What has meaning in my life? A sermon on Ecclesiastes, 1-2 from Concordia
An Inventory Our Blessings
What Means Something
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12–14, 2:18–26
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the Grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus demonstrate to you that your life, in Christ, has meaning!
- A man at the end of his wits!
Solomon, the wisest man in the world’s history, had a severe problem. He is the Teacher of all of Israel, as well as the ruler of that country at its absolute greatest point.
He has riches; he has power; he has a level of wisdom that is beyond anything anyone has ever imagined. The leaders from all over the world come to him for advice.
And He is exhausted, mentally, physically and, most the critical—spiritually.
He is at the ends of his wits, hear His own words from our Old Testament reading:
So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world. Ecclesiastes 2:20 New Living Translation
I am not anywhere near Solomon’s intellect, nor do I run a nation. But I’ve known the despair he is discussing. I’ve known it when I was in the administration at Pepperdine. I’ve known it pursuing my Ph.D., and during and after covid, as I look at the church at large, and at Concordia, I’ve known it.
And I’ve been delivered from that despair, time after time.
- Does Devotion to a cause mean anything?
There are two different issues that cause Solomon to fall into this deep despair.
The first he described in verses 13-14 of chapter 1,
13 I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. 14 I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.
I don’t care how smart someone is, or they think they are, there are limits to a person’s intellect, and to the point of which they can apply that intellect.
We hate that we are limited, but it is what it is. We are now different than Adam and Eve, wanting to know it all, and why!
When we let that frustrate us, when we let pride mix with curiosity, it drives us to know as much as God knows, rather than trusting Him.
The effect when it becomes an issue of pride is devastating, for it is sinful, a lack of trust in God. And when we declare it is not worth it, when we declare it meaningless, we dive into despair!
- Does Hard Work mean anything?
The second issue Solomon has is with his hard work. He hated it, for He could not see a long-range benefit. He wrote,
18 I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. 19 And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless! Ecclesiastes 2:18-19
Have you ever felt like that?
It is as if Solomon knew his heir would shatter the Kingdom by listening to foolish advisors! That is exactly what happened!
Solomon’s son would shatter the promise given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah. That those actions would lead to captivity.
Something you worked hard on, invested your life in, wanted to see come to fruition, only to realize that you won’t be able to make it continue after you are gone…
That insight can cause great despair, and as often as Solomon says life is meaningless, he complains about the difficulty of the job even more than He complains about how meaningless it all is!
And there are days like that—maybe it isn’t because you are about to retire, or move on, maybe it is that things at work, or at home aren’t working the way you thought they would, and you wonder if anything will ever change…
And it doesn’t.
Without God’s presence, everything we do, everything we think and ponder, is meaningless. With Solomon, we move from despair to hating where we are in life.
For our attempts to understand leave us without knowing what matters, and our work only makes a difference for a moment, if that.
- Recognize What God is doing and will do!
Two weeks ago, we heard the gospel story about Martha and Mary, and that Mary was drawn to listen to Jesus, and it was good, what had meaning.
Martha was moving towards Solomon’s despair. Whereas Mary was content, receiving the grace that Jesus poured out with every word.
Solomon comes to that conclusion in verses 24 and 25.
“24 So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. 25 For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?” Ecclesiastes 2:24-25
He figured it out!
You can’t enjoy anything apart from God.
You cannot find joy or meaning In life, without Christ in your life!
This means that the answer to finding life’s meaning, and joy in that life is revealed
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14 (NLT2)
In that same way, Jesus promises this at the end of Matthew’s gospel. “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (NLT2)
Jesus came and lived and died and rose for one purpose, to live with us, both now and for eternity!
As we sit in His presence, he gives our minds something to think, to dwell on that means something—we are loved.
We are cared for…
Jesus does so much for us! From cleansing us of sin and its companions of guilt and shame. That includes our times where we forget to trust Him and enter seasons of despair. Or when our pride crashes our lives spectacularly. God cleans us up.
But that is only the beginning.
God makes every part of our lives holy. That means He sets it all aside for a purpose. He gives it meaning. And that meaning is the key—to walk with Him.
That is when our thoughts have meaning, because God is involved in them with us, sharing the moments, sharing the time.
HE makes it all happen; He gives us all the meaning and the joy that goes with it.
That is what the Christian faith is all about, helping us realize what God has done to become an intimate part of our life.
For that makes our life have all the meaning there is in our lives.
And then that life has meaning and incredible joy, and a peace that passes all understanding, even as Jesus guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!