Explore The Bible Study: Whats the Use?

10:44 AM

Imagine you had everything one could imagine yet you come face-to-face with the reality we will all face – the reality of mortality. This is the case for King Solomon and the focus of the Explore the Bible Study: What's the Use?

God allowed Solomon’s words and thoughts to be written in the Book of Ecclesiastes so we could observe his struggle with issues that are still relevant for us today. Ecclesiastes begins with this brutal reality in Ecclesiastes 1:1-3: The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem. “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Absolute futility. Everything is futile.” What does a person gain for all his efforts that he labors at under the sun?

The crisis and the resulting changes over the past 18 months have served as an opportunity for many to evaluate all aspects of their lives. For example, organizations are beginning to examine their workforce, and they have discovered the following:

  • A study by Microsoft found that 41% of the global workforce would consider leaving their current employer within the next year. 
  • A poll from Monster reports that 95% of workers are at least contemplating a job change.

The blog post entitled, 5 Ways to Combat the Great Resignation, explained what is taking place in the workforce in this way: “After a year of reevaluating and readjusting, we’re collectively entering what psychologists say is the 6th stage of grief: a pursuit of meaning and purpose. And this pursuit of meaning and purpose is causing many people to reconsider why they do what they do.”

Is This Taking Place in Church Too?

Are people reevaluating, readjusting, and reconsidering their involvement in church? Do you see professing Christians replacing their involvement in church with other activities? If so, why do you think this is taking place?

If one isn’t carful, the search for meaning and purpose can lead to false conclusions, resulting in the making of poor and even dangerous life decisions, depression creeping in, or a shift in how one pursues a growing relationship with the Lord and His church. Evidence of this can be observed in every church because there are those who are no longer gathering with other believers in church, who are no longer serving as they once did, or who have walked away from their faith altogether, replacing it with activities they think will bring more meaning and purpose. However, we will learn through Solomon’s experiences that these pursuits in a broken and fallen world will only lead to more brokenness and emptiness.

In Ecclesiastes chapters 1 and 2, the Teacher (Solomon) introduced himself and his life quest while expressing the struggle and frustrations that accompanied him along the way.

First, Solomon expressed, in Ecclesiastes 1:12-15, the lack of fulfillment he has experienced through his quest for knowledge (wisdom).

God is the Creator of all knowledge. Yet man thinks he can overcome anything and fully grasp the meaning of life simply through gaining more knowledge. It does occupy us, but in the end, without depending on God, it is a miserable task. Knowledge reveals more knowledge that is yet to be learned or discovered. If one thinks about this, it is like pursuing the wind. Someone stated it this way, “Knowledge might have a beginning, but it has no end.” Solomon also tells us that, in the end, what is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. All the knowledge in the world cannot fix the deepest problems of humanity—it cannot straighten what is been made crooked by sin.

Knowledge has saved lives, improved the quality of life, and enabled people to overcome suffering. It is used to cure diseases, solve problems, and to generate new ideas for the future. However, knowledge can also cause mankind to act as if they are a “god” who can fix everything. We may fix something with knowledge, only to discover there is something else that is broken because we live in a sin-broken world. As knowledge increases, grief increases because we realize, there is more to learn, more to try and understand, and more to fix. Additionally, while knowledge can be used for good, it can also be used for evil.

Here is an example of the impact of knowledge that illustrates Solomon’s conclusions. It is the example of how the scientists responded after producing the first nuclear explosion: “At 5:30 a.m. on July 16, 1945, a light brighter than the sun radiated over New Mexico. The fireball annihilated everything in the vicinity, then produced a mushroom cloud that billowed more than seven miles high. In the aftermath, the scientists who had produced the blast laughed and shook hands and passed around celebratory drinks. Then they settled into grim thought about the deadly potential of the weapon they had created.” 

What one must understand is the eternal perspective God gives those who place their trust in Jesus Christ. A relationship with Christ gives meaning that wisdom and knowledge in this world cannot obtain. Our quest for knowledge should be to first know more about God. Then, when we pursue knowledge in all other areas of lives, we will keep what we discover in its proper place. 

Between these verses and our next passage Solomon describes a similar outcome through his pursuit of pleasure and possessions. 

In Ecclesiastes 2:18-23, Solomon describes the lack of fulfillment he found in his pursuit of success.

There is a sense of purpose that comes in working, producing, and contributing. We also realize that work is not easy or always enjoyable. Work was given before the fall in Genesis 3 and was included in everything that God declared good. We were originally created to work under and for God in a meaningful and fulfilling way. Our work was meaningful because it was part of God’s plan (Genesis 1:26-28). In the garden, God provided Adam and Eve with meaningful work (work and keep the garden) and with good food (freely eat of every tree in the garden). But work after the fall became difficult. After the fall (Genesis 3:1-7), we still strive to work meaningfully but are continually frustrated in this effort (3:16-19) because of the curse of sin.

We should work hard to provide for our needs, to leave a legacy, or to contribute something significant to society or family, but the Teacher reminds us that this is temporary. When we quit working, it is left to the one who comes after us. And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool?  He reminds us that, when we die, the stuff we have goes to someone else: he must give his portion to a person who has not worked for it. 

The Question: Understanding that we will continually strive to find meaning in work but will continually grow frustrated, what should be a Christian’s perspective on work and success?

Finally, in Ecclesiastes 2:24-26, Solomon offers some wisdom regarding how we should live.

The Teacher does encourage his audience to enjoy life but only in the context of a life connected to the Giver of life – God. Those who belong to God should, above all others, have a capacity to enjoy life.

If you are only pursuing temporal things to find meaning, devoid of any relationship with Christ, then your life will end up with the same conclusion as Solomon’s. Equally, as a believer, if you allow the pursuit of temporal things to crowd out the focus on growing in the eternal relationship you have with Christ, then you will also discover that you are living a life devoid of meaning and purpose.

The most important pursuit that brings meaning to everything we do in life is the pursuit of a growing and vibrant relationship with Christ. One’s greatest joy comes from knowing God. This is what we will learn more about as we continue the study of the Book of Ecclesiastes.

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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