Monthly Archives: January 2017

Third key to Happiness

I am going all out in an attempt to give my class visual reminders of the message of Ecclesiastes.  Previously I have used a glass of water and an open pair of cupped hands to convey keys to happiness and contentment.  This week I implored them to dance their way through life.  Outwardly or inwardly, openly or secretly it seems that dancing can be an expression of gratitude to God for all he has given us.

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As I began to paraphrase Ecclesiastes chapter 3 into some kind of dance choreography, a dance used during intermissions at sporting events I have attended came to mind.

Yield to the God of heaven. He has determined a time and a season for everything.

In My heart he has planted eternity that I may seek him.

Though the Certainty of death has caused many to see life as vanity,

And Around me lies injustice and wickedness; I will give my cares to God and dance!

Y – M – C – A!   Y – M – C – A!  Can hear the music playing?

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Ecclesiastes: Futility and Folly

Have you been so concerned with a problem that you have felt the tension in your arms, legs or chest? Have you been so stressed out that you lost sleep over it? Solomon is telling us he has seen the futility of life under the sun. In this section (Ecclesiastes 1:17-2:26) his futility gives way to frustration. He is leaving “no stone unturned” in his search for the meaning of life.

William D. Barrick refers to the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes as Solomon’s honest confession. He can’t solve life’s most important issues without God. It is highly unusual for a king of this era to admit to “failure, frustration and folly.” But God uses failure, frustration and folly to draw wandering prodigals back to Himself.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2

In chapter one, verse thirteen a new prospective is identified, “under heaven;” the abode of God, the all-supreme Creator. However, Solomon’s search under heaven does not include the eternal, only the temporal.   His search includes:

Wisdom – The more we know, the less it seems we know.

Wm. Barrick – “What is crooked cannot be straightened” (a proverb). In essence, mankind cannot change all that is done under heaven. C’est la vie (that’s life).  “With wisdom comes much grief” (another proverb). In essence the more wisdom obtained the greater the grief. Solomon keeps reaching the same conclusion that man cannot save himself.

Josh McDowell – If education were the key to life, “universities would be the most moral, ethical and spiritual centers of any nation.”

W. Wiersbe – “The Christian won’t be able to explain everything that happens in life but life is not built on explanations, it’s built on promises.”

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Pleasure – Solomon denies himself no pleasure. He enjoys it. Today we talk ourselves into believing that pleasure is something we have earned, or deserve; like the advertising jingle, “Work hard, play hard.”

Why does pleasure lead to disappointment (under the sun)? We seek the ultimate meaning out of that which is temporary and perishable.

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Work – alone is not the key to happiness. The more we work the more unbalanced the rest of life becomes. For many, work is an attempt to keep them busy from facing how empty their lives really are (under the sun)

Work is not evil. God put Adam in the Garden and gave him work to do. We are wired to work. Unfortunately, for some accomplishments in their work give them the feeling that they are captains of their souls, masters of their destiny.

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Wealth – wealth cannot be taken with us when we die. Where is the advantage of wealth? “The more we have the more we want what we don’t have.” (Dr. D. Jeremiah).

“Money is the universal passport to everywhere except heaven, and the universal provider of everything except happiness.” Wall Street Journal

More about work – Solomon struggles with the realization that labor doesn’t produce anything that will endure for eternity. Futility of labor is equivalent to a hamster on an exercise wheel.   Additionally, there is a realization that death levels the playing field. It comes for everyone; both the lazy and hard-working, the wealthy and poor, the renowned and anonymous. Work done under the sun is not lasting in the light of eternity.

Why did Solomon use the word “hate” referencing his toil? He couldn’t keep the fruits of his labor (his toil ultimately is handed to others). Secondly, he couldn’t protect its fruits (those who receive it won’t have the same appreciation as the person who produced it). Finally, wealth can’t be enjoyed as it should (a lifetime of toil leaves relatively little time to enjoy it).

Solomon’s Conclusions:

Remember Solomon is attempting to find the meaning of life under the sun (striving apart from God). He mentions the sinner, which means one who falls short or misses the mark. This person ultimately gathers resources only hand down to someone else when they die.  Life apart from God (without reconciling with God) leaves the sinner no means of accessing the eternity of heaven.  For them “all is vanity.”

Everything we have is a gift from God.   The believer in God whose prospective is above the sun (under heaven) can find enjoyment under the sun.  In the words of Jesus, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

A Second Key to Happiness

hands-1926414_960_720Dr. David Jeremiah in his book, Searching for Heaven on Earth, offers this key to finding happiness – an open pair of hands. He assures us that the Christ-centered follower can experience happiness in wisdom, wealth, work and pleasure (under the sun). God is the dispenser of pleasurable pursuits and we are the receiver. Our Lord can bless us with possessions, wisdom, pleasure, and employment. Our job is to keep our cupped hands open and resist the human urge to close them selfishly. When we keep our hands open we are allowing God to give and take his blessings as he chooses for his glory. We must remember that God’s resources are limitless. Don’t close your hands and cut yourself off of from His blessings.

Remember to pray with your hands open.

 

Ecclesiastes: Change your perspective

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The author of Ecclesiastes is believed to be King Solomon of Israel, the wisest and wealthiest man that ever lived. We can learn quite a bit about him by reading passages found in 1 Kings, Proverbs, Psalms, and Song of Solomon and elsewhere. The biblical text tells us that Solomon was King David’s son (Israel’s most beloved king).

1 Kings 3:3 states that Solomon loved God and walked in his statues just as his father David had done. God was pleased with Solomon appeared to him in a dream. It was in that dream Solomon asked for wisdom, which God gave to him.

During his reign, everything Solomon touched seemed to turn to gold. These were the glory days of Israel, times of success and excess. But King Solomon, the wisest of men, turned away from God as he aged. 1 Kings 11:4 says when Solomon was old his heart served the foreign gods known to his many of his wives. Ecclesiastes is said to be written in Solomon’s twilight years.

There are a number of possibilities as to how the book came to be titled Ecclesiastes. My favorite possibility stems from the Greek word ekklesia, which means an assembly. The person addressing the assembly in Ecclesiastes is simply called “the Preacher”, which is a title given to an official person who speaks before an assembly.

Ecclesiastes can be divided into four sections. William Barrick in his commentary on Ecclesiastes suggests these sections:

  • What Solomon did or experienced (chapters 1-2)
  • Solomon’s observations (chapters 3-5)
  • Solomon’s application (chapters 6-8)
  • Solomon’s conclusion of the matter (chapters 9-12)

Chapter 1

The opening words of Ecclesiastes are certainly troubling, “Vanity, vanity. All is vanity.” These words come from a King who has seen it all, done it all and possessed it all. The word “vanity” has a wide variety of meanings in scripture, these range from emptiness, futility, a vapor that vanishes quickly leaving nothing behind, and more. All is vanity.

What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Ecclesiastes 1:3 NIV

We need to remind ourselves we are looking into the life of a man who is facing the certainty of death and reflecting back over his life. The Hebrew word for man is adam. Adam was the first man, formed from the earth and since that time when each man dies he returns to the earth. Gain (profit), or yitron, means that which is left over, surplus. Toil, or amal, in this case suggests laboring to the point of exhaustion while experiencing little or no fulfillment in your work (grief, weariness and frustration are implied).

The remaining words, “under the sun,” offer a critical perspective or vantage point. Solomon is looking at life from a human perspective (under the sun). As Ecclesiastes unfolds, the reader sees the futility of life from this vantage point in light of the fact that death is a certainty. G. Campbell Morgan said, “It is only as a man takes account of that which is over the sun as well as that which is under the sun that things under the sun are seen in their true light.”

From his life experience, Solomon concludes: (a) that nothing has changed (b) nothing is new (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Satisfied.)

Generations come and go but the earth remains forever. Eccl 1:4

(a) Solomon sees man as a transient being set against the backdrop of creation (which continues on indefinitely). We make an appearance, have a brief pilgrimage, and then we die. The certainty of death makes our efforts appear futile.

The monotony of nature’s reoccurring cycles signals the intelligent design of our universe. Our Creator did not intend us to experience life like a hamster on an exercise wheel. We are pilgrims, not prisoners of monotony.

All things are wearisome. Eyes have never enough to see, ears never enough to hear.    Eccl 1:8

(b) When we are wearied by life, we desperately want something new or different to offer as a distraction or to deliver us from monotony. So, our eyes and ears never have their fill. Solomon points out that there really isn’t anything new (under the sun). We may think things are new because we have a bad memory (v11). Methods and technology may change but principles never do. If we seek eternal bliss in something that’s temporary or perishable, invariably we are disappointed.

If we seek true happiness, a change in perspective is needed. We need to start viewing life from above the sun or eternal perspective. Paul tells we are new creations when we accept Christ as our savior: “the old is gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

 

The Key to Happiness is?

I am leading a group study of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes.  I began our study today with a question.  “The key to happiness is _______.  A simple, fill in the blank answer.  I did get a few great answers from the class, but no one thought of my suggestion.

The key to happiness is a glass of water. 

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Huh?

I proceeded to pour a half glass of water.  As I poured, I posed another question to them, “Are you a glass is half full or a glass is half empty kind of person?”  People from both persuasions participated in a show of hands.  I asked the “glass is have empty” folks, “At any time did you see me empty anything out of the glass?”  I had not emptied anything out.  I only filled it half full.

Hmmm.

I proposed to them that this glass of water represented a solitary persons life essence; their successes, achievements, financial well-being, family, etc.  Everything valued in life.

My questioning continued…So, are we thankful for what we have (water already in the glass) or are we focused on what we don’t have (empty portion of the glass).  The challenge we face is being happy and content with what we already have in our glass.

Aaah!

I poured water into a few more glasses.  Some were filled to the brim, others appeared clearly more than half full.  This batch of glasses, I said, represents a truly blessed society of peoples.  The person with the half full glass, if they continually mingled with the richly blessed group, would naturally start wanting their glass to be filled more.  Contentment, they believe, can only be found with more ________ . (Fill in the blank)

Next, a handful of other glasses were poured.  This time the glasses received varying degrees of water, each much less than half full.  Some glasses with barely enough water to cover the bottom.  If, our half full glass subject mingled with the less fortunate, wouldn’t he or she be more appreciative of what they had in their glass.  They may even be compelled to share some of their water it with the less fortunate.  It is becoming apparent that perspective may have something to do with happiness.

To make another point I poured all the water out of each glass, including the half full one.  “Which glass had the advantage now?” I asked.  None of them.  This, I said happens to each of us. When we die our glass is empty.  Hence the opening lines of Ecclesiastes, “Vanity, Vanity all is vanity!”  Where is the advantage for all our toil?

For my final point, I filled each of the empty glasses to the brim.  As believers in Jesus Christ, life does not end when we die.  Jesus, In John 10:10 said that he came to give us life, abundant life!  This abundant life can be enjoyed in the here and now as we journey through life.

I decided to give the class a homework assignment.  The next time each of you pours a glass, stop halfway and think of something that you are thankful for.  Then, fill the glass the rest of the way.  As you continue to pour, remember the abundant life we have in Christ.

Yes, the key to happiness can be found in a glass of water!

 

 

 

Anchors

Relationships are like anchors.  They keep us from running aground. When anchors are removed a natural tendency is to drift out to sea.

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Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress.  He stilled the storm to a murmur, and the waves of the sea were hushed.  Then He guided them to the harbor they longed for.  Psalm 107:29

A relationship with God is equivalent to an infallible anchor.  Not only can He anchor ones soul, but He can also guide us back to safe harbors and away from storm-tossed seas .