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Jan

Real New Year Change

Almost everyone knows that New Year’s resolutions are ineffective.  We have good intentions and make good plans.  Yet, before long the resolution is forgotten.  If not forgotten, we have already broken our resolution after a few days or a week.

If you like to make resolutions, go for it.  Still, give Solomon’s wisdom in Ecclesiastes some of your thought.

Solomon’s thought makes a good addition to what Jesus said in the Gospel of John, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).  Simply said, God wants us to have full lives.

The verse does not define what Jesus means by “full” lives.  Some may try to say that God wants his people to have exalted lives with all the physical blessings they want.  That cannot be God’s definition because in history and even today there are many Christians who do not have huge amounts of physical blessings, yet they are no less Christian than anyone else.  God is not talking about lives of wealth or exaltation, but he does want us to have full lives.

We’ll refer to Solomon’s wisdom to define for us what God has in mind when he speaks about a full life.

Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes as a summary of an experiment that he personally conducted.  Solomon asked “What does a man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:3).  In part his summary is given in verse 2, “Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless.”  Yet, that simple summary does not do justice to what Solomon realized.

Solomon explored a number of human endeavors.

We know how important wisdom was to Solomon (it was God’s special gift to him), so Solomon dedicated himself to wisdom. He realized that wisdom is better than folly, but both the wise and the fool die.  He decided that striving for wisdom would still leave you feeling empty and desiring more.

The very American endeavor of searching for pleasure was Solomon’s second area of “study.”  He acquired everything that gave him pleasure.  He pursued everything that promised pleasure.  In the end he still ended up feeling empty, he didn’t gain anything long lasting and permanently fulfilling.

He dedicated himself to toil / hard work.  He recognized the importance of work, but in the end, he still felt empty and that there had to be more to life.

Solomon also explored the search for knowledge, the pursuit of friendliness, advancement, and the search for riches.  In each case he perceived good things about each pursuit, but he also saw the emptiness of all his endeavors.

Solomon’s conclusion has three facets:

1)  Everything that we do in life, the search for wealth or power or money, the striving after intelligence or wisdom or pleasure, all those things can become meaningless and we realize that there must be more to life than those endeavors.  By themselves, they will not fulfill.

2)  Certainly everything we do has a place in our life, but when done without God (without faith in God and without faith strengthening our spirit) everything leaves us feeling that there has to be more.  To obtain that “more” some people will just try something else and for a while, life is good.  Sooner or later even that new endeavor will leave them cool and wanting more rather than being satisfied.

3)  All of the tasks of our life have meaning and purpose when God is the foundation of what we do.  The Lord makes pleasure truly pleasurable, long lasting, and fulfilling.  The Lord makes hard work truly useful, long lasting and fulfilling.  The Lord makes obtaining money and possessions truly a blessing, long lasting and fulfilling.  The Lord makes …(fill in your own endeavor) … useful, long lasting and fulfilling – no longer meaningless.

So if you want your new year to be more fulfilling you need to have God as part of it.  Faith in Jesus as Savior needs to be at the center.  Trust in God will be part of your nature.  Realizing that all things come from Him and are used by us because of His blessing allows each endeavor to be fulfilling.   With God as the energy and foundation of our life, the things we do are not meaningless, but He blesses us with the joy of what we have and do.

Specifically Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes:

24 A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.  (Eccl. 2:24-26) [Underline emphasis, mine].

  • Satisfaction with eating, drinking and work are encouraged.
  • The “satisfaction” is a blessing of God because the Christian is with Him.
  • Even enjoyment is part of the blessing that God gives his people.

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. (Eccl 3:11-14)

  • The Lord makes everything beautiful.
  • God wants us to be happy and do good.
  • Be satisfied with all which we do.
  • All of the above are a gift from God.
  • What God does will endure forever.
  • God blesses and men will “revere” and rejoice.

I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on men: 2 God gives a man wealth, possessions and honor, so that he lacks nothing his heart desires, but God does not enable him to enjoy them, and a stranger enjoys them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil. (Eccl. 6:2, NIV)

  • Regarding those who are evil and do not want to have faith in the Lord, God still blesses them.
  • Yet, God does not “enable him to enjoy them.”

So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun. (Eccl. 8:15, NIV).

  • Enjoy life for it is God who has given us what we do and the ability to enjoy and rejoice.

One final reminder, those things which are sinful cannot be done in a way that God will bless.  Nor do sinful endeavors make for a full life.  Instead they will bring out an enslaved life.