This study aims to remind us to not let the past (good or bad) stop us from living for God today and for tomorrow.
One goal of these Bible studies is not just to get you to learn about the Bible but to encourage you to study the Bible for yourself. This week, I will show you a little of my thought process while doing this study. I hope it inspires you to ask your own questions and to follow where they lead.
Read Ecclesiastes 7:8-14 which is the basis of the first three questions.
Concentrate on v10 which was the start of my musings. I always start with the presumption that the Bible is true, and wise and was written with a good purpose. So:
1) What is wrong with always looking back at the past?
2) Were the “good old days” as good as we remember them?
Next, I looked at the surrounding verses to see if they would help me understand v10 better. I found two interesting comments in verses 8 and 13-14 that increased my appreciation of v10.
Concentrate on v8.
1) What does it mean that the end is better than the beginning?
2) What is the end of the matte?
3) Why would patience in enduring your time now be better (or more profitable) than remembering with pride your glorious past?
4) How does v8 relate to v10? My conclusion was that we should not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” because we do not know how things will end. A current bad time may still lead to a glorious end. Do you agree? Discuss.
Concentrate on V13-14
What does it mean to us that God is in control of giving us both our good and bad days?
Can our opinion on whether we were better or worse in the past change what God has and will allow in our life?
Do we know how things will end up in the end?
How should this change the way we live our lives today?
How do v13-14 relate to v10? My conclusion was that God is in charge of our days and he has his reasons for giving or allowing the present circumstances to occur. Pining, “Why were the old days better than these?” will neither bring them back, nor allow us to see what God is doing today. Do you agree? Discuss.
My next step was to find how this verse connects with the rest of the Bible. Were there any related examples or illustrations to be found elsewhere?
This type of process is helped by using a number of resources. These include word studies, topical studies and chain links. A good concordance will also allow you to find where a particular word has been used elsewhere. I also benefited in this study from reviewing some other Christian writings. These included some sermons, articles, and commentaries. While I do not want to be dependent on what other people say, I did find their guidance valuable.
I found a number of interesting connections with the story of Job, some parables of Jesus and also the life of Paul. Let us finish off this study by reviewing 3 aspects of Paul’s life that I found fascinating.
Read Acts 24:27, Acts 25:23-27, Acts 26:24-29
1) How would you feel after being shut up as a political prisoner for 2 years? Angry? Full of regrets?
2) What opportunity did these two years bring that would not have occurred otherwise?
3) Is it possible that God can use our present difficulties to create greater opportunities to bless others later on?
4) Following from the previous questions, are you surprised at what Paul says in v29? What would you say in this if you were Paul?
Read Philippians 2:14-15, Philippians 3:12-14, Philippians 4:10-13
The book of Philippians was written when Paul was sitting in another jail cell.
1) Would you be disappointed being restricted in a cell? -again?
2) Despite this, what is Paul’s outlook on life?
3) Why is he so upbeat about sitting in such a miserable situation?
4) What can we learn from this?
Read 2 Timothy 4:9-22
We looked at Paul’s last words last week, but I would like to reflect on them again.
What was his attitude to the past?
1) Concentrate on 11-13 and v21. Considering he expects to die soon, what is his attitude to the future? Is he slowing down or wallowing in the past?
2) Are you surprised?
3) What does this say about how we should look at the future?