What’s the Point? (Ecclesiastes)

In Sermons, The Whole Story, Year 2024 by harvest.admin

Resource by Peter Park

Today we’re going to look at maybe the most important question in life. It’s certainly one of the most common questions that everyone has regardless of their ethnicity, religious background, economic status, etc. (It’s whether Nasi Lemak is better with chicken rendang or fried chicken. JK.) What is the purpose and meaning of life? And based on that answer, how can I live a meaningful and fulfilling life? Is it to have a great career and make a lot of money to live  comfortably? Is it to get married and have kids? Maybe it’s just trying to be a good person. There’s nothing more important than having the right answer to this question because it informs how we live our lives today.

And before we get into the main text, here are two wrong places to look when trying to find your purpose in life:

1. Your Feelings (Me) – “Do whatever makes you happy.” “Just follow your heart.” This is a terrible way to live your life. It may feel good/right but it never ends up good. The Bible: Jer. 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?  Prov. 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. So whatever you do, don’t trust your feelings or your heart to tell you how or what you should be living for. (At the very least, most of us have been teenagers before. Brains not…Thank God…)

2. The World/Culture (Others) – “Just go with the flow, with what most people think.” “You don’t want to be on the wrong side of history.” Peer pressure can be dangerous. (Teenagers) The problem is views change, times change, people change. (Slavery) We can just take a look at the world around us today to see just how radically different people’s beliefs are. Surely, they can’t all equally be right. How do you pick?

The truth is not the truth if it changes. The truth is always the truth because there is a purposeful way God created the world. In the garden, everything was good. Nothing was wrong because all was according to the good ways of God. And it all went wrong when man decided they didn’t want God to tell them what is good. Man wanted to decide for themselves. But apart from God, there is nothing good. So all peoples throughout history have been trying to determine what is good for themselves and what they should be living for. And no one can agree.

So those are two of the most common, dangerous ways to not find your purpose in life. So if you can’t look inward to yourself or outwards towards others, where do you look? The only reliable truth that doesn’t change based on geography, history, people group is the Bible. God’s word. The Bible is God’s good truth for all peoples at all times.

It makes sense then that God’s word would be our authority and answer to why we were created and what our purpose is in this life. So let’s get into our text in Ecclesiastes…(After Proverbs. Wisdom lit. Solomon.)

Text: Eccles. 1:2, 14 2 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. 14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

“Vanity” – Hebrew “Hevel” – Literally “Mist/Vapor”. Other ways – “Chasing after the wind.” “There’s no advantage.” “There’s nothing gained.” Conveys worthlessness. It’s pointless/meaningless.

So from the author’s perspective, everything “under the sun” is meaningless. Nothing matters. Nothing makes sense. There’s no point to anything in life. (Joke: Wisdom lit.) We’re not off to a very encouraging start. And through the book of Ecclesiastes, it gets even worse. The author is going to go deeper into the vanities mankind experiences…

1. Vanity of Hard Work, Wealth and Pleasure. 

(Hard Work:) Eccles. 2:22-23 22 What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? 23 For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.

(Wealth:) Eccles. 5:10, 15 10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 15 As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand.

(Pleasure:) Eccles. 2:1, 9-11 1 I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. 9 So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

Many people approach their lives with a YOLO mentality. So they work as hard as they can to become successful, to make money, to do whatever they want and take pleasure in all they can. But they find that success is ultimately not fulfilling. Pleasures are fleeting. They’re never satisfied. It’s never enough. And they keep chasing after the next thing over and over again. (Fancier and newer clothes. Nicer car. Bigger and better house. A more lavish holiday.) (Me: Guitar) They have it all, yet they have nothing. (American Football – Tom Brady. “Is this all there is? It’s not what it’s made out to be. This can’t be all there is to it.”)

(Those of us that don’t have money – That’s them. Let me give it a try and find out for myself. I think I could be happy. Sad – If we’re honest with ourselves, we would choose to have this kind of life even if it would make us miserable. We’d rather be rich and miserable vs. poor and happy.) Wisdom is learning from those who have gone before us and listening to what they have to say. (Not Brady, but the Bible – Solomon) I’ve heard it said, no one ever wishes at the end of their life that they had put in more time at work so they made more money to have had a little more fun. At the end of their lives, those things seem meaningless, and they wished they had done less of it. So then living for wealth and pleasure, and working ourselves tirelessly for them doesn’t make sense. It’s vanity.

2. Vanity of Worldly Wisdom, Justice, and Righteousness. 

(Wisdom:) Eccles. 2:14-17 14 The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. 15 Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. 16 For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! 17 So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.

(Justice:) Eccles. 3:16, 4:1-3 16 Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. 1 Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. 2 And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. 3 But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.

(Righteousness:) Eccles. 7:15, 20; 8:14 15 In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. 20 Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. 14 There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity.

Well that’s sad. (Let’s pray and go home.) Haven’t you also seen this? You know how this feels. This is your life, your everyday reality. You can live a wise and righteous life, but to what end? You don’t cheat. You don’t cut corners. You do things the right way. You tithe and give generously to the church. But you are still struggling financially. Being a good person doesn’t always seem like it pays off or leads to any kind of blessing. Rather, it feels like being wise and good are barriers keeping us back. Aren’t our lives supposed to get easier? Hardship and suffering seem to be the reward for wisdom and righteousness.

Meanwhile, it seems like the foolish and wicked prosper. People who make bad choices and don’t care about doing good seem like the ones who are always getting ahead. They’re the ones making more money and making a name for themselves. Your lazy, dishonest coworker gets the promotion over you. It almost seems more attractive, that it’s better to just cheat your way through too because there doesn’t seem to be any consequences for taking shortcuts. There no value in honor or integrity.

And rarely are good people in power, in charge leading. (Hopefully, you don’t feel that way about me.) The people in power use it to their advantage and not for the good of others. They’re not ever held accountable. They just use their power to cover up their abuses. And justice seems like a fairy tale. You can hope that things will change with the next leadership but power exposes and magnifies the corruption that is in every person’s heart. So there’s no lasting hope there either.

Worldly wisdom, even the best of wisdom, sometimes fails us. It doesn’t matter how good of a person you are, you can still be cheated, lied about, treated unfairly, oppressed, and excluded. No wonder the author says, it may be better to not even be born into this madness and the dead are better off than the living.

3. Vanity of Life (Death)

Eccles. 9:2-3 2 It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. 3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

Regardless of who you are, what kind of life you’ve lived, good or bad, rich or poor, healthy or not, even young or old, everyone faces death as a guaranteed reality. Death shows no favoritism and gives exceptions to no one. Our lives are a vapor/mist – hevel, here one moment and gone the next.

This is maybe the hardest reality of our broken world. Cancer, sickness, miscarriage, and tragic accidents take away our loved ones from us unexpectedly. It happens to good people who don’t deserve it. Innocent people die in war. And it doesn’t make sense!

So the author repeats again…Ecc. 11:8, 12:8 8 So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. 8 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity. All is vanity! How depressing is that? The world isn’t as it should be. Things don’t make sense or happen the way they should. There is just sin and brokenness. And you can try to escape this life and numb yourself by chasing after wealth and pleasure and a better life as if they will make things better, but you’re going to be disappointed and you’ll find your life is hevel – meaningless. Anxiety, depression, weariness, exhaustion, and an unquenchable thirst for more will be your inescapable reality. 

But it’s not all bad news…So far we’ve covered what the author has observed in this life on earth, what happens “under the sun.” (Heavy) But there is another perspective – “over the sun.” – heaven’s perspective (PJD)…

Eccles. 3:10-14 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. 14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 

Final conclusion, last verses: Ecc. 12:13-14 13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

This is our answer to what our purpose is. And it gives us the right perspective to all the vanities, all the absurdities, in life…3 Things:

1. Fear God – Doesn’t mean…Reverent posture towards God. You recognize that he is God and you are not. And acknowledging there is so much we don’t know – about why and how God works. We can’t possibly know all the ways of God. (We can’t even…) Eccles. 11:5 5 As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.

Eccle. 3 – Beautiful poem of God’s perfect timing – how there are seasons of life and a time for everything. Everything turns out as it should according to God’s sovereign plan. The world may feel like it’s out of control. But God is in full control. So we can trust his work and his timing.

2. Obey God – This means we give up control of our lives, doing and living for what we want. In light of who God is, it’s the only thing that makes sense that we would surrender and obey his commands and live as he directs because we know he’s good and he desires good for us. So even if he calls us to live as living sacrifices, calling us to do hard things where we have to die to ourselves, it actually gives us meaning and purpose. Because we’re living for someone greater. We’re living for God and for God’s purposes. And it leads to joy and life.

Obeying God also means embracing and enjoying your God ordained lot in life. Don’t covet or wish you had someone else’s life. That’s a deep dark, hole that will breed jealousy, hatred, and ungratefulness in your heart. You’ll never be happy that way. (Why? Harder/Talents. Idk.) God gave you your life for a purpose. Will you steward it well?

3. Live your life in view of God’s certain judgment.Eccles. 12:1, 5, 7 1 Remember also your Creator… 5 because man is going to his eternal home… 7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. You and I, every single one of us, is going to have to give an account before God one day for the life we lived. Did we live for ourselves and our pleasure or did we obey him and live for him? Because God is just, he cannot, he will not leave sin, our wrongdoings, unpunished. In light of this coming judgment, it’s going to happen – as sure as it is hot and rainy in KL – it would be wise for us to fear God and live obedient lives to him. 

There is nothing else that makes sense in this world. Do you want your life to matter? Do you want it to count for something? Then don’t live for something that comes and goes. Live for the God who is above all the hevel/vanity/emptiness of this life.

See, we were all created to live in relationship with God, to be in his presence. That means that joy and meaning and satisfaction in this life are found in a person. And that person is Jesus. And once you have a right relationship with him, he enables you to find your purpose in life. He is the lens through which everything makes sense and comes into focus. (Glasses) And you see that joy is not found in a job, money, family, etc. but Jesus empowers you to enjoy those things not as the end themselves but as gifts and the means to leverage for his sake.

We talked a lot about all the things that don’t make sense in this life. You know what really doesn’t make sense? The cross. Why God would pursue the people who rejected him and go to such great lengths to bring them back. He could have let us be, let us remain in our sin and death, and the hevel of this life. But because of his great love for us, he sent his son, Jesus, to die for the penalty of our sin and to give us life with him – a life beyond the grave, a life where one day Jesus will by his resurrection power put an end to all the hevel. He saved us and promised to bring back to order all the chaos and brokenness of this world. This is a God whom you can trust and who is worthy of your life.

Count your days and make them count. – PJD (Ps. 90) Who Jesus is and what he did for us is who we are to become and the work we are to be about. “Preach the gospel. Die. And be forgotten.” – Zinzendorf. Your life is a testimony to nonbelievers around you. How you work, play, and rest. How you spend your time and your money. You work hard and strive for excellence because you work unto God and not man. You enjoy life and rest because you know God is good and He’s in control. He’s your provider. You give generously of your time to serve others as you have been served and it doesn’t matter that you don’t get anything in return. You give generously of your finances to build up the church and its ministries to advance Christ’s kingdom, which means your lifestyle is at least a few steps below people that make the same as you. Your life should look very different because you have a different perspective on life altogether. You’re living for something greater than this world. But let me be clear, your life looking different is not enough. You have to share the gospel – the power that has changed you.

Not a follower of Jesus. If you’ve not put your faith in him…Life apart from God is vanity – It’s meaningless, full of emptiness. This life with all its absurdities is the closest you will come to experiencing heaven. And one day, you’re going to stand before your Creator in judgment to give an account for your life. Eccles. 8:11-13 11 … the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God. You have a choice to make – you can either continue to live for yourself apart from God or surrender your life to him in faith. Now that you know why you were created and for what purpose, to live in relationship with him and for him, your next question should be “How can I be saved?” There’s nothing you have to do but to simply repent and believe…Receive the free gift of salvation and life with Jesus because he’s already paid the cost. Invite you to do that right now.

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