Before we get started this morning, I’d like to share with you an email a friend sent me this week.
Satan called a worldwide convention. In his opening address to his evil angels he said; We can’t keep the Christians from going to church. We can’t keep them from reading their bibles and knowing the truth. And we can’t keep them from conservative values, but we can do something else; We can keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship experience with Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them will be broken. So, let them go to church, let them have their conservative lifestyles, but.....steal their time, so they can’t gain that experience with Jesus Christ. This is what I want you to do angels:
Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!
“How shall we do that?” shouted the angels.
“Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent unnumbered schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered. “Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, then borrow, borrow, borrow. Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days a week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children. As their family fragments, soon their home will offer no escape from the pressures of work.”
“Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still small Voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive. To keep the TV, VCR, CD’s and their PCs going constantly it their homes. And see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-religious music constantly. This will help to jam their minds and break that union with “their Jesus.”
“Fill their coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24hrs a day. Invade their time on the road with billboards advertising cigarettes, alcohol,---and while you’re at it--slip in a little sexual immorality every now and then.
Flood their mailboxes with junk-mail, sweepstakes, mail order catalogues, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services, and false hopes.
Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their weekends exhausted, disquieted, and totally unprepared for the coming week.
Don’t dare let them just go out in nature to reflect on God’s wonders. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts, and movies instead.
And, when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotion. Let them be involved in soul winning all right... But crowd their lives with so many “good causes” that they have no time to seek power from Christ. Soon they will be working in their own straight, sacrificing their health and family for the “good of the cause.”
It was quite a convention in the end. And the evil angels went out eagerly to ful-fill their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busy, busy, busy......( Unknown Author)
Of course we all know that this is just a little fictional story that someone made up to give us a chuckle and perhaps to make us think a little, but does it really hold some indisputable truth? I for one believe it does. You see, at the time that the Lord first gave me the topic of this message, I had been pretty busy--at work and at home, it almost seemed as though the Lord was somehow “preparing” me to receive this particular sermon. I realized how easy it is for life to get so chaotic that we suddenly don’t have time in our hectic schedules to pause and just listen to that “still small Voice.”
I want you to think back on this week as we are now at the end of it, and kind of take a mental inventory of how you budgeted out you time and attention. Be honest with yourselves now, and just see if someone has been keeping you from devoting time to where it really needed to be spent. Perhaps someone learned well at the Dark Angel Convention! You know it’s amazing how we can be so easily diverted from what really matters in life. I mean, sometimes we feel like a pinball--being bounced all over the place with no sense of direction or purpose. Instead of enjoying our lives, we sometimes seem to be awful busy just trying to survive it.-- Is that how God intended for us to live
You ever heard someone claim know the secret of life? This has been perhaps the most sought-after mystery since time began.
Well, consider yourselves fortunate... because this morning we are going to come to the conclusion of that timeless question; “What is the secret of life?--what’s it really all about? Pray with me will you?
I hope you will agree with me that, in order to discover the answer to this most important question, a person would have to be pretty wise to say the least-- I mean the answer is not going to simply fall into our laps is it?
No, to gain this kind of knowledge, one would have to have experienced a whole lot of things in this world and no doubt would have to be blessed with wisdom by God.
Well, a few thousand years ago, a man by the name of Solomon was doing a whole lot of thinking about the true meaning of life. And after he finally came to realize what the meaning was, and this-by the way took basically his whole life, he was instructed by God to record it for future generations. Now we know that Solomon, son of David, wrote quite a bit of the Old Testament but in Ecclesiastes he very profoundly reveals to us just what he had discovered.
Open your bibles with me if you will to the book of Ecclesiastes, a little book in the Old Testament nestled between Proverbs and Song of Solomon, and let us draw from King Solomon’s experience and wisdom. Now the title of the book, Ecclesiastes, is derived from a Hebrew word which means “teacher”. And if you didn’t already know, the name Solomon means “peace”, but ironically enough, Solomon didn’t find true peace until he was well advanced in years and looking death in the face so to speak.--- Notice in the first chapter that, after introducing himself, the very first statement he makes is; “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”----------Now I like the NIV translation a little better, it says; “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
Now, is this guy suppose to be inspiring us or depressing us? I don’t know about you, but when I first read these opening words knowing that they were written by the wisest man that ever lived, well I’ll have to say, I was a little troubled. Could all those people that commit suicide every year have been right?--Is life really meaningless? Now here again, I want you to be honest with yourselves; have you ever had that kind of day-or week or month when you think; “what’s the point.......?” Sure you have, but if you haven’t, maybe YOU should be up here preaching because we could all learn more from your experience than Solomon’s
--But back to Solomon. **I want to give you just a glimpse of his life, did you know that; He was crowned King over Israel at the tender young age of twenty, and shortly after he realized that he didn’t know how to be a King, so God comes to him in a dream an says; “OK Solomon, ask for whatever you want Me to give you.!” We all know the story; Solomon asks for wisdom instead of riches....... So, God blesses the man with wisdom AND gives him riches beyond our wildest dreams. Did you know that he had 300 concubines AND 700 wives!? ( I believe that almost rivals Will Chamberland’s love life!) Now, with all those women in his life, it’s hard to imagine that he would have much time for anything else.......But somehow he finds time to full-fill his duties as King plus build the Temple of God, a couple of palaces, and, yes, entire cities! Oh yeah, somewhere in there he ponders the mysteries of life.
Let’s look at Chapter 2:10,11 (READ)*********No doubt Solomon achieved many great accomplishments, experienced all kinds of pleasure, yet when he looks back on all of these things, he realizes that “all is vanity--all is meaningless.” But, wait a minute you say, what about when he built the Temple of the Lord? Most of us assume that the King had a strong relationship with God. And at first he did, but soon after he built the Temple which took seven years to complete, he had little more to do with the religious state of his kingdom. He began to be sidetracked by his own wisdom, power and riches. His priorities shifted and he became entangled in the “things of the world.”
You know what was perhaps the major downfall of Solomon? Putting too much stock in things that really didn’t matter. His attention was diverted away from the one who blessed him with his wisdom and his riches, and instead of putting his life in the hands of the Giver, he put his life in the hands of the gifts. In other words he began to trust in his own wisdom and abilities. He began to listen to the wants and desires of his own sinful nature and not to the Spirit of God. Remember when I said the he had 700 wives and 300 concubines? Well, he amassed this huge herom largely as part of the many treaties that he made with surrounding nations. And along with the wives and concubines, he also inherited their pagan religions--even though the Lord specifically warned him about the dangers and the consequences of idolatry. One thing led to another and pretty soon he was allowing these women to practice the worship of idols and false gods--even in the Temple of the Lord! Not only that, weakened by his disobedience, he too began to take part in the worship of these idols and pagan gods. He built “high places” and offered sacrifice and offerings to these false deities!
But even when Solomon “pulled out all the stops,” did these things make him truly happy? Well it seems that no matter how much he accomplished, no matter how much he partook in these different activities that seemed to be bringing others such great joy, he tells us in Chapter 2:17; “So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
Brothers and sisters, this book that we are studying today is not meant to be taken as an example of how we as Christians should think of life. In many of the entries in the book of Ecclesiastes we are shown what frame of mind that Solomon was in as he drifted further away from the Lord. He describes for us what he was thinking and experiencing and what ultimately led to his discovery of the true meaning of life. You see, what Solomon was searching for most of his life was indeed “true happiness.” There was no material thing that he could not have acquired had he wanted it, but the one thing that he wanted more than anything eluded him because he was looking in all the wrong places. And it was this that drove him to the point of desperation.
Brothers and sisters, that one thing that Solomon was looking for is the same thing that all of us want more than anything else in this world; TRUE HAPPINESS......CONTINTMENT......PEACE.- But in a whole lot of ways we are so like that unsatisfied King, we are perhaps looking in the wrong places for that one thing that can truly satisfy. Praise the Lord, in the end, Solomon realized that all the other cisterns that he had dug himself were broken and dry and that the only source of living water that he so desperately needed was God. In the last two verses of this book, Solomon reveals the results of his quest for an answer to the “secret of life” question. Let’s turn to 12:13,14 (READ)--(Explain about the translation of “duty”) Solomon learned that God should be the focus of our lives--not everything BUT God.
Have you ever heard of the expression “dangling a carrot in front of someone”? I guess it originated with someone who had a very stubborn mule, and they had to tie a carrot on the end of a stick and “dangle it” in front of the animal to get him to go where he wanted him to go. No doubt this “dumb animal” walked and walked with his attention focused on one thing; getting that carrot.
Well brothers and sisters, Satan does the same thing with us; he tries his best to “dangle” something in front of us constantly--he wants us to focus our full attention on something--anything but our Savior. He causes us to become unsatisfied with our present lifestyle and long to “catch up with the Jones’.” But, in order to do that we have to work longer and harder, sacrificing the time that would otherwise be spent with our family and with God.
One of the many things that Solomon discovered was that; “One handful with tranquility is better than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.” (4:6) We now live in a society where the motto is; “If it feels good, DO IT!”
In his analogy of life, Solomon uses that phrase; “chasing after the wind” quite often. He does this because he realized that he was pursuing something that would never satisfy--never really matter when it’s all said and done. And if we don’t have that abiding relationship with Jesus Christ, we too will be searching for something to fill that place in our lives that only He can fill. He says in Matthew 11:28; “Come to Me and I will give you rest...” ---that “rest” is the kind of rest that only He can give. When we have a personal, intimate relationship with Him, we no longer have to search for some temporary “fix” to give us some sort of purpose or excitement in life. And believe me, there are a lot of people out there that will grasp at anything to give them some feeling of purpose.
I went to McDonalds one day to eat lunch and as I walked towards the door to go in, I noticed a small pick-up truck parked near the entrance. It caught my attention because it had a “bizillion” bumper stickers plastered all over the back window and the tailgate. As I looked at the stickers a little more closely, I saw the names of some hard rock music groups. Not only that but I also saw some with various symbols that probably had something to do with devil worship. I figured that because one of the largest stickers said; “ It’s called freedom of religion stupid!” And one of the most troubling ones consisted of only two words; “Christians Suck.”
Clearly this is a troubled young soul that drove this vehicle, somewhere along the way he was given the wrong impression of who Christians really are. And just perhaps, some of US have the wrong idea of what Christians are and how they should look at life. What was it Solomon said?; “Fear(reverence) God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty (concern) of man.”
Now I’m sure that by now, most of you know that I believe that we should STUDY and PRAY earnestly to grow spiritually and keep our bond with Jesus close....... But, that is not the only way to commune with God! Brothers and Sisters, we’ve got to resist Satan’s ploy to constantly occupy our mind with “amusements” of this world. We’ve got to “be still and know that He is God” That means; seeing Him in the sunshine, smelling Him in the rain. Looking into His eyes through the faces of our children. You know, God has blessed us so much, we’ve become as spoiled children, not realizing nor taking the time to appreciate just how much our Father has given us. Instead of thankfulness, we grumble because we don’t yet live in a perfect world. Our few problems easily bring us down even though the blessings far outweigh the burdens.
The secret of life my friends is finding good--finding God in every part of our world. And..... even though we sometimes are going to find ourselves walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.... remember.., we need not fear any evil, for God is with us.
May God bless you,