A great deal of attention today is directed toward youth. Our society recognizes that the future of our communities depends upon our youth, and so the major programs and interests are designed for the young people. However, the energy and vision of youthful minds fade away as the years progress, and the adults that emerge are disillusioned and earnestly seek some kind of personal satisfaction or reward for the efforts of their all their labours. Solomon, Israel’s greatest king, had to deal with all of this in his lifetime, and as he approached the end of his days he writes of his experiences in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” ……..”Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What does man gain from all his labor?” <Eccl.1:2-3 (NIV)>. He continues to write on the meaningless of life.
LIFE IS MEANINGLESS
He says that “there is nothing new under the sun.” <Eccl.1:9 (NIV)>; from generation to generation, he says, nothing changes, and if one lives long enough all things are repeated. Mark Twain expressed similar thoughts about the meaningless of life in view of man’s inevitable death. Shortly before his death, he wrote, “A myriad of men are born; they labour and sweat and struggle; they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. Death comes at last, the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them; and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence, a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever.” (Source unknown)
WISDOM IS MEANINGLESS
“For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” <Eccl.1:18 (NIV)>. The wisdom that God gives must be used for His glory; otherwise all our efforts and work become meaningless. Wisdom gained from human experiences is even more meaningless when not given over to God.
PLEASURES ARE MEANINGLESS
“Come now, I will test you with pleasure………But that also proved to be meaningless. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless” <Eccl.2:1, 10-11 (NIV)> Kelita Haverland (Country Music Artist) (*) writes: “At 18, I was accepted into one of the top theater programs at a Toronto university. I married at 21 after my two-year stint in professional theater. We set out to follow our dream of fame and fortune in the music world. We soon took the Canadian country music scene by storm, gathering numerous awards and nominations. Amongst the success and struggle, not a glimpse of my former spiritual life could be found. I quietly swept my faith in God under the carpet. I didn’t think I needed Him any longer. Feeling stunted, trapped and unloved in the marriage, I began seeking fulfillment outside of it. Drugs, booze and sex played a big part in numbing the insanity of leading a desperately unhappy double life. However, this new lifestyle went against the values I once held dear, and I started to hate myself. I felt lost, empty and unloved. I pleaded with God to show me a way out of this horrid mess.”
TOIL IS MEANINGLESS
We work hard and long hours to earn money to purchase the things we desire. In doing so we have no time for God, consequently our work is in vain and all we acquire in life is meaningless. “So I hated life……….. All of it is meaningless ……So my heart began to despair” <Eccl.2:17, 20 (NIV)>
TIME AND PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” <Eccl.3:11 (NIV)> We must live orderly lives, putting everything in its place. God and the things of God must have first place in our lives, or everything is meaningless.
OPPRESSION AND FRIENDLESSNESS
“Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed– and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors– and they have no comforter. And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” <Eccl.4:1, 4 (NIV)> Envy leads to fights, fights lead to oppression, and we all become unfriendly to each other.
SUCCESS IS MEANINGLESS
“Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning.” <Eccl.4:13 (NIV)> Billy Diamond (Chief of the Cree Indians – Northern Quebec) (*) states: “I became chief of our Cree community when I was 21. Four years later I became the first Grand Chief of the Cree Grand Council. I used this position to help my people develop. We modernized the villages, built housing and schools and encouraged health and economic development. I was very successful in this position. But like all successes, it had it’s drawbacks, especially in my personal life. I became very prideful. Alcohol and drugs took their toll. I lost contact with my family, with my young wife and children. I knew I had to do something. Even with all the success there was a void in my life. There wasn’t a sense of accomplishment, there was an emptiness, there was no peace.” [Despite growing up in an impoverished Cree community in Northern Quebec and being torn away from his family and placed in a residential school, Billy Diamond has gone on to become a successful businessman and political leader.] In all the success we may have in life, if we forget God and leave Him out of our lives, life becomes meaningless, so we are encouraged: “Therefore stand in awe of God.” <Eccl.5:7 (NIV)>
RICHES ARE MEANINGLESS
“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.” <Eccl.5:10 (NIV)> Tennis star Boris Becker (*) was at the very top of the tennis world ─ yet he was on the brink of suicide. He said, “I had won Wimbledon twice before, once as the youngest player. I was rich. I had all the material possessions I needed. It’s the old song of movie stars and pop stars who commit suicide. They have everything, and yet they are so unhappy. I had no inner peace. I was a puppet on a string.” When riches and material possessions become our only goal in life, life becomes meaningless. Riches, however, can be used to the glory of God, if we understand that it is a gift of God, and we use it for the furtherance of His kingdom. “Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work– this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.” <Eccl.5:19-20 (NIV)>
AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
“Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come? …..no one has power over the day of his death. ……..so wickedness will not release those who practice it.” <Eccl. 8:7-8 (NIV)> Roger Neilson (National Hockey League Coach) (*) The Only Way To Go – “Suddenly finding out that you have cancer is tough. However, as a Christian, I know that no matter what I go through God is always with me. I know that if I trust in God then I don’t have to worry about the future — it’s in His hands. I’ve known the Lord since I was a young kid, and I’ve always felt that death is not something to be afraid of. Knowing Jesus means that when I die I’m going to heaven. I’ve got a place to go when it’s all over. And that’s the only way to go.”
Mike “Pinball” Clemons (Toronto Argonauts Football Team) (*) Real Hope – “Everyone has trials. No one is exempt from that. The difference is that I have a hope in Jesus Christ. One thing that makes me sad is when I see people with no hope. That really bothers me. But I understand it perfectly, because apart from God, there is no hope. If we don’t put our hope in God, then we are putting it in things that perish and fade away. Belief in God is really the only thing that lasts. Everyone has trials. No one is exempt from that. The difference is that I have a hope in Jesus Christ.”
A COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL
“the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, ……Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. ……no man knows when his hour will come….so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.” < Eccl. 9:1,10, 12 (NIV)>
REMEMBER YOUR CREATOR
“However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all. But let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. Everything to come is meaningless. Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.” <Eccl.11:8-9 (NIV)>
God allows us to use our free will to make decisions in life. We may decide to live life to its fullest enjoying all its pleasures, without any thought of God, but we must remember the dark days and years to come!
“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”– before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets. Remember him– before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!” < Eccl.12:1-8 (NIV)>
“Remember your Creator” <12:1> Before the ‘sunset of time’ – the difficult days that lack all pleasure and enjoyment: “the clouds return after the rain” <12:2> in our youth one easily rebounds from life’s difficulties – but as one grows older the skies never seem to clear, going from struggle to struggle with little or no relief: “the keepers of the house” – arms and hands are no longer as active: “the strong men” – legs and thighs are no longer straight and strong: “the grinders” – partial or complete loss of teeth: “Those looking through windows” – partial or complete loss of sight: “the doors to the streets”– partial or complete loss of hearing: “when men rise up….” – loss of sleep, one is aware of every sound in the night <12:3-4>: “afraid of heights” <12:5>: no longer able to scale the heights like eagles – there is fear of being alone: “the grasshopper”– a young grasshopper is able to fly long distances and jump vigorously, as the years advance one slows down and looses vigour: “desire no longer is stirred” – old age brings loss of desire for most activities (mental and physical): “man goes to his eternal home” – death finally comes. IS THIS ALL THERE IS TO LIFE?
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” <Eccl. 12:13-14 (NIV)>
We can live our lives as we please without God, but it is far better to “Fear God” and keep His commands, for this is the whole purpose of life, and the only way that we can be “whole” “for this is the whole [duty] of man.” Whatever our choice, we must understand that we will give an account to God for the way we live our life. “Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.” <11:9>
“For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'” So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” <Rom.14:10-12 (NIV)>
God has given us the choice: eternal life or eternal death.
“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, ……Nor is it beyond the sea, …….No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life” <Deut.30:11-15, 19 (NIV)>
“But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” ………That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile– the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” <Rom.10:6-10, 12-13 (NIV)>
“Righteousness that is by faith” does not require bringing Christ down from heaven or up from the grave. This has already been accomplished and cannot be repeated. “The word is near you” refers to the accessibility of the gospel. Christ “the Word” is readily available to any and all who call on Him for salvation.
THE FOUR CALLS
The Spirit once came to an innocent child With pleading and tender tone;
“Dear little one, let me come into your heart, And make it forever my own.”
“Oh, Spirit,” he cried, “please go away; For childhood is only for fun and play;
Some other day, some other day, When I am older I’ll bid Thee stay.”
The Spirit came back to the fair, stalwart youth, With loving and tender plea;
“The harvest is ready, there’s work to be done, Arise, God is calling for thee.”
“Oh, Spirit,” he cried, “leave me I pray, The pleasures of earth hold me in their
sway; Some other day, some other day; Then, Holy Spirit, I’ll bid Thee stay.”
The Spirit plead thus with the toil weary man, “Make haste while God’s grace shall last;
The years are adorning with silver thy brow, Thy days are now slipping by fast.”
“Oh, Spirit,” he cried, “I should obey, But I am too busy and tired to pray;
Some other day, some other day; When I have time I will bid Thee stay.”
The aged man leans on his frail, trembling staff, With quivering, bitter sigh:
“I’ve wasted a life-time in sin,” he cried, “And now I am going to die:
The Spirit, long slighted, has flown away; No hope and no God, now I cannot pray;
No other day, no other day; The Holy Spirit has gone to stay.”
(Gertrude Manly Jones)
Life will always be meaningless for those who rebel against God, and refuse to honour Him and serve Him. Only those who trust Christ as Saviour and own Him as Lord of their life, will experience the true meaning of life.
((*) Testimonies extracted from the “Power to Change” website [Aug.2001]: http://www.powertochange.com)