Randy and I listened to a podcast yesterday from Mosaic called "Live Like it Matters" by Erwin McManus. I truly enjoy Erwin's teaching. He is very unassuming and practical, yet his messages carry a depth that can be deceiving. He's been teaching from Ecclesiastes these past few months - a book you don't hear preached from often. In "Live Like It Matters," he talked about people who live in the "effect" without trying to discern the "cause." Too often, this leads to a victim mentality, where it becomes easier to simply react to what life sends our way instead of learning and growing from each new experience.
Then there are those who live as though nothing matters, that what they do won't change the way things are, and that life is merely an existence to get through each day. Solomon felt that way in this book, and concluded that "everything is meaningless" in this life lived under the sun.
I've met people like this, people who have no ambitions in life. They work in jobs with no future, and have no goals or dreams or plans to change their circumstances. Life is happening to them instead of them stepping out and making their life matter to those around them. When did ambition become so passe? When did Solomon's depressed view of life filter into ours?
I saw a YouTube video today about the way people view time. Some view it with a past tense mentality, where they live on the glory days of the past. These are the people who preserve our legacies and keep traditions alive. Then there are those who live in the present, for the pleasure of the moment, in a hedonistic sense, like Solomon did. And lastly there are those with a future sense mentality, who live for what is yet to be. For the Christian, and other religions that teach life after death, the focus is future, this life is not the end, and their goals reflect that thinking.
Seen from the perspective of how one views time, it's a little easier to understand why some people have little or no ambition. Those who want to preserve the past have some ambition to keep it relevant to each successive generation. Those who live for the present will be least concerned with the consequences of their actions. And those who live for the future, will set goals and strive to reach them.
I think we can be all of these at different times in our lives. I also think we can have all views at once, though I would bet one will be more dominant than the other. I see myself as one who wants to preserve the past in the stories I write, while keeping a steady eye on the future and seeking to fulfill the goals and dreams God has placed on my heart - to accomplish the work I believe He has given me to do. And there are days when I want to just enjoy the moment, and relish the pleasures found in right now. So maybe our view of time does affect our ambitions, or maybe more importantly, it affects what we might do with them.
I think we are born with a drive to do something, to see our lives have purpose. But somewhere along the way we can lose that desire and end up in the trap Solomon got caught in - the trap of living for himself and seeing nothing good in it. He couldn't "live like it mattered" because nothing mattered to him. Until you get to the last chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes when Solomon finally admits that God is the reason for living after all.
Perhaps people who lose their ambitions in life, first lost their faith in what God has for them. Or maybe they never had any faith at all. Solomon knew the truth, yet Solomon lost what he'd known. In the end, I think he finally came around to see the truth again, that life does matter. That loving and serving God matters most of all.
We just need to live like it.