2020 Graduate Sunday
It is so exciting to be celebrating with our graduates this year! We are proud of you, and look forward to how the Lord will use you in the coming years.
You have been challenged and encouraged all your lives through school to pursue education.
You have been encouraged to pursue success!
You have been encouraged to pursue what makes you happy.
You have been, and will be encouraged to pursue many things.
Many of you now are planning to attend college, where, once again, you will be encouraged to pursue these things. You will be encouraged to leave behind your parents’ influence, and to pursue your own desires.
I too, would encourage you to pursue knowledge, success, and joy. I believe God has given you a mind to use to learn all you can. I believe God wants you to know success and joy.
However, today, I plan to look at the scriptures with you to see what God says about these pursuits. What should you pursue? If you set your eyes on the wrong pursuits, it will not satisfy, and you will miss the good that God intends for you.
As you go into the rest of your lives, and begin these pursuits more independently, you need to know that what God calls knowledge and wisdom. You need to know what He calls success, and what He knows is the source of joy—which is different from what the world would say.
I encourage you to learn what is true, and learn how to discern the difference between the facts, and the agendas which are being pushed today.
As a gift to help you in your pursuits, we have a couple of books that we as a church want to give to you.
Know What You Believe.
I hope these will be of great benefit to you as you learn to stand more on your own. I hope and pray that you will grow in your knowledge of the Faith and Knowledge of Jesus. That you will know what you believe. That you will learn how to understand and think through things for yourself.
As I thought about what would be appropriate today, I thought of two different passages.
First, today is also Father’s Day. We all know that you ask dad what he wants for Father’s Day and he says nothing. However, there is something you can give your father which will thrill him beyond any other gift.
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. My son, if sinful men entice you, do not give in to them.
The greatest gift you can give to your Fathers, which will also be of benefit to you for the rest of your life, is to...
Listen to their instruction. There is a difference between hearing and listening to instruction. Listening involves hearing in order to learn and follow the instructions.
I know that you probably feel like you know so much more than they do. The world will tell you that you, and your generation are evolving and advancing beyond your parent’s generation. They will tell you that your understanding is much greater. They will tell you that the old ideas of morality are outdated and that we have a better understanding now.
Granted, you probably remember more facts that your father, whose mind is not quite the steel trap it used to be. Like mine, as they get older the old trap tends to rust up, and things escape the trap.
However, there is a difference between knowledge, or factual recall, and wisdom and understanding.
In Proverbs 4, we find a similar instruction, which if followed by the encouragement to get wisdom.
Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.
Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them.
Wisdom is having and applying the right knowledge to a situation in order to live well. Understanding is only as good as the source. If the source is fallible, than that ‘understanding’ is on shaky ground.
You need to pursue true wisdom and true understanding. You can gain some of this by listening to your father’s instruction.
What you really need to have true success in life is wisdom and understanding. Your father wants to help you with those things. He may not be able to give you knowledge related to your field of study, but he can pass on to you wisdom for life.
Your father wants to be sure that you can think through issues, and arrive at proper conclusions. He wants to be sure that you operate out of true wisdom and true understanding. He knows that is more important than having all knowledge and worldly success.
What I encourage you to do this week, is study Proverbs 1-6. And listen to your father. Maybe take time to read these chapters with your father and talk about them. Learn what you can from him to gain wisdom and understanding.
The world is going to encourage you to pursue many things. Pursue wisdom and understanding. The book of Proverbs talks about that over and over. Pursue wisdom. Look it up yourself this week.
There is another passage that I want to look at with you this morning.
If we look at Ecclesiastes, another book written by Solomon, the author of Proverbs, we will see that this man who was wiser than any other man, who in Proverbs continually encourages us to pursue wisdom, also had this to say...
Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.
Why the difference?
Why the difference?
Why does Solomon encourage his son to pursue wisdom in Proverbs, yet in Ecclesiastes, he says that pursuing wisdom is chasing after the wind?
It goes back to the beginning of the chapter. Let’s read it together, and then talk our way through it, and some other passages of Ecclesiastes.
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.
As Solomon grew in wisdom and understanding, and began considering life here on earth, in his earthly wisdom he realized that nothing really changes. Generation after generation, we work, we eat, we sleep, and then we die. After we die, we are quickly forgotten by the next generation. So, what’s the point?
Solomon is looking at life from an earthly perspective, and using earthly wisdom. Earthly wisdom is that if you aren’t going to gain or benefit anything from this, don’t do it! And ultimately, what is there to gain from life when you are going to just die anyway? What’s the point?
Earthly wisdom looks at this world, and seeks to understand from this earthly point of view how to have a good life.
What is truly worth your time and efforts. What is the right purpose in life? What will bring joy to life?
That is something the world is constantly trying to figure out. That is something that you are going to have to understand. So, let’s take some time to keep looking at what Solomon did as he sought for purpose and joy in life.
Solomon tried what the world often tells us is our purpose...
I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.
The worldly perspective is that if you want to have success, or a good life, you need to Pursue Pleasure! Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die!
Pleasure can take different forms. Some people take pleasure in their work.
I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.
There is earthly wisdom which says, “Pursue what you love doing, and you will never work a day in your life.”
It sounds good. And, if you have the option, there is a measure of truth to this. If you enjoy what you are doing, life will be more enjoyable.
However, you will still work. There will still be days when things do not go well. There will still be challenges and pitfalls you will face.
So, Solomon pursued another avenue of pleasure as well.
I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil.
Pursue Physical Pleasure
Pursue Physical Pleasure
But after Solomon pursued these things, what did he find?
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
Pursuing Pleasure is Meaningless
Pursuing Pleasure is Meaningless
The world even sees this.
So, what else to pursue?
Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly. What more can the king’s successor do than what has already been done? I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness. The wise have eyes in their heads, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both. Then I said to myself, “The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?” I said to myself, “This too is meaningless.” For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten. Like the fool, the wise too must die!
Pursuing Wisdom and Folly
Pursuing Wisdom and Folly
Some people pursue wisdom and knowledge. They want to be like Solomon, who was known for his wisdom and understanding. They want to be the one to find answers.
However, though Solomon found wisdom better than folly, where did it lead him? Hopelessness. Because he realized that his fate will be the same as the fool.
This is where purely earthly pursuits lead one. If all you are living for is this world, it will leave you empty and hopeless.
So what can one do?
So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.
A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?
Without him, who can find enjoyment. Solomon is beginning to see the emptiness of purely earthly pursuits. He is seeing the emptiness of earthly pursuits.
There is a satisfaction we can gain from work, for that is part of what God created us for. But without the Lord, even that is empty and meaningless.
What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
Still later in Ecclesiastes, Solomon ends his book this way.
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”—
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
Pursue Godly wisdom and joy - Fear the Lord
Pursue Godly wisdom and joy - Fear the Lord
Now we are getting to the point that Solomon found.
When you are graduating from High School, one of the most common questions is, “What are you going to do with your life?” It ultimately comes down to the world saying, “What are you going to do to try to make your life enjoyable? Successful? Purposeful?”
The world says to pursue knowledge and be wise. Wisdom is better than folly, but that leaves us at the same end as the fool.
The world says to pursue a career!
The world says to pursue success, fame and money.
The world says to pursue pleasure.
Solomon tried it all. Solomon had it all. And he came away discouraged, and crying, “Meaningless.”
That is, until he remembered that true wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord.
Pursue Godly wisdom, for it lasts, and leads to life beyond this world!
The Lord has purpose for us. The Lord does have purpose for our work. The Lord has laid eternity in our hearts. The Lord is seeking to reward us for our lives here, if we live for Him.
Earthly pursuits of wisdom, work and pleasure may bring some joy for a time. However, it will ultimately leave you empty. Living for this world is useless. You are going to die and leave everything you have to someone else.
But fearing the Lord who will judge everything you do, and who desires to reward you in eternity with things that will never rust, fade or go away, is the best pursuit you will ever have. End it will bring you true success. It will bring you true, lasting joy.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Do not pursue earthly wisdom. Pursue your heavenly Father’s wisdom.
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed. By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew. My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.