Tag Archives: meaning of life

Destiny

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Vaclav Havel said, “The real test of a man is not when he plays the role that he wants for himself, but when he plays the role destiny has for him.”

Each one of us has a purpose for our existence.  When that purpose materializes, life has greater meaning.

The LORD will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.  Psalm 138:8 NLT

Embrace the role your spiritual destiny has for you!

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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.

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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

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Your Life, Your Book

book-863418_960_720The life we live is our story, ours alone.  Many, including yours truly,  have chosen to capture part or all of their story in a book.  If you were attempting to put your story on the printed page, how would you characterize it: love story, adventure, drama, comedy, inspirational, or something else?

If you set out to write this book, what words would appear on its pages?  Where would the material or words come from?  What activities, relationships or experiences have you immersed yourself in that have a direct bearing on your story?

As the pages of your book begin to accumulate it becomes evident that the words need to be organized into chapters.  How does one determine when one chapter ends and a new one begins?  In my story, new chapters corresponded with changes of scenery and vocation, or new relationships and responsibilities.  At other times a new chapter began  when my life headed in a new direction.  Directional life changes can be physical, emotional, or spiritual.

The further along I get in my story, the more I find myself putting emphasis on the spiritual chapters of my life.  I worry less and less about searching for some new thing to experience and instead find myself turning to a blank page and engaging the Savior of my life to help me determine my direction.

My you find peace and contentment on the road you travel in life.  May the words of your book be pages of substance and eternal value.  May you find the meaning of life and experience abundant living.

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These are the words of Jesus found in John 10:10, “My purpose is to give them [us] a rich and satisfying life.” NLT

Wisdom’s Purpose

 

orion-568635_960_720Every one of us would like to know what the future holds. But no matter how much experience we gain or how much wisdom we possess, the future is still going to be a big unknown. For Christians “the future” is always and forever a matter of faith in God and yielding to his providence.

How, then, can wisdom be put to good use. Solomon gives us three useful purposes of Wisdom in Ecclesiastes chapter 7.

The first purpose of wisdom is to make life better.

  • Why is a good name better than perfume?

Warren Wiersbe: every person is born with three names. A name the family gives you, the name others call you, and the one you acquire for yourself. At birth you have no reputation. After you die your reputation defines you.

  • Why is the day of death better than the day of birth?

At birth we are propelled into a transient existence “under the sun.” Death propels us into eternity (Paul said “to die is gain” Phil 1:21, 23)

  • Why is attending a funeral better than attending a party?

Eaton said, “Every funeral anticipates our own.” Funerals remind us of our mortality. Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

  • Is frustration better than laughter?

A fool doesn’t learn from the lessons of life. A wise person when they face death, disease and destruction learns from it and they become better not bitter. (Dr. Jeremiah)

  • Is rebuke better than praise?

Being flattered by worthless praise is like feeding crackling thorns to a fire. There is a burst of heat and bright flame but no lasting value. “Rebukes are really compliments turned inside out, designed to mold and mature us in wonderful ways.” Dr. Jeremiah (Proverbs 10:17; 12:1; 15:5; 17:10; 25:12)

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  • What’s wrong with shortcuts?

A bribe is a shortcut. Consider Satan tempting Christ in the wilderness. You want food—make these stones bread; you want fame—leap from this temple; you want followers—just bow to me. Bribery corrupts the heart.

  • Is the end really better than the beginning?

Steven Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.” We need to visualize the goal and choose our steps to get there. The patience of a wise man is much better than the pride and anger of a fool.

  • Don’t long for the “good old days”

It is said that the “good old days” are a combination of a bad (selective) memory and a good imagination. Victorian essayist Hildaire Belloc: “While you are dreaming of the future or regretting the past, the present, which is all you have, slips from you and is gone.”

The second benefit of wisdom is enabling us to see life more clearly

Maturity is the ability to put life in perspective. Wisdom leads to maturity (Wiersbe)

Wealth – without wisdom an inheritance flounders. With wisdom, an inheritance likely flourishes

Providence – (Consider what God has done) Yielding to the will of God accomplishes more than fighting him every step of the way

Adversity and prosperity – with wisdom we can differentiate between mountain top experiences and spiritual valleys (we can see the sun). With wisdom we can battle adversity and keep from being discouraged (Job 2:10)

Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New Testament.” Francis Bacon.

The future – No matter how much experience we have gained as we walk through life we must still walk by faith. (Wiersbe). In Daniel 12:8-9, He asked, “What shall be the outcome of these things?” The angel told Daniel to go his way.

Verses 15-24 are very difficult to commentate on their meaning and hard to understand.

Wicked prosper while continuing their wickedness, the righteous seem to be robbed of both blessing and long life. Dr. Jeremiah offers this comment, ”God is both loving and powerful, but He allows the rewards to be reversed—success for evil, suffering for the good—for reasons relating to his eternal plan, and because it is the consequence of a fallen world in which we ourselves have invited such chaos.”

Don’t be overly righteous, overly wise or overly wicked and foolish?

Solomon is not advocating middle of the road spirituality. Being “sorta” holy is a sure path to hell. It’s a warning about being self-righteous and exalting yourself before others.

The third and final purpose of wisdom found in Ecclesiastes chapter 7 is being able to face life stronger

directory-229117_960_720Seek wisdom, not perfection. We are flawed creatures, our nature is to sin. Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10); fear of the Lord leads to life. (Proverbs 19:23)

Don’t listen to the gossip said about you. If it’s not constructive, it is not worth your time. Trying to shape your life solely from what people are saying about you is not wisdom. “If we get upset when people talk about us, we are holding them to a higher standard than we hold ourselves to.” Dr. David Jeremiah

Solomon admits he lacks wisdom in areas of life’s inequalities and that death is inevitable. Ultimate wisdom does not lie in the land of the living (Job 28:13).

The woman whose heart is snares and nets is a seductress (opposite of a loving wife). Solomon’s harem could have totaled 1,000 women. These are the women who served foreign gods, daughters of foreign kings  who were often priestesses of pagan religions. Contrast this with what Solomon said about godly women (Proverbs 1:20-33)

Not one upright woman among them all (his harem?). As one commentator put it, what godly woman would place herself willingly in the midst of Solomon’s harem?

We were made upright (to walk in God’s light of truth) yet we continually scheme and pervert God’s ways

Phillip Ryken sums up all of Ecclesiastes this way, “Wise people will say all of the things that Ecclesiastes says. They will tell us that living for pleasure and working for selfish gain are striving after the wind. They will tell us that God has a time for everything, including a time to be born and a time to die. They will tell us that two are better than one at facing all of the toils and trials of life. They will tell us that because God is in heaven and we are on earth, we should be careful what we say. They will tell us that money will never satisfy our souls. In Short, they will teach us not to live for today, but to live for eternity.”

 

Life’s Inequalities

Is life a dead end street? If you are among those who have found no lasting enjoyment in any of life’s pursuits, it may seem so. This thought is not new. Moses, Elijah, Job, Jeremiah, Solomon, Jonah, Paul and other notable Bible figures struggled to the point where some “wished they’d never been born.”

In chapter 6 of Ecclesiastes Solomon struggles with the inequities of life he has seen.

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V1-2    One of the great inequities in life according to Solomon is someone possessing wealth yet not being able (or allowed) to enjoy it for one reason or another.

  • We need to realize that God controls both the giving of wealth and ability to enjoy it (Wm. Barrick)

V3-5    Solomon’s illustration switches to other forms of wealth. Culturally, being blessed with children was seen as possessing great wealth. (Ps 127:3-5)

  • In Solomon’s view a stillborn child is better off than a man who faces nothing but frustration and disappointment his whole life with regards to his family.
  • Stillborn children were not named in ages past as it was thought that by not naming a child it would facilitate the passing of grief
  • No burial – culturally viewed as dishonorable; a person not receiving a proper burial would be viewed as cursed

V6       Long life – in ancient times long life is said to bring honor to ones parents. It is no guarantee, however, that a person will be remembered or that they will enjoy life more and experience an extra measure of happiness.

According to Warren Wiersbe, refusing to acknowledge the Giver (God) while enjoying gifts we receive is a form of idolatry. Likewise, searching for enjoyment apart from God equates to fleeting entertainment. But knowing God and finding enjoyment in his will offers lasting joy and satisfaction (enrichment).

V7-9    The word “satisfaction” here carries the meaning of being filled.

  • A poor man labors with his muscles, while the rich man lets his wealth labor for him. They both labor for food. Why? Each strives to add years to their life.
  • In nature, self-preservation is the first law of life. In man’s case this same desire for self-preservation leads to death (Mark 8:34-38).
  • V9 is equivalent to the saying, “a bird in hand is worth more than two in the bush.” It is better to have something and enjoy it than have nothing but dreams.

hands-1139098_960_720Dr. David Jeremiah offers this perspective on work:  You may be tempted to think: My boss is not God so why give it my all?

  • Work makes life compelling and teaches us about ourselves
  • Work brings us the pleasure of fruitfulness; we find meaning in it.
  • Work is earthly, while joy is heavenly. How do we connect the two? We need to make sure the Holy Spirit supplies the power to help us find enjoyment in our work.

V10-12 Introduce us to the theme SOVERIEGN LORD, which the balance of Ecclesiastes concerns itself with.

V10     Named – naming displays authority. In the book of Genesis God named “light,” he also named “day”

Man – (adam) is formed from the earth and hence this is our standing in the grand scheme of things.

“Devote yourself not with the pursuit of happiness, but with discovering God’s purpose and plan for your life.” W. Wiersbe

v11     Words which increase futility – this exposes our critical need to spend time in God’s word. God’s word leads to life, man’s words are condemning.

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What then is our advantage – Everyone wants an advantage, to use it to control his or her own destiny. We manipulate objects, circumstances and people trying to accomplish that aim. It is God that determines what happens to the individual. Striving against God accomplishes nothing (Isaiah 45:9-12)

V12     Who knows what is good for a man or woman – there is an expression, “God is good all the time, all the time God is good.”

GOOD is the bridge to Ecclesiastes chapter 7.

“Solomon systematically removes every rationale that a person might offer for the existence of inequalities in life “under the sun.” He places creature in contrast with Creator to exhibit mankind’s weakness in the presence of Almighty God.” Wm Barrick

God designed man in a certain way. He made us for himself. This is why success and riches never seem to satisfy because they lead us away from Him. The secret of life, finding heaven on earth has nothing to do with finding a treasure map that will lead us to treasure. The secret boils down to obedience. (Dr. D Jeremiah)

God Orders Time

In Ecclesiastes chapters one and two Solomon wrote about the life he experienced under the sun (life from a human perspective).   Through the lens of “death is certain,” he saw the futility of striving to possess the world only to lose it. Chapter three of Ecclesiastes challenges the monotony he experienced.

Warren Wiersbe opens his commentary on Ecclesiastes chapter 3 this way: insects have lifecycles, but humans have histories. A bee is pretty much like another bee but each person is unique. If people are not unique, then they are not important. If people are not important, then life has no meaning and isn’t worth living.

Wiersbe divides chapter three into three sections:

  • Life above man – Eccl. 3:1-8 (God orders the time and seasons)
  • Life within man – Eccl. 3:9-14 (God put eternity in the heart of man)
  • Life ahead of man – Eccl. 3:15-22 (Death is certain)

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Life above man:

Imagine for a moment that there were no natural laws governing our universe. Life would certainly be chaotic. Take gravity for example, what if it was a variable and not constant. What if the total number of hours in each day fluctuated wildly from day to day?  What if there were no seasons?  On and on I could go.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is one of the more famous passages in the Bible.  These verses are a description of how beautify and magnificently God has ordered time. Solomon uses 14 poetic statements to convey how God is at work in the life of the individual.

Birth, death – these aren’t accidents, they are divinely ordered.

Planting and plucking – a successful farmer works with nature not against it.

Killing and healing – could be referring to sickness and plagues. Why one person dies and another lives is one of those unanswerable questions that must be left to divine providence

Casting away stones and gathering them – stones had to be cast out of a field before plowing, stones needed to be gathered for building or to be used to destroy someone else’s property

Embrace and refrain – many possible meanings, including Hebrew inference to sexual embrace. Another suggested meaning, a time to say hello and a time to say goodbye.

Getting and losing – possible meaning a time to search and a time to cease searching.

Tearing and mending – tearing of clothing is a Jewish expression signifying grief or mourning.

Loving and hating – a reference to national war and peace? Another possible meaning in a different context involves loving the sinner and hating the sin.

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Life within man:

  • A person’s life is a gift from God (v10) – if we believe life is a gift we will have a better attitude towards burdens we are sometimes forced to carry.
  • Consider two scriptures – Genesis 42:36 “All these things are against me.” And Romans 8:28 “ALL things work together for good.” We must choose our perspective
  • Man’s life is linked to eternity (v11) – we can’t be fully satisfied with achievements or accomplishments until we understand that God has a complete plan for us. This plan spans eternity. Another way to look at it, “we will always have a longing inside for something more than what we have experienced until we know God” (Dr. David Jeremiah)
  • I can enjoy life now (v12-14) – Life may be transitory but whatever God does lasts for eternity. Be thankful for what we have and enjoy it.
  • Remember: faith is only as good as the object of our faith. The greatest object of faith is God. If we fear (revere) God we need not fear anything else.

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Life ahead of man:

God seeks what is passed by (v15). Chuck Swindoll suggests that when we pass by things, or walk away from what God wants us to learn, God will keep bringing us back again and again until he has broken through to us.

Solomon observed injustice and oppression. He concluded that if there was a time and a season for everything under the sun, then it stands to reason that will have a time for future judgment.

Two of life’s biggest perplexities: why do bad things happen to good people? And why do the wicked seem to prosper or go unpunished? Evangelist Vance Havner suggests this explanation: “God writes over some of our days: “will explain later!””

Verses 18 through 20 are difficult and confusing. They seem to address the certainty of death for all creatures.  Dr. Jeremiah offers this explanation: A man and his dog romp in the same field, breathe the same air, and die on the same acre. They are more alike physically than they are different (considering just their physical bodies).

“Who knows” (can be worded “is it possible”) that a man’s spirit ascends to God while the animal’s spirit returns to the earth (see Ecclesiastes 12:7). The uncertainty lies with the destiny of the animal’s spirit.

So I saw that there was nothing better for men that they should be happy in their work, for that is what they are here for…  Ecclesiastes 3:22a NLT

Purpose

9b690ff5a369e8141e553af6d69d6062Purpose, now there’s a word! It fuels so many motivational posters. Take word like “Ambition,” “Aspire,” “Dream, ”Determination,” and feature it against the backdrop a breathtaking scene and you have instant inspiration. Purpose provides a point of focus and a source of motivation.

Do you know what your purpose is?

Bill Jones and Terry Powell, in their book Knowing God: Fulfilling God’s Purpose for Your Life suggest that you consider the following before you answer:

  • Everyone has a purpose whether they know it or not.
  • You get out of bed every morning to serve it and satisfy it.
  • Purpose is not defined by what you say or think
  • Purpose is defined by what you do
  • To find out what your purpose is they recommend sifting through your resent past. Examine your checkbook, bank statements, calendar, mobile device, and look honestly at how you spend your time.

Are you ready to answer the question?

Is your reason for living money, fun, fame, power or something else? These are pretty selfish reasons for getting up out of bed in the morning. But, then again, aren’t we living in the age of the “selfie”? Did you happen to notice these things are limited by your physical ability to acquire and sustain them?

What about the Christian who believes in eternal life? How does God fit into his or her purpose? 51DDFYJE26L._SX292_BO1,204,203,200_Jones and Powell ask, “Is God just another resource to get what you want?“

Perhaps if it would help if we took a closer look at the word itself.

Google defines purpose as, the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists. Other definitions include intention and drive.

MS Word offers these synonyms: drive, determination, resolution, resolve, persistence, perseverance, tenacity, single-mindedness, commitment, devotion, dedication

The English-for-students website suggests these antonyms: vague, meaningless, aimless, and unplanned. Others included indifference and demotivation.

My purpose for living is ___________________ .

If you are still undecided or you are seriously looking for an alternative purpose to the one you presently have, read on.  Jones and Powell suggest we read the following Bible passages and then form a definition or statement of purpose we derive from them:

Genesis 5:21-24

Hebrews 11:5

Isaiah 43:7

Jeremiah 9:23, 24

John 17:4

2 Corinthians 5:9

After reviewing these scriptures, they came up with the following definition: The purpose of my existence is to bring glory to God and to live a life that brings Him pleasure.

They conclude using this definition will give life:

  1. Significance (not just success) – success achieves a goal, significance focuses on the right goals
  2. Meaning (not monotony) – establish a relationship with God and align your life accordingly. Then, even the most mundane tasks can be accomplished with purpose.
  3. Joy (not the pursuit of happiness) – some people spend their whole life pursuing happiness only to discover how fleeting it can be, a godly purpose accounts for our present joy that is also everlasting.

The balance of the book outlines how this can be accomplished; seeking God with the right habits and with the right heart results in glorifying God.

What facet of starting and ending my day glorifies God?

What part of my personal life brings God pleasure?

Is the role I play in my family pleasing to God?

In what way does my work or career glorify God?

How do I glorify God in the most mundane tasks?

Is God glorified in how I use my resources (time, money, talent)?

purposeWhat pleases God and how do we know we’re pleasing Him?  Loving God according to the definition given in Mark 12:28-30 and maintaining that love relationship throughout the day, brings God pleasure. If your stated purpose is aligned with God’s purpose then this quotation by Jones and Powell will make sense, “As a child of God you exist for His sake, He doesn’t exist for yours.”

Consider these words by J. I. Packer:

What makes life worthwhile is having a big enough objective, something that catches our imagination and lays hold of our allegiance; and this the Christian has, in a way that no other man has.   For what higher, more exalted, and more impelling goal can there be than to know God?