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From Vanity To Purposeful

Posted 3/23/2019

        The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the most profound books in the Bible. It was written by King David's son, Solomon, in his latter years after gaining more life experiences than anyone would have dreamed of experiencing. It was his life advice to us all.

 

        It started with an introduction, where Solomon called himself a “Preacher” instead of a king or other titles. Toward the end of the book, he explained what he did at that point of his life, that he taught and passed on knowledge to others, and urged us to fear God, as he did after realizing everything was vanity.

 

 

        After the brief introduction, he began dispensing his advice, starting with a word that would shock many, including me: vanity. In fact, he said it twice on one verse alone—vanity of vanities. For the next few chapters, he went on to state and explain how everything that was done or obtained under the sun is vanity. The exception was in chapter three, where he reminded us that there is a time for everything, and that God has made everything beautiful in its time and put eternity in our hearts. I wrote about that in an earlier blog post.

 

The Vanities of Life

 

        But chapter two intrigued me the most, with the title that reads “The Vanity of Self-indulgence”. This was the chapter where I realized how possessive and bored a person could get, and one that best describe the world today, despite Solomon's time was far preceded ours.

 

        I'm not implying that we are all like him today, where he seek one form of satisfaction after another to fulfill his own desires. But many are finding ways to thrill themselves, lest they would be bored or lacking purpose. There is a saying of “You don't know unless you've tried it”, and many would take it to heart and apply it in their lives as they would try new things to broaden their life experience or to better themselves. They do things either to gain recognition or admiration from others, even if the effects are temporal, or the feat is life-risking.

 

        Yes, it is true that we only live once, and so we should live life to the fullest. But what does it really mean? The general perception is to do as much as possible to gain as much as possible, whether it is fame, fortune, experience, or satisfaction. What purpose in life if you are not satisfied?

 

        But what does satisfaction mean to you? Most of us would never outdo what Solomon did in his life in terms of fulfilling desires and satisfaction as listed in chapter two. In terms of possessions, you may argue that the current amount of resources or financial state wouldn't allow us to equal Solomon's possessions, such as building houses, made gardens and parks, and having servants, herds, and treasures that exceed any kings. Okay, fine. What about enjoying various forms of entertainment? Solomon hired servants, singers, dancers, and even having concubines (or mistresses) to keep him entertained, but his conclusion to all these was “vanity”.

 

Temporal Satisfaction vs. Eternal Enjoyment

 

        Are we ought not be entertained in any way, or is any form of entertainment a sin? Many people assume that Christianity is a restrictive religion, where the believers cannot do many things taht non-believers could do because their God prohibits them to. On the flip side, we Christians would often be mocked and criticized for being disobedient to God by doing 'secular things”, like having a few drinks or going to movies or concerts, or talking about anything other than God and His teachings.

 

        The thing is, instead of restricting us from doing such and such, the bible teaches us to be sober-minded (several verses in 1 Timothy and 1 Peter), present ourselves as holy sacrifices and not be conformed to the world (Romans 11:2), and seek for the kingdom of God and set our minds on the the heavenly things (Matthew 6:33 and Colossians 3:1-2). Why? Because we are different from non-believers who seek for temporal thrills and gains, not worrying about what is beyond this life. We have a glorious eternity after a short life on Earth, where we will be part of God's government and we are to bless endless generations. Our Earthly life is to train and prepare for the glorious eternity. So we are too important to be seeking temporal goods.

 

        In Ecclesiastes chapter twelve, Solomon advised us to fear God and keep His commandments. He emphasized that this is the duty of all of us. God knows what we've done, and all are subjected to His judgment. In 1 Peter 1:7, it mentions that the genuineness of our faith will be tested by fire, and hopefully we will be found in praise, glory, and honor before the Lord, who gave us life and loves us most. Yes, we will be judged by what we do on Earth, so we ought to choose carefully how to spend our lives. Whether we live a lavish life like non-believers fully of vanities, or to live a life dedicated to God and His will, we will bear our consequences when we see Him in heaven.

 

        Solomon had lived a lavish life despite being the son of David, arguably the most honourable king ever—at least in God's perspective, but he also realized the importance of living a purposeful life for God, and he advised us to do so as well. In fact, he urged us to remember God in our youth at the start of chapter twelve, so that we wouldn't waste our years like he didg in his youth and to live our twilight years in regret.

 

My Life In Him

 

        To me, this is as heavy and crucial as a life lesson could get. No, I don't live a lavish life, and I trust that God planned my life to prevent me from living lavishly, so that won't go astray from Him. Despite so, I have lots to improve on, such as to reduce my time in following sports, continue to stop agonizing about aspects in life such as marriage, and to bring joy from above to myself and others.

 

        On the sports front, I have less interest to watch sports events recently compared to before, where I would watch almost anything that I feel like watching. The decrease of such appetite doesn't make me less of a sports fan, though. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, I can withstand the temptation to fringe watch sports. Instead, I have spent more time in attending to my spirit through praying, reading the Bible, and listen to sermons. It is difficult at times, and not everyday is successful, but I know that such improvements bring joy to God and purpose to me. Even recommitting myself to write and share weekly blog posts to you has brought me more joy than spending the same amount of time watching sports.

 

        On agonizing about life, marriage, and having hope in God, it is still a battle, as people around me serve as a constant reminder of what I haven't obtained. But I am slowly gaining the upper hand. Yes, my personal desires persist, but my desperation or urgency in obtaining these desire gradually decrease, as I know that God has a glorious plan for me. And as mentioned last week, then recent events and tragedies remind me to treasure my life, circumstances, and possessions, because God who creates and gives reserve the same rights to take things away, including my life, as everything belongs to Him.

 

        We don't want a life of vanities. So precious that Solomon's experiences have become a mirror and example to us, and his advice is for us to read and trust, so we may life a purposeful and fulfilling life not for ourselves, but for God.

 

 

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