11 March 2014 by Adeline Lum CM-
On 4th of March, Bob Teoh from World Outreach International came to share about the meaning of life in the Full Gospel Business Men Fellowship (FGBMF) of the Damansara Utama chapter, led by Desmond Frank.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecc 1:2 NIV)
The meaninglessness here meant futility, uselessness, and nothingness. The word “vanity”, which defines meaninglessness is mentioned 37 times in this short book.
What do we live for? Who do we live for?
Our answer will determine whether we live a meaningful or meaningless life.
Bob had been thinking about death, where four people he knew, recently died. Whether we chose to reflect on this matter, it is a fate that all of us cannot avoid.
Missionary Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Paul echoed the same sentiment with, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21 NIV)
And John wrote, “Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.” (John 12:25 NLT)
“Under the sun” was mentioned 29 times in Ecclesiastes, which meant “on this earth.” And this phrase had been associated with meaninglessness.
So, how do we find meaning? It can be found in seeking the Kingdom. Matthew wrote, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:33)
Wisdom is meaningless…
16 I said to myself, “Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind. 18 Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain. (Ecc 1:16-18)
Pleasure is meaningless…
10 All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. 11 Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun. (Ecc 2:1-11)
If Solomon were to live in our days, he would have an overflowing bank account, a dominating multinational company, a multitude of properties, vineyards, gardens, parks, forests, workers, fame and honor amongst the rich, singers, and not to mention, wives. Yet, all these pleasures are meaningless.
Work is meaningless…
18 Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. 19 And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity. 20 Therefore I completely despaired of all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun. 21 When there is a man who has labored with wisdom, knowledge and skill, then he gives his legacy to one who has not labored with them. This too is vanity and a great evil. 22 For what does a man get in all his labor and in his striving with which he labors under the sun? 23 Because all his days his task is painful and grievous; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is vanity. (Ecc 2:18-23)
Political power is meaningless…
13 A poor yet wise lad is better than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction. 14 For he has come out of prison to become king, even though he was born poor in his kingdom. 15 I have seen all the living under the sun throng to the side of the second lad who replaces him. 16 There is no end to all the people, to all who were before them, and even the ones who will come later will not be happy with him, for this too is vanity and striving after wind. (Ecc 4:13-16)
Wealth is meaningless…
10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity. 11 When good things increase, those who consume them increase. So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on? 12 The sleep of the working man is pleasant, whether he eats little or much; but the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep.
13 There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt. 14 When those riches were lost through a bad investment and he had fathered a son, then there was nothing to support him. 15 As he had come naked from his mother’s womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand. 16 This also is a grievous evil—exactly as a man is born, thus will he die. So what is the advantage to him who toils for the wind? 17 Throughout his life he also eats in darkness with great vexation, sickness and anger. (Ecc 5:8-17)
19 Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart. (Ecc 5:19-20)
Planning is meaningless…
10 Whatever exists has already been named, and it is known what man is; for he cannot dispute with him who is stronger than he is. 11 For there are many words which increase futility. What then is the advantage to a man? 12 For who knows what is good for a man during his lifetime, during the few years of his futile life? He will spend them like a shadow. For who can tell a man what will be after him under the sun? (Ecc 6:10-12)
The truth is that death is a common destiny for all of us.
2 It is the same for all. There is one fate for the righteous and for the wicked; for the good, for the clean and for the unclean; for the man who offers a sacrifice and for the one who does not sacrifice. As the good man is, so is the sinner; as the swearer is, so is the one who is afraid to swear. 3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one fate for all men. Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterwards they go to the dead. 4 For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion. 5 For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. 6 Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun. (Ecc 9:2-6)
11 I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all. 12 Moreover, man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net and birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them. (Ecc 9:11-12)
Solomon ended his contemplation with:
“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecc 12:13-14)
Choosing how we live today and whom we will serve, will determine whether we live a meaningful or meaningless life.
Lebanese artist, poet, and writer Khalil Gibran wrote, “You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?”
If Bob could turn back time, he would choose to be a missionary earlier in his life. Becoming a missionary at 60 years old, he realized his deepest joy lie in witnessing the lives of children changing in Christ.
“So, you work your whole life and you become the CEO or MD, the question is, ‘so what?’ What differences have you made to the world? But if you invest your life like Jim Elliot on the people, the difference is these people are saved for eternity,” said Bob.
He challenged the young graduates to work and save for six years, before taking a one-year no pay leave to invest in people’s lives.
“I think your boss would appreciate you more. He would think you are honest because you are willing to give your life for others. Your boss would want to keep you. And maybe you get promoted because he will trust you more,” said Bob.
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.
(2 Cor 9:6-13)
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