Summary: This sermon was delivered in a baccalaureate service and later adapted as a graduation address.
Imagine that God handed you a piece of paper and said, “Write down whatever you think will make your life happy and I will give it to you.”
What would you choose?
A long life?
The Bible tells of a young man who was once given this opportunity. His name was Solomon, king of Israel.
He had just begun his reign when God came to him and asked, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you.”
What did Solomon choose? He chose something you and I probably would not have picked. He requested a discerning heart. He asked for wisdom.
God was pleased with Solomon’s choice and said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both riches and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life” (1 Kings 3:11-14, NIV).
Maybe you’ve heard of the expression, “the wisdom of Solomon.” God gave to Solomon tremendous wisdom.
Toward the end of his life, Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes in which he shares his wise thoughts on what he calls “life under the sun.”
Life under the sun is life lived on the horizontal plane. It is life lived without God.
Solomon sums up his evaluation of life under the sun in the second verse of the book. He writes, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (NIV).
I. Life under the sun is meaningless and hopeless.
Remember that God had told Solomon that He would give him both riches and honor. So Solomon had the opportunity to enjoy all that life has to offer.
Though Solomon was the wisest man on earth, there came a time in his life when he drifted away from God and foolishly searched for happiness from the things of this world.
In chapter two he shares with us this quest for meaning. He writes,
I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish? “ I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.
I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well—the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired.
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my work,
and this was the reward for all my labour.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun (2:1-11, NIV).
Solomon had experienced everything that life under the sun could offer. Yet when he assessed it all, he concluded, “Everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
We ask, “Solomon, how could you say that? You had it all!”
“No,” Solomon answers, “I really had nothing.”
Solomon’s search for lasting happiness had come up empty.
A. The things of this life do not satisfy.
With Easter morning eyes wide with anticipation, the little boy carefully lifts the chocolate bunny and bites into one of the long ears. But the sweet taste fades quickly, and the child looks again at the candy in his hand. It’s hollow!
Empty, futile, hollow, nothing . . . the words ring of disappointment and disillusionment. Yet this is the life-experience of many. Grasping the sweet things—possessions, power, and pleasure—they find nothing inside. Life is empty, meaningless . . . and they despair.