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Living a Good life: Ecclesiastes Part 2

Delight in Grace / Grace Bible Church / Rich Powell
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January 16, 2024 10:00 am

Living a Good life: Ecclesiastes Part 2

Delight in Grace / Grace Bible Church / Rich Powell

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January 16, 2024 10:00 am

Today we continue a series on the book of Ecclesiastes titled Living a Good Life: Making Sense of the Journey.  In his latter years, King Solomon reflects on the meaninglessness of life under the sun

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Welcome to Delight in Grace, the teaching ministry of Rich Powell, pastor of Grace Bible Church in Winston-Salem. Today is the first message in a series on the book of Ecclesiastes titled, Living a Good Life, Making Sense of the Journey. In his latter years, King Solomon reflects on the meaninglessness of life under the sun. The first 11 verses of Ecclesiastes are anything but encouraging, pointing out life's brevity and boredom, its instability and inability to satisfy. This is a picture of life under the sun, life when we seek purpose without Christ. Let's listen in. This is a second part of a study in Ecclesiastes 1, 1 through 11.

It was first preached on February 18th, 2018 at Grace Bible Church in Winston-Salem. And you see, that's the life of humanity. At the beginning, Adam and Eve decided we're going to cut that string. And then that kite realizes it needs something holding the string. And so it's discovering, it's looking after something to hold the string. And we're looking for all the wrong things to hold the string. The next shiny new thing is going to hold my string. It will bring me pleasure.

It will bring me satisfaction. And it doesn't work. We've got all the wrong things holding the string.

And I'm a perfect example of that. Last summer, we were down at Oak Island. We were on a family vacation. My son-in-law had bought a kite and we were attempting to fly the thing. There wasn't quite enough wind on the day, but we thought, you know, you get it up high enough, it'll catch some wind. And my son-in-law was failing.

Dan, you know, Dan, he was failing to launch the kite. So he said, here, Dad, you try it. And so I thought I tried. I ran hard, as hard as I could. And then I decided, you know, I'm going to run backwards.

And so I started running back. Do you know what they do? Do you know what they do on the beach in the sand?

What do kids do in the sand? And here I am running backwards with all that I have. Well, you know the rest of the story.

All right. And so I was an inadequate string holder for that kite. I couldn't even get it up.

Afterwards, I could barely get myself up too. What's holding your string? What do you want holding your string? That separation from God.

When God said, the day that you eat of this fruit, you will surely die. This is exactly what he's talking about. You're going to cut the string. You're going to be separated from me and you will introduce yourself to frustration, to a fleeting, frustrating life.

That's not what I want for you. But here we are. And that's why love life is fleeting and frustrating because of that separation. And because of that, the scriptures tell us that this whole earth in existence was submitted to futility, submitted to futility. That's the phrase that we find in Romans Chapter eight, verse 20. The creation itself was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it in hope.

This word futility means to be devoid of success, devoid of results, uselessness, unprofitable. It's the very sense of what we're finding in Solomon's words, vanity, uselessness, unprofitable. Here's the point. Here's the point. He says here in verse 13, God has given.

That's what Romans 8, 20 says. He subjected it to futility. Why? Because you, as a kite, decided to cut yourself from the string, the one holding the string. As a branch grown out from the tree, you decided to break yourself off the tree and you think you're going to live.

Can't happen. So here's what Ecclesiastes is all about. I'm going to quote David Gibson in his book, Living Life Backwards. David Gibson says Ecclesiastes is a meditation on what it means to be alive in a world that God made and called good, yet which has also gone so very wrong. And we wonder why things go wrong. It's because the creation was subjected to futility. And because it was subjected to futility, because we experienced that separation from God, then we are striving after the wind. And that's the phrase that he uses. He uses that in verse 14, striving after the wind, the end of verse 14.

That's a good word picture, isn't it? Striving after the wind. It's the idea of grasping a vapor. Have you ever tried to chase the wind? Maybe when you were a little child and didn't understand things, but you don't understand where the wind comes from. The wind comes and it goes. You can't grab the wind.

You can't master the wind. And when you strive after the wind, satisfaction is eluded. That means you become unhappy with life. And the manifestation of that futility, the manifestation of that dissatisfaction, that unhappiness with life, manifests itself when we pursue escape mechanisms. And our lives are filled with escape mechanisms, aren't we?

And we can do that in two directions. We can do it inwardly. Inward escape mechanisms, I withdraw myself. I just don't feel like dealing with it.

I create a shell. I protect myself or I project a particular persona because I don't want you to know what I'm really like. You know, that's what legalism does. And a lot of people grow up in churches like this where it's all about how you look on the outside. And you might be the perfect Christian who does everything right.

You show up at church three times a week and you give and you might sing in the choir if you have a choir. But you come to church and your life could be utterly falling apart. But you look like a perfect Christian because outside everything is okay.

Why? Because you're projecting this persona. That's what you want other people to think of you. But you see, this is an escape mechanism. And we can use our religion or our religiosity as an escape mechanism.

You don't want anyone knowing who you really are. Those are inward ways. There's also outward ways of pursuing escape mechanisms. That's compulsive behavior. Some people do it with eating. Some people do it with substance abuse. Life expectancy in the U.S. has fallen for the second year in a row thanks to a combination of drug and alcohol use and suicides.

Says Steve Wolf of Virginia Commonwealth University, we are seeing an alarming increase in deaths from substance abuse and despair. Other compulsive behaviors, gambling, shopping, binge watching, okay, stepping on toes. Nomadism is another way of escapism.

Nomadism meaning I just keep moving on from place to place. Some people do that with churches. Some people do that with families or spouses.

Because their line is I can't even. I just don't want to deal with it. Escape. And so we escape. And we think the next new thing is going to be that one thing that brings us meaning and satisfaction. And Solomon is telling us you're not going to find it. Not that way.

That's not how you find it. So what is this meaning? The meaning of this word, this phrase vanity of vanities. All is vanity. It is the futility of life. We need to be honest about that. The futility of life.

Let's dig into this here for a moment. Verse three. Verse three encapsulates the meaning of that phrase, vanity of vanities. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? There's two key phrases there. Number one key phrase, what does man gain?

And the key word there is gain. It's that sense of permanence, mastering, having that sense of permanence. In other words, having something that is truly lasting. That's not going to fade away. It's going to stay.

We all desire that at the core. Something that's going to stay. That's not going to go away. It's not going to wither.

It's not going to grow corrupt. But here's the thing about it. All the stuff of life. When it says all is vanity, he says none of it can be mastered. What does man gain? It means none of it can be mastered. You cannot master the stuff of life.

You are grasping vapor. And that's why he says, if you look at verse 13 with me, very, very interesting verse. He says, and I applied my heart to seek and to search out wisdom, all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of men to be busy with.

Wow, that's a fascinating verse. An unhappy business. Now the ESV translates that uniquely here. Other words for that are burdensome or grievous. It is a grievous business.

Very, very interesting. This is a word that means evil. And if you were to look at Genesis chapter two, verse nine, when God said in the day that you eat of that fruit, you will, the tempter said, the tempter said, you will know good and evil. You will be like God knowing good and evil. You know what he was telling them? You're going to know good and you're going to know that which is good and fulfilling. And he hid it in a word. He says, you're also going to know what's frustrating.

You're going to know the futility and the emptiness of life. That's what he was telling them. And they didn't even recognize it. As man became self-preeminent. And we see that's what we see in Genesis three. Man became self-preeminent because he walked away from God thinking he knew better. He became unfulfilled because he lost any foundation upon which to build meaning, satisfaction or an answer to the question.

Why? There is no answer apart from the one who is your creator. And so that's the idea of what does man gain by all the stuff of life? Next phrase, under the sun. That's a key phrase in this book, under the sun. That means that this perspective is limited in its scope. That there is a perspective beyond this. But when you're limiting it to under the sun, that phrase under the sun means this temporary existence. It is time, space and matter.

Under the sun. And then figuratively it refers to earthbound thinking. Earthbound thinking. In other words, there is the physical and there is the emotional. What I feel and what I sense.

There's those things. But you pay no attention to the spiritual. There's no concept of the spiritual. You think only on the level of physical and emotional, but no concept of the spiritual. And so we become practical materialists.

And this perspective under the sun is a materialist perspective. We're so glad you've joined us for Delight in Grace, the teaching ministry of Rich Powell, pastor of Grace Bible Church in Winston-Salem. You can hear this message and others anytime by visiting our website, You can also check out Pastor Rich's book, Seven Words That Can Change Your Life, where he unpacks from God's word the very purpose for which you were designed. Seven Words That Can Change Your Life is available wherever books are sold. As always, tune in to Delight in Grace weekdays at 10 a.m.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-16 12:46:50 / 2024-01-16 12:51:47 / 5

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