Imparted Wisdom

“‘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?” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3)

Ecclesiastes is King Solomon’s autobiography. In it, he tackles all sorts of puzzling questions about life. He devotes a sizable portion to discussing the ultimate futility of work, in the sense that all earthly ambitions produce only emptiness and desolation. I’m sure that Solomon’s words here resonate with many of us.

But yet, Solomon imparts his vast wisdom to us to warn others of the true nature of existence. He repeats his concern about labor and toil in Ecclesiastes 2:26, he shares this harsh truth for those who fail to believe and repent: “To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

Throughout Ecclesiastes, Solomon makes the point that it is futile to look for satisfaction in life apart from God. The only fulfilled life is the one lived in recognition of God and in service to Him.

The Apostle Paul expands upon this theme in 1 Corinthians 15:58, where he says that our labor in the Lord is not in vain. Paul throws a monkey wrench into the works when he also says in Galatians 4:10-11Philippians 2:14-16 and 1 Thessalonians 3:5 that his own labor has been in vain! Why would an Apostle, hand-picked by Christ, consider his own toil ineffective, but that the Corinthian’s work was not?

Here we find a big reason for reading Scripture in context, because right before Paul made his statement to the Christians at Corinth, he was telling them about the blessed hope – the Rapture – and in that day, no believer’s labor will be in vain, because at that time, we will receive our rewards.

And so therefore, even had the Galatians, the Philippians and the Thessalonians persisted in the behavior that Paul was rebuking them for, and even if all of them had abandoned the faith, the Apostle’s labor among them might have been vain in this life, but not in the next!

So take heart at times when your work might seem unfruitful. Follow Paul’s lead in Philippians 3:14 where he says, “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

(Susan Lockhart)

Scripture references from NIV unless otherwise noted.

Based on Timing is Everything: Expect Limitations on July 25th, 2015 - Watch Sermon

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