Let us pray: Dear Savior, today bring us true happiness by reminding us what is really important in life. Remind us not to get so caught up in the things temporal that we lose the things eternal. Yes, inscribe on our hearts the truth that our lives can only be meaningful when we seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness and thus labor on the eternal stage. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, IN WHOM WE FIND TRUE FULFILLMENT!
TEXT: Ecclesiastes 1: 2; 2: 18-26
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Earlier this week I ran across an amazing article in the online version of the “Asia Times.” It outlined the fact that today in China Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds! Right now there are between 100 million and 111 million Christians in China. And by the year 2050 that figure should double—God willing. This is in contrast to 75 million who belong to the godless communist party in China.
The article went on to give some causes for this: the chief cause being the 10 to 15 million peasants who leave the countryside for city life each year. And when they arrive there and assimilate, hoping for a better life, they soon discover that although they have “more things” they really don’t have true meaning in their lives. And so, they are turning to Christianity, which fills up their starving souls.
Although the world considers this a phenomenon, we don’t. In fact, King Solomon addressed this issue about 3500 years ago when he wrote the words of our lesson. So, in view of this, coupled with the West’s consumer driven, drug taking, aimless celebrity-of-the-moment culture of nothingness, I ask you this question:
IS YOUR LIFE MEANINGFUL OR MEANINGLESS?
King Solomon was an old man. And humanly speaking, he had it all. He was fabulously wealthy, had a huge family, lived in luxury, and due to treaty obligations of the time had over 1000 wives!—(No, God didn’t approve of this and it gave Solomon more headaches than any of us can imagine!) And yet, looking back over his life, Solomon sums it all up by saying: “Meaningless, meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control of it all…This too is meaningless. So my heart began to despair…”
Obviously, age has finally pulled Solomon away from his ostrich-hole mentality. Finally, he has pulled his head out of the sand! And this from a man to whom God gave more earthly wisdom than any other during his life!
As I look at America today I see these words played out and I also see very few listening to them. Think about how success is defined in our country today? You go to school to get educated and hopefully to get a high-paying job when you get out. Then you begin to amass possessions and eventually a home. You work for the bank, laboring day after day to pay off the mortgage. You buy cars, which eventually break down, or you get bored with them, and go on to a new one. The cycle repeats. Finally, when you arrive at retirement, hopefully you have enough to live on and maybe leave a little to your kids. Will they blow it? Will they use it wisely? Who knows? Will your headstone read: “I made my kids momentarily happy.”? Is this all there is to life?
Solomon goes on. “For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune.” So, you feel good about providing for your kids and grandkids? Surely there’s nothing wrong with that. And in many respects it is quite selfless and altruistic. It’s your way of showing love to them. That being said, many trust fund children (think Solomon’s extended family) haven’t a clue about life. Because they have never really worked or had to struggle to survive, they don’t know what it takes. How often do you hear the stories of drug and alcohol abuse among such folks? The fact is: if things come too easy for us in life, there is no sense of satisfaction. And without satisfaction, life truly is meaningless.
I find it interesting that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have chosen to give the bulk of their fortunes to charity foundations. Obviously they both have reached the same conclusion that Solomon did. They do this because they want to feel good about their lives. They want their labors to have some kind of meaning that will outlast them. But, will it? A hundred years from now will anyone care? Will the boards of those foundations be moral and wise in handing out grants? Given the track record of human beings, I’d say: no.
Solomon continues his depressing rant: “All his days his work is pain and grief, even at night his mind does not rest. (Sound like your life at times?) This to is meaningless.” But after getting that out of his system, Solomon goes on to give us something to hang onto. “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?”
After I turned 50 I pondered Solomon’s predicament much more seriously. And I must say that I’ve discovered the true key for a meaningful life. It is that little word: satisfaction. All of us must live. All of us must put food on the table and pay our bills and save a bit for when we retire. And because we’re all goal driven, once we reach those goals, the goal-posts get moved further, and we have to do it all over again. Hence, we never find true satisfaction because our goals are never fully realized and completed. So, if you don’t want to feel like a hamster on its wheel, discover joy not in the final result, but in the doing of it! Satisfaction comes from embracing the moments of labor, doing your best at them, and knowing that God blesses them—even if tomorrow you have to start all over again. Too often we focus so much on the results of life and just put in our time when it comes to the process. The process is what takes the time. It occupies our days. But if we pay too much attention to the results—our days just float by without ongoing satisfaction. Think about mowing the lawn. You enjoy the final result—it looks good! Why not also enjoy the process of getting to that result? If you start to employ this mindset in everything you do, suddenly each moment becomes special. For you’re doing, at that exact moment, a labor of love for God! Such living for the moment, or better, living in the moment can only be achieved if you realize the Biblical truth: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” For you see, His glory is lasting. It has no epitaph or headstone. It is living and ongoing. And by appreciating each moment of your time of grace—even while engaged in mundane stuff, you’ll push boredom and meaningless aside. Being a good parent, a terrific worker, a wonderful spouse—all that has meaning to God Almighty! And doing so is possible only through trusting in Christ Whose every minute was focused on saving our souls and thus giving us the omnipresent truth that: God’s grace never quits, so why should we who are the recipients of that grace?
Is your life meaningful, or meaningless? Only you can answer that question honestly. But, I do know that true happiness is found only by embracing the moment and finding satisfaction in everything you do. So, fill up the river of your time of grace, treat every drop of that river as precious. And then you won’t be disillusioned when it flows into the timeless ocean of eternity and you won’t get washed away with any regrets, either. Amen