Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (NIV)
365 times the Bible says, “Do not fear”, but here’s the wisest man to ever live giving the opposite counsel! Of course he’s not telling us to live our lives in fear, but rather to remember who God is and what we are. He is the Almighty Creator and Lover of our souls, we are His creatures and the object of His love—-and He has set up boundaries and expectations for us.
But what are we living for? What’s the purpose of all our toils? Is it for our kids, so that they can work for their kids? Is it for personal self-satisfaction so that at the end of our days we can look back and be proud of our lives? Is it simply to live as long as we can, and postpone death as much as possible, just so we can see all that worked for be given to someone else? So ask yourself: What are you living for right now and what is that incredible prize…the goal you are running this race of life for?
At the end of the Solomon’s musings about the futility of power, wealth, sex, influence, and our name, it all boils down to “the conclusion of the matter”. And he ends by saying that worshipping our Creator is the purpose for which we were imagined and placed upon this earth. None of us will be fulfilled until we enter into that kind of existence. That is what matters in our lives. And it is what will matter after this life is over. This is why people all over the world, Christian or not, do find a way to worship something “divine” out there. That desire is within our DNA.
Anthropologists tell us that to live, humans need six things to survive:
- Food - The body needs calories and a variety of nutrients including protein, fat, and carbohydrates everyday to grow, function, and repair. Without food, the body begins to atrophy. We’ve got to eat—-we know that and our bodies tell our brains.
- Water - Ample hydration allows for the processes of the body to occur. Without water the body cannot process food or remove wastes. We can not live more than 2 or 3 days without water.
- Shelter - We require protection from blazing sun, freezing temperatures, wind, and rain. Without shelter, human skin and organs are damaged from extreme temperatures. We’re frail creatures. We are not adaptable to our environment like other mammals.
- Sleep - 6–9 hours of sleep every 24 hours allows the brain to process new knowledge and deal with emotional information. Without sleep your brain cannot function—-you will die in a matter of days with no sleep.
- Others - We require connection (physical and emotional) with other humans to release certain hormones. Human touch is so important that when we are young, our brains can’t develop correctly without it. Regular connection to others allows us to maintain a sense of well-being that allows for self-care. A person untouched never develops into a full man or woman.
- Novelty - Novelty creates the opportunity to learn and as a species to develop. Without regular novelty, motivation wanes and a healthy sense of well-being is lost. A civilization dies without innovation. It’s good for us.
And these things drive us to work, prepare, and respond —-but only for the purpose of staying alive and maintaining our race.
But Solomon, a man gifted with earth-shattering wisdom, said that all of this still falls short. If we have all of these things we will still not fill that yearning for something more—-that recurring dream and unspoken hope within our souls for ultimate purpose. And no matter how much food, shelter and hobbies we find, we will still know that ‘we have not arrived’ until we yield to our Creator and become the creatures He intended. We were not created just to exist and then procreate more humans to live—that is a basic instinct of a mole or a pigeon. The more you search your own soul, in fact, the more your realize that this earth is not what we were created for at all!
As I read Ecclesiastes, I am reminded again and again how truly meaningless all of my hurrying is, as well as virtually all that I do when contrasted with the universe, eternity and the mere vapor of time that my life represents. Yesterday I was up at 5:00 am to get the boys and me ready for a trip to Raleigh for a wedding rehearsal and to visit a friend whose life is slipping away. I hurried back to the camp for two 2:00 pm interviews. Then I had to get the mail, answer my emails, prepare supper for people very important to me, complete this sermon, finish a message for the wedding for this evening, and adjust my clocks throughout the house for the new time! But life truly is without purpose and meaning when you consider how brief it is and how all my work is really merely a scratch on paper in terms of human history.
Solomon understood this, but he also understood that in his relationship with God—who is absolutely meaningful and eternal—life takes on a different trajectory. If He truly is God eternal, and if He truly does love me and call me His own child, then what I do not only matters greatly, it also echoes throughout the universe. I mean to say: if I matter so much to God that He suffered His one and only begotten Son to undergo humiliation, torture and execution for me, my life takes on a more profound existential significance. Obviously, I am more than a mere vapor—and so are you.
So let my experience about living versus just existing: The Christian life is one of suffering—
don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. We are aliens on this earth, we will never experience a
life of perpetual happiness and personal fulfillment if we choose to follow Jesus Christ. If that’s
your goal, find another religion and a different God. That is not Christianity.
Jesus was the only perfect man that ever lived and died—-and He suffered. Don’t think it strange
that you suffer. It’s a part of His plan. Don’t look for suffering, but don’t run and hide from it.
Many of you listening today have suffered more than I have, but you cannot call yourself a true
disciple of Jesus Christ and deny God’s sovereignty—-even when He allows you to suffer. He is
100% sovereign, not 99%. All the saints suffered and God’s own Son suffered the worst of all.
Something is shown to an unbelieving world—-and to our family and friends—-not that we
suffer, but how He gives us joy and peace and ability to love in the midst and in spite of
Now that might be encouraging to you today, because let’s face it: hardship, misfortune,
discomfort and adversity causes us to wonder if maybe we’ve been wrong about God or His love
for us or if He is even able to help us. In addition we have to live with the stares, condescension,
suspicion and whispers of those that think we deserve all the anguish we’re getting. Some might
even be glad we’re getting ‘what we deserve’. But very early this morning I was asking God
about all of these feelings I have about how my life never seems to measure up to what those that
don’t like me think it should be, and He reminded me that He’s been with me all the way. He
reminded me that He opened impossible doors for me to begin this camp, and to travel all over
the world to bring campers and staff to Westfield, NC. He pointed out and whispered that He
was for me and that He would protect me—-that He was my shield…my defense…my advocate.
And I tell you, this is what gives me purpose and this is what fills my heart! This is the ultimate
purpose of life: To come to the realization that He not only created and loves me, but that I am
singularly important, chosen and elected by God Himself. This fills my soul in a way the
applaud and approval of men and women in a fallen world never can.
Do you know that He loves you? Do you know that He has selected you, formed you in your
mother’s womb, and has called you to be His own? Do you know how favored and special you
are to Him? If you don’t, you’re not really living yet.