Summary: Solomon dealt with the right questions, but he came up with the wrong answers at first.

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A. With the end of the Christmas season I’m sure most of you have seen the headlines reporting that most retail stores did not do as well as they had hoped. We Americans didn’t charge nearly as much as we have in seasons past, & people seemed to be more value-conscious & sales-oriented than ever before.

But there was one area that didn’t experience a decline. In fact, this area exploded with new business right after the first of the year. What area am I talking about? Why, the area of personal fitness & body conditioning.

Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, health clubs, exercise equipment sales - all of these went into high gear because many of us gained unwelcome weight over the holidays. And we’re very conscious of it, maybe even going so far as to make new year’s resolutions to eat less & exercise more.

So we join a health club, or go to the store to see what kind of exercise equipment is available. Or we watch the exercise programs on TV & find ourselves bombarded with sales pitches for the latest miracle working machines.

There are treadmills & stair masters & life cycles & stationary bikes, & on & on goes the list. All of these are designed to help us expend maximum amount of energy for the longest period of time while we’re going nowhere.

APPL. By the way, maybe exercise machines are symbolic of our time. We are a people seeming to go nowhere fast, & expending a lot of energy getting there.

B. We sound just like the people back in King Solomon’s time in the Bible. King Solomon looked at his own life & the life of his people & became very depressed. It seemed to him that they were just going around in circles, doing the same old things over & over again, & never changing. They were running on a treadmill & never getting anywhere.

So listen to the way he begins the Book of Ecclesiastes, vs’s 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 a man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?"

C. Now we’re a curious people. We ask lots of questions. In fact, we’re told that if you want to make a lot of money, just write a book with a "How To" title. "How To Lose Weight - How To Become Physically Fit - How To Win Friends & Influence People - How To Become Financially Independent."

But the really important & difficult questions of life are not the "How To" questions, but the "Why?" questions. And here is where the Book of Ecclesiastes comes in. In it Solomon asks some very difficult questions. For example, "What does a man gain from all his labor? Does life have any purpose? If so, what is it? Why is life worth living?"

Now those are the right questions. But at first, Solomon came up with the wrong answers. And the reason was because all he really knew was what he saw "under the sun." He could not see beyond this life.

But what he saw in the world around him & in the lives people were living caused him to cry out, "Meaningless! Meaningless!...Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."

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