Summary: This is the second message in a series from the book of Ecclesiastes that examines Solomon's wisdom in regard to the mistakes that he had made in his life. This message examines the pursuit of success how it is always elusive and leaves one feeling empty.
Dear Diary, “I want to be a success but the harder I pursue success the more empty I feel.” As we begin I really feel that we must answer three extremely difficult questions. What drives you? What causes you to work the way you do? What happens to all you have worked for when you exit this life? Dr. Christine Breese writes this about the pursuit of success. “Many have gone crazy pursuing success. Success is like the carrot at the end of the stick that keeps the donkey moving forward. But we must ask ourselves what success really is, and what it really means. To most, success means financial prosperity. To others it means fame, influence and power. To others it means complete freedom from having to answer to anyone for anything. Success seems elusive, however, to almost everyone.” Like the pursuit of pleasure, the pursuit of success is never ending. We can only outpace our competitors for so long; soon someone will pass us robbing us of that success we pursued so hard. Solomon was extremely successful by the world’s standards but he soon found out that it wasn’t enough. As he reflected on his life he asked himself the three questions we asked ourselves earlier. As he discovered the answers to these questions the picture grew more and more dismal. Our goal for today is to look closely at the price tag attached to the pursuit of success and like Solomon make the decision if it is really worth it.
I. There are many reasons that we get involved in the relentless pursuit of success.
A. We are pushed to be a success from a very early age.
1. As parents we encourage our children to succeed whether it is in the classroom, on the athletic field or in musical pursuits.
2. We strive to raise our children to work hard and to pursue their dreams.
3. Charlie Sheen is quoted as saying, “As kids we're not taught how to deal with success; we're taught how to deal with failure. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. If at first you succeed, then what?”
4. Many parents desire for their kids to be better at everything they do than the kids around them.
5. This constant pushing will inevitably cause children to believe that in order to have their parents’ approval they must achieve success at all costs.
B. We are told that for our life to count we must be a success.
1. The drive to succeed that is instilled in our lives as children cause us to believe that we must strive for the approval of those around us.
2. Regardless of who we are, none of us want to come to the end of our life and find out that we did nothing that really counted.
3. We push the limits, work the extra hours and sacrifice with the hope of obtaining success. The problem is that this looks different to every person.
a. For some it may be a promotion.
b. For some it may be a bigger house or more stuff.
c. For some it may be more money.
4. Regardless of what box it comes in, the measure of success is that which causes others to look at us and say wow.
C. Our competitive nature tells us that we cannot allow ourselves to be outdone.
1. The competitive nature is instilled in our lives at an early age and drives us to win at all costs.
2. We strive to outpace all of our competitors because we want to be the first to climb the ladder of success and to be the best at what we do.
3. Failure or losing is not an option. Studies have shown that winning has a positive emotional impact while losing has a negative emotional impact.
4. A study was done in a physical education class that used table tennis. Among students playing a competitive table tennis game towards the end of a series of physical education skills classes, winners were significantly more satisfied, proud, confident and grateful after the game than losers, who in turn felt significantly more angry, depressed incompetent and surprised than winners.
5. The old saying, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose but how you play the game.” Our society refuses to allow this to be true.
II. Solomon pursued success and found it around just about every corner.
A. The nation of Israel flourished under Solomon’s leadership.
1. Israel became truly united under the leadership of Solomon. It was governed in twelve districts by twelve district governors.
2. The government was quite effective as Solomon delegated the government oversight to competent men who took care of the day to day operations.
3. The tax burden was divided in a very equitable way as each district provided for the government one month out of the year.