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All Those Lonely People (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
July 13, 2022 4:00 am

All Those Lonely People (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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July 13, 2022 4:00 am

What do we do when the ladder of success we’ve been climbing collapses? Where can we turn for hope when nothing fulfills our deepest longings? Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg explains why we don’t need to feel anxious, alienated, or alone.


Core Christianity
Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier
Union Grove Baptist Church
Pastor Josh Evans
Delight in Grace
Grace Bible Church / Rich Powell
Running to Win
Erwin Lutzer

What do we do when the ladder of success we've been climbing on collapses? Where can we turn for hope after everyone and everything has failed to fulfill our deepest longings? We'll hear the answers today on Truth for Life. Alistair Begg explains why we don't have to feel anxious or alienated or alone. We're in the book of Ecclesiastes chapter 4.

Cars coming and going, driving north and south and east and west, people going about their business in the thoroughfares of life. And what is it that describes them? Well, actually, whether they identify it or not, they are without God, and they are without hope in the world. And the sense of angst that they may feel, the sense of dissonance that they experience, the disengagement with their friends and neighbors, the sense of disengagement in their own souls, is all traced to this one pivotal and foundational reality. Now, in chapter 4, he describes this condition, essentially, from four angles. When I read verses 1–3, I wrote down on the page, you're better off dead.

Verses 4–6, I wrote down just three words. Envy, poverty, anxiety. Envy, poverty, anxiety. And once again, there is an overstatement here, vigorously stating something for effect.

Look at what he says. I saw all labor and all achievement. They spring from man's envy of his neighbor. The motivation, he says, that makes the world go round is the desire to outshine the next fellow. The girl on the plane with the folder and the laptop is driven in part to make sure that she outshines the person in territory west, or at least that she is not outshone by the girl who is in territory west, she being in territory center. And the wheel of life is driven by a competitive spirit. And the point that he's making is this, that when we are moved and stimulated simply by keeping up with the Joneses, it will prove an insufficient motive, and it will provide no ultimate satisfaction.

Now, loved ones, hear me correctly. There are peculiar temptations in the land of the free and the home of the brave in this realm, and we have to handle them. You buy an ice cream cone in other parts of the world.

You can walk down the street with it in safety. Now, you could argue that that is because they don't give you enough ice cream. You could also argue that is because they gave you a sensible amount of ice cream.

Everything's perspective. But do you know how many times I have dropped ice cream out of an ice cream cone in the street? Do you know what that does to a Scotsman's instincts when all of that money falls on the ground? And you know why it fell? Because I really only wanted one scoop with tranquility.

I didn't want two scoops with anxiety. That's a paradigm of where this place is. This is our home.

This is our place. Proud of it, sensitized to it, anxious about it. Envy, poverty, anxiety. Verses 7 and 8.

I just wrote down one phrase. A house too large for one. A house too large for one. There was a man all alone.

He had neither son nor brother. No end to his toil. No contentment. You see, this picture is reproduced all across America today. I think of all of my experiences, apart from going into bereavement homes, nothing has given me a sense of sadness like the description that is here. A house too large for one. North Carolina.

Beautiful home. Set in the midst of acreage, which was in turn set in larger acreage. Split rail fence, corrals for horses. Four-wheelers, three-wheelers. Skis for the winter. Snowmobiles for the winter. Toys for the summer. Large-screen TVs.

Stereo systems. Plenty of seats on which to sit in the great room. A large dining area. Lots of silverware. All kinds of glasses for every occasion. And into the kitchen you go.

You find one cereal bowl, turned butt up, and a spoon lying against it, and a coffee cup turned on its head. And in this lovely home lives a man all on his own. He never planned to be on his own. He didn't build a house for himself.

And he's described right here in the pages of Scripture. No end to his toil. And he says to himself, Why am I even doing this, and why am I depriving myself? Look at all the gadgets that I bought, and where are my children to enjoy them? Where is my wife to embrace her?

Where is it all gone? How did I get here? Some of you may not be here, but some of you might be considering it as an idea.

Give up your silly ideas this morning. And finally, under verses 13–16, having done what I said I wouldn't do, and that is take too long on these four things, I wrote under verses 13–16, it's lonely at the top. It's lonely at the top.

This is a picture of continuity or discontinuity. The king gets old and crusty, too long in the saddle he needs to go, a young buck rises up, everybody loves him, the young buck moves perhaps from poverty to kingship, listen to the people cheering for him, look at the people following him, listen to the people criticizing him, look at the crowd as it dwindles, and look as he is now removed from the saddle and someone else gets ready to take their place in the process. And there doesn't need to be kingship and royalty. It can be the structure of corporate life in America.

It can be the transition within the educational establishments of the country. You're brought into the room, and the people sit down. You know as soon as you sit down, this is not going to be a good morning. And somebody comes out with a phrase like this, "'Reginald, we've been talking, and we've decided that this company is going in a new direction.'"

And inside yourself you're saying, "'Why doesn't this feel good?'" And the answer is, "'Because that is a synonym for cheerio Reginald. We're going somewhere, and guess what? You're not coming.'" Me?

Not coming? You who headhunted me? You who said that I held the key to the development of this whole area? You telling me that you're going in a new direction without me? Yes. And you know what?

When we've dispensed with your successor, we will dispense with her as well. Now, there you have it. Look at it. Is that a wrong summary? You're better off dead.

Envy, poverty, anxiety, a house too large for one, and it's lonely at the top. Well, you say, you missed a section. Yes, I did. That's why I want you to keep your Bible open. You'll notice. Verses 9–12. Verses 9–12, I wrote this phrase down. You've got a friend. You've got a friend.

Because this is the great news, you see. Sting writes, You could say I lost my faith in science and progress. You could say I lost my belief in the holy church. You could say I lost my sense of direction.

You could say all this and worse. But if I ever lose my faith in you, there'd be nothing left for me to do. Some would say I'm a lost man in a lost world. Well, has he been reading Ecclesiastes 4?

You see what he's saying? I have no confidence in the institutions, whether they are scientific institutions or religious institutions. And some of you are here this morning, and that's exactly where you are. I've given up on scientific rationalism.

It's a dead-end street. I've also given up on established religion, because that apparently is full of conmen and clowns. And the only thing that I have to hang my hat on is you, whoever you is—the object of my affection, this girl, this fellow, this dream, this person, this entity. And if I ever lose my faith in you, I don't know where I'll go.

Well, let me tell you something. There isn't a person on the face of the earth that can meet your needs. There isn't someone with whom you can live and sleep who can satisfy your desires. There's not a friend with whom you can buddy up through life who will be able to reach into the deepest longings of your soul. And if the absence of affection does not drive you apart, death will. And therefore, it is not macabre.

It is simply realistic to say, well, in light of that, maybe his observation at the beginning is right. Maybe it's better if you're never born at all. Maybe the best people are those who've already punched out. But no, two are better than one because they have a good return for their work.

This lovely little picture here is super. If you're up a ladder, it's helpful if somebody's waiting for you down below, especially if you've forgotten the hammer. Could you give me the hammer, Mary, Bill? If you don't, you have to go down and get it and come back up. If you fall off the ladder, it's better if you have a friend who can at least pick you up, dust you off, and help your bruised ego. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.

What a shame to be there. Also, when you were a student and you lived all by yourself, as I hope you did, and you snuggled up to yourself to try and keep warm, and those cold London nights with the rain seeping in through your bones, and you said, How do you keep warm alone? But if two lie down together, they will keep warm. Now you find yourself saying, You're so hot! Could you move? And a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

It's better for a kid to have a mom and a dad rather than just a mom or just a dad. Now I want you to turn to one verse, and I'm going to stop. I'm going to put the landing gear down now so that we can stop.

On final approach, seat backs in the upright and locked position, tray tables safely stowed, and all your carry-on baggage put back under the seat or in the overhead compartment. Ephesians 2 and verse 12. He says to these Ephesian believers, I want you to remember that at that time—that is, before they knew Christ—a number of things were true of them. They were separate from Christ. They were excluded from citizenship in Israel.

They didn't belong in a Freudian slip. And they were foreigners to the covenants of promise. And notice, they were without hope and without God in the world.

Pretty miserable situation, wouldn't you say? Aloneness. Separated from God, separated from others, separated from family, and separated from myself. But look at this fantastic verse, 13. But now a transformation has taken place. This is a description of what it means for men and women on lonely street to be welcomed into the embrace of Christ. But now, in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. This is the message of the gospel.

This is the good news that finally comes firing out of the pages of Scripture. And what we discover—and I don't have time to unpack it—is simply this, that these individuals had been loved without realizing. They had been loved without realizing. The God that they had slighted and ignored had come to seek them out the way a shepherd seeks out a lost sheep. And here you are this morning at Parkside, and you feel yourself to be on this journey.

You feel yourself to be alienated and living alone or whatever else it might be. And the message of the gospel to you is this. You have been loved without realizing.

God so loved the world, and he loves you. They discovered also that they had been purchased without deserving. That's the significance of the blood of Christ. That he shed his blood on the cross to get rid of the bad thing. What is the bad thing? Oh, what is your bad thing?

I'm just using that as a synonym for sin. How do we get rid of this? Is there a way to get a clean start, a new page to hit the delete key and to move forward?

Yes, there is. How? In the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was forsaken in order that you and I might be forgiven. So they were loved without realizing, they were purchased without deserving, and they had a constant companionship that penetrated their aloneness. You were brought near—near proximity. You were once far away. Now you're near.

Once God was away up there. You didn't know who he was or what he was. But now you're near. Now you call God Father. Now you praise him for his goodness.

What happened? You were converted. And, my dear friends, if you do not call God Father, and if you do not praise him for his goodness, and if you do not have the experience of being brought near, then the reason is probably that you're still far away. And that's why everything seems so constantly at dissonance to you. God is a way up there. The songs are fairly meaningless.

You don't sing them, you have no interest in singing them. When you pray, you simply close your eyes and think about yourself. There is no notion of being brought near to God. You don't go out onto the streets and say to men and women, you know, I found in the Lord Jesus friendship and proximity and forgiveness and a future and a hope.

You never say that because you haven't. And the ultimate division this morning is not an age division or a financial division or an intellectual division. The ultimate division in this congregation this morning is between those who are still far away and those who are brought near. And the purpose of God in Christ is to bring near those who are far away. Not a system, not a moral code to attempt, but a friend, a guide, and a Savior. And when you're brought near, you go to heaven. You don't go on your own, you go with a big group of people—a big, funny group of people called the church family. Look around.

What a funny bunch, huh? Look in the mirror and start with that individual. A whole new family. You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. And you can't choose your church family either. So there are a bunch of weird people in this church.

Couldn't agree more. Churches, railway stations, and libraries full of very strange people. When you're weary and feeling small, when tears are in your eyes, he'll dry them all. When you're down and out, when you're on the street, when evening falls so hard, he will comfort you. See, unlike Buddhism or Hinduism or Shintoism or Confucianism or whatever other ism you want, Christianity is absolutely unique. Every other religion is man's attempt to penetrate divinity. Christianity says, I have come to you in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have lowered down a pontoon bridge to you, and I have lowered it down in a person, not in an idea. This is not Scientology.

Go in the back room somewhere and figure it out for yourself. I've come in a person that you can see, and this person laid down his life in order that you might walk right over that bridge of troubled water and understand from Paul Simon to James Taylor that, hey, ain't it good to know that you've got a friend? Because people can be so cold. They'll hurt you. They'll desert you. They'll take your soul if you let them.

Don't let them. You just call out his name. And I'm telling you, wherever you are, he is. And he hears the cries of the kids. And when you, who are far away by his goodness, are brought near, then you'll find yourself saying, What a friend I have in Jesus! All my sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! Do my friends despise, forsake me? Yeah. Is there trouble anywhere?

Yes. I don't need to be discouraged. I can take it to the Lord in prayer. We're done.

Here's the question. Is life meaningful or meaningless? Without God, without hope in the world, it is absolutely meaningless.

With God, with hope, it is absolutely meaningful. Goodness, if I was offering you a product, if I had a vacuum cleaner for you where it was so patently obvious that your old, monkey, messy vacuum cleaner is so horribly inferior in comparison to what I've just offered you, you'd be running up the front, the first one with your checkbook out. Give me this! Give me this! But who's running up the front to embrace Christ?

No one. Because it's not like getting a vacuum cleaner. It's like getting married, solemn, life-changing.

Someone sleeps with you, stays with you, walks with you, talks with you, knows you intimately, drives your car, goes in your sock drawer, understands every single thing about you, and loves you just the same. I have nothing else to share with you. I have no one else to offer you. Save Christ. But now, those two simple words usher in the hope and assurance of the gospel.

We've been loved without realizing it, purchased without deserving it, and we will never be alone. We're listening to Alistair beg on Truth for Life. Alistair will be back to close today's program with prayer in just a minute. In today's message, Alistair explained that without hope and without God in the world, life is meaningless. If you'd like to learn more about the hope Jesus provides, you can watch a special message from Alistair on our website for free.

It's titled A Hope That Stands the Test of Time. You'll also find a couple of short helpful videos that explain God's plan of salvation and how you can enjoy a meaningful life like Alistair mentioned earlier. Watch all three videos by searching slash the story. All of the teaching you hear on Truth for Life is available for free because of listeners like you who pray for the ministry and give to cover the cost of distributing Alistair's messages. In fact, Truth for Life is entirely listener-funded, so if you're looking for a way to share the gospel with others, know that every time you donate to Truth for Life, you're helping deliver biblical teaching to a worldwide audience.

You can make a donation online at slash donate. When you donate, be sure to request the book we're currently offering called Living Life Backward, How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End. The book is our way of saying thank you for your support, and this book, Living Life Backward, is a great supplement to our current study in Ecclesiastes.

You'll dive deeper into the lessons we've been learning from Alistair and discover how to reprioritize what's important in life. Once again, you can request your copy of the book, Living Life Backward, when you give a donation. Click on the image you see in the mobile app or visit us online at slash donate. And if you'd rather mail your donation along with your request for the book, write to Truth for Life at P.O. Box 398000, Cleveland, Ohio.

The zip code is 44139. Now here's Alistair to close with prayer. Oh God our Father, we thank you that the Bible speaks right into our lives today. And down at the end of Lonely Street, we find a friend, such a friend who loves us before we even know it, draws us to himself, woo's us, even in our wanderings, even in our slightings of him, even in our rebellions. Because Jesus saves sinners. So help us to know this Christ, and to love him and to follow him, and may his grace and mercy and peace be our portion today, and forevermore. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine, thanks for listening today. Simply putting on your Sunday best and planting yourself in a church pew doesn't qualify as worship. Tomorrow we'll find out why it's more important to be tuned in than to be all decked out. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-25 11:27:03 / 2023-03-25 11:35:38 / 9

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