The words of the Teacher,[a] son of David, king in Jerusalem:
2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
3 What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
7 All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
Read the whole of Ecclesiastes 1 here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecclesiastes%201&version=NIV
This week, I want to encourage you to read the book of Ecclesiastes, which we are going to be thinking about over the next month or so. One of the three great wisdom books of the Old Testament it is a book which has a special relevance in these strange times in which we are living. As I wrote in the last study, Ecclesiastes is written in a literary genre which is a little hard for us to penetrate if we are unfamiliar with it – but it really does contain treasures for us from The Lord.
The Lord Jesus Christ spoke these words: 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:36). In Ecclesiastes 1 we read the words of a man who had come as close to ‘gaining the whole world’ as perhaps anyone else! He had wealth, art, philosophy, family, wine, hobbies, work, and travel, all available to him; yet there was a deep sorrow within him because he found it all devoid of meaning. He had everything but enjoyed nothing; because his gnawing sense of the futility of it all sapped away at his enjoyment of everything he had.
The atheist writer David Foster Wallace understood this, saying “where you tap real meaning in life” is “worship”, and remarked:
“There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship … is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, then you will never feel you have enough…Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you … Worship power—you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart—you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on”
That is a stunning thing for an atheist to write – yet he is right; and he sounds very like the writer in Ecclesiastes 1. The point is that if we live for created things, not our creator we will start to shrivel up and die on the inside. Life only starts to make sense when we put God at the center, and receive all these other things (health, power, money, travel, art etc.), as gifts from Him to be grateful and thankful for, and to enjoy for His glory!
I once heard life described (in a sermon on the 10 Commandments) as being like a bicycle wheel. It has many spokes, but only one hub in the middle. The spokes are all the good components of life that The Lord gives us to enjoy, food, homes, music, travel and so forth. The hub though is the center around which all these things move. It is the central point, the things that connects them all and must be uniquely the focus of the whole wheel. Any cyclist will tell you that you can lose a spoke while riding, but you cannot lose a hub! It is the epicentre of the whole thing: central, unique, irreplaceable!
Likewise, the writer in Ecclesiastes is looking for a hub; a central point, a purpose – to bring meaning to the whole of his life. Basically he tests each ‘spoke’ of his life to see if it is worthy to be the centre, and finds it lacking, empty and meaningless.
As David Foster Wallace pointed out, if today you are living for anything here on earth, ‘under the sun’ there will be a chasm of emptiness within you which will eventually overtake you.
Thankfully there is an alternative. Jesus said he had come to bring us ‘life to the full’ (John 10:10). If you know, love and follow Him, then you know that while there is nothing here on earth that can be the center, which you can worship and life for – there is a God on the throne of eternity who is! That God, who loves you and made you in His image, can redeem you from all your sin and folly. Christian people the world over will tell you that when they live for Christ, a renewed joy in the ordinary things of life is encountered – as they take their place as gifts from God to be used for God.
Jesus added something more to this. He said, in the Sermon on the Mount:
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
That means that if you live for things of this earth, then everything that you value can be taken from you. However, living for the Lord is like banking eternal treasure which can never be lost! That is amazing.
The Apostle Peter, went on to write:
“18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ “
That is the good news of the gospel of Jesus for you right there. Jesus died to redeem you, (that is to buy you back), from the empty way of life you’ve lived up until now. It means you do not have to keep living for the things ‘under the sun’, that will let you down; but can come to God through faith in Jesus. Because it’s when you’ve seen the love, power and glory of God; you’ll want nothing less than Him at the center. I called this post “Something to live for.” It turns out that the answer is actually someone to live for!
If you do not know The Lord, pray to Him now and ask Him to come into your life. Ask Him to forgive your sins, including the sin of living for created things, not Him their creator. Ask Him to come in and to re-order your life in ways which are good, right and honoring to Him. You’ll be amazed at how much more vibrant the world looks when you know what it is for, and how much more life means when you know why you have been given it!
Then please do contact me. I’d love to talk to you, pray for you and help you in your spiritual journey with Christ in any way I can. Press the contact button on the website and drop me an email. I would love to hear from you.
Angela Courte MacKenzie is a broadcaster, pianist, vocalist, and worship leader. Her music has traveled all over the world through her Facebook live events and The Power of Praise program as a witness to the glory of God. Angela holds a B.A. degree in music/vocal performance from the University of Central Florida, and a M.A. in apologetics from Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.
Her desire is to awaken hearts to Christ through music, Bible Teachings, blogs, one 2 one chats, the gifts of laughter and simply life in “real time.”
To find out more about Angela visit www.angela.org. To hear her music and other offerings visit her YouTube channel www.youtube.com/angelacourtemackenzieofficial.