Episode 1. The Vanity of Life
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Have you ever woken up in the morning, out of bed again, into the daily routine and asked yourself – what’s the point? I mean why am I doing this day after day after day? Well you wouldn’t be …
Have you ever woken up in the morning, out of bed again, into the daily routine and asked yourself – what’s the point? I mean why am I doing this day after day after day? Well you wouldn’t be the first one and sadly, many people don’t have an answer. Sadly for many people there’s simply no point.
My hunch is that we all want to have a life that’s worth living. I mean you don’t have to think too much about that do you? If we weigh up our lives, each one of us, there are things in the air that are worth while and enjoyable; there are things we’d rather not have there but I guess we can live with them; and then there are things that are down right awful that we just wish would go away forever. And depending on the mix between those three, the good, the mediocre and the bad, we either feel as though our lives are worth living or they’re not.
But the problem with this – and this is a universal problem, it’s a problem that each one of us faces – is that as time goes by the mix, the balance between the good, the mediocre and the bad, changes. Our circumstances change, our emotions change, our health goes up and it goes down and sooner or later the old body is going to give out. And so if we live our lives based on our circumstances, if we judge the value of our life based on what’s going on and how we’re reacting to it well we’re pretty much at the mercy of the elements aren’t we?
And so if I were to ask you right now at this moment, do you have a life that’s worth living what would your answer be? And not only that what would you be basing that answer on? How you feel, what’s going on in your life or something else. That’s what we’re going to be tackling over these next couple of weeks on the program, the value of the life that you’re living, in quite an unusual way.
I say unusual because we’re going to go to what I think frankly is simply one of the most extraordinary Books of the Bible. It’s the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes. It was written by King Solomon we believe, one of the wisest men who ever, ever, ever walked the earth. In fact when he was young God gave him the opportunity to ask for anything he wanted and this is how it happened, I’m reading from 2 Chronicles chapter 1 beginning at verse 7:
That night God appears to Solomon and says to him, ‘Ask what I should give you’. Solomon said to God, ‘you’ve shown great and steadfast love to my father and you’ve made me succeed him as king. Lord God let your promise to my father David now be fulfilled, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and to come in before this people for who can rule this great people of yours?
God answered Solomon, ‘Because this was in your heart and you’ve not asked for possessions or wealth or honour or the life of those who hate you, you haven’t even asked for a long life for yourself but you’ve asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may rule my people over whom I have made you king. Wisdom and knowledge are now granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions and honour such as none of the kings had before you and none after you shall have the like.
So the wisdom of Solomon was actually the wisdom of God. He spends a lifetime serving God diligently as king of Israel but later in life, later in life things go a bit awry. He starts to worship idols, he gets carried away with his wealth and his possessions and all his wives and he becomes something of a confused, bitter and twisted old man.
This Book of Ecclesiastes that we’re going to go to is extraordinary because it’s written in this latter state of Solomon and you can see his wisdom interwoven into his disillusionment. What makes this Book totally extraordinary is the fact that it’s in the Bible at all. But it’s there for you and for me to show us what happens when we take our eyes off God and go chasing after other things. It’s a powerful Book and it’s one that at different times in our lives I think we all relate to.
So this is how Solomon kicks it off, the opening narrative if you will, have a listen, I wonder how much of this really resonates with you too. Ecclesiastes chapter 1 beginning at verse 1:
The words of the teacher, the son of David, king of Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities says the teacher, vanity of vanities. All is vanity! What do people gain from all the toil which they toil under the sun? A generation goes, a generation comes but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun goes down, it hurries back to the place where it rises again.
The wind blows to the south and goes round to the north, round and round goes the wind and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run into the sea but the sea isn’t full. To the place where the streams flow there they will continue to flow. All things are wearisome, more than that, more than one can express. They eye isn’t satisfied with seeing nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be and what has been done is what will be done. There is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it can be said, ‘See look, this is new’? It has already been in the ages before us. The people long ago are not remembered nor will there be any remembrance of people yet to come by those who come after them.
So do you see where Solomon’s coming from? He’s spent a life time doing his best, exercising the wisdom God gave him in ruling over Israel and he’s coming to the end of it all and asking himself, “So what’s the point? Why did I work so hard because nothing’s changed? We’re really just on some big cosmic treadmill, the wind blows around in circles, the rivers run into the ocean but the ocean never fills up, the sun goes up and down and up and down and up and down.”
Is there anything new under the sun? No. And then we die and no one’s going to remember us. Great, brilliant, so what was the point of it all? If I worked so hard and nothing changed.
I absolutely love the fact that God had this particular Book put in the Bible especially since as we shall see Solomon never really comes up with an answer to his dilemma. He has a few suggestions along the way but he never really nails it and I think, I think a lot of people are living their lives that way. You look at your life and it goes round and round and round and round the same old Mulberry tree and really nothing ever changes except our hair goes grey and our skin gets old and wrinkly and yet out there nothing ever changes.
Some days are good, some days are okay, some days are rotten but at the end of it all, as life heads into its last stages which is where Solomon was at, what was the whole point of me working so hard when nothing changes? Was it really a life worth living? I mean, come on, really? One the one hand being at that point is pretty tragic, on the other that point of futility, of vanity is exactly where many, many people are right now in their lives.
Oh we kind of try and sweep it under the carpet and ignore it but it’s there and if we were truly honest with ourselves many people would say right now:\
Vanity of vanities, vanity of vanities, all is vanity. What do people gain from all the toil of which they toil under the sun?
And let me say this from the bottom of my heart, if you’re in that place at the moment then I think this is the very question, the very question that you need to be asking yourself and not just asking it but answering it? It’s time to bring things to a head. It’s time to stop ignoring that sense of, that sense of futility, that sense that my life is of no value, of no consequence, like a thin vapour, here today only just, gone tomorrow and to do something about it.
That’s why over this coming two weeks in this series of messages, I’ve called them “From Vanity To Victory”, we’re going to be doing just that because God’s plan, God’s plan for you and for me is that we should actually have a life worth living and it’s time to lay hold of that life, it’s time to lay hold of a life of victory irrespective of what particular circumstances we happen to be facing right now because I’ll tell you this, God has a good plan for your life and God has a good plan for my life. It is time to do something about laying hold of that plan.