Summary: When God is in the picture, all the seasons of life become fulfilling.
SERIES: “BE SATISFIED”
“GOD’S PURPOSE AND PLAN”
It’s good to be back with you this morning. I hope you enjoyed your guest speakers this past week as much as I enjoyed having a vacation. Several weeks back, we started a series through the book of Ecclesiastes called “Be Satisfied.” Solomon is at the end of his life reflecting back on his life. When he looked at his wisdom, his works, and his wealth – everything that he had – he found it to be worthless, empty, and unsatisfactory. Eccl. 1:1-3 – The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?
In 1925, a man named Floyd Collins was exploring near Mammoth Cave in Kentucky and got stuck. He was 55 feet from the surface, and he got stuck. Icy water was dripping in his face. The rescuers came in and diverted the water, and they talked with him, they calmed him down, but they couldn’t get him out. He began to come unglued there, stuck in that cave. He was able to see the light, able to see where he wanted to be, hearing voices, getting food, but he was stuck and he couldn’t get out. So he slowly began to have raving lunacies about everything from chicken sandwiches to angels in white chariots. The newspapers got in on it, and ten thousand people came to see him. They sold hot dogs and sandwiches. It was a sideshow. Seventeen days later Floyd Collins died in that hole, able to see where he wanted to be and not able to get there.
I am amazed at the variety of things that offered to us every day to help us find the secret of living a enjoyable life. There are magazine articles by the hundreds that tell us how to cope with various problems. Bookstores are filled with all kinds of “self-help” volumes. Television commercials – dozens for every program it seems – bombard us, telling us how to live a successful life; or at least how to look successful even if we’re really not.
Busyness has become the by-word of successful living. We have tried to cram as much of life as we can into as little a space of time as we can. Someone commented on this phenomenon with the following statement: This is the age of the half-read page and the quick hash and the mad dash; the bright night with the nerves tight; the plane hop and the brief stop; the lamp tan in a short span; the big shot in a soft spot; and the brain strain and the heart pain; and the catnaps ‘til the spring snaps; and the fun is done.
There is a universal search it seems, for the secret of enjoying life. Billions of dollars are spent every day in this very quest. And this very quest is the one that Solomon talks about in Ecclesiastes. 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.
At the beginning of this book, Solomon seems very negative. He says that there is nothing that means anything; nothing that is worth anything. What you have left after you accumulate all you can and do all you can is what is left after a soap bubble bursts.
But then Solomon changes directions. At the end of the last chapter, Solomon says this in Eccl. 2:24-26 – A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Solomon’s viewpoint and life begin to change around when he allowed God back into the picture. When Solomon allowed God to be the focal point of his life, everything became fulfilling. Solomon is saying in these last three verses of Chapt. 2: “Yes, life under the sun is meaningless. If you leave God out of the picture, life is just a bubble that will surely pop. But when God is at the focal point of your life, you remember that your food and drink and work is really a gift from God and then it becomes something to be enjoyed.”
Eccl. 3:1-22 – There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 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 men will revere him. Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account. And I saw something else under the sun: In the place of judgment—wickedness was there, in the place of justice—wickedness was there. I thought in my heart, “God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed.” I also thought, “As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?