One line comes to my attention today; When all around my soul gives way; He then is all my hope and stay.” Such a conviction is admirable and necessary in our day.
What if all that you counted gain was taken away from you in a single day? What happens when a parent dies of sickness or an accident and leaves behind a struggling home? Or when one loses a job, etc.? It is a problematic matter, yet prepares many of us. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:2 begins with biting words, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, Vanity of vanities! All is Vanity.”
The realization of Vanity
Before the floods sweep, or cancer comes or war, many of us find the thought of surrendering our lives and all that we have to Christ as alien. When everything we held gain (Philippians 3:9) has become a loss, life becomes unbearable to some of us. The value we had placed on things has failed in plain sight. Why would Solomon say all is Vanity? Because he had found that all he had was false satisfaction. The women, the wealth, the wisdom, the dominion of his rule- everything lost meaning at some point. He had gained the world and lost his soul (Matthew 16:26).
For us, it might be the phones or gadgets; the money and bank accounts; the relationships and friends; family or other things we hold fast and tightly. When these things disappear, we realize that they had little impact or none. Living an extra day without WhatsApp or Facebook; without a series of movies; or without knowing who liked your status will not take away any joy in life whatsoever. If whatever I am holding onto does not leave me dead when taken, then we know it was Vanity of vanities!
The revelation of Eternity
When it hits us with power, the realization of the vain nature of our worldly empires and thrones leads us to seek for higher meaning. Paul says to us in Colossians 3:1-2 that we should set our eyes on things above. Above are Christ and all His angelic choir. No thief can steal, nor moth destroys nor rust (Matthew 6:19-20) tamper with what God has already kept in heaven for us. If a man fails to see Jesus as the most satisfying well to drink from, he/she must soon realize how fickle and flighty the things of this life are. 1 John 2:16-17 would tell us that the world is passing away along with its desires, but the one who does the will of God abides forever. Eternity is invisibly satisfying. Eternity is within our reach!
Jesus said in John 17:3 that eternal life is knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ. It is not a life we are looking to have after death. It is a life that we get to experience here and now, then fully know it there and then. Have you wondered why some people seem to have an unusual chill when they are going through tough times? We know they are going through deep things, yet their outlook is the opposite? Mostly, such people have a vision beyond the material things. Why would men choose the way of death by bullet or hangman; sword or beasts for Jesus’ sake? It’s because their eyes have a glimpse of glory and Eternity, and everything else has lost its luster! The old hymn says;
I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground!
We need to catch a glimpse of glory. At times, God will allow all around our souls to give way so that we may see the Eternity ahead. It may be sickness, or accident or incident. It may be a betrayal by a close and trusted friend. Do not dwell on the temporary, though it may seem more real. Teach yourself to see beyond the now, through to what holds water! But let us not wait for all around our souls to give way to fixate on Eternity.
The celebration of simplicity
We not only realize material things are Vanity of vanities; we not only get an opportunity to focus on eternal things; we also get to celebrate a life of simplicity, when all around our souls give way.
The simplicity of life. That life is not a matter of amercing things for ourselves and proving a point to others. Life is not a competition with anyone for God allows us to enjoy various things at various times. The rich man may enjoy wealth and access to many things yet be in total anxiety at night because of fear of thieves. The not-so-rich man may not enjoy the pleasures of many things but affords to sleep without the care of burglars. Strange as it is, it is life (1 Thessalonians 4:11, 1 Timothy 6:6-7).
The simplicity of faith. Jesus is not calling us to a showy and flamboyant expression of loyalty. He is calling us to simplicity. Love the Lord your God with all your heart (Matthew 22:37). Whether or not you have been to Jerusalem for a visit or you can spit a thousand tongues in prayer does not matter much. Love the Lord your God! He cares for you more than you imagine (Matthew 6:30-33).
We make life too complicated many times, and that, for no reason. All that we have might be taken away in a whisper or a twinkle of an eye. Life is simple. Instead of wasting time stressing over things that will not eternal value when they are shaken and moved, let us focus on things eternal. We do not prove a point to anyone for there is none, to prove.
Edward Mote wrote ‘When all around my soul gives way; He then is all my hope and stay.” Paul set the stage when he said that all he had once thought gain he had counted lose for the priceless gain of knowing Christ his Lord.” (Philippians 3:7-8). May you find Christ as all your hope and stay. May all else give way, and Christ leads the way. In Jesus’ name, amen.