Pastoral Reflections On Our Study Through Ecclesiastes
Over the past several months we’ve been on a journey studying the book of Ecclesiastes and seeking to answer a question everyone is asking: “What is the meaning of life?.” Personally, as a pastor, it’s been a lot of fun. Ecclesiastes is a very tough book to study, but the everyday application can hardly be matched. So often we ask deep down in our souls, ‘what is the point?’ If we’re honest, many question God’s faithfulness because of the uncertainty and complexity of everyday life. What I love about Ecclesiastes is that the writer isn’t afraid to enter into such an honest and frank conversation about the doldrums of everyday life while offering a perspective that no one in our world today is currently offering.
In Ecclesiastes, Solomon, perhaps history’s wisest and richest man becomes one of the most foolish people who ever lived. He walks us through all the life he experienced, allowing us to be able to see the process by which Solomon arrived at his conclusion to that same important question of life’s ultimate purpose.
As I reflect on our 18 week journey, my hope is that we as a church would continue to interact with our culture’s view of the meaning of life and how it differs from the Bible’s perspective. I also hope that we’d be a people who are more honest about the fact that life sometimes feels meaningless. We all go through seasons where it feels like the darkness won’t let up and it’s important for us to be open and transparent with one another about that in the context of biblical community. The hope the watching world is waiting to hear is not that Christians have it all together, but are open about our brokenness and flaws, and our God who mends and heals. Faith in Jesus changes how we navigate the difficulties of everyday life.
As Solomon reflects on his life through the book of Ecclesiastes we see that many of the pangs and heartache experienced in his life came from him not applying or remembering the wisdom he had known. So, I hope and pray that as we walk away from our study of Ecclesiastes we’d deeply remember what God has taught us. Here are 5 truths from Ecclesiastes that I hope we collectively remember as a church.
1. JESUS GIVES MEANING TO YOUR MEANINGLESS LIFE
Searching for meaning in life apart from God is unproductive; it’s like trying to catch the wind. The Bible tells us that life apart from God is meaningless and that Jesus alone can satisfy our deepest longings and desires.
2. JESUS HAS CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE
Life is often frustrating because sometimes we try to control every outcome. When we do this we are trying to make life have a purpose apart from God. My hope for us as a church is that we’d all see that the world is cursed with sin, and we are prone to try to do things in life to make it meaningful only to find that they did not satisfy. Jesus has control of our life and this is good news. We can experience freedom when we release our hunger for control by surrendering to the reality the Jesus has total control (Ecclesiastes 3:12-14).
3. ETERNAL JOY IS FOUND IN KNOWING OUR HEAVENLY FATHER
We are people who are made for pleasure, but we are to seek it primarily in the God who created us. Like Solomon, at some level we all have sought to enjoy life through folly, study, or work and our past is full of times we’ve pursued things apart from God hoping that they would make life meaningful and enjoyable. And because of our experience we often see God as primarily a teacher who wants you to learn, or boss who wants you to work, rather than a Father who wants to enjoy life with us. I hope that we’d be a people who see that our eternal joy is found in knowing and being known by our heavenly Father. Only He can provide the lasting internal peace, joy, and satisfaction that we have always hoped for.
4. CONTENTMENT IN CHRIST IS A MUST
We live in an age in which life has more intense opportunity for discontentment and envy than any time in the history of the world. Every day we are bombarded with various forms of media that show us what we don’t have and tell us what we should long for, making us very discontent. Throughout Ecclesiastes, Solomon has told us that external wealth does not bring internal peace. The Apostle Paul recounted the hardships of his life saying that the only way we can navigate the ever-changing nature of the world we live in is to have contentment in Christ above all things (Philippians 4:13). So that when the world around us changes we have our hope and contentment placed in our unchangeable Father God.
5. LIFE IS A VAPOR AND WILL ONE DAY END
Throughout our time in Ecclesiastes we’ve been constantly reminded that life is short. Like a cool breeze on a hot summer day, it’s here and gone. Because of this we all need to frequently stop and examine the condition of our hearts and our spiritual well- being. What are we holding on to? What needs to be healed? What needs to be confessed? What needs to be brought to Jesus? What lies are we believing? What wisdom do we need? This is why Community Groups are so important to us at The Well. Having godly wisdom is a must if we are going to live the life God intends for us and not to waste it. We need people to care for us and to help further diagnose the conditions of our hearts so they we can be lovingly pushed into the arms of Jesus our Savior who offers us contentment and joy in our complex, everyday lives.
If Ecclesiastes has showed us anything for our church concerning meaning in this life it is to pursue wisdom. Wisdom is applying what we know. We’ve spent 18 weeks studying and discussing this pivotal book; at some point we have to get out of the study and apply what we’ve read and come to know. That time is now. It’s time to get off the bench and get into the game. It’s time to worship God and not wait for later. The book of Ecclesiastes comes to an end with an appeal to know, love and worship God, and willfully submit and follow him. This is what Solomon says is the whole duty of man. So, what are we going to do in light of what we’ve come to know?