Tuesday, 06 September 2016 10:31

God Gives Meaning To Life

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Hear the word of the LORD from Ecclesiastes 3:1-17                                                              

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? 10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it. 11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. 12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. 13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God. 14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. 15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past. 16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. 17 I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.”

With this passage from Ecclesiastes 3 before us, I wish to consider with you the subject and theme that God gives meaning and purpose to daily life singly so, sincerely so, splendidly so, and seriously so!  

In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon relates his struggle and search to find real meaning and purpose to daily life.  It is so relevant what he writes for we live in an age where increasingly God is considered and said not to exist and there is no purpose really to anything. All too many are raised and taught today with the notion that basically life is meaningless, except the meaning you yourself put into it. Our age is one that teaches there is no special significance to time; everything that happens is historical, but nothing is historic.  No one moment in time or action in time is of any significance or meaning for all time. What is taught and promoted in our secular postmodern world is that we are just going through a pointless continuous cycle of time, round and round, not heading anywhere, and not accountable to anyone really, and no one can say something about anything for certain.

In such a time as this it is so good and refreshing to read Ecclesiastes. For as this Holy Spirit-inspired Scripture teaches, truly and absolutely God gives meaning and purpose to daily life. Indeed, singly so, sincerely so, splendidly so, and seriously so.  While the world may say right now just doesn’t count at all, or say right now only counts for right now, the Bible teaches right now counts forever! That’s the exciting truth we may now pursue.

God gives meaning and purpose to daily life, indeed, singly so. Where is this first point to be found in our Scripture passage?  In several places, beginning with those well-known words of vs.1 where Solomon says, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”  You see that word “purpose” in vs.1?  King Solomon is saying here that every time is not without purpose and there is purpose behind all time.  And then you notice right after vs.1 the writer mentions in vs.2-8 a whole list of events. He mentions 28 experiences of life altogether. Things that you and I meet with in daily life and in all of life at different times, including things that are so opposite from each other and that would seem together to be so meaningless.  But then in view of God, he says, it is not so.  No, life is full of purpose and meaning under God, the one true God of the Bible.

So you see what King Solomon mentions in vs.10?  I have seen the God-given work that people struggle with and sometimes wonder about as to it’s worth.  And then he goes on in vs.11: But this is the reality, God has made everything beautiful in it’s time!  Yes, time, and everything that takes place in time, in your daily life and mine, under the hand of God and by the leading of God, gains purpose and meaning. In vs.12-13 Solomon emphasizes that the events of time by themselves are not meaningful and purposeful. But under God’s providential care, you can eat and drink with purpose and enjoy the good of all your labour. Yes, that is the gift of God.

God gives meaning and purpose to life, for sure!  This comes out all the more in vs.14 where Solomon says: I know that whatsoever God does, it shall be forever.  Solomon says this in the context of speaking about God’s guiding hand in the daily affairs of life. I know that whatsoever God does, it shall be forever, and doesn’t that mean also then that the things of here and now in daily life, under the guiding hand of God, have eternal significance?   You see, God makes things to count forever!  The world may say, right now doesn’t count for anything ever, or that right now counts only for right now, but the truth is right now counts forever under God.

This is further brought out in vs.16-17 where Solomon teaches that God is going to judge everyone for everything they ever did or did not do in the time given to them.  There will be a day of accounting before Him, a day of judgment. Considering this sure fact, doesn’t that give real significance, yes, everlasting meaning to life here and now, even in all its details?  God values the events of daily life so much in your life and mine that He places eternal significance on what you and I do each and every day.

How different the Bible’s perspective is from the world. Looking at our Scripture passage, do you see this with me,?  Life isn’t meaningless, even those routine duties of each day. God gives meaning and purpose to daily life, indeed, singly so.  When I say singly so, I mean He alone, the Lord Jehovah, the God of the Bible, the one only true God, the God of creation and providence and salvation!  That Solomon is referring to the one only true God, the God of the Bible as revealed ultimately in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, can be concluded also from vs.1 when Solomon speaks of things from the perspective of “under the heaven”.  Interestingly, many times in Ecclesiastes [I counted 28 times reading through the book] Solomon speaks of life “under the sun”.  And that phrase, “under the sun”, refers to living life as if there is no God above us. Whereas the phrase, “under the heaven” and living “under the heaven” suggests the thought of living under Him Who sits enthroned in glory in heaven above.  Yes, under Him Who is over all and Who has made all things and by whose hand all things exist.

To live “under the sun” just is to have a godless perspective in life, but to live “under the heaven” suggests living in view of and in submission to God almighty in heaven.  Solomon knew, more than any person in his day and before his day, all that was under the sun, including the many idols and pleasures and treasures that men pursued. But the wise king learned, all is vanity, yes, “vanity of vanities”, when you live life as if there is no one true God.  And the whole book of Ecclesiastes gives the message loud and clear: Don’t live “under the sun” just, but live life “under the heaven, that is, under God and in respect and trust and obedience before Him. For then, yes, life takes on meaning and purpose, indeed, every aspect of life and all details of life, even those routine duties of daily life like going to school and going to work, or doing the dishes, and preparing supper. Everything takes on meaning and will become beautiful in its time living life under God.  Have you learned this all important gospel truth? How empty life is living only under the sun, even when you may have everything this world has to offer. But how meaningful life becomes living under the heaven, under God, even when you may have so very little and should your circumstances be difficult and lonely.

You see, God gives meaning and purpose to daily life and all of life. Indeed, singly so, and notice next, sincerely so.  By that I mean God really will have us know and realize that He alone is the One that gives meaning and purpose to daily life and all of life. In fact, He made us to recognize deep within each of us that there is more to life than just living under the sun.  This comes out in vs.11 in this phrase, “also he hath set the world in their heart.”  That word “world” literally means the world of endless ages. God has set the everlasting age in our hearts.  Thus some other versions correctly and clearly translate the text saying, He has set eternity in their hearts.

The point here is God has made us so that we each realize and have a deep sense there is more to life than the here and now. God made us so that we know in our inmost being there is a life beyond. And all history and all life here and now has real meaning, though how it all fits together is often beyond us, and we cannot tell and explain the course of events in life.  As it says in the last part of vs.11, “…no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.”  No, but this still is the reality: We were made for eternity!  God has planted this sense of the endless hidden world in our hearts, so much so that for no one or anyone can the things of time and sense fully and permanently satisfy.  Never can man find real contentment in the things of here and now for there is always a sense there is more to life than just the temporal and earthly things around us and about us.

 Dear friends, isn’t it so that what Solomon says here is something each of you knows from experience? Furthermore, is it not true, that sense of the eternal and of God can sometimes be awakened in you just like that, as it were?  Perhaps with seeing a beautiful sunset, or hearing some strain of music, or experiencing some sorrow in your heart, or with close contact with sickness and death, or through a line from Scripture, or whatever way. Haven’t you had it that suddenly there stirs within you a wistful yearning and a painful sense of emptiness in your heart and of insufficiency in all the ordinary pursuits of your life?  Oh, we may try to silence that voice telling us there is more to life than the ‘here and now’, and many of us do our best to silence it, yet it keeps coming back. For the reality is that the soul without God is an empty and aching soul.

As someone put it, a spark of eternity dwells in our fleeting frames.  In the heart is planted the thought, the consciousness of eternity and the longing for it.  Doesn’t what Solomon says in vs.11 match not only with human experience, but also with what Paul writes in the New Testament in Romans 1?  There Paul states that every person ever born has an inborn sense that there is a God in heaven above Who rules with everlasting and almighty power.  And the apostle makes clear how the wicked inexcusably deny this sense of God and suppress the thought thereof in a forced way, just like when trying to keep a basketball under water.  The fact is, no one lives just under the sun, not knowing better and more!

Are you maybe suppressing the way God made you with this sense of the divine and eternal? Are you still thinking and maintaining: While others can’t find contentment in this world, I sure can and will!  Just let me try and show you. I don’t need God to be happy. I can live a most fulfilling life just under the sun. I will prove it to you! Am I describing you perhaps?  If so, you know you are living a lie when you say you are satisfied with the here and now by itself.  You can force a smile and you can keep laughing in your ways, but you can’t erase that ache in your heart and that fear way down deep that there is more to life, and a God to whom you are accountable, and that death will suddenly come also your way!  Why, even your constant chasing after one pleasure and then another, and your unending search for more and more earthly treasure by itself brings out your restless spirit. I ask you, in Jesus’ Name: When will you, my friend, come to your senses and acknowledge with Solomon that all of life just lived under the sun is vanity of vanities? But looking to God, trusting Him and turning from sin and obeying Christ and His word, then truly life becomes meaningful and purposeful in ways unimaginable and beyond expression! 

And why is that so and how is that so?  Here we may bring in the gospel message which Solomon in his day also knew, though not to the degree we can today in our New Testament age. The gospel truth is that God so sincerely will have us realize that there is more to life living only under the sun.  Why?  Because not only did He create us with a sense of life under the heaven, but also He came down to this world to show us the eternal life, and to teach us the way to heaven and the life under the heaven!  It is because of our fall into sin with Adam long ago that man now by nature in rebellion lives under the sun only and not under the heaven.  But God, seeing man so steeped and lost and blind in sin, in mercy to fallen man sent His eternal Son in the fullness of time to this world that He in the flesh might yet show us the way of life under the heaven and unto heaven!

In Jesus Christ and through Jesus Christ and His once for all sacrifice for sin on the cross of Calvary, God opened the way to life under the heaven again for sinners such as we are.  Christ through His Person and work as crucified and risen Saviour of sinners has opened the way of forgiveness and reconciliation and restoration with God. Christ has come that we through Him may lay hold on God, even as in Him God lays hold on us.  Looking to Christ, the God-sent Saviour, and trusting Him by the Holy Spirit, you and I don’t have to live now a meaningless hopeless life heading only to eternal gloom and doom because of our sins and sinfulness. No, for in Christ Jesus, by grace through faith in Him, we may be delivered from all our sins and be given really abundant life here and eternal life hereafter.  Yes, that is the gospel! Christ in what He did at one time has affected all time.  The world may say everything is historical but nothing is historic and that all time is meaningless and that no time can be of significance for all time, yet our very calendar year and week tells us otherwise.  We measure time still in connection with that great event of Christ and His birth and death and resurrection long ago. Christ and Him crucified and risen again is placed in the center of history and truly He impacts all of history. 

So the gospel message is still, and you may hear it now again, that through Christ God makes daily life and all of life wondrously meaningful and purposeful. Only through Christ Jesus, the one Mediator between God and man, that only Name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved, does life take on true meaning and purpose again in this otherwise fallen, sin-cursed, corrupted world headed for eternal destruction. So we read God’s earnest gospel call to all in the Scriptures. “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else…O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD.”[Isaiah 45:22 and Jeremiah 22:29]  

Are you listening to this gospel word, dear friends? Don’t just live as one under the sun, but as one who lives under the heaven ever looking to Jesus, the one and only Saviour of sinners. Repent of sin and believe in Christ the Saviour and Lord, and then the eternity in the heart, that unseen world everlasting, will not be a great aching void but will be filled with the everlasting life and peace which Christ gives and is. When you know this precious gospel, what reason it gives to rejoice even now! While if you don’t yet know this gospel, what reason to pay attention to it now, even as the eternal Saviour God still offers Himself to you at this time.  What reason to pay attention too, for consider our next point.

Our theme is ‘God gives meaning and purpose to daily life and all of life’. Indeed, singly so, sincerely so, and splendidly so! Yes, for sure, splendidly so too for notice from our text passage when you live in view of the one true Saviour God and trusting Him, He makes all things beautiful in its time. Did you catch that? All things. Nothing excluded, not even the time of death. He makes all things beautiful in its time! Again this Old Testament assertion is reinforced by what Paul says in Romans 8:28 in the New Testament where we read “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to his purpose.”

Do you see the connection?  God gives meaning and purpose to life splendidly so for nothing escapes Him and can’t be made profitable for good by Him, even those things in life that seem so negative and so out of place for us. Another verse bringing out God gives meaning and purpose to life splendidly so is Ecclesiastes 3:17 where we learn God will one day make everything right.  In the final judgment day, no one will be treated unfairly.  Today in life it may sometimes seem that justice will not win out and that injustice is rewarded.  But God will take care that all gets perfectly set straight one day.  You can count on Him, the great Judge of all the earth!  

Also vs.14 brings out God gives meaning and purpose to life splendidly so for not only is His guidance total, covering all things, and just, setting everything right, but His guidance over all is for all time! “Whatsoever God doeth it shall be forever, nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it.” In other words, God will continue faithful in His guidance for all time and it will have impact forever!  Can we not say too, God gives meaning and purpose to daily life and all life splendidly so, considering, yes, as the text says, His care is total, just, faithful, and notice, also free.  For Jesus’ sake we know God freely and lovingly and faithfully and justly and totally takes care of His people, and that gives so much meaning and purpose to daily life and all of life.  Does it ever! 

The psalmist says as a matter of great comfort in Psalm 31:15, “My times are in thy hands” and truly that is a great comfort for in what better hands could our times and life be than in God’s hands? As a Christian poet put it, and all God’s people will acknowledge:

Our times are in Thy hand;

O God, we wish them there;

Our life, our friends, our souls, we leave

Entirely to Thy care!

 

Our times are in Thy hand;

Why should we doubt or fear?

A Father's hand will never cause

His child a needless tear.

How rich this is! Indeed, dear friends, here is your and my best happiness in a world of vanity and sorrow.

Do you know this happiness which the book of Ecclesiastes also would proclaim to us?  Solomon concludes his book teaching we need to fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.   Do you understand this conclusion and receive and own it and live by it as the only right conclusion?  And do you promote to others this is the only way to live and die in comfort and hope and joy and peace?  Isn’t that our calling, not only to know the gospel truth in our hearts but to reflect the gospel truth in our lives?  Indeed, as confessing Christians, by God’s grace, we are so to live in time here and now that not only our focus is eternal but that we give others a sense of eternity and of God. Is that what is true about your life too?  This matter is something so important for it involves things so serious and eternal.

Our theme has been, ‘God gives meaning and purpose to daily life and all of life’. Yes, singly so, sincerely so, splendidly so, and seriously so! Yes, seriously so too. Why add this fourth point? Because we are talking here about life and death matters, issues of great urgency and eternal significance beyond measure! The whole book of Ecclesiastes, along with the whole of the Holy Bible in all its 66 Holy Spirit-inspired books, proclaims and promises to us the only gospel truth in our otherwise sinful perishing world headed to eternal destruction, who knows how soon now? When Christ Jesus returns for His second and final coming, wisdom’s way will be plain to all, and how terrible and eternally dreadful to be found then still in the way of folly.

 

 So I ask you in God’s name, indeed, in Jesus’ name: Will you take this message to heart and live that others might too while it is still the time of grace? Oh, may God by His Holy Spirit so prosper His gospel word. ‘God gives meaning and purpose to daily life and all of life’. Yes, singly so, sincerely so, splendidly so, and seriously so! Indeed, thus says the LORD. Amen.   

Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor 

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