The Futile Pursuit

Ecclesiastes1_14

The Futile Pursuit

I, the Teacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. I applied my mind to seek and explore through wisdom all that is done under heaven. God has given people this miserable task to keep them occupied. I have seen all the things that are done under the sun and have found everything to be futile, a pursuit of the wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. I said to myself, “Look, I have amassed wisdom far beyond all those who were over Jerusalem before me, and my mind has thoroughly grasped wisdom and knowledge.” I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly; I learned that this too is a pursuit of the wind. For with much wisdom is much sorrow; as knowledge increases, grief increases. Eccl 1:12-18 (HCSB)

God created each one of us uniquely, yet we all carry a similar insatiable desire to understand and master our individual lives. However, the harder one pursues knowledge and understanding, the mysteries of life reveal their unfathomable depths. Exploring an ocean floor abyss or the depth of a black hole in space is man’s ultimate but finite quest to understand infinite God and eternity, and frustration awaits. Knowledge is neither finite or infinite – ultimately absolute knowledge defines what is temporal and eternal, fathomable and unfathomable. Ultimate knowledge reveals itself as dynamic, ever-changing and expanding. No matter what level of knowledge man can attain, there is always more to learn, more to understand. Absolute knowledge is reserved for God. When King Solomon pursued the gift of wisdom from God, he learned this lesson from God: Be careful what you ask for, as knowledge increases, grief increases.

Wisdom is the proper understanding and application of the knowledge we have attained. The pursuit of more knowledge comes with the responsibility of rightly applying it wisely. No matter how smart we believe ourselves to be, God ultimately holds us accountable on how we apply what he has allowed us to understand. Ultimately, wisdom reveals the frustration, sorrow and grief of selfishly pursuing what we all seek after – understanding and mastering our own lives. Wisdom reveals the price we pay for that ultimate pursuit.

As God’s creation, we should be receptive to growing in all knowledge, but pray for God’s guidance for its proper application in our own lives and the world around us. Living the abundant life promised by God provides contentment in our life. Yes, we should be open to new knowledge and opportunities God orchestrates into our lives. We should welcome the change knowledge affords us to experience. Our daily growth should inspire us to know God and his Creation more intimately, but that pursuit should not be the totality of our desires. Life does offer immutable truths from God, such as the ones the Teacher in today’s passage shares: What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. No matter how wise, how knowledgable, we become, we cannot change or create what is in God’s control.
There is but one Author of absolute knowledge. We are His creation and thus limited to acknowledging what is and what is not comprehendible in this life. There just are far too many things that God has chosen to make crooked because He had a purpose in doing so. There are far too many things God has chosen to place a limit upon, because where there are no limits, eternity resides. It is not ours to understand the mind of the Creator, but to accept the limits of our own mind in this life.

How deep is your understanding about the things of God? To what depths to you desire to know him? Are you in pursuit of God’s will, ways, and wisdom? That is all God asks of us. God will do the rest. Ponder the wondrous creation of God, but do not stop living within God’s plan and purpose for your life.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #218-2EC

The Futility of Our Pursuit of Pleasure

Futility found in the pursuit of pleasure
Futility found in the pursuit of pleasure

The Futility of Our Pursuit of Pleasure

I said to myself, “Go ahead, I will test you with pleasure and enjoy what is good.” But it turned out to be futile. I said about laughter, “It is madness,” and about pleasure, “What does this accomplish?” I explored with my mind how to let my body enjoy life with wine and how to grasp folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom—until I could see what is good for  people to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. Eccl 2:1-3 (HCSB)

The focal point for most of us is our leisure time – that special time to do what we want for mere pleasure. Yet, what pleasure do we actually get from our leisure time? We certainly crave our leisure time! We even work extra hard to save up for it. But, how much pleasure do we achieve really? Solomon with his great wisdom decided that he would engage in all forms of pleasure and determine what good and practical purpose there was in pursuing pleasure. He first defined pleasure as the reward from doing whatever is good and brings you joy above all other things. Then he identified pleasure as a futile pursuit in this temporal lifetime. He declared it as “madness,” questioning what good does it really accomplish in mankind’s short life span?

I believe God allows us the joy of laughter and the re-energizing benefit when we retreat from the fast pace of life, but Solomon focused on the foolhardy pursuit of insatiable “pleasure seeking activities.” Even 3000 years after the days of Solomon, wine and other alcoholic libations freely flow to dull our senses, but for what purpose? What pleasure thrives when we are not in control of our own faculties? Is pleasure being found the fool in the midst of his folly while under the influence of alcohol or some other numbing potion? What lasting pleasure can be garnished through such artificial, mindless adventures? After the euphoric effects wear off, reality returns and a headache and stomachache linger from the pleasure. Would genuine pleasure provide such awful after-affects to detract from the joy it was intended to provide? That paradox is why Solomon called the pursuit of pleasure: madness!

There is a purpose that God promotes that serves to provide rest and relaxation for our bodies and minds; recreation, or (re)creation. Recreation provides rest our bodies and minds desire to revive and re-energize us for another day. Retreating from the harsh pace and realities of the world, engaging in recreational leisure offers far more lasting benefits than hoisting a bottle of wine or mug of beer or popping pills. And, the aftereffects are far less harmful to your mind and body.

The only time God promotes the use of alcohol is when no hope remains and wickedness has entrapped someone into a life of endless misery and pain, and death is knocking on the door. Then indulging in wine or alcohol to dull the senses is deemed an act of mercy.

Think carefully about why you do what you do in the pursuit of pleasure. Is your pursuit of pleasure aimed at meaningless folly and madness, as Solomon points out? Think about the difference of re-creation versus the folly of pleasure seeking through artificial means. Which best serves and seeks after God’s will, ways, and wisdom?

What is true pleasure are actions and attitudes that bring not only a smile on your face during and after the experience but on the faces of your loved ones and friends in this world. When you consider their needs and desires, you witness the joy of pleasing of others that God intended for you. Learn the wisdom of rightly seeking His purposes, not selfishly your desires. Is the pursuit of pleasure in this lifetime of greater value than the genuine happiness God intends for you?

Coach

Words of Wisdom # 219-3