Something New Under the Sun: Ancient Wisdom for Contemporary Living - 27. GRASPING AT SHADOWS

27. Grasping at Shadows


What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has kid on men.

Ecclesiastes 3:9-10


When the final examination grades at Cambridge University were published, Henry Martyn’s high­est ambition had been realized. He was the honors man of the year. Strangely, his first sensation was keen disap­pointment. “I obtained my highest wishes,” he said, “but was surprised that I had grasped a shadow.”

This is part of the “burden” that seemed to dog Solomon’s steps. Everywhere he turned he found more evidence that nothing in this life seems to satisfy. Even the highest achievements often leave us feeling empty. Missionary friends wrote recently that upon completing the translation of the New Testament into a tribal lan­guage they felt exhausted and depressed. Where was the feeling of satisfaction such a monumental achievement should bring?

There is another side to the story. A young man came to Christ on the streets of Chicago. I had the privilege of baptizing him, knowing that he would go to prison for a crime committed before his conversion. Writing from a maximum-security prison, he offered my congregation these words of encouragement:


I want you all to know that you and everyone at the church are in my prayers always. It isn’t any easier out there. I just finished fasting for three days successful­ly. It was hard, especially not smoking. But I make it through the power of God. I really feel good about that. I mean I feel cleansed in my mind and stronger in the Lord. You all will always be in my prayers. Keep up the good work for the Lord. I got him cov­ered in here. I’m starting with my cellie. God bless and thank you. Your brother in Christ, Shane.


Those words are remarkable, especially his statement that “it isn’t any easier out there.” Here’s a young man in prison for up to fifteen years, yet he is fasting, praying, and setting out to win his cellmate to Christ. That kind of boldness comes only from knowing God personally.

I do not doubt that my missionary friends have gained a better perspective after their work of many years. And I’m sure that Shane has many rough moments await­ing him behind bars. Henry Martyn was right about one thing: We live in a world of shadows where the ultimate significance of a given day’s work may be hard to see. If we trust our feelings, we will soon give in to despair. But true faith rises above feelings to declare that what we do for Christ will last forever.


Lord God, in a world of passing shadows, You are the ultimate reality. Fill me with grace that I might serve You with joy Amen.



* Why is it that our dreams when finally realized and our goals when finally achieved often bring less satisfac­tion than we had hoped-and often bring a sense of disappointment?


* What does this teach us about life and about God?



Read 1 Kings 19:1-9; Jeremiah 2:13; and Mark 8:34.
Want instant access to all 100 daily devotionals? Something New Under the Sun: Ancient Wisdom for Contemporary Living is available in ebook format for the Kindle, Nook, or Ipad. Purchase your copy here!
The Anchor Project
Explaining the Gospel in “Walmart English”

Anchor is a “gospel book” that explains the Good News in a simple and persuasive manner. Read the latest on “The Anchor Project” and how you can be support our work.

Read More
Keep Believing China
Partnering with Chinese pastors and churches

We want to join together with pastors and Christian workers to equip the church in China, broadcasting translated sermons, providing ministry resources for Christians and pastors in China.

Read More

Weekly sermon email
Subscribe for free

Subscribe to the weekly sermon from Keep Believing Ministries. Sign up for our emails and use it to grow in your faith as well as to encourage others.


KBM Podcasts
Weekly audio sermons

Welcome to Keep Believing Ministries’ audio/podcast library. Listen to or download a digital audio version of one of these messages or receive them via our podcast and feed.

Read More

Ebook: Lord of Glory

The Bible contains many names of Christ. His names tell us who he is. His names tell us why he came. His names tell us how he can help us. His names tell us why we worship him. In this devotional series you'll learn of these varied and meaning behind the names, titles and descriptions of Christ.

“Equipping and encouraging people to keep believing in Jesus”

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”