Last week we began a journey through Ecclesiastes. We learned that after King David passed away his son Solomon became King over Israel. Solomon was only 21 years old at that time. He went to Gibeon to offer burnt sacrifices to God.
In 1 Kings 3:5-15 we learned that at Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.
When Solomon answered God, he asked for God to give him a discerning heart to govern God’s people and to distinguish between right and wrong.
God was pleased that Solomon had asked for discernment instead of asking for wealth for himself or for God to kill Solomon’s enemies and so God said he would give Solomon a wise and discerning heart and also give him wealth and honor.
Solomon was the wisest man that had ever lived or ever would live. As far as governing the nation, Solomon was wise but in his own personal life he made many poor choices.
We learned that wisdom is both the ability to discern what is best and the strength of character to act upon that knowledge.
When Solomon neared the end of his life he decided to write about his many life experiences, both his failures and his successes so that we could read about them and be spared from having to make the same poor choices. That record of his life experiences is the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament.
The Quest for Fulfillment
I have to admit the book of Ecclesiastes is not always the easiest book in the Bible to understand. But when armed with a good study bible I realized it is overflowing with a wealth of knowledge of how to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. In fact, many of the thoughts and ideas I will share with you today have come from studying the footnotes of my bible.
It never ceases to amaze me at the variety of books, magazines, CD’s and DVD’s all promising to reveal the secret to living a happy, fulfilling, enjoyable and meaningful life. These resources tell us how to cope with and fix the various problems in our lives. We are totally bombarded with stories telling of how to live a successful life or at the very least how to look like we are living a successful life.
The next time you sit down in front of your TV have a pen and paper handy and start listing how many commercials you see that promise to make you look younger, have more energy or feel better. The list will be eye opening.
We are offered quick fixes to our financial difficulties and the keys to success. Many of them even come with a satisfaction guarantee. We are inundated with rapid fire, fast talking ads, for you see, our busyness seems to be an indication of how successful the world declares we are. The general consensus is the busier we are the more successful we will be. As a result we try to cram as much of life into as little space in time as we can.
Someone commented on this quest for quick success and fulfillment with this statement.
“This is the age of the half-read page and the quick hash and a mad dash; the bright night with the nerves tight; the plane hop and brief stop; the lamp tan in a short span; the brain strain and the heart pain; and the catnaps till the spring snaps; and the fun is done.”
The world is spending billions of dollars every day in this very quest. And it is this quest that Solomon talks about in Ecclesiastes.
Ecclesiastes is described by Pastor Michael Luke as, “The greatest experiment ever performed in the history of mankind to test the various approaches to success, enjoyment and contentment in life recorded in this 3,000-year-old book.”
It’s All Meaningless
When Solomon began writing Ecclesiastes he was very negative. He says in Ecclesiastes 1:2 “Meaningless! Meaningless! says the teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
Here he is saying that nothing means anything, nothing is worth anything.
But Solomon’s point of view and life began to change when he allowed God back into the picture. When Solomon allowed God to become the central focus of his life, everything became fulfilling.
Solomon then moves on to Chapter 3. The sub title for this chapter in my NIV Study Bible is “A Time for Everything.”
1There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Timing is important. All of these things listed in these verses are appropriate at certain times. The secret of peace with God is to discover, accept and appreciate God’s perfect timing. We are treading in dangerous waters when we start doubting or resenting God’s timing. This can lead us to despair, rebellion, and moving ahead without God’s blessing. We want to take things into our own hands and do them in our way on our timetable.
God does not need our approval. Everything happens at His divinely appointed time according to His plan.
When I am feeling impatient I turn to the front of my Bible where I have a note from one of Charles Stanley’s sermons. That note says, “When we are waiting on God’s timing we are waiting on God’s very best.”
9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.
Finding satisfaction in your work depends to a large extent upon your attitude. God wants us to enjoy life. When our hearts are right with God, we experience pleasure in enjoying what we have as gifts from God, not in what we can accumulate through our own efforts. The world tells us to get all we can, experience everything we can, and have as much fun as we can. But Solomon tells us life without God is the pits.
The Purpose of Life
14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
This verse is telling us the purpose of life is that we should revere the all-powerful God.
The dictionary says revere means to feel deep respect or admiration for something. In this case the something is God. To revere God means respecting Him, standing in awe of Him because of who He is.
Solomon is telling us here that it is impossible to fulfill your God-given purpose in life unless you revere God and give Him first place in your life.
Imagine you are someone who does not believe in God. Imaging you are facing some great tragedy in your life… Maybe a loved one is terminally ill or maybe you find yourself in a seemingly hopeless situation. There you are sitting all alone – helpless to do anything. You have no God to talk to, to pray to. You have no God to encourage you. Your life seems pointless, pitiful, purposeless and empty.
Source of Fulfillment
But when you trust God with all the seasons of your life, you know that God loves you so much that He wants His very best for you. He will give you the healing, the strength, the courage to face all that this world has for you.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Solomon says that after having studied life he discovered that God has a plan and a purpose for everything that happens. We are all encouraged when we have someone who believes in us. It makes us want to accomplish the task they have given us to do. We know that someone will be with us every step of the way. God is that kind of leader. He knows the future and His plans for us are full of hope.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
When given the chance to ask for anything in the world, Solomon asked for wisdom – a discerning heart – in order to lead well and to make right decisions. Notice Solomon did not ask God to do the job for him. We should not ask God to do for us that which He wants to do through us. Instead ask God to give you the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to act upon that wisdom (to follow through).
On the evening when I was trying to finish writing this sermon I was having difficulty finding a way to pull all the information together. I knew what I wanted to say, but no matter how hard I tried I could not put onto paper what I wanted to share.
It seemed the harder I tried, the more frustrated I became. I had created my own goal, my own deadline and I could not accomplish completing it. I finally said to my husband Jerry that I just needed to stop. I was very tired and frustrated and those things are not of God.
If I’d been more focused on listening to God, I probably would have heard him saying, “Stop for tonight, Rest peacefully and just wait till you see what I have in store for you tomorrow morning.”
The next morning when I awoke long before daybreak, I went out to sit on my front porch to pray and listen to the world as it awakened. But that morning it was very gray and very dark. I decided to check the radar on my phone to see if there was a storm approaching. When I opened my phone I noticed I had received an email from a friend headed to the mission field. When I read the email I realized why the words would not come to me the evening before. It was because the words I was looking for had already been written by my friend. I’d like to read you a portion of that email.
“Dear Friends, As I read through the book of Ephesians earlier this week, one verse in particular jumped out at me. In Ephesians 2:17, Paul writes that Jesus ‘came and preached peace to those who were far off and those who were near.’ This is not the kind of peace that removes every bit of chaos and conflict in the world, but the kind of peace that puts sinners in right standing with a holy God. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He passed the task of preaching peace to us, His followers. I am humbled to be part of that group.”
She went on in her email to tell about the challenges she was currently facing and then she wrote these words.
“When this journey began I remember reading Mark 10:29-30. Jesus said, Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time…and in the age to come eternal life.”
“I’m not in this for the reward, I’m in it for the glory of God.”
Wow, her words are so true and so powerful.
What about you? Are you trying to find fulfillment through your career, through your accomplishments, through an accumulation of things? Because if you are, you are going to find that in the end your life will be “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless. But if you will put God in first place in your life you will receive a satisfaction and a fulfillment in your life that cannot be matched by anything this world has to offer.
Let us pray.
Lord, I’ve messed up. I have been living my life searching for fulfillment and satisfaction only to find frustration, disappointment and failure. Right now Father, I am giving you first place in my life. Not for any reward that I might receive but instead Father for you glory! Amen.