Summary: What to do when we realize we aren’t fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives.

Life in the Fast Lane

Priorities: Turning Around When We Miss Our Exit

Ecclesiastes 12:1-14

Woodlawn Baptist Church

December 26, 2004


“Are you a hedgehog or a fox?

“In his famous essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” Isaiah Berlin divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes, based upon an ancient Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” The fox is a cunning creature, able to devise a myriad of complex strategies for sneak attacks upon the hedgehog. Day in and day out, the fox circles around the hedgehog’s den, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce. Fast, sleek, beautiful, fleet of foot, and crafty – the fox looks like the sure winner. The hedgehog, on the other hand, is a dowdier creature, looking like a genetic mix-up between a porcupine and a small armadillo. He waddles along, going about his simple day, searching for lunch and taking care of his home.

“The fox waits in cunning silence at the juncture in the trail. The hedgehog, minding his own business, wanders right into the path of the fox. “Aha, I’ve got you now!” thinks the fox. He leaps out, bounding across the ground, lightning fast. The little hedgehog, sensing danger, looks up and thinks, “Here we go again. Will he ever learn?” Rolling up into a perfect little ball, the hedgehog becomes a sphere of sharp spikes, pointing outward in all directions. The fox, bounding toward his prey, sees the hedgehog defense and calls off the attack. Retreating back to the forest, the fox begins to calculate a new line of attack. Each day, some version of this battle between the hedgehog and fox takes place, and despite the greater cunning of the fox, the hedgehog always wins.”

So why did he divide all the world into hedgehogs and foxes?

“Foxes pursue many ends at the same time and see the world in all its complexity. They are “scattered or diffused, moving on many levels,” …never integrating their thinking into one overall concept or unifying vision. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything. It doesn’t matter how complex the world, a hedgehog reduces all challenges and dilemmas to simple…almost simplistic – hedgehog ideas.”

So which are you? A hedgehog or a fox? Today as we talk about priorities, think with me for a moment about the multitude of choices you have before you each day concerning how you will spend your life. Life is a journey, a trip down the freeway of life, and last week I told you that your one purpose in life is to glorify God through the delight you take in Him. Your purpose in life is to glorify God by enjoying Him. But as you travel on, you are confronted with a multitude of choices, exits if you will, vying for your time and attention, and if you are not careful, you will take the wrong one and end up somewhere you never intended to be.

Solomon – A Fox

Solomon is a classic example of this. Solomon was a gifted man with many talents and interests. Chapter 1:13 tells us that he had a desire to understand the complexities of our world. In his search for satisfaction, chapter 2:1 tells us that he tried all sorts of pleasures and entertainment. Verse 3 says he tried wine. Verse 4 talks about his building campaigns: he built houses, vineyards, gardens, orchards, lakes and irrigation systems. Verse 7 tells of his vast acquisitions, of the slaves, the cattle, the gold and silver and various entertainers. He tried collecting things, and perhaps the most telling verse is 2:10, where he said,

“Whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labor: and this was my portion of all my labor. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.”

Here is a man who early on in his journey took his eyes off his purpose and instead took a wrong exit. Solomon enjoyed more than you and I will ever know in this life, and while most of the world is chasing after it with blind devotion, Solomon got to the end of it all and said, “It didn’t satisfy me! It wasn’t worth the time; it wasn’t worth the effort; it wasn’t worth what it cost me. It didn’t gain me a thing!”

Solomon didn’t waste his life because he didn’t know his purpose – he wasted his life because he took a wrong exit, got sidetracked and spent his life pursuing all the wrong priorities. Watch how he states all this in chapter 12.

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