GLEANINGS FROM THE SCRIPTURES
FINDING ENDLESS JOY
By Keith L. Estes
Empty, futile, and hollow are words, which capture the feelings of disappointment and disillusionment. This is the life experience of many. We strive to find the "good Life"- filled with (the three P's,) possessions, power, and pleasure-only to find life empty and meaningless. Such disappointment ends in despair.
Almost 3,000 years ago, Solomon spoke of this human dilemma; but the insights and applications of his message are relevant in our century. Ecclesiastes, Solomon's written sermon, is an analysis of life's experiences and a critical essay about its meaning. In this profound book, Solomon takes us on a mental journey through his life, and he explains how everything he tried, tested, or tasted was useless, irrational pointless, foolish, and empty-an exercise in futility. And remember, these words are from one who "had it all"-tremendous power, wisdom, and wealth. After this biographical tour, Solomon makes his triumphant conclusion. "FEAR GOD AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS, FOR THIS IS THE ENTIRE DUTY OF MAN. FOR GOD WILL JUDGE US FOR EVERYTHING WE DO, INCLUDING EVERY HIDDEN THING, GOOD OR BAD."
When Solomon became king, he asked God for wisdom, and he became the wisest man in the world. He studied, taught, judged, and wrote. Kings and leaders from other nations came to Jerusalem to learn from him. But with all of his practical insight on life, Solomon failed to heed his own advice, and his life began its downward spiral. Near the end of his life, he looked back with an attitude of humility and repentance. He took stock of the world as he had experienced it, hoping to spare his readers the bitterness of learning through personal experience that everything apart from God is empty, hollow, and meaningless.
Although the tone of Ecclesiastes is negative and pessimistic, we must not conclude that the only chapter worth reading and applying is the last where he draws his conclusions. In reality, the entire book is filled with practical wisdom (how to accomplish things in the world and stay out of trouble) and spiritual wisdom (how to find and know eternal values). Solomon had a very honest approach to life. All of his remarks relating to the futility of life are there for a purpose- to lead people to seek true happiness in God alone. He was not trying to destroy all hope, but direct our hopes to the only One who can truly fulfill them. Solomon affirms the value of knowledge, relationships, work, and pleasure; but only in THEIR PROPER PLACE. All of these temporal things in life must be seen in light of the eternal. Let's read again Solomon's book of Ecclesiastes and learn about life. Hear the stern warnings and dire predictions, and commit yourself to honor your Creator now.
Life's experiences are not always happy, but the world tells us to demand happiness, do all we can to attain it, and make personal satisfaction our chief goal. Solomon, writing about his own life, discovered that his wealth, power position, wives and accomplishments did not make him happy. Happiness is an elusive goal because people and circumstances change quickly. True happiness can only be received through a right relationship with God, because only God knows what is really best for us. If you are chasing after happiness you will never find it. If you are seeking after God, you will find endless joy.
References: Life Application Bible, Tyndale Pub. Wheaton, Ill. Ecclesiastes 2:11,17, 4:8,16, 6:12-15, 2 Chron. 1:7-12, 1 Kings 4:29.