Going Deeper with the Message:
The Meaning of Life
by: Ben Biles
On Sunday, we started our new series, Hard Questions, and we began with the question “What’s the meaning of life?” Tim took us through King Solomon’s pursuit of meaning in the book of Ecclesiastes in which Solomon explores different approaches to find what can offer meaning to his life. One by one, he discovers that the things that most people have placed value in leave him unsatisfied. Solomon tried to find meaning in wealth, pleasure, knowledge, and accomplishments, but none of these gave him the meaning for which he longed.
I’m reminded of an interview I saw with Tom Brady who, at the time, was playing quarterback for the super successful New England Patriots, and was probably the most famous football player in the world. Though he had already won several Super Bowls, he struggled to feel that his life was made meaningful and even after experiencing much success, admitted, “there’s gotta be more than this.” Though he had the accomplishments, the wealth, and the stardom, it wasn’t enough to satisfy the longing for something greater.
What we’ve seen, across the ages of human history, is that humans have yearned for meaning in life and have tried to satisfy that yearning with many things. Yet, Solomon noted that God “has put eternity into man’s heart,” meaning that longing can only be satisfied by something eternal. Since wealth, pleasure, knowledge, and accomplishments are all temporary, none of this can give us the meaning we desire. We can only find that meaning in a relationship with God, who is eternal and infinite, which is exactly the conclusion Solomon realizes by the end of Ecclesiastes.
For those that have found God, our temptation is to fulfill the desires of our hearts and minds with the same things Solomon did. This is especially true of the success-focused, wealth-driven American culture in which we live. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” We must realize that only God can give us what we truly desire and dive fully into a life-giving relationship with Him.
Living out the Message:
By Ben Biles
If you ask a bunch of people what they want really out of life, their answers will most likely revolve around the idea of being happy. The road to happiness, though, will look different from person to person. Some people pursue success as a means to happiness. Others will pursue relationships with family and friends as a means to happiness. Still, others might pursue new and varied experiences in order to find the happiness they want out of life. The means vary, but the end is the same. What becomes clear though is that our lives are spent in the relentless pursuit to gain more and more happiness.
Therein lies the problem. Happiness is fleeting. The very moment we try to hold on to it is the same moment it leaves. Though we gain happiness from time to time, we are never satisfied by it. We will always desire more, and we are caught in the unending cycle of pursuit and gain.
In Ecclesiastes, Solomon’s pursuit of happiness led him to reflect: “And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun” (Eccl. 2:10–11). He concluded that the pursuit of happiness was meaningless in the end. There was nothing to be gained, for happiness cannot be kept.
Instead, Solomon found that the one pursuit worthy of his life was to know and love God in a personal, worshipful relationship. To the end, he left all other pursuits and gave his time and energy to the one thing that would last into eternity.
In your life, consider the ways in which you strive for happiness, success, or accomplishment. If none of these last into eternity and are destined to be lost or forgotten, why do you work so hard to achieve them? Instead, pursue God. Spend your life building your relationship with Him and you will find the satisfaction for which you’ve always yearned.