Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Satisfaction - the elusive goal of a meaningless life … "

Day #306:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - October 30th

Scripture Reading:  Ecclesiastes 3 - 4 …

A group in the 1960's sang a song based on Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3.  It wasn't intended to be a "Christian" song, but rather, a statement about the meaninglessness of life in this world amid the constant wars and conflicts among races and religions and nations.  The song pointed out that there are cycles in life that continue to repeat themselves, for individuals, nations, people all over the earth.  "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven" (3:1).  The song went on to quote some of what Solomon writes in verses 2-8:  there is a time for everything.  If you don't like where you are right now, things will change soon enough.  In a war-torn world the last line was intended to offer a shred of hope:  " … a time for peace … I swear it's not too late!" (3:8).

That was the 1960's and things have changed dramatically … but not really.  There are still wars, disease, conflict and all kinds of natural disasters that test the hearts and souls of mankind all over the globe.  And life without faith in the one true God is still meaningless!!  Solomon asks, "What does the worker gain from his toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on men" (3:9-10).  When mankind sinned against God in the Garden of Eden, God cursed the ground and told Adam that he would cultivate the earth by the sweat of his brow because the earth would bring forth weeds and thorns.  The burden we all face in working and toiling in this world while facing trials and temptations is all a result of sin.  It is this that Solomon sees ... that WE see.

Yet Solomon testifies that God "has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end" (3:11).  If only ... if only all people could see the beauty of God's creation and how it reflects the majesty of our Creator.  People know instinctively that there is more to life than what we see, yet the human mind conceives only what it wants to believe ... that somehow there is an "afterlife" that we control by our own ideas, thoughts and actions.  Because of the consequences of sin within us we cannot understand God's works or the salvation He offers.  Instead of seeing the history of life on this planet as having a beginning and an end, most people choose to see it as an endless cycle of life in which we control our own destiny!

Remember the "fool" Solomon spoke of so often in Proverbs. Solomon uses Ecclesiastes to expose the thinking of the fool!  Living for God is what brings SATISFACTION!  Solomon declares that there is nothing better than to be happy and do good and to find satisfaction in our labor for THIS is the gift of God! (3:13).  We are helpless without God and our lives are meaningless without Him, but "everything GOD does will endure forever" (3:14).  God does all of this "so that men will revere Him" (3:14).  People often ask why certain things happen as they do.  God doesn't leave us to wonder!  Paul gives the same reasoning in Acts 17 when he tells the men of Athens: "God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:27).

Everything in this world that is good and right or beautiful points to our Creator.  There is nothing NEW!  "Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account" (3:15).  Solomon sees no wisdom, no justice among men, but only wickedness, so he thinks, "GOD will bring to judgment" everyone and everything.  As Abraham declared in Genesis 18:25: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?!"  God knows the fate of every human being and He would be perfectly just to pour out His wrath upon all mankind.  People act like animals so it is not surprising that people sometimes treat their pets better than they treat other people.  But God understands the fate of mankind and He remains in control.

As he goes on in Chapter 4, Solomon grieves over the oppressed and the hopelessness of their lives.  He states that the dead are happier than the living!  Even labor and achievement - "success" is meaningless and a chasing after the wind.  People work, they toil for material possessions, for things that will pass away, while death comes for all.  Where is there any reason for hope?  Life is chaos, it is difficult, it is impossible to understand ... and we look for satisfaction, for peace of heart and mind and can't find it anywhere!!  It is "each man for himself," but then "for whom am I toiling and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?" (4:8).  Life without God is just going around in circles trying to find satisfaction, happiness or whatever else you call what people want ... because they don't even know what they want!!!

God said, "It is not good that man is alone ..."  To live for yourself is to live for nothing because your life in this world is temporary and God created you to live for HIM!  What do we need to do to live for God?  We need to work together with others AND with God Himself.  When Solomon says, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work ..." (4:9), he is not just talking about friendship, but about what God made people to do:  to labor together for His kingdom.  And when he says, "A cord of three strands is not quickly broken" (4:12), he is adding the third piece to the puzzle:  the very Spirit of God!  Only when the Spirit of God is at work in His people can you and I labor together and find satisfaction in working for God's kingdom.

Life in this world is hopelessly and endlessly meaningless, but knowing God and working for HIM changes all of that.  How does that happen?  When you come to know Jesus Christ and are filled with His Spirit.  Consider all that Solomon has examined thus far and realize that his conclusions are right.  Satisfaction is the elusive goal of a meaningless life, but in serving the Lord is great reward - in this life and in the life to come!!  There is a time for peace, a time for hope, a time for joy in the Lord ... and the time is NOW, as you live life for Him and entrust the future into His hands, for eternity belongs to Him and to His children.

"Our Father in heaven, as we live in this world the meaninglessness of life without You becomes more and more evident as You open the eyes of the blind.  I thank You for the work of Your Spirit within me, giving me insight and wisdom to understand that satisfaction can never be found apart from living with and for You, my Creator, my God.  Help me daily to keep this truth in my mind so that I find satisfaction in knowing You and pleasing You, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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