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GETTING THE MOST OUT OF LIFE - Pt.1 Making the right investments

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GETTING THE MOST OUT OF LIFE

“Making the Right Investments”

Ecclesiastes 1,2

 

The other day I received an e-mail from Guidestone with my retirement statement. 

I looked at the numbers and was a little discouraged.

When I look at what has been put aside for 14 years I have the desire to get the most of the money I have saved. 

How to get the biggest bang for the buck.   

I look at the funds that they are invested in and how they are performing, short term and long term.

I try to evaluate where I might need to make some changes. 

The problem is, I am not a financial investor. 

So for me to truly make the best choice I need to have a professional give me some guidance. 

Someone with some experience, personally and professionally. 

Someone with some success in what they do. 

Someone who has a desire for me to succeed.

When you go to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting Guidestone has advisors that will do an evaluation of your account. 

They begin to ask you many questions so they can help you with what will meet your specific needs

But it is up to me to follow their advice or not to follow their advice.

 

Life can be looked at the same way, we want to get the most out of every day we have.

We want to make the right investments with each day we have.  So how is that done?

We are not professionals.  We need help.

Lets use some basic tips on how to find just the right professional to help us.

WE HAVE GOT TO…

- ASK THE RIGHT PERSON

You want to make sure they know their stuff.

Over the coming weeks we will be getting some advice from probably the wisest life advisor God inspired in the Bible.  Solomon

Just as we need to follow the advice of just the right person when it comes to the investment of our finances, God inspired the right person with words that will help us to invest wisely.

 

We find his advice in the book of Ecclesiastes. 

 

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 10:1ff).

You want to make sure of their experience.

Solomon ruled over a great nation that required a large standing army and extensive government agencies.

You want to check their track record.

King Solomon began his reign as a humble servant of the Lord, seeking God’s wisdom and help (1 Kings 3:5–15).

As he grew older, his heart turned away from Jehovah to the false gods of the many wives he had taken from foreign lands (1 Kings 11:1ff).

These marriages were motivated primarily by politics, not love, as Solomon sought alliances with the nations around Israel.

Ecclesiastes appears to be the kind of book a person would write near the close of life, reflecting on life’s experiences and the lessons learned.

He came back to God and renewed his dedication and devotion to Him.  He is now looking at life, not as a ruler over a nation, but a teacher(preacher) to students.

After you ask the right person they will begin to gain perspective as to who you are.

- GAIN PERSPECTIVE

Under the sun. 

Solomon is reflecting on his experiences and giving advice here on an earthly perspective.  

 

He begins by saying that everything is futile.

The word means “emptiness, futility, vapor, that which vanishes quickly and leaves nothing behind.”

G. Campbell Morgan perfectly summarizes Solomon’s outlook: “This man had been living through all these experiences under the sun, concerned with nothing above the sun...until there came a moment in which he had seen the whole of life.

And there was something over the sun. It is only as a man takes account of that which is over the sun as well as that which is under the sun that things under the sun are seen in their true light”

      STAGE OF LIFE –

They are going to tell you to start early. 

Invest as much as you can early. 

Many think they have all the time in the world. 

They can always start in a couple of years.

Turning 7, almost 16, turn 21, turning 30, pushing 40, reached 50, meet 60, hit 70, day to day at 80, meal to meal at 90.

 

As we invest in life we must not look at it from that perspective, we must live life as if it were gone tomorrow.

Kerry Shook, a pastor in Houston, TX has recently written a book called “One Month to Live” where he used this to challenge his church to live life the next 30 days as if it were their last. 

It that were the case there are many investments we would make in those 30 days to make them the best. 

Relationships would look different, priorities would look different, our relationship with God would look different.

What stage of life are we in?

What is our passion?

     

      CURRENT HOLDINGS

What kind of profit do you have, profit is excellent; surplus, advantage, gain; that which is left over. Solomon asks the question, “What does a man gain for all his efforts he labors at?”

Just as an investor would tell us to do an evaluation as to our current financial condition, we need to take a look at what we have been investing our life in.

Are we investing in things of futility that will quickly fade away? 

Or are we investing in things that will last for eternity?           

      END GOAL

A good investor is going to ask us what we want to gain from the investments we have put aside. 

What are you working for?

 

Solomon speaks of labor – to toil to the point of exhaustion and yet experience little or no fulfillment in your work. 

Toil carries the ideas of grief, misery, frustration, and weariness.

 

Solomon is trying to help us look at our goal. 

Is it purely what is under the sun, or is it greater than that.

Mark 8:36 says, “For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his life?”

     

      What do we want from our life?

Many investors find out that their clients have never looked past this week when it comes to money. 

There has never been any goals set as to why they are doing what they are doing.

Life is the same way. 

Are we living with a short term goal or investing for eternity.

 

Investors might also find out that their clients have been investing in the wrong thing.

 

Solomon reveals in the balance of chapter 1 and in chapter 2 that, wisdom is futile, pleasure is futile, possessions are futile, pursuit for work only is futile.

Start investing now in the things that will give you the most in this life and the life to come.

 

- LISTEN TO THEIR ADVICE

Just as we should listen to the advice of a wise investor, we should listen to Solomon’s conclusions and avoid the heartache and pain that we endure when we experiment on our own in life.

 

It is…

Practical Investment – 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. 

 

Solomon had everything and yet his life was empty.

 

Personal Investment – If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, then all that you work for and live for will ultimately perish, and you will perish too. 

Invest your years in that which is eternal.

           

 

 

 

 

 


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.”

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

What a relief to turn from these pessimistic views and hear Jesus Christ say, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Or to read Paul’s majestic declaration, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58, NKJV).

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.

1. 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 10:1ff).

In response to Solomon’s humble prayer, God promised him both wisdom and wealth (1 Kings 3:3–15); and He kept His promise.

Twelve times in Ecclesiastes the author mentioned “the king,” and he made frequent references to the problems of “official bureaucracy” (4:1–3; 5:8; 8:11; 10:6–7).

Keep in mind that Solomon ruled over a great nation that required a large standing army and extensive government agencies.

King Solomon began his reign as a humble servant of the Lord, seeking God’s wisdom and help (1 Kings 3:5–15). As he grew older, his heart turned away from Jehovah to the false gods of the many wives he had taken from foreign lands (1 Kings 11:1ff). These marriages were motivated primarily by politics, not love, as Solomon sought alliances with the nations around Israel.

Ecclesiastes appears to be the kind of book a person would write near the close of life, reflecting on life’s experiences and the lessons learned.

Solomon probably wrote Proverbs (Prov. 1:1; 1 Kings 4:32) and the Song of Solomon (1:1) during the years he faithfully walked with God; and near the end of his life, he wrote Ecclesiastes.

There is no record that King Solomon repented and turned to the Lord, but his message in Ecclesiastes suggests that he did.

He wrote Proverbs from the viewpoint of a wise teacher (1:1–6), and Song of Solomon from the viewpoint of a royal lover (3:7–11); but when he wrote Ecclesiastes, he called himself “the Preacher” (1:1, 2, 12; 7:27; 12:8–10).

The Hebrew word is Koheleth (ko-HAY-leth) and is the title given to an official speaker who calls an assembly (see 1 Kings 8:1). The Greek word for “assembly” is ekklesia, and this gives us the English title of the book, Ecclesiastes.

But the Preacher did more than call an assembly and give an oration. The word Koheleth carries with it the idea of debating, not so much with the listeners as with himself.

He would present a topic, discuss it from many viewpoints, and then come to a practical conclusion.

2. The Aim

Solomon has put the key to Ecclesiastes right at the front door: “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun?” (1:2–3). Just in case we missed it, he put the same key at the back door (12:8). In these verses, Solomon introduces some of the key words and phrases that are used repeatedly in Ecclesiastes; so we had better get acquainted with them.

Whatever disappears quickly, leaves nothing behind and does not satisfy is hevel, vanity.

Whether he considers his wealth, his works, his wisdom, or his world, Solomon comes to the same sad conclusion: all is “vanity and vexation of spirit” (2:11).

 

Under the sun. You will find this important phrase twenty-nine times in Ecclesiastes, and with it the phrase “under heaven” (1:13; 2:3; 3:1). It defines the outlook of the writer as he looks at life from a human perspective and not necessarily from heaven’s point of view.

He applies his own wisdom and experience to the complex human situation and tries to make some sense out of life.

Solomon wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (12:10–11; 2 Tim. 3:16), so what he wrote was what God wanted His people to have. But as we study, we must keep Solomon’s viewpoint in mind: he is examining life “under the sun.”

In his Unfolding Message of the Bible, G. Campbell Morgan perfectly summarizes Solomon’s outlook: “This man had been living through all these experiences under the sun, concerned with nothing above the sun...until there came a moment in which he had seen the whole of life. And there was something over the sun. It is only as a man takes account of that which is over the sun as well as that which is under the sun that things under the sun are seen in their true light” (Fleming H. Revell Company, 1961, p. 229).

Profit. The Hebrew word yitron, usually translated “profit,” is used ten times in Ecclesiastes (1:3; 2:11, 13 [excelleth]; 3:9; 5:9, 16; 7:12 [excellency]; 10:10, 11 [better]). It is used nowhere else in the Old Testament, and its basic meaning is “that which is left over.” It may be translated “surplus, advantage, gain.” The word “profit” is just the opposite of “vanity.” Solomon asks, “In the light of all the puzzles and problems of life, what is the advantage of living? Is there any gain?”

 

Labor. At least eleven different Hebrew words are translated “labor” in our Authorized Version, and this one is amal, used twenty-three times in Ecclesiastes. It means “to toil to the point of exhaustion and yet experience little or no fulfillment in your work.” It carries with it the ideas of grief, misery, frustration, and weariness.

Moses expressed the meaning of this word in Deuteronomy 26:7 and Psalm 90:10. Of course, looked at only “under the sun,” a person’s daily work might seem to be futile and burdensome, but the Christian believer can always claim 1 Corinthians 15:58 and labor gladly in the will of God, knowing his labor is “not in vain in the Lord.”

 

Man. This is the familiar Hebrew word adam (Genesis 1:26; 2:7, 19) and refers to man as made from the earth (adama in the Hebrew: Genesis 2:7; 3:19). Of course, man is made in the image of God; but he came from the earth and returns to the earth after death. Solomon used the word forty-nine times as he examined “man under the sun.”

These are the basic words found in the opening verses of Ecclesiastes, but there are a few more key words that we need to consider.

Evil. This word is used thirty-one times and in the King James Version (KJV) is also translated “sore” (1:13; 4:8), “hurt” (5:13; 8:9), “mischievous” (10:13), “grievous” (2:17), “adversity” (7:14), “wickedness” (7:15), and “misery” (8:6). It is the opposite of “good” and covers a multitude of things: pain, sorrow, hard circumstances, and distress. It is one of King Solomon’s favorite words for describing life as he sees it “under the sun.”

Joy. In spite of his painful encounters with the world and its problems, Solomon does not recommend either pessimism or cynicism. Rather, he admonishes us to be realistic about life, accept God’s gifts and enjoy them (2:24; 3:12–15, 22; 5:18–20; 8:15; 9:7–10; 11:9–10). After all, God gives to us “richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). Words related to joy (enjoy, rejoice, etc.) are used at least seventeen times in Ecclesiastes. Solomon does not say, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die!” Instead, he advises us to trust God and enjoy what we do have rather than complain about what we don’t have. Life is short and life is difficult, so make the most of it while you can.

Wisdom. Since it is one of the Old Testament wisdom books, Ecclesiastes would have something to say about both wisdom and folly. There are at least thirty-two references to “fools” and “folly” and at least fifty-four to “wisdom.” King Solomon was the wisest of men (1 Kings 4:31) and he applied this wisdom as he sought to understand the purpose of life “under the sun.” The Preacher sought to be a philosopher, but in the end, he had to conclude, “Fear God, and keep His commandments” (12:13).

God. Solomon mentions God forty times and always uses “Elohim” and never “Jehovah.” Elohim (“God” in the English Bible) is the Mighty God, the glorious God of creation who exercises sovereign power. Jehovah (“LORD” in the English Bible) is the God of the covenant, the God of revelation who is eternally self-existent and yet graciously relates Himself to sinful man. Since Solomon is dealing exclusively with what he sees “under the sun,” he uses Elohim.

Before we leave this study of the vocabulary of Ecclesiastes, we should note that the book abounds in personal pronouns. Since it is an autobiography this is to be expected. Solomon was the ideal person to write this book, for he possessed the wealth, wisdom, and opportunities necessary to carry out the “experiments” required for this investigation into the meaning of life. God did not make King Solomon disobey just so he could write this book, but He did use Solomon’s experiences to prepare him for this task.

4. 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 Saviour, 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 Saviour, 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. Paul wrote about one of his associates in ministry, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10). The Apostle John warned, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (1 John 2:15); and James admonished us to keep ourselves “unspotted from the world” (1:27).

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. 3:1ff), 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!”

Perhaps this message is best summarized in the prayer of Moses: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Ps. 90:12).

I opened this chapter 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

[1]


The Dash
by Linda Ellis
*

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke of the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard;
Are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what's true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we've never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
And more often wear a smile,
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read
With your life's actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

© 1996 Linda Ellis

 


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[1]Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1990). Be satisfied (Ec 1:4). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

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