THE PURPOSE OF LIFE (Short version)
Reading: Ecclesiastes 1: 2-14
Ecclesiastes 1: 2-14
2 “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”
3 What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? 4 Generations come and generations go but the earth never changes. 5 The sun rises and the sun sets then hurries around to rise again. 6 The wind blows south and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. 7 Rivers run into the sea but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. 8 Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.
9 History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.
10 Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. 11 We don’t remember what happened in the past; and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.
12 I, the Teacher, was king of Israel
and I lived in Jerusalem. 13 I devoted myself to
search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under
heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human
race. 14 I observed everything going on under the
sun and really, it is all meaningless — like chasing the wind.
When a close relative of mine was ill, he commented sadly…
“I’m useless; good for nothing; a drain on the system; put me on the scrapheap!”
I was joking with an 87-year old lady about a pretty brooch she was wearing: “Your brooch or your life!” I teased.
She replied: “You’d better have my life then; it’s not worth much now, is it?”
Although she felt that way, was it true?
You may recall a film some years ago called: “What’s it all about, Alfie”?
- Well, what IS it all about?
- What factors determine whether a life is well lived/worthwhile… or not?
A man I know of died fairly recently… he was not particularly old…
- His obituary was very moving… all about a loving father and grandfather, devoted husband, much-loved brother to *** … Uncle to ***. Sadly missed … etc.
- However, a reliable source told me that the man was anything but loving and devoted… in fact, quite the opposite
- But who’s to say what a life is worth!
We are all born (if we’re not aborted)… most people grow up, have all sorts of experiences, reach their teens… 20s, 40s, 60s, 80s…
- Eventually life ends… a service of remembrance is held…your possessions are divided up
- A photograph is placed on the mantelpiece
- And life goes on for everyone else!
SO WHAT PURPOSE HAS MY LIFE SERVED?
So many things have changed during our lifetime…
- Names given to new-born children…
- The role of women in society
- Computers and information technology
- Speed of travel… Speed of everything!
- Moral standards (e.g. marry first) …drugs… sexualisation
- Crime levels … up at least tenfold in 50 years
- Trust and integrity in public life
And for committed Christians, serious challenges…
- Lack of belief in God
- The rejection of Biblical values in society
- The rise of cults / witchcraft / the occult
- The glamorising of unnatural sexual behaviour
- The spread of Islam and associated violence
- The bad behaviour of certain priests, which has done untold damage
- And the church’s apparent willingness to compromise instead of standing firm… courting popularity at the expense of truth
Not everything has changed for the worse…
- Health care/ clean water/ good quality food
- Wealth distribution is generally fairer
- The Class system has broken down to an extent
- No discrimination permitted on the basis of creed or colour
- And in the UK… Winter fuel allowance and a free bus pass for retired folk!
King Solomon (or whoever wrote Ecclesiastes) grappled with the meaning of life… and thought it to be “meaningless / futile”
- He began to ask the question: “What’s the point of it all?”
So IS life worth living? Is YOUR life worth living?
I want to suggest that there are many reasons to answer “yes” to that question…
GOD DELIGHTS IN US
Some years ago, it is said that the Soviets carried out an experiment to see what would happen if new babies were deprived of affection, though otherwise cared for… sickness and death followed
- To know that we are cherished by God should transform our lives…He says: “I have loved you with an everlasting love”
We are not God’s ‘playthings’ with which He can have some fun!
- We are the crowning glory of His creation with whom He wants to share fellowship
- Though when I look in the mirror each morning it’s hard to believe that I’m His crowning glory!
- The Natural World is wonderful but we are exceptional!
- GOD HAS A PLAN & PURPOSE FOR OUR LIVES
- An uncle of mine used to say that, “If the bullet’s got your number on it, you’ve had it! It’s just luck or fate!”
- But is life just a series of random occurrences? Lucky or unlucky!
- There is a famous verse in the Book of Jeremiah to reassure us that life is anything but random if we allow God to take control:
“I know the plans I have for you… plans for good and not for evil to give you a future and a hope”
However, God’s plans can be thwarted…
- A friend of mine insisted: “If it’s the Lord’s will, it will happen; if not, it won’t” … Is this true?
- We can actively hinder God’s plans if we choose to ignore Him or disobey Him… He never forces His will upon us
- We are not robots or clockwork mice… We decide whether God has His way in our lives… or not
But how wonderful to know that you are never out of His mind…He keeps a close eye on us … and has a plan for our ultimate good.
- WE HAVE OPPORTUNITY TO PRAISE & WORSHIP GOD
- One of the most amazing events in the Bible is when Paul & Silas are singing praises to God while chained up in prison
- God is still God regardless of our circumstances and feelings
- True praise and worship is acknowledging who God is and what He has done, especially through the Person of Jesus Christ… and yielding our lives to Him
We should all be worshippers… thankful… giving God the glory… It makes life so much more satisfying
- WE CAN GROW MORE LIKE JESUS CHRIST
- We can’t grow more like Jesus simply by trying hard!
- We can’t do it simply by saturating ourselves in theology or attending conferences or listening to sermons… though such things are often helpful
We grow more like Jesus by spending time with Him and with other believers, listening to His Word, conversing with Him… sharing our lives with Him and allowing the Holy Spirit to change us…
A farmer cleared his land of boulders… but when he ploughed the field, he discovered lots of medium-sized stones just beneath the surface… After much effort, he cleared the stones and started ploughing again, only to discover hundreds of smaller stones…
Growing more like Christ is a bit like that! There is always more to be uncovered.
- Perhaps the greatest compliment we can ever receive is for someone to say~ “I can tell you are a Christian; it shines out like a beacon the moment you enter the room”
- OUR LIVES CAN BE A BLESSING TO OTHERS
- They can be… but only if God is in control!
The American preacher, DL Moody once made this statement: “The day came when DL Moody died and Christ took up residence”
- The more we relinquish control of our lives, the more the light of Christ shines through us and we bless others
- The more we submit to His will, the more we become the salt of the earth & light in the world
The only time that most people encounter Jesus Christ is through their contact with you and me
- We are His representatives… His presence on earth… our words, reactions & attitudes reveal Christ to the world
- We can ‘move the hand of God’
- You might feel unimportant, insignificant and with little ability
- But you can be a powerhouse in the Kingdom of God… through your prayer, loving concern and humility
In the Letter of James we read:
“The fervent prayer of a righteous (person) is powerful and effective”
- So prayer must be ‘fervent’ and ‘righteous’
- There is no place for perfunctory prayers tossed out casually as a good-luck charm or used as an insurance policy
- Prayer is first and foremost to seal our relationship with our heavenly Father… to praise the Lord … AND to engage in spiritual warfare
- It strengthens our faith and provides us with supernatural power to use for God’s glory
The privilege of prayer gives life greater meaning, as each of us becomes an integral part of God’s Kingdom work
- Life is worthwhile because this life is not the end
A younger man met a much older man after many years: “So you’re still in the land of the living!” the young man asked mischievously.
“No”, the old man answered seriously. “I’m not in the land of the living. I’m in the land of the dying… but one day— maybe soon— I shall be in the land of the living… and never die again”
One of the best reasons for living well is that we are able to die well knowing that the Son of God has prepared for us “many mansions”
So what’s life all about? The Bible gives us the answer.