The “best” life. The life of the world’s heroes, those we look up to while we live under the sun, is grievous. When you finally get to where you think you want to go and get ready to grab what you’ve been chasing, you find that nothing is there. It is like striving after the wind. But…Jesus changes everything.

Solomon did not oppose doing things that count. He wasn’t against inventions, creativity, and people trying to make a difference. But Solomon is a realist. Whether you invest your time in work that is significant or whether you squander your days, the wise man and the fool are soon forgotten. After you die, your name is mentioned less and less.

Every day is someone’s last day. But for those who know Jesus as my dad did, our final day on earth becomes our first day in heaven. When believers are absent from the body, they are present with the Lord. So, here is the one question on life’s exam you must know the answer to. When your body is in a box under the sun, where will your soul be?

We know that education is essential in getting out of the slums, and we also know that a high score on placement exams does not transform the human heart. Without Jesus, the more we know, the sadder we become. But with Jesus, we can use the gift of knowledge to worship and honor him all our days under the sun.

Solomon forgot that all his wisdom came as a gift from God (1 Kings 3:11-12). Solomon said that he was wiser than kings before him. Remember, he followed King David—the standard-bearer for all Israel’s kings.

Godly wisdom gives you the discernment to check your heart and actions first. Godly wisdom allows you to live with an eternal perspective. Godly wisdom is not paralyzed with a “What’s this world coming to?” attitude but is energized by allowing God to grow us into those who demonstrate what it looks like to serve him. We can’t change the world, but we can ask God to change our hearts! 

But as he observed humanity and their busy pace, he found that just like the sun chased its tail, so people chased theirs. Things “done under heaven” become the same ole same ole. We just keep running on the “treadmill of our existence.”

We will not always understand the way he works. Some things will not make sense, no matter how hard we try to find the answer. But Solomon teaches us that this life is a vapor, a passing breeze. God loves us so much that he sent his Son to die for our sins, and one day Jesus will escort us into the Father’s presence.

Have you ever heard a person say, “That terrible thing should have never happened to her. She is such a godly person.” Or have you heard a person say, “He got what he deserved. He was a wicked man.” I’ll admit to thinking and saying both. Today’s passage deals with those thoughts. Let’s read it and then unpack it. 

Promises mean something. Words are not throw-away verbal utterances. Words are the expression of the heart. That’s why today’s passage reminds us that promises should be made in light of fearing God—honoring and loving him.

This life is temporary, and every endeavor is fleeting. Solomon laments this fact throughout the book of Ecclesiastes. Life is like a breath, a vapor, like the fading smoke of what used to be a burning flame. Death marks a bold period at the end of life’s sentence. 

What we do today matters for tomorrow. Our actions are not insignificant in the eyes of God. He will finally evaluate every word, thought, and deed. This will take place at two judgments—the Great White Throne judgment (for unbelievers) and the Judgment Seat of Christ (for believers). The final judgments are unavoidable. We will all give an account.

Fear God. Scripture uses that phrase (or similar phrases like “the fear of the Lord”) three hundred times. It sounds a bit ominous, doesn’t it? How do I approach One I am to fear? Can I truly love a person I am afraid of? How do living in fear of God and loving God mesh? And how do grace and fear fit together?

Life doesn’t always make sense. Some things we experience just don’t fit nicely into our box of expectations. We like to be in control, and we can control things we understand that fall into our line of thinking…but…when we can’t understand how and why things happen…the control eludes us.

God owns it all, and everything we have is a gift from him. Satisfaction comes when we are content with what God gives and steward his gifts in a way that honors him. 

Many people long for life to be a circus of sorts, looking for entertainment and pleasure. That may include using your phone to scroll endlessly through YouTube, watching a daredevil drive her bike off the garage roof onto a homemade ramp that sends her flying into a swimming pool, or 100 interesting animal moments caught on camera. Seeking pleasure might drive you to drink, drugs, or sex.

Finally, our vocation is a gift from God. Every day we should do our work in a way that honors him. Sure, we have a boss and performance reviews, but at the end of the day, only one review will matter. The Scottish pastor and Bible scholar Harry Ironside worked for a cobbler when he was a boy…

Recently, Lori and I had breakfast with a couple whom we have known for a long time. They were in town because their daughter (and youngest child) was beginning her freshman year of college. The wife came to Pittsburgh thirty years ago as a foreign exchange student. She was an atheist until God grabbed her heart and loving “sponsors” (who became her spiritual parents) showed her what it looked like to love Jesus. The husband had been a Muslim until God transformed his life and gave him a heart to share Jesus.

Wisdom is an excellent tool for human progress but not the answer to the human problem. Sin has separated us from God and left a significant hole in our inner being. Wisdom allows us to live longer and more comfortably but cannot fill the God-shaped void deep within.


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