The Futility of Life Apart from God

An exposition of Ecclesiastes 4:1-16. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, August 22, 2010.


Well he was no Joel Olsteen that’s for sure!  In fact I’m certain he wouldn’t have a large church today.  His message is a little hard to listen to.  He just seems so negative.  He seems to be soured on life.  How are you going to build a crowd when your whole message seems to be summed up with, “Life stinks?”  Who would drag themselves out of bed on a Sunday morning to come hear a preacher say, “Life is hollow, meaningless and empty?”  There are sections of his book, when reading it, you have to keep reminding yourself, “All Scripture is breathed of God and is profitable.”  The truth is, Solomon is not as negative as it may seem.  Keep in mind the book of Ecclesiastes was written late in his life.  He is looking back over a lifetime and evaluating the life he has lived.  He is seeking to “make sense” of it all.  He desires to pass on some insight for living.  Where is it a man finds real, lasting joy and satisfaction?  It is not to be found in intellectual pursuit.  It is cannot be had by indulging one’s appetite for pleasure.  Nor is it to be found in career advancement, the acquisition of power or the accumulation of wealth.  Real joy and lasting satisfaction is the gift of God’s grace to His people.

Apart from Him life is meaningless.  Apart from Him there is no real joy, no lasting satisfaction.  There is only temporary pleasure and momentary relief.  Life under the sun is a vain existence.  If you take God out of the equation and then set out on a quest for joy you are on a fool’s errand.  Our text this morning is found in Ecclesiastes the fourth chapter.

Text: Ecclesiastes 4:1-16
In chapter 3 we discovered that joy and satisfaction are the fruit of trusting wholly in God’s person and work.  It is to acknowledge His sovereign rule over all things.  It is to rest in His providential working.  It is to trust in His righteous handling of all things.  That’s good.  If you can do that you are well on your way to a life of joy and real, lasting satisfaction.  In chapter 4 Solomon seems to take a step backwards.

Chapter 4 is a miserable chapter!
Chapter 4 reads like the confession of a soured, jaded, hardened skeptic.
He points out problem after problem but offers no solution.
“It’s striving after the wind.”
“This also is vanity and an unhappy business.”
Until he concludes the chapter with, “…this also is vanity and a striving after wind.”
What happened?
Did he forget what he just said?
You have to read the whole book.

What is the book about?
It is about joy – real, lasting, robust, resilient joy and where to find it.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20: Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.
19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.
20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

What is chapter 4 about?

Thesis: The disturbing words of the preacher serve to underscore the futility of life apart from God.

There are 4 things I would like to point out from our text.

  1. The cares and troubles of this life are often so overwhelming that death or better yet nonexistence seems preferable.  (4:1-3)
  2. Driving ambition and endless pursuit of success and prosperity can lead to a crushing loneliness.  (4:4-8)
  3. Selfish ambition and rugged individualism leaves you alone and vulnerable.  (4:9-12)
  4. The adoration of the crowd and the popularity of success are sorry substitutes for a genuine friend.  (4:13-16)

Joy, peace and lasting satisfaction are to be found in Christ and in Him alone.

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