Tag Archives: all is vanity

The Search for the Meaning of Life

Here is the text of a message I gave today.  How many of you have heard of King Solomon of the Bible? Today I want to talk about Solomon’s search for the true meaning of life.

If you have your Bibles, turn with me to the book of Ecclesiastes. One of the three books in the Bible attributed to Solomon. We know from the book of Proverbs that Solomon was a very wise man with a wealth of practical knowledge. Ecclesiastes, however, shows us a different side of King Solomon. Solomon is said to have written Ecclesiastes as he neared the end of his days. If we had the time to explore the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes it would seem that Solomon spent his whole life searching for that great something that could give life lasting meaning. This aging king is getting restless.


Ecclesiastes 1:2 states, “Vanity, vanity all is vanity.” Has anyone here heard this expression before? Solomon’s words highlight the brevity of human life in the grand scheme of the universe. Life is but a breath, a vapor, or as one person put it, vanity is like a beautiful soap bubble that appears, floats momentarily and vanishes quickly.

Ecclesiastes 1:3, “What advantage does a man have in all his work which he does under the sun?” Solomon goes on to tell us in the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes how he spent his whole life gathering riches, believing that it would bring him lasting happiness and contentment. Instead, he found it wasn’t the answer. Then, he took his great wealth and poured it into massive building projects. He spent more of it on extravagant entertainment and objects of pleasure, yet, nothing he pursued gave him the lasting satisfaction or fulfillment he so desperately sought. He turned to knowledge and tried to reason his way out of the problem.

In Ecclesiastes 2:17 we read, “So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after the wind.” Do you find yourself at times hating life?

In my own life I worked for a company for more than 30 years. I believed if I could dedicate myself to my job that it would give me everything in life I needed. I was willing to donate my entire life to it. When the company began to fail and people were laid off, salaries were cut, and prospects for advancement evaporated, I found myself trapped. I suddenly found myself hating and suddenly started worrying about what I would do for a job when this one failed. My career felt futile and striving after the wind.

Solomon, one of the wisest men of his day could not figure out the true meaning of life. I should point out that we encounter the phrase “under the sun” many times in Ecclesiastes. From what I’ve studied it appears to mean anything we do in life as human beings apart from God.

Follow along as I read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

watches-1204696_960_720These verses offer a good cross-section of life. Life holds good times and bad times. We don’t whine or complain about the good times, but no one wants to find him or herself in a bad season of life. Every aspect of life occurs under the watchful eye of heaven.

Solomon believes the events in our lives are governed by a set time and perhaps more importantly, a purpose. He sees that there is something at work in the world and in his life over which he has no control over. Nothing happens around him by chance, or “just because. ” The writer of Ecclesiastes is saying that all of life, your life, my life, is part of a grand design and guided by divine providence. “To everything there is a time or a season under heaven.”

What season are you in in your life?  Whatever season you are in, good or bad, there are two things I want you to know:

First, you are not alone. If you know God, Romans 8:35-39 concludes that nothing in the universe can separate us from God’s love. If you don’t have a relationship with God, John 3:16 tells us just how much God loves every person. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not parish but have eternal life.” God sent Jesus Christ to make it possible for sinners to find God and have a relationship with him.  You are not alone.

The second thing you need to know is that whatever season you find yourself in God knows (and cares) about the things you are dealing with. Any trouble you may be experiencing, any doubts, fears, pain, or heartache did not just happen by chance. God has a plan and a purpose for every person. We may not like the season of life we are in but God is right there with you. In the words of Moses found in Deuteronomy 31:6, “God will not leave you or forsake you.” And “if God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31


Getting back to our text, Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything appropriate in its time, He also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from beginning to end.” Putting eternity in our hearts is God’s call for us to seek him out. He wants us to know that this flawed physical world in which we live is not his final solution. Solomon reminds us that all of life can’t be explained. There will be things that happen in this life that we won’t understand until we reach the eternal shores of heaven.

So what about Solomon’s search for the true meaning of life? Solomon is telling us in the book of Ecclesiastes, “Listen to me! I’ve tried everything!” Searching for happiness apart from God is pointless (vanity, vanity, all is vanity). Dr. David Jeremiah put it this way; you won’t find eternal satisfaction in temporary, worldly things.

Solomon is imploring us instead of searching for the meaning of life, to search out the One who gives life it’s meaning. Let me say that again, instead of wasting your life searching for the meaning of life, search out the One who gives life it’s meaning. Once we have found God who gives life meaning, we may not understand everything that is happening to us and around us but we know whatever it is God loves us and its for God’s greater good and His glory. In God we can find peace.

In Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 Solomon has this to say about life if we are aligned with the One who gives life it’s meaning.  “I know that there is nothing better for them, than to rejoice, and to do good so long as they live. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy good in all his labor, is the gift of God.” ASV

Jesus put it this way in Matthew 6:33, don’t worry about having enough stuff like food and clothes. Your heavenly father knows perfectly well that you need these things. God will give you these gifts if you give him first place in your life and live, as he wants you to live.

May God bless you and may you experience God’s peace in your life. He is the One who gives life it’s meaning.






Ecclesiastes: Change your perspective


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. 



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.


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.


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!