Chasing the Wind

Ecclesiastes: Enjoy Life & Fear God  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  34:02
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Ecclesiastes - Enjoy Life & Fear God

Annie Edson Taylor

Annie Edson Taylor was a teacher who, in 1901, on her 63rd birthday, became the first woman to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel. After she was fished out of the water, she told reporters that she would "caution anyone against attempting the feat."
WikiMedia Commons
So, what do you think the news talked about the day after she accomplished this feat? I think it might have been headlines around the world.
But, why does nobody talk about it today.
In fact, there are millions of people who have done amazing things in their lifetimes, and nobody talks about them today.
What is the point of the great things that we do in life? What about the small things. What are we working so hard for?
That is what the book of Ecclesiastes is about. Is everything meaningless? What gives purpose to life?

Mr. Teacher

Ecclesiastes is latin for “The Preacher”
Qoheleth is Teacher, but with a title attached.
Although not stated, it seems very likely that King Solomon is the author.
King Solomon
He was literally the riches, wisest person alive.
People would come from all over the world to hear his wisdom.
There is no modern day equivalent of Solomon, so just pretend with me that he is the King of Canada. His riches have completely reshaped and rejuvenated our economy. Our lives are better for his leadership.
Neighbouring governments are constantly sending dignitaries, representatives and family members to hear his wisdom, and many many nations are paying tribute and taxes to Canada.
On the negative side, even though Solomon built an incredible Temple for God, he has also intermarried with all of the surrounding nations, taking 700 wives for himself as well as 300 concubines, building temples and idols to represent their religious backgrounds as well. These woman stole Solomons heart and turned him against God.
Now, at the end of his life, Solomon writes the book of Ecclesiastes.
He is writing to the wealthy, people whose lives have shifted from being farmers, to becoming economic drivers in their nation.
He wants for them to consider why are they working so hard. What is the point of wisdom? Where can they find meaning in their lives.
Even though this book is written around 935 BC (that’s 2,954 years ago), its message is very helpful for us today.
We are in a culture that values pleasure, hard work and living life to the fullest. But we need to step back from it all and ask the question, WHY?
I’m going to read the first 2 Chapters of Ecclesiastes and then come back and reflect on the words. Listen to this teaching from a wealthy, wise King talking to those who are living at the heights of prosperity.
Ecclesiastes Vocabulary
futility, meaningless, vanity = breath, vapour.
Breath - Illustration
-Put your hand in front of your mouth. Now blow onto it. Now, where is the breath? It’s gone. Its passed
That is what Mr Teacher is teaching, everything is short, and you can’t catch it, you can’t hold it, it’s like a breath.
under the sun
-everything that’s on the earth, without acknowledging what is in the heavens (that is, life without God, a secular perspective).
Gain is profit = net gain
If you are in the ping pong ball business and it costs you 45 cents to make a ping pong ball, but you sell it for $1.00, then you have 55 cent profit. In Ecclesiastes, you can see what is the gain for your effort in life.
Ecclesiastes 1–2 HCSB
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem. “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Absolute futility. Everything is futile.” What does a man gain for all his efforts that he labors at under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets; panting, it returns to its place where it rises. Gusting to the south, turning to the north, turning, turning, goes the wind, and the wind returns in its cycles. All the streams flow to the sea, yet the sea is never full. The streams are flowing to the place, and they flow there again. All things are wearisome; man is unable to speak. The eye is not satisfied by seeing or 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. Can one say about anything, “Look, this is new”? It has already existed in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of those who came before; and of those who will come after there will also be no remembrance by those who follow them. I, the Teacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. I applied my mind to seek and explore through wisdom all that is done under heaven. God has given people this miserable task to keep them occupied. I have seen all the things that are done under the sun and have found everything to be futile, a pursuit of the wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. I said to myself, “Look, I have amassed wisdom far beyond all those who were over Jerusalem before me, and my mind has thoroughly grasped wisdom and knowledge.” I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly; I learned that this too is a pursuit of the wind. For with much wisdom is much sorrow; as knowledge increases, grief increases. I said to myself, “Go ahead, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy what is good.” But it turned out to be futile. I said about laughter, “It is madness,” and about pleasure, “What does this accomplish?” I explored with my mind how to let my body enjoy life with wine and how to grasp folly —my mind still guiding me with wisdom—until I could see what is good for people to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. I increased my achievements. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made gardens and parks for myself and planted every kind of fruit tree in them. I constructed reservoirs of water for myself from which to irrigate a grove of flourishing trees. I acquired male and female servants and had slaves who were born in my house. I also owned many herds of cattle and flocks, more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. I also amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I gathered male and female singers for myself, and many concubines, the delights of men. So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; my wisdom also remained with me. All that my eyes desired, I did not deny them. I did not refuse myself any pleasure, for I took pleasure in all my struggles. This was my reward for all my struggles. When I considered all that I had accomplished and what I had labored to achieve, I found everything to be futile and a pursuit of the wind. There was nothing to be gained under the sun. Then I turned to consider wisdom, madness, and folly, for what will the man be like who comes after the king? He will do what has already been done. And I realized that there is an advantage to wisdom over folly, like the advantage of light over darkness. The wise man has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. Yet I also knew that one fate comes to them both. So I said to myself, “What happens to the fool will also happen to me. Why then have I been overly wise?” And I said to myself that this is also futile. For, just like the fool, there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man, since in the days to come both will be forgotten. How is it that the wise man dies just like the fool? Therefore, I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me. For everything is futile and a pursuit of the wind. I hated all my work that I labored at under the sun because I must leave it to the man who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will take over all my work that I labored at skillfully under the sun. This too is futile. So I began to give myself over to despair concerning all my work that I had labored at under the sun. When there is a man whose work was done with wisdom, knowledge, and skill, and he must give his portion to a man who has not worked for it, this too is futile and a great wrong. For what does a man get with all his work and all his efforts that he labors at under the sun? For all his days are filled with grief, and his occupation is sorrowful; even at night, his mind does not rest. This too is futile. There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand, because who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from Him? For to the man who is pleasing in His sight, He gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy, but to the sinner He gives the task of gathering and accumulating in order to give to the one who is pleasing in God’s sight. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind.

Everything is Futile (Ecc 1:1-11)

Everything is futile. Meaningless. “Hevel”, a breath that can’t be grasped.
What do people gain from all of the work that they do here on the earth? What is the point of profit?
Generations come and go, but the earth outlives them all.
The sun rises, falls and repeats.
The wind goes and blows, then stops and blows some more. Is it just on repeat, what’s the point?
Water runs to the sea, but the sea is never filled.
We are being shows the weary cycles of nature, the point is futility, what is the point of nature consistently running its course?
The eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear with hearing.
An acknowledgement of our mortality. We see, but have limits to what we can understand, (same for hearing.)
Illustration - Our inability to understand quick news hits.
But then, once we get all of the details, etc. We still our limited in our ability to comprehend the entire situation.
If all that there is is life under the sun, then we will never know, understand or truly enjoy life. It just doesn’t seem to add up.
We have less importance than we think. All of the profit we earn, all of the work we achieve, is just a long cycle, and one day people will go to a service to remember us, to the cemetery to bury us, and then back to the church for potato salad.
If that’s all there is to life, then What are we living for? What’s the point? Its just like Chasing the Wind.
But don’t forget, Mr Teacher is only focussing on what is “under the sun”
Life has been described to us from a secular perspective.
This is the atheists reality, if there is no God, then what is the point of anything?
Do you believe that there is more to life then what we can see under the sun with our eyes, and more than we can hear with our ears?

The Limitations of Wisdom (Ecc 1:12-18)

But what if you did have the wisdom of Solomon. What if you were a Nobel Prize winner, being recognized around the world for your achievements and contributions to humanity?
What would the end result be?
Think of all of the problems that we are focussed on solving in our world today.
-How to make energy clean.
-How to end world hunger.
-How to end homelessness.
-How to be more efficient as an economy
TIME Magazine, 1965, predicting what life with computers would mean for society.
Men such as IBM Economist Joseph Froomkin feel that automation will eventually bring about a 20-hour work week, perhaps within a century, thus creating a mass leisure class.
How’s that working out for you, are you a part of the mass leisure class that is relaxing because of all the work that computers have saved you from doing?
No, its futile. A chasing after the wind. Everything has changed, and nothing has changed. Technology has revolutionized life and we are all working just as hard, if not harder.
What’s the point of wisdom? It has limitations. It solves problems, and in the vacuum two new problems emerge. Life gets complicated.
Wisdom’s limitation is that at the end of it all, the world doesn’t seem to make sense, so what’s the point of wisdom at all?

The Emptiness of Pleasure

Illustration - Liquorice =)
Liquorice that you are holding represents pleasure. You can enjoy it as I go over Mr Teacher’s lesson on Pleasure
Mr Teacher has experimented in pleasure (Enjoy what is good) but never lost his perspective.
Folly = parties, self indulgence, frivolous living.
Finding great experiences and enjoying every second of them.
What did he learn?
Refined self gratification did not satisfy.
Learn from his experience. Pleasure will please for moment, but the moment will end.
Maybe the liquorice is gone, maybe you are still holding on to it. If you ate, then I hope that you enjoyed it. Or if you are saving it for dessert, then I hope that it’s going to be great then. But you can’t make it last for ever. If you try, one day it’ll be as hard as a rock and you’ll need to suck on it for a long time in order to eat it.
What pleasure can you hold on to in life? What are you working so hard towards? Is it worth it? Pleasure on its own is empty.
Put your hand in front of your mouth, now blow on it. Did you catch your breath? No, it’s gone almost as soon as you breathe. Don’t live for pleasure.

The Emptiness of Possessions

Mr Teacher says
I increased my achievements.
I built houses.
I made gardens and parks for myself.
And then he speaks of many more things that he did for himself.
In 7 verses we see the words “I”, “me” and “myself” 30 times.
His possessions, his achievements, the paradise he created for himself, sparing no expense, denying no pleasure, was really quite selfish.
That’s not the promise of possessions though is it.
Materialism promises that material will bring joy. Commercials teach us how we could solve all sorts of problems in our lives, just buy buying more stuff, more solutions.
And when we do, they are replaced by more problems needing more solutions.
Solomon denied himself nothing. He had everything money could buy. He had every experience that he could buy. He had accomplished and laboured and achieved.
And in hindsight, at the end of his life, what is the conclusion.
Consuming Despair. It wasn’t worth the effort. Nothing delivered on the promise. He wasn’t any better for having bought all the stuff.
Put your hand in front of your face and blow on it. Try to catch the breath in your hand, but you can’t do it. You can’t buy your way to happiness, and the end of life, it won’t satisfy.

The Relative Value of Wisdom

Mr Teacher is not advocating that the fool is greater than the wise, he is just saying that in the end they both die.
Yet, there is an advantage to wisdom.
“The wise man has eyes in his head, but the fool lives in darkness.”
The fool will make all sorts of terrible decisions in life, and live through a mass of regret. The wise will make far superior decisions, they will have advantage in life.
But in the end, the same fate awaits the wise and the fool. Yes, there is great advantage to being wise, but we still haven’t figured out how to cheat death.
What happens to the fool will also happen to the wise, therefore, what’s the point of wisdom. Its vanity, it’s futile, its like chasing after the wind.

The Emptiness of Work

What happens to all of the wealth that you create in your life?
Most people hope that their wealth will serve those that they love well, that their children will be put in a better position to succeed because of the opportunities that money can buy.
But there’s no guarantee that wise decisions will be made.
This is what Solomon feared would happen to all of the good that he had worked for. Would the following generations be wise or foolish. What was the point of all his accomplishments if they could be wiped out by future generations.
And so he despised his labour because he had to leave it to who would come after him.
Besides, what do we earn for all of the work that we do? Side benefits include:
all the days are filled with grief
his occupation is filled with sorrow.
Even at night, you lie there thinking about what’s next to work on.
In the end, it’s futile, like chasing the wind.
Now we come to a much needed turning point. Everything has been made to look so discouraging. What’s to the point to life?
And that’s exactly what we are to consider? If all that there is is life under the sun, what we can see with our eyes and understand with our minds, what’s the point.
We work for pleasure, but are never satisfied. We work for accomplishments, with no idea what the future generations will do with that work. Where is the redemption to all this?
Simply put, if this all there is to life, why are we here on this earth?
We need this turning point that is found in Ecc 2:24
Ecclesiastes 2:24–25 HCSB
There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand, because who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from Him?
This is the first application point. Enjoy your life. Enjoy the work that you do. Enjoy the food that you eat and what you drink. Why, All good things are from God’s hand, and who can enjoy life apart from God.
The sun is not on an endless cycle. Theres a reason why the water flows to the ocean and then cycled back again. There is a point to how the wind works. God has made this world that we live in, and its amazing details and plans keep the scientist in awe of how perfectly creation works in harmony.
God is not distant from this world, for it is his world. And he sustains it, and he cares for and sustains humanity, those who are made in the very image of God.
Your life has incredible meaning, but you will never know that meaning until your life is found in the sovereign hand of God.
So first, Enjoy your life because it is a gift from God. Don’t live for your retirement, don’t wait for tomorrow to be happy. This is the day that the Lord has made, so we can rejoice and be glad in it.
The Second Application point answers the question, how do we find meaning in life?
The answer is found in the only man who has ever lived that is wiser than Solomon. Solomon did everything to find meaning, but Jesus lived his life knowing his purpose the entire way through. He was God sent to earth on a mission to seek and to save the lost, on a mission to be the embodiment of God’s saving love.
They asked Jesus,
Matthew 16:24–26 HCSB
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life?
What is the answer? Submit every part of who you are to Jesus Christ. Don’t hold anything back. Give him your thoughts and your hearts and your mind. Trust him with your life.
Where do I have a false sense of control and understanding?
What would it look like for me to trust God in this area?
Repent: Where have we been wasting our energy and resources in futility? Ask God for a change of heart and a change of mind.
Don’t live to find meaning in work, money, pleasure or relationships. Instead, live for God, submitting all of these things to his rule, and see how his goodness satisfies. If you are longing to be satisfied by some event happening, some status being achieved or whatever else its time to evaluate your priorities. Whatever we live for that is apart from God, in contrast to God, or as idol to be prioritized over God, will ultimately let us down.
So instead, Surrender everything that you are to God. Trust God with everything that you are, live for his glory, live for his purpose.
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