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In Search of Meaning (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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July 18, 2022 4:00 am

In Search of Meaning (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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July 18, 2022 4:00 am

When the jackpot jumps into the millions, lottery ticket purchases increase. Will winning provide lifelong happiness? Find out what the writer of Ecclesiastes discovered about wealth and lasting joy. That’s our focus on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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Music playing. When a jackpot jumps into the millions, the line at the lottery ticket counter often grows proportionally. The assumption is that a winning ticket will provide lifelong happiness.

But does it? Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg walks us through what the writer of Ecclesiastes discovered about whether wealth can actually provide lasting joy. Music playing. We're going to turn again to Ecclesiastes 5, and just a prayer as we study together. O God our Father, we come now again to you, having sung your praise. We believe that in these precious moments we may hear your voice as you speak to us by the Spirit and through your Word. This is certainly our earnest expectation and longing.

We are not focused on a man. We are focused on your Word. The melody line of your Word is that which you have given, and we don't congratulate the violin. We congratulate the composer. And so, let us hear from you now, we pray in Jesus' name.

Amen. You'll be helped if your Bible is open this morning at Ecclesiastes 5, and I encourage you to turn there with me. We're going in these mornings down the corridors along with the preacher or the professor or the pundit, as we've referred to him. He's wandering down darkened avenues, groping, searching for the meaning of life. There is apparently nowhere that he won't go.

There is nothing that he's unprepared to try. But what we're also discovering along with him is that none of the things that hold out hope for him seem to deliver what they've promised. And he ends up again and again, as it were, against a brick wall at the end of a street leading to nowhere. Nothing seems to deliver what's been promised. And I've been imagining him going back to his room, the words of the sixties song reverberating in his ears, up a narrow flight of stairs to my narrow little room, as I lie upon my bed in the early evening gloom.

Impaled upon my wall, my eyes can dimly see the riddle of my life and the puzzle that is me. In that sense, he's a very contemporary individual. Woody Allen was asked if he had any interest in religion, and he replied accordingly, I'm deeply interested in religion. I'm not interested in the religions that we have.

I'm not interested in Judaism, Catholicism, or Protestant religion. There is, of course, still existential curiosity. Why are we here? Is there more? Is there a greater power out there?

But these questions, he said, are unsolvable and unsatisfying and ultimately depressing. Now, it's no surprise that he's a cultural icon, because he speaks very much out of the wealth or poverty of contemporary life. And it's almost as though he'd been reading the book of Ecclesiastes for himself. Now, our author apparently, at the same time as experiencing this deep darkness, has moments, however fleeting, that create the impression that he is being haunted, if you like, by the shadow of God. That into his experience comes this awareness, somehow or another, that God, to whom he's paying very little attention and to whom he's giving very little credence, somehow or another, that God is not simply way out there, but he is actually imminent with him. In much the same way that we experience moments—fleeting moments, perhaps—in the mall, sitting, watching tiny children, and suddenly as they traipse across, it gives to us a shiver up our back, an awareness of the creative power of God. It breaks in upon us, laying down the telephone after a conversation with a loved one, and that sense of imminence between us speaks to a power higher than ourselves, walking out of the doctor's surgery with a bad report and the shadow of God falling on our path.

Browning, in one of his great poems, speaks in a poem actually called Bishop Blaugrom's Apology, as he argues for the defense of the faith, and as he speaks to a guy called—I think it's Gigabigs or something like that, he had a funny name—but he writes in this way, Just when we're safest, there's a sunset touch, A fancy from a flower bell, Someone's death, To wrap and knock on the door of our souls. Just when we think we've got it all under control, just when we think we've got life circumscribed, just when we think we can handle it all now by ourselves, suddenly knocking on the door of our souls comes the awareness of the shadow of God. And what this individual is portraying so very clearly is this—that there is no exit on the free way of life which, when taken, allows him to escape from the reality of the creating and sustaining power of God. There is no exit on the free way of life up which you can shoot and then into the safety away, as it were, from the invasion and interference of God.

No such exit is possible. Now, free way is an important metaphor this morning. It's a far more useful metaphor than garden path or pathway.

And the reason is because I want to go at great haste and cover a significant distance. And therefore, I want to encourage you to fasten your seatbelts, and we're going on at the entry ramp of verse 8 chapter 5, and the entry ramp reads money. Money. Therefore, you will all be able to identify with it, whether you have a lot or whether you have a little. And in addressing the issue of money, the writer tackles three accompanying factors.

I can't delay on much this morning. I'll point them out as we go along. First of all, in verses 8 and 9, he says, where there is money in abundance, you will always find injustice. Injustice. If you see the poor oppressed, verse 8, in a district, and justice and rights denied, don't be surprised at such things.

Don't be surprised by that, he said. It's a feature. It is a fact of life. The fellow on the eighth floor looks down at the fellow on the seventh floor, and the occupants of the seventh and the eighth floor are overshadowed by the bureaucracy on the tenth floor, which actually has them under control. The fact of the matter is that the individual often feels themselves completely paralyzed, completely tyrannized. Phoning the number that is given on the sheet, they encounter electronic answering.

They're told to punch number five if they want four, three if they want eight, eight if they want nine, twelve if they want to speak to their mother-in-law, seventeen if they want a pizza, whatever it is, and eventually they hang the phone up. And they say to themselves, I obviously have drawn a number far too low down the list, and justice is for me an unafforded luxury. Now, the writer says, Just look at things, just face life where money abounds, injustice is present. Secondly, where money abounds, indigestion is equally present—not only physical but spiritual as well. The indigestion of an unsatisfied appetite.

Verse 10. Whoever loves money never has enough money. If you love money, you can never have enough. Okay? Because it is an insatiable appetite. Now, you can learn this by experience.

You can learn it by reading. Somebody in between the services this morning gave me a note from their own personal experience, scrawled to me a little thing, saying, Here is an illustration of Ecclesiastes 5.10. They gave me the record of a member of their family, a multimillionaire, somewhere in the area, with homes in Florida and other places in the world, with a jet aircraft of his own, with servants and land and property and everything. And they were over at the house, and the owner of all of this was, in his study, sulking. Sulking. And when the individual inquired whether it was a problem of health, which had been present twelve months prior to this, the wife answered, No, it has nothing to do with his health.

It's his sixtieth birthday. And he has failed to reach his goal of becoming a billionaire. That's not a joke.

That's a fact. You see, whoever loves money never has enough money. For those who don't have money, we always think, Just a little more money?

That must be the answer. They asked Rockefeller, Which was your favorite million to make? Which million did you enjoy making most? He answered, My next million. The Duchess of Windsor on one occasion said, You can never be too thin or too rich. She speaks to the issues of our day.

But it doesn't satisfy. Whether you're a gambler or a tycoon, whether you're a materialist. I've been to Las Vegas once. I don't plan ever to go back again. I was really taken there by a friend.

Badly influenced. You make choices along the way. We stayed in some gigantic place, like a rat's nest with four thousand rooms. Couldn't get out of it fast enough. Went downstairs, and I decided as we walked out of the building, I'm definitely going to try this gambling thing at least once. So I reached in my pocket, I took a quarter, and I put it in as a scot, last of the big spenders, put the quarter in, pulled the handle, and all the lights flashed and dinged and everything else.

Nothing at all happened. I just walked right out the door, kept on my way, went out to dinner, came back. But the poor souls were still there with cardboard pails, cardboard somethings. Interestingly—and I may be wrong—but it looked to me to be the same pail that I was given postoperatively at the Cleveland Clinic in case I threw up on the way home after surgery.

The exact same kind of cardboard. And there they sit, with the coins going in and the coins going out, and you can multiply it in terms of the stakes. It doesn't make any difference.

It's the same issue. If you love money, you never got enough. I just won the jackpot. Yeah, but I gotta go to the jackpot number two. I gotta go to the next machine.

I've gotta go on from here. The Bible speaks to this. It's a mirage. Now, there's a good name for a hotel in Las Vegas, isn't it? If there is anything worse than the addiction that money brings, it is the emptiness it leaves. If there's anything worse than the addiction money brings, it's the emptiness it leaves. The real issue, you see, is not actually going for more and more money. It is the sadness of going for inward fulfillment which we have been told is to be found in money. When you have money, you have an unsatisfied appetite.

Verse 11, you have an increased crowd of dependents, hangers-on. Hey, buddy, could you give me a dime? Hey, could you loan me this? Hey, could I borrow your truck? Hey, could I stay in your house? Hey, could I have a fiver?

Hey, could you help me with this? As soon as you have money, you know all the letters come, all the envelopes come. Suddenly you're on everybody's Christmas list. Presumably very weary, son. And verse 12, where money abounds, it's a case of past the pep to bismol. The sleep of the laborer is sweet, whether he has a big lunch or no lunch. But the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep. No sleep. Pass the tums. Where are the tums?

he cries to his wife. I don't like the pink ones. I don't like the white ones. I only like the yellow ones and the orange ones. Why are there no yellow ones and orange ones?

Because you ate all the yellow and orange ones. Affluence plus indulgence equals sleeplessness. Welcome to the American dream. Get there and spin on your bed. Get there and lie awake at night.

Get there and suffer indigestion, hangers-on, and an insatiable quest for more. You think the Bible's relevant? I mean, you can do what you like with it.

But it sure has a contemporary ring, doesn't it? And along with indigestion and along with injustice comes insignificance. Verse 13, I've seen a grievous evil under the sun, wealth hoarded to the harm of his owner, or wealth lost through some misfortune. So that when he has a son, there's nothing left for him. Naked, a man comes from his mother's womb, and as he comes, so he departs. Naked in, naked out. You didn't come down the birth canal wearing Adidas sneakers or Nikes or whatever it was?

You didn't come down the birth canal with all the little Nordstrom packages on your fingers? Naked in, naked out. And unless you invest in the bank of heaven, the Bible says, it's a zero-balance budget. Zero in, zero out. Read the obits tomorrow about the next wealthy man that died, and as you sit there reading them, sipping your coffee, remind yourself, I am now richer than him. Because he's got nothing.

His heirs may have picked it up, but he has nothing. Zero in, zero out. And into chapter 6, that's the whole emphasis. Graphic illustration of the meaninglessness of this grievous evil. The awesome picture of this stillborn child that has more significance and is a better prospect than having a hundred children and living many years.

What an amazing picture! And in verses 10 through 12, the same emphasis. Who knows what's good for a man, verse 12, during the few and meaningless days? And who can tell him what will happen after the sun is gone? In other words, he's asking two essential questions. Who knows?

Who cares? The rat race of life in itself makes no sense at all, with no absolute values to live for and no practical certainties to plan for. You're like a soccer player running around on a field that has no goals, no lines, no penalty spot. It's a complete, total waste of time. Only do we understand what's going on when we lay down the goals, when we mark out the eight-yard box, when we put into the penalty, when we discover where the corners come.

But played without certain plans and played without defined rules, nobody really knows. And frankly, nobody really cares. Now, when you get to chapter 7, instead of arguing his case at all, it's a kind of staccato burst of insights which just hit us from all kinds of angles.

And what I want to do is just run through them with you. First of all, in the opening phrase of the chapter, a good name is better than fine perfume. What does that mean? Well, perfume could only be purchased by the affluent. Therefore, fine perfume was an indication of wealth.

It largely is today, inasmuch as you don't find poverty-stricken people spending $150 on a half ounce or a quarter of an ounce of very expensive perfume. And what he's saying is, a good name is a better legacy than the fragrance that is dispensed in the mall as a result of you being able to scush yourself. So whatever you do in your life, remember this—that your legacy, irrespective of money in the bank, the best legacy you can leave your children is to allow them to walk with confidence down any high street in the country. And if someone meets them, says, Oh, are you X's son?

Are you X's daughter? And then they bless the memory of your parents. And your memory too. It doesn't matter how much cash there is. It doesn't matter out of which home we have come. A good name is far better than riches. Honor is the issue. Honor. Now, in verses 2–6, he just gives us some pithy common sense.

Essentially, what he's saying is this. Face the facts. Face the facts. The bumper sticker is not all wrong. Life is tough, and then you die. Doesn't sound very happy, does it?

But it's actually fairly accurate. Life is tough, and you are going to die. And what he's saying is, when you face up to that, then you will realize that it's better actually to go and have a coffee in the graveyard in Chagrin Falls than it is to go to some dumb party with a bunch of your high school friends. Now, you can run away into a party in an affluent neighborhood and kid yourself that life will go on forever. That is time ill-spent.

Or you can go sit and park your car in the graveyard and surround yourself in a house of mourning and say, Now we're getting to the issue. Now we're being sensible. Now we're facing facts. That's what he says. Look at it.

You're sensible people. Read your Bibles. It's on the hard days.

It's in the tough issues. It's in the sad events that we learn and we grow. That's why it's better. That's why sorrow is better than laughter. A sad face is good for the heart.

Why? Well, we said it before when we talked about going to a comedy or going to a tragedy. A comedy is ephemeral.

You can't remember the jokes. You come out, you say it was funny, but what did it mean? A tragedy does something inside of you. Spurgeon, in writing, says, I'm afraid that all the grace I've gotten out of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours might almost lie on a penny.

And affliction, he said, is the best bit of furniture in my house. In other words, life confirms what the Bible conveys—that more spiritual progress will be made through failure, disappointment, hard times, and tears than will be discovered as a result of success, laughter, easy times, and trivialities. But our whole culture holds out to us, Vanity Fair, come down here, let the good times roll.

So this is countercultural. In verses 7–10, he says, it's important that you exercise self-control. Self-control, as we've seen in the matters of money, verse 7, because extortion turns a wise man into a fool and a bribe corrupts the heart. Some of us know that to our pain. We should never have taken that envelope. We should have never accepted that gift. We should never have signed that contract in that particular way. We lost our credibility.

We lost our ability to do business with a clear conscience and a crystal-clear gaze. Be careful. Be careful also in the snare of unguarded talk.

The end of a matter is better than its beginning. Patience is better than proud. Don't be quickly provoked in your spirit.

In other words, don't just be bursting out all of the time. Don't let your mouth run ahead of your mind. Now, I can speak to this with a measure of confidence. As I was driving on the freeway the other day, my daughter, who was in the backseat, our youngest child, said to me, Dad, you just get upset far too quickly. You know, at first I was going to defend myself about the freeway and everything, and I said, You know what?

You're right. He said, Dad, deep breaths. Deep breaths.

Slow it down. Self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit. None of us will escape death. So we may strive for success or pleasure, but it's important for us to realize it's often through failure and suffering that we gain greater spiritual growth. Our trials prepare us for our final breath.

This is Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. The teacher in the Book of Ecclesiastes endeavored to go anywhere, to try anything, to see if he could find meaning in life apart from God. Instead, he found that nothing delivers lasting fulfillment. Such futility is common even today. That's why it's so important that the world hears about the hope we have in Jesus. It's why we teach God's Word every day. It's our mission at Truth for Life to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance so that unbelievers will be converted, believers will be established, and local churches will be strengthened.

That's it, plain and simple. Now, if that sounds like a mission you embrace, why not make today the day you join with fellow listeners called Truth Partners? Truth Partners joined together with this ministry by praying for us regularly and by making a monthly donation. When you sign up to become a Truth Partner, you become part of the team that brings Alistair's teaching to listeners all around the world.

And it's easy to sign up. Simply visit slash truthpartner or call 888-588-7884. And to say thank you, we invite our Truth Partners to request two books each month that we recommend to listeners.

They're available for no additional donation. You'll definitely want to request the book we're mentioning today. It's a brand new book titled Being the Bad Guys, How to Live for Jesus in a World That Says You Shouldn't. The author of the book Being the Bad Guys explores the reality that as Christians we are becoming an unpopular minority. Our belief in God and all that he's created is more and more being viewed as opposition to individual rights. To hold biblical views is increasingly considered wrong. This is nothing new. The book Being the Bad Guys explains God's people have been the bad guys before.

In fact, Jesus predicted it. In this book, the author explains how to respond when you face this kind of opposition. As you become a Truth Partner and request your copy of the book Being the Bad Guys, you'll learn how to respond. You can also request the book when you make a one-time donation. Go to slash donate.

I'm Bob Lapine. Why does it seem wicked people often get to enjoy success more than righteous people? Wouldn't more people follow Jesus if the rewards were more distinct? We'll hear the answers tomorrow as you join us for Truth for Life. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-23 01:55:12 / 2023-03-23 02:04:37 / 9

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