You’ve heard the joke, Why did Moses wander through the desert for 40 years? Because he refused to stop and ask for directions. you come to a dead end, go the other way. But we keep going. Our life goes nowhere, and we keep going, you are miserable and you don’t do anything about it. The amazing thing in today’s scripture is that Solomon (the author of Ecc) admits he is wrong. This is the equivalent of Solomon driving down the street, admitting he is lost, and stopping to ask for directions (gasp). I tried pleasure, “I refused my heart no pleasure,” and it brings me no satisfaction “chasing after the wind.”
“What does pleasure accomplish?” (Ecc. 2:2) Solomon asks. One reason we don’t like Ecclesiastes is because we don’t like the questions. Life is easier if you never evaluate it! //// What does pleasure accomplish? I thought that was the main goal of life. Solomon is a killjoy! Don’t ask for directions. A life of pleasure is supposed to be self-evident.
The lesson in today’s scripture, ask for directions. Evaluate your life. I’ve noticed most people don’t ask, they keep on in their insane ways, keep on doing whatever it is that is getting them nowhere. I want better for people. I want transformed lives, but only God can do that. And it starts with questions, exposing your heart… The way to find satisfaction in life, or if you want another word, the way to find peace, is to be willing to stop and ask for directions. If you are not at peace, if you feel stuck, if you feel like your life is going nowhere, start asking questions. And listen to the Wisdom of the Bible, the wisdom of Solomon, the goal must not be pleasure as a way of life, because pleasure is a dead end.
“I tried cheering myself with wine” (Ecc. 2:3) Solomon says. Nobody ever does that in Sumas! When I knock on a door and somebody has been drinking too much, I dismiss myself as quickly as possible because it is a waste of my time – the worst “pastor” jokes come out. Party on, I tell them! Go for it. See you later. One of the ironies of drinking too much: even while the people are tipsy, it’s no fun for them.
“I wanted to see what was worthwhile…” (Ecc. 2:3). The way we human creatures are wired is that we don’t do well learning from other people’s mistakes. For some reason, we think we are invincible; we can defy the odds… we all go down dead end streets, either getting stuck or having to retrace our route and start over again. Are Sally and I the only parents that thought to ourselves, we know our children will make some bad choices, but I just don’t want the consequences to be so bad that the rest of life is compromised? We too often do not listen to the wisdom of those that have gone before us. Yet for those, like Solomon, who made poor choices, you must keep speaking, keep influencing, keep believing that your experience can and will make a difference. “I wanted to see what was worthwhile.” A quest for meaning and purpose…
What have you done in your life that you thought would make you happy, but proved to be a dead-end? Here is Solomon’s list: READ Ecc. 2:4-9.
Women are on Solomon’s list:
A man is walking down the beach, finds an old bottle. He picks it up, pulls out the cork, out pops a genie!
The genie says, "Thank you for freeing me from the bottle. In return I will grant you three wishes."
The man says "Great! A dream come true. First, I want one billion dollars in a Swiss bank account."
Poof! There is a flash of light and a piece of paper with account numbers appears in his hand.
He continues, "Next, I want a brand new red Ferrari right here."
Poof! There is a flash of light and a bright red, brand-new Ferrari appears right next to him!
He continues, "Finally, I want to be irresistible to women."
Poof! There is a flash of light and he turns into a box of chocolates.
Wealth is on Solomon’s list:
Three clergymen split on a lottery ticket and they won the grand prize of a million dollars. The first one, a baptist minister says "this is a blessing, but how much do we keep for ourselves and how much should we give to God"?
After a few minutes he said "I know we'll draw a circle and throw the money up in the air,whatever lands out of the circle we'll keep and whatever lands in the circle we'll give to God."
The Priest pipes up and says, "You know it's a little windy, I think we should throw thw money up in the air and whatever lands inside the circle we keep and whatever lands outside of the circle we give to God." They then turn to the rabbi and ask his opinion, and the rabbi says. "I think we should throw the money up in the air and whatever God wants he can keep and we'll keep the rest for ourselves."
All of Solomon’s dead-end attempts for meaning could be described as greed. The desire for more, more, more, thinking that will make us happy. Like sitting at a slot machine feeding the monster one more quarter, pulling the handle one more time, certain that this moment will bring satisfaction… The monster called more. Here is a true statement about greed: “Greed is the logical result of the belief that there is no life after death. We grab what we can while we can however we can and then hold on to it hard” (Sir Fred Catherwood). true? We are wired to need meaning and purpose.
If God is not a part of the equation, then we start grasping. Searching. Becoming greedy. We’ve looked at Solomon’s list. There really is nothing new under the sun ~ Solomon’s list is as relevant today as it was back some 3000 years ago. The quest for greatness. Yet the nature of greed is that it does not satisfy … in an old fable, a dog carrying a bone crosses a bridge and glances into the creek and sees his own reflection, which he took to be another dog and another bone. He desperately wanted the other bone so he dropped the one he had to scare the “other dog.” Of course there was no other bone and he lost the one he had into the water. Such is the nature of human greed. In the effort to get what we want, we frequently lose what we have. Solomon calls it a chasing after the wind. It’s illusive.
Up to this point, Solomon’s dead-end quest for purpose and meaning, is a life without God, or at the least, God is put on the sidelines. “Greed is the logical result of the belief that there is no life after death. Even believers in God can make the mistake of putting God on the sidelines… trying to live life without God is a dead-end. READ: Ecc. 2:10-11.
The verses I skipped, Ecc. 2:12-23 talk about Solomon’s further quest for meaning and purpose. He tried thinking it though, he tried to find meaning in work, but the same result. Some people are workaholics! READ Ecc. 2:23. Solomon stops to ask for directions ~ this is what Ecclesiastes is all about. This search for meaning isn’t working! Ecc. may at first seem negative, but the truth is that the words are refreshing because Solomon is asking questions. Few people come to the Lord until they start asking questions. Jeff Harrison is starting to spend more time in Maple Falls, Peaceful Valley, Paradise… (pray for him!) I know that those who will be the most open to the gospel are those that are ready to ask questions. That’s the way it always is… When you know there has to be a better way, that’s when transformation takes place! If it’s not working, you gotta do something different.
At last, for the first time, God is mentioned in the book of Ecclesiastes; Solomon introduces God into the picture: READ Ecc. 24-26a.
God is always present. He is everywhere. He loves us. He is waiting for us to see him, to recognize him. Up to now, Solomon has looked at life "under the sun"; life without God... He has searched for meaning through wisdom, folly, madness, and wealth. Solomon’s outlook changes the moment he sees pleasure is a gift from God. Two people live a life with similar circumstances ~ the only difference being a relationship with Jesus Christ. One finds emptiness, the other satisfaction. The tragedy is when it takes a life time going down a dead-end path, gathering riches, power, possessions, and no true meaning, never changing course. Sally & I used to live in S.F. 2-3 times a year somebody jumps to their death off the Golden Gate bridge. Why? The City is supposed to bring opportunity, entertainment, anything your heart desires. The Golden Gate Bridge symbolizes the furthest point west. The message people make when they jump: “I’ve gone as far west as I can go, and I have no where else to go.”
There is an answer! Don’t give up. Ask questions. Admit your quest for meaning is not working! There is a way out! Solomon’s answer is simple: Acceptance. Accept what is. READ Ecc. 2:24a. Solomon adds this brief but enormous phrase: “This too, I see, is from the hand of God.” A few days ago I listened to a tragic story unfold of a resident of Sumas ~ he sees no way out of his circumstances involving money, home, health, broken relationships… After ten minutes, his demeanor changes, he finds a measure of peace, and says, “The good Lord says he won’t give me anything I can’t handle.” Did you know there are many more Christians in this community than what we see in church?
The answer is simple to turn from chaos to peace. if it’s not working you gotta do something different. The something different is to accept what is, and embrace God. Bitterness, anger, apathy comes because our plans did not work out the way we envisioned! Find peace by finding God! God is in control of my life! It’s no longer my problem, it’s God’s problem.
We still eat, we drink, we find enjoyment, but God becomes the focus and not the seeking after pleasure. Pleasure/joy is the blessing from God, not the goal of life. The goal is to please God, to live for God. Not for self. Not for our pleasure. READ Ecc. 2:26a. Accept the life that the Lord has given us, and then let him arrange our lives.
You may feel like you are at a dead end. That which you worked so hard to attain is not working out ~ is not producing the satisfaction you thought it would. You have lost sight of God. You change directions by regaining an appreciation for God! Accept your life for what it is, accept the way things have worked out up to this point, and simply embrace God. Seek to please God, and not yourself. That’s the only change you need to make, but what a huge difference. When you consider your career, when you consider a major life decision, when you consider what you will do today, don’t ask what you want, don’t ask what you think will bring you the most happiness and satisfaction, instead ask, what does God want, will this please God.
God has placed within us a yearning for eternity. The things of this earth become less important as we focus on the things of God. When you are discouraged, feeling overwhelmed because your plans/life seemed to not work out as you imagined, you change direction by changing the focus of your heart, accepting your life as it is, and seeking instead to embrace God as the author of your life. The moment you embrace God, the load will be lightened, and the Lord will replace the chaos of your heart and mind with the peace of Christ. God will bring you wisdom, knowledge, and happiness. A clear mind, direction, and joy. Amen.