Can life be meaningless for the Christian? Can you have a personal relationship with God, be sure of salvation and eternity in heaven by grace through faith in Christ's finished work, yet live an empty, unfulfilled life. These questions come to mind when we read what Ecclesiastes 1 has to say about the meaning of life.
The book of Ecclesiastes is not your typical motivational book. You won’t hear a lot of positivity from its author. It doesn’t sugar coat its declarations. In fact, it throws itself into discussing the deep and heavy stuff about life.
Most agree that King Solomon indeed wrote this book and probably did so sometime during his old age.
From an initial reading of chapter 1, we learn that the author has lived a long life by the time he wrote the book. He’s done a lot, accomplished a lot, and learned a lot. With all those in view, he pens the book.
From the way he perceives life, we can catch that he’s speaking from a position where one is far from God or living in disconnect from Him. Chapter 1 paints a life that is lived in isolation from God and His will; a life focused on this world and confined to this world.
Let’s see what observations are shared by King Solomon, the wisest king who ever lived in his time, the man who most probably acquired, experienced, and achieved all that can be desired.
- Everything is futile. v2
- There is no benefit from all the efforts we expend on this earth. v3
- People come and go but nothing changes. v4. The world continues as it has always been. v5-7
- Life is one monotonous and tiring experience. v8a
- There is no satisfaction or contentment to be had. v8b
- There is nothing new under the sun. v9-10
- Everything is forgettable and will be forgotten. Events will be forgotten. People will forget. v11
- Doing Life is a burdensome task. v12-13
- All man’s accomplishments are meaningless and empty. v14
- There are things you can never change.
- There are longings and a lacking you cannot fulfill or satisfy. v15
- All the knowledge, wisdom, education, and experience you collect in this life is meaningless and empty. v16-17
- More wisdom brings more frustration and heartache. v18
Everything Solomon said was quite straightforward. Some truths have significantly impacted me, particularly that:
- When you focus on this life, when you get caught up in this life, sooner or later, you will realize that that is futility.
- The preoccupations and pursuits of this world do not last. They do not yield lasting results nor bring lasting fulfillment and satisfaction.
- Your accomplishments will be forgotten. Whatever name you make for yourself is not forever. Whatever feats you have achieved won’t always be as impressive. Someone will outdo what you have done.
- Life can be a tiring and meaningless happening and repetition for one who doesn’t see value in what he does.
- A life live apart from God and without consideration of His purposes can start feeling like a burden instead of a blessing.
- Worldly recognition is temporary. A pursuit in the wind. It’s something you can never reach or keep. The direction is always shifting.
- There are things in this earthly life that cannot be undone. Life will always be lacking in some ways. And some gaps and needs may never get filled.
- Even more wisdom and knowledge can’t ever be enough. In understanding more, confusion and sorrow can multiply. The more you know, the more you realize how limited you are.
- When we view life from earthly perspectives, we can wrongly deem as important the things and matters that are actually not (in light of eternity).
- Things become empty and worthless when you make them as a means to themselves. Material things and worldly attainments are a means to something (experiencing and enjoying God and His will). They are not the ultimate pursuit.
There’s this saddening thing about Solomon; his greatest asset and divine blessings brought grief and hopelessness instead of joy and fulfillment. He was and became so much more than I am today. Yet, he is like me in so many ways.
My thoughts and viewpoints run similarly when God is out of the picture. This can be the case when I am not in pursuit of His will for my life and I’m disconnected. My resolve from this should be to keep God in my life and to keep Him center.
In response, I pray stay mindful of eternity and of what’s lasting. My hopes should always be on the future, my priorities on what’s spiritual and relational (God and important relationships) rather than material. And since nothing earthly is lasting and fully satisfying, I should not fixate on earthly and material pursuits.
I should be careful not to expend most of my efforts and attention on things that have no eternal value or on things that fare of little value compared with what’s more important and even eternal.
“I pray to stay close to You Lord so that I may remember Your purpose for me and my worth in your sight.”
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