3 Benefits & 3 Downfalls to Education

17 So I set out to learn everything… But I learned firsthand that pursuing all this is like chasing the wind. Ecclesiastes 1:17

Solomon is not discrediting education.  What Solomon is discrediting is man’s attempt to try to REPLACE God with education.

Education is necessary and needed and has many positive benefits.  Real quickly we see from Solomon’s life that…

 Education Can Bring…

 1. Respect

 28   …the people were in awe of the king, for they saw the wisdom God had given him for rendering justice. 1 Kings 3:28

Gaining education often brings respect.  It is easy to respect someone who has extensive knowledge in an area that we don’t.  I generally respect and you probably do as well, Doctors, teachers or anyone who knows their field of expertise well, computer programmers, auto mechanics, architects and so on.  Education will bring us respect.  It can also brin

2. Fame

31 He was wiser than anyone else… His fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. 1 Kings 4:31

Because of his wisdom and knowledge Solomon became very famous.

Education can bring fame.  Who hasn’t heard of Albert Einstein?  Sigmund Freud or Thomas Edison?

3. Wealth

 1 When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame…she came to test him with hard questions. 2 She arrived in Jerusalem with… large quantities of gold, and precious jewels…1 Kings 10:1-2

Education can bring wealth in addition to fame and recognition.   We will see in an upcoming message just how extensive his wealth became.  Under Solomon and his wisdom from God, Israel was at the height of its power and wealth. Solomon’s riches became legendary. Great men and women came from many nations to listen to Israel’s powerful king. Jesus would later refer to “Solomon in all his splendor” (Matthew 6:29)

 Solomon was the wisest man to ever walk the face of this planet until Jesus,  His wisdom paid big benefits.  There were also so unpleasant side effects of having too much emphasis on education.  Through God’s inspiration, Solomon opened the window of his life and gave us a transparent, brutally honest, and sobering look into his pursuit of education.  What do we find?  We find a man whose choice to fill his tank with knowledge and education left him feeling, unhappy, distressed, and exhausted.

Education Can Also Bring…

  1. Grief

 18 The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. Ecclesiastes 1:18a

The literal Hebrew word is “vexation[1]” What does it mean to be “vexed?” Quite simply, vexation means to be provoked into a frame-of-mind that is frustrated, irritated, and angry.  Central to its meaning are the experiences of being provoked and harassed.  Have you ever been provoked?  How about harassed?  How did those experiences leave you felling?  We’re you angry?  Did it leave you feeling unsettled and irritated?  Probably so!  Solomon also says that a faulty focus on education can cause…

2. Sorrow

…To increase knowledge only increases sorrow. Ecclesiastes 1:18b

Solomon says that filling your life with ONLY knowledge and education will increase your “sorrow.”  In essence, the moment scientific and philosophical knowledge become a person’s primary purpose for living, they become increasingly unhappy and distressed.

I began thinking about this a lot this week.  Why would education bring grief and sorrow?  Solomon doesn’t say specifically but as I thought about this here are some things to consider:  I asked Niki why would education bring sorrow?  Here’s what she said, “The more education you have the more debt you have!” Student loans,  financial aid, etc.  That is true, even if you don’t personally then your parents did.  It’s expensive to educate with the taxes we pay, with the tuition, the more education you get the more you have to pay.  How many of you love to read books?  I love to read books and it gets expensive! Niki also brought up the fact that the more you learn the more you realize how much you DON’T know.  So many times what we learn about a subject is only the basics. There are far deeper levels of understanding, and we realize that as we get into it!

I also thought about the biblical fact that the more you know the more you are responsible!  Jesus says,  “to whom much is given much is expected”  (Luke 12:48 paraphrase)  When you know what is right you are responsible to do it and to inform others.  We become accountable for WHAT we know!  What would you call someone who knew the cure to cancer and then failed to share that?  Evil.  We learn and then are burdened with our responsibilities to act on them.  Have you ever said, “I wish I didn’t know that!” “That’s too much information!” “I was really better off NOT to know that!”   Maybe children are happier and laugh more because they know less!

3.  Exhaustion

12 But, my child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out. Ecclesiastes 12:12

Finally, Solomon says that filling your tank with the fuel of knowledge and education will bring on exhaustion. “Much study wears you out.” If you ever pulled an all nighter studying for an exam or writing a paper, you know exactly what he is talking about!  Niki reminded me that James Dobson, child psychologist, author and president of Focus on the Family says that in his opinion, elementary children should not have more than 30 minutes of homework a day.  They are already tired from being at school all day and then they have to do an hour or more of homework?  Its too exhausting for them. So Solomon offers us a transparent window into the heart and soul of an empty man, he warns us that making knowledge and education our primary goal is to invite irritation, distress, and exhaustion into our lives.

Is it any wonder that so many people are unsettled, irritated, exhausted, and despondent over their life?  Since the dawn of the Enlightenment Age and the premium placed on rational learning and reason, people have been encouraged to make the pursuit of knowledge and education a central focus of their lives.  Yet, what has such a focus produced?  Honestly?  Look around and see for yourself.  The results are sobering.  When knowledge and education becomes primary in a person’s life, it has produced nothing but empty tanks.  They’re immobile, lonely and powerless.  Why? Because our lives weren’t created to exist for intellectual pursuits alone. Our lives were meant to be filled with a personal, life transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.

In the next post we will look at how to have meaning beyond education.

Darrell

http://www.RidgeFellowship.com

[1] (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
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Are You Seeking Meaning in These Four Pursuits?

Does your life lack meaning?  Here are four questions to consider:

Is My Life Centered On…

  1.   Education?

17 So I set out to learn everything. Ecclesiastes 1:17a

We have a lot of people pushing us hard to center our lives on education. We spend the great majority of our early years in school.  About a quarter of our lives!  Then there is the pressure to go to college.  My dad said, “Son there are only 2 schools, Sunday school and Texas A & M! And your going to go to both!   Getting an education.  See if you can finish this statement:  “Education the key to ________? SUCCESS!  Education is necessary and needed but its NOT to be the center of our lives.   We will look at this in more detail in future post.

2.  Pleasure?

10 Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. Ecclesiastes 2:10a

See if you can finish this statement:  “If it feels good  ________? DO IT!   This is one of our gods today.  We are all looking to be entertained, looking for comfort and ease.  We easily neglect what is RIGHT to what FEELS RIGHT.  What FEELS RIGHT takes the center stage in our lives. What we WANT becomes the highest value. If we have to lie, cheat, steal, cut corners and go into debt we will to get what we want.   Solomon did this, we do this and it leads to emptiness.   Again please hear me.  God gave us pleasure and wants us to experience pleasure.  We will look at this in more detail in a few weeks but when pleasure becomes the center of our lives leaves us broken and disillusioned.

If you make pleasure the goal of your life you will eventually become a hypocrite.  You can’t be in pleasure all the time so you start pretending like you’re having fun.  It’s like the old bumper sticker:  Are we having fun yet?  I’m supposed to be having fun but I’m not.

3.  Work?

10 …I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. Ecclesiastes 2:10b

See if you can finish this statement:  “I owe, I owe so off to  ________? WORK I GO!

Our work is a way to pay the bills but for so many work is WHO we are.  Our lives are wrapped in what we do that it becomes our identity. If you are around people for five minutes the question will arise,  “So, what do you do?”  Work is not only our identity but it becomes the vehicle to greatness in society’s eyes.  If you work at it, one day you will be somebody.  The truth is you are already somebody! God wants us to work and put our heart into our work, but work CANNOT be the center of our lives.  We will take a week and look at a balanced approach to work.

4.  Possessions?

8 I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces… I had everything a man could desire! Ecclesiastes 2:8

This is another one of the American gods.  We have literally so much and yet we are so empty.  We live in such abundance.  Did you know, as Americans we spend more on trash bags than 90 other countries spend on everything!  The receptacles of our WASTE cost more than ALL the goods consumed by nearly half of the world’s nations!

We have more possessions in the history of the world of any country, yet we are still NOT satisfied.  In fact as Americans we are about approximately 6% of the world’s population but take 70% of all the drugs produced. 

We HAVE but in reality WE HAVE NOT.

Its time to rethink life.  Are you ready?

Why is this book Ecclesiastes in the Bible?  I think God is trying to teach us that here are some dead ends you can avoid. Save your time, save your money — it’s not found in these things.  We tend to overestimate things we haven’t experienced yet.  Solomon comes to the conclusion in 2:17 “So I came to hate life.” Solomon was fed up and frustrated.   Many of you are having the same feelings.  You are fed up, frustrated, ready for a change.  Your life stinks.  Here is some good news.

 For My Life to Have Greatest Meaning, it Should be Centered On God

1 Don’t forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” Ecclesiastes 12:1

Forget your creator.”  This is good.  That’s what we often do.  We get busy, we focus on other pursuits and forget to pursue our relationship with God.  We forget to center our life on the unchanging and center it on fleeting, temporary and the  unfulfilling.  Our lives were created with a God shaped vacuum that only He can fill.  Only He can satisfy.    I love what Jesus says in John 10:10

Jesus: “10 My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. John 10:10

That’s why Jesus came.  That we might have “a rich and satisfying life.”  But no, too often we say, “I know what will satisfy!”  “I know what will give me a rich life!” and then we pursue our way to find that it is empty.  Jesus doesn’t mince words, when asked the most important thing in ALL the bible.  He says it is to have the Lord our God at the center of everything.

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. Matthew 22:37-38

Some of you know about Christ intellectually.  But you do not know him personally.  You have heard about Him from parents, church, from friends, you are familiar but not intimate. You have him in your head, but not in your heart.  There needs to be time that you cross the line.  A time where you say, “My way is not working, I need you Jesus.”  “I cannot enter eternity without you”  “I have blow it and I need your forgiveness”  This is the honest type of faith and belief the bible is referring to.  Have you invited Christ in your life?  Today can be the day where you say, “I trust you Christ.  I ask you to forgive me.  I want you in my life.”   Then there is another difficult process that is life long.  The process of following Christ with your life.   Not only do we need Christ for salvation. We need him in every area of our lives, like our decisions.

Decisions, decisions, decisions! Lets talk about the big three:  Time, Money and Relationships.  God has a plan and a way that is right for handling each of these.

We live in a world that changes all around us.  Nobody knows what the future holds.  This is uncharted territory.  You don’t know what the future holds but God has given you direction.  It is the values that are in His word, the Bible.  They have been the same since the dawn of time.   That is why at The Ridge Fellowship we build everything around the words in this book.  He tells us His love for us, His plan for us. That we can be forgiven, He tells us how to grow.   He tells us to give of our income.  He tells us connect with one another in worship and fellowship. He tells us to serve.  Everything we need for living TODAY is in God’s Word.

I do a lot of thinking about this as a parent. I realize that my three children are going to face a different world that I did when I grew up. I can’t possibly know all of the temptations they may go through.  I may not  be there to help them make their decisions.  And since I don’t know what the situations are going to be how can I help them as a parent?  I can help them make decisions that are based on God’s word.

Why would we want to follow God’s word?  Why would we want to make decisions that are centered on God?  Because we seek to honor him with our life.  If I center my life on a career then when it crumbles my life crumbles.  That means I’d better center my life on something that can never be taken away from me.  That is my relationship to God.  We were made to know God and center our life on him.

Some of you just in the last few weeks or couple of months, have hit the wall.  You’ve had a major crisis in your life, financial crisis, health crisis, relational crisis in your marriage, a career crisis,  you’ve lost a loved one.  In those moments you start asking questions like, “Is my life centered around the right things.  Am I living the right way?  Are my decisions leading me in the right direction?”  If you’ve had that crisis and you’ve asked those questions recently, I want to say to you “Congratulations.”  Not that I’m happy for your pain.  I’m not saying that.  But if your pain gets you to ask the important questions that you wouldn’t ask if your life were in cruise control mode, I’m glad for that.  Because I don’t want you to waste your life and neither does God.  You were made to know Him and His plan and purpose and live by this.  And when you know God and live by His values, life unfolds in a way that you can’t imagine is possible.

Darrell

http://www.RidgeFellowship.com

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Does Your Life Seem Meaningless?

17 So I came to hate life because everything done here under the sun is so troubling. Everything is meaningless—like chasing the wind. Ecclesiastes 2:17

Strong words from Solomon.  Do you ever feel that way?   Many do, but we don’t need to if we learn from Ecclesiastes what NOT to live for.

Now before we delve into Ecclesiastes, it’s important to understand exactly who  Solomon is.  Solomon was King David’s son and became the king of the united kingdom of Israel in about 1000 BC. He was the greatest king Israel had ever known.  Under his reign Israel was the richest and most powerful it had ever been.  The kingdom of Israel was the largest during the reign of Solomon.  When Solomon became king of Israel many historians believe he was no older than 20 yrs. old.  Think for a minute to when you 20 yrs. old.  Can you imagine becoming responsible for leading an entire nation?  I could barely lead myself when I was twenty; nevertheless lead a nation.

So…at the age of twenty, Solomon becomes king of Israel.  Not too long after his inauguration, something pivotal happens in his life. God appears to Solomon in a dream one night and tells Solomon to ask Him for any one thing and He’ll give it to him.  When you were 20 yrs. old what would you have asked for if God granted you one wish?  I probably would have asked for a Corvette or the ability to play professional football.  Getting a wish like that at 20 yrs. old probably would have produced similar requests from you. Let’s find out what Solomon asked for.

 5 That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”
6 Solomon replied, “You showed faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued your faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne.
7 “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around.
8 And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted!
9 Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”
10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom.
11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies—
12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have!
13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!
14 And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.” 1 Kings 3:5-14 (NLTse)

Just as intriguing as what Solomon asked for is what he didn’t ask for.  Solomon didn’t ask for wealth, power, fame, possessions, political influence, or military success.  All of which, at least from our viewpoint, would have been legitimate requests from a king.  Yet, Solomon didn’t ask for these things.  What Solomon did ask for is amazing, if not somewhat shocking.  Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge.

From a human standpoint, there has never been a wiser man on the face of our planet than Solomon (until Christ).  Solomon’s knowledge and wisdom and intellectual capacity have been surpassed by no mortal man.  Listen to another passage that describes Solomon’s mind.  

29 God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore. 1 Kings 4:29 (NLTse)

Solomon had degrees of discernment, intellectual power, and memory capacity that exceeded the grains of sand on all the shores of this world.  You and I can only dream of having such mental capacity.  Yet, for someone blessed with the wisdom and knowledge of Solomon he still didn’t comprehend how to live with meaning and purpose until the end of his life.   So as we talk about how we can live for the wrong things don’t feel dumb or stupid because even the smartest guy on the planet made the same mistakes!

You would think that at some point in his life, Solomon’s discernment and photographic memory would have kicked in.  But…they didn’t.  According to Ecclesiastes, the most brilliant man this planet has ever known spent his entire life living for things that brought disappointment and disillusionment.  What a tragedy.  Solomon lived his whole life with a sense that he was missing something.  Some of us here know exactly how he was feeling!

Solomon was uniquely qualified for this search for happiness.  Not only was he the most intelligent man he was the wealthiest man who ever lived.  He had both the brains and the bucks to do his research and to try out everything to figure out what would make him happy.  He was a king, so he had lots of free time.  He accomplished more with his life than most of us will ever even dream of.  He tries different things that we will look at in just a moment.  Please hear me, he’s not saying these are wrong things. They’re not wrong at all.  But these are not the source of lasting happiness.

Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes are honest, sobering, and confrontational.  Many people shy away from the message Solomon reveals in Ecclesiastes because it is a reality check like no other.  Maybe you’re wondering, what things did Solomon  try to live for?  Honestly?  They’re the same impotent things that the majority of human’s are trying to fill their lives with today.  Let’s take a quick perusal through Ecclesiastes and identify the things that didn’t bring meaning and satisfaction.

In the next post we will see exactly what doesn’t bring satisfaction and meaning and then what will.

Darrell

http://www.RidgeFellowship.com

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Is Life Worth Living?

Are you happy?  Does your life have meaning?  Sadly I hear people say, “My life is empty and disappointing.”  As we try to fill our lives with possessions, power and pleasure we will find that life has let us down.  In the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon takes us on a mental journey through his life explaining how he tried and tested everything to find meaning and enjoyment in life. He tries to spare his readers the same disappointment he learned through personal experience.  Everything apart from God is empty and meaningless.  Solomon has an honest approach to life.  His comments may come across as negative but his attempt is to lead people to center their lives around God. Not any substitutes. He affirms the value of education, pleasure, work and possessions, but only in their proper place. All of these things must be seen in the perspective of God’s purpose.   True enjoyment of life is comes from knowing that what we are doing is part of God’s purpose for our lives.

Is Life Worth Living?

Vanity of vanities,” lamented Solomon, “all is vanity!” Solomon liked that word “vanity”; he used it thirty-eight times in Ecclesiastes as he wrote about life “under the sun.” The word means “emptiness, futility, vapor, that which vanishes quickly and leaves nothing behind.”    One professor at seminary defined hevel as “whatever is left after you break a soap bubble.”

From the human point of view (“under the sun”), life does appear futile; and it is easy for us to get pessimistic. The Jewish writer Sholom Aleichem once described life as “a blister on top of a tumor, and a boil on top of that.” You can almost feel that definition!

The American poet Carl Sandburg compared life to “an onion—you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.”

Life is “not in vain” if it is lived according to the will of God, and that is what Solomon teaches in this neglected and often misunderstood book.

Before we embark on our introduction of Ecclesiastes, let’s first get acquainted with the author and his aim in writing the book. We also want to get an overview of the book so we can better understand his approach to answering the question, “Is life really worth living?”

The Author

Nowhere in this book did the author give his name, but the descriptions he gave of himself and his experiences would indicate that the writer was King Solomon. He called himself “son of David” and “king in Jerusalem” (1:1, 12), and he claimed to have great wealth and wisdom (2:1-11, and 1:13; see 1 Kings 4:20-34 and 10:1). In response to Solomon’s humble prayer, God promised him both wisdom and wealth (1 Kings 3:3-15); and He kept His promise.

The Application

What is the practical application of this book for us today? Is Ecclesiastes nothing but an interesting exhibit in a religious museum, or does it have a message for people in the Space Age?

Its message is for today. After all, the society which Solomon investigated a millennium before the birth of Christ was not too different from our world today. Solomon saw injustice to the poor (4:1-3), crooked politics (5:8), incompetent leaders (10:6-7), guilty people allowed to commit more crime (8:11), materialism (5:10), and a desire for “the good old days” (7:10). It sounds up-to-date, doesn’t it?

If you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then this book urges you to do so without delay. Why? Because no matter how much wealth, education, or social prestige you may have, life without God is futile. You are only “chasing after the wind” if you expect to find satisfaction and personal fulfillment in the things of the world. “For what shall it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” asked Jesus (Mark 8:36).

Solomon experimented with life and discovered that there was no lasting satisfaction in possessions, pleasures, power, or prestige. He had everything, yet his life was empty! There is no need for you and me to repeat these experiments. Let’s accept Solomon’s conclusions and avoid the heartache and pain that must be endured when you experiment in the laboratory of life. These experiments are costly and one of them could prove fatal.

When you belong to the family of God through faith in the Son of God, life is not monotonous: it is a daily adventure that builds character and enables you to serve others to the glory of God. Instead of making decisions on the basis of the vain wisdom of this world, you will have God’s wisdom available to you (James 1:5).

As far as wealth and pleasure are concerned, God gives to us “richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it” (Prov. 10:22, nkjv). The wealth and pleasures of the world do not satisfy, and the quest for power and position is futile. In Jesus Christ we have all that we need for life and death, time and eternity.

If there is one truth that Solomon emphasizes in this book, it is the certainty of death. No matter what Solomon enjoyed or accomplished, the frightening shadow of death was always hovering over him. But Jesus Christ has defeated death and is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). The victory of His resurrection means that our “labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior, then all that you work for and live for will ultimately perish; and you will perish too. But faith in Jesus Christ brings you the gift of eternal life and the privilege of serving Him and investing your years in that which is eternal.

So, the first message of Ecclesiastes is: turn from the futility of sin and the world, and put your faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Eph. 2:8-10).

But if you are a believer in Jesus Christ and have received the gift of eternal life, then Solomon asks you, “Are you living for the Lord or for the things of the world?” Remember, Solomon knew God and was greatly blessed by Him, yet he turned from the Lord and went his own way. No wonder he became pessimistic and skeptical as he looked at life! He didn’t have God’s perspective because he wasn’t living for God’s purposes.

More than one professed Christian has followed Solomon’s bad example and started living for the things of this world. When you start living for the world instead of for the will of God, you begin to look at life from the wrong perspective: “under the sun” and not “above the sun.” Instead of seeking those things which are above (Col. 3:1), you start majoring on the things that are below. This wrong vision soon causes you to adopt wrong values and you stop living for the eternal. The result is disappointment and defeat; the only remedy is repentance and confession of sin (1 John 1:9).

Ecclesiastes also contains a message for the faithful believer who wants to serve the Lord and have a fulfilled life in Jesus Christ. Solomon says, “Don’t bury your head in the sand and pretend that problems don’t exist. They do! Face life honestly, but look at life from God’s perspective. Man’s philosophies will fail you. Use your God-given wisdom, but don’t expect to solve every problem or answer every question. The important thing is to obey God’s will and enjoy all that He gives you. Remember, death is coming—so, be prepared!”

I opened this post by quoting some metaphors that describe “life,” and I want to quote one more. It’s from the popular American novelist Peter De Vries: “Life is a crowded superhighway with bewildering cloverleaf exits on which a man is liable to find himself speeding back in the direction he came.”

That need not happen to you! King Solomon has already explored the road exhaustively and given us a dependable map to follow. And if we follow God’s Word, we will be satisfied.

Are you ready for the journey?

What will life be for you: vanity or victory?

Join us Sunday!

Darrell

http://www.RidgeFellowship.com

 

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