People lead all kinds of lives for all kinds of apparent reasons. Some people become addicted to alcohol. Others are addicted to other drugs. Still others are thieves and extortioners and others practice fraud. Many lead lives that are complete lies and deceive and hurt the very ones they say they love. Some are drawn into lives of fornication and sexual promiscuity. Some people are very religious while others despise the cross of Christ. Some people profess spirituality but still cling to a profligate lifestyle.
The reasons for living such lives are as varied and different as there are different kinds of lives. One person is running away from an abusive home and she ends up in the wrong crowd of malcontents. Another feels inadequate and tries to compensate by being mean. Another can’t stand the circumstances of his life and turns to alcohol and drugs for an escape. Still another has lived in poverty and is now willing to do anything to get more money and get out of that circumstance. Again, the situations are varied and the reasons are just as diverse.
But there is one thing I think they all have in common, even though they do not know it. They seek purpose and meaning in life and fulfillment. We all do. They know something is missing in their lives but they do not know what it is. That is the real and ultimate reason for their course in life. Like Jonah or the prodigal son, many are running away from the Lord. They know something is amiss but they don’t know what it is and they look in the wrong places to find it.
Solomon seemingly had it all in life. God blessed him with wisdom, wealth and power. Yet Solomon tried everything under the sun imaginable to find fulfillment. He tried pleasure in every form. He wrote:
I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour” (Ecclesiastes 2:4-10).
But what did Solomon find in doing all of this? Again, he wrote, “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11). All the material things he could gather ultimately gave him no satisfaction or fulfillment. Not fame, not fortune, not physical pleasure.
So very many people today are where Solomon was then. They have tried a lot of things but have never found the happiness and fulfillment in life they seek. And so they live life in a cycle of misery and unhappiness and are unable to see their way clear. They continue to get even more entangled in their unfulfilling yet addictive life.
But the Bible offers us a better way to live. Jesus beckons all to come to Him. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus is the bread of life and whoever comes to Him shall never hunger and he shall never thirst (John 6:35). This is what the Christian life offers.
First of all, the Christian life offers greater hope than merely living for the temporary, vacuous, mundane pleasures this life affords. The Lord offers us a hope of everlasting life without all the “darts and arrows of outrageous fortune” this life brings. No pain, nor sickness or suffering or crying or evil (Rev. 21:4,5). The example of Moses is instructive. He chose to suffer affliction with the people of God in order to gain greater riches rather than enjoy what the pleasures of sin had to offer for a season (Heb. 11:25,26). That is the choice we face today.
Second, there is purpose to the Christian life. The wise man Solomon concluded from all of his experience this simple thought: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). The KJV translators supplied the word “duty” to help make the meaning clear. But even without the word “duty” the meaning is clear. Serving God is what makes man whole and complete. Jesus said that the proper course in life is to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).
Third, there is the benefit of having the truth and seeing the world as it really is. Jesus said that He was the way the truth and the life (John 14:6). Jesus said that by continuing in His teaching, we shall know the truth and the truth shall make us free (John 8:31,32). The wise man advised us to buy the truth and sell it not (Prov. 23:23). The truth is that pearl of great price which we should be willing to sell all that we have that we might obtain it (Matt. 13:44-46).
Finally, there is great joy and peace in living the Christian life. Jesus said “My peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you” (John 14:27). That peace is not like the world gives. As Christians, we can let the peace of God, which passes all understanding, rule in our hearts (Col. 1:20; 3:15). To be carnally minded is death but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Rom. 8:6).
There is no better life than the Christian life. It is a fulfilling life of truth and of purpose and reward.
Eric L. Padgett