Living a Life That’s Not in Vain

Living a Life That’s Not in Vain

May 26, 2019
Ecclesiastes 2:7a-11

How many of you know the names of your grandparents? How many of you know your great grandparents, their accomplishments, and something about their character?

What about your great-great-grandparents?

What this tells us is that within three or four generations most of us will be forgotten.  If our own family does not remember us, no one else will.

That’s a very humbling reality.

If we are going to be forgotten, what makes the total of our days worth living? How do we know that we are living a life that’s not in vain?

Here are a few clues.

It’s a huge temptation to make life about the acquirement of stuff, building wealth, climbing the ladder of success, or about doing those things that just bring pleasure.

There is even a branch of Christianity that teaches that if your faith is strong enough, your health will always be good and your wealth will be great.  Some preachers preach this health and wealth gospel, and some people latch onto it like a baby latching onto a pacifier.

The theology goes like this: As you remove sin, you simultaneously remove sickness and poverty. As you draw closer to God, God puts money in your pocket and good health into your life, as if that’s what life is all about – health and wealth.  It sounds good.

The preachers who preach this are the poster examples with their designer suits, luxury cars, and million-dollar homes. Some fly around the country in private jets.

A couple of years ago, one of these health and wealth preachers in Atlanta died of cancer. He and his church tried to keep his illness as quiet as possible. They lived in denial about his sickness because according to what they teach if cancer invades your body, it must mean you have allowed some sin into your life.  How could he continue to preach if that were the case?

Since health and wealth appeal to most of us, some people lap up this preaching like a thirsty dog lapping up water after chasing rabbits.  We all want to deny that death is coming for us, and we all want to believe that God would like for us all to have a lot of money.

However, the health and wealth gospel makes people with any kind of sickness feel guilty. If you have diabetes, for which there is no cure, what hope does this theology offer you about your health?

If the company where you work suddenly closes and leaves you with bills and growing debt, was that somehow your fault?

In the book of Job, Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz went to Job and told him that all his problems were due to his sinfulness, and the quicker he repented of it, the quicker God would restore him to his former riches. But we are told at the beginning of the story that Job had done nothing to deserve his problems.

Can sin impact our health? Yes. Many people abuse their bodies. Our bodies are like engines. Without proper care, they are not going to last. With proper care, there’s a much higher chance we can live a long life with good quality.

The Bible teaches us that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  God lives within us if we invite Him to live there. So when we don’t take care of ourselves, we are destroying the house of God.

Sin can also impact our finances.  It’s common sense that if we do sinful things, it can adversely affect our finances.  You can’t gamble, never save for retirement, never give back to God part of what you earn, or constantly spend more than you make.  You can’t do these things and expect God to bless you financially.

However, it is wrong to say that just because we follow the rules, we automatically get a pass to good health or financial security. Bad things sometimes happen to good people.

There are times that we suffer financially BECAUSE we do what is ethical, moral, or righteous.

Some of the most faithful people have died poor and sick but blessed because they did what was right in the sight of God.

Our own Lord Jesus died with nowhere to lay his head and nailed to a cross. Does anyone want to question his faith?

At one time, Solomon, the wealthiest King of Israel, thought that accumulating great things and great wealth was the answer to living a significate life.  At another time he believed that pursuing pleasure was the answer to living a life of significance. But the pursuit of wealth eventually left him feeling empty and so did the pursuit of pleasure.

This is what he wrote:
“I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem[a] as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this, my wisdom stayed with me.
10 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.
11 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.
(Ecclesiastes 2:7a-11)

Most of us say, “Yea, but if I won the lottery, it would be different. I would be happy. I believe my life would be fulfilled.”

If your life is not fulfilled before you win the lottery, winning the lottery will not change it for the better.

If you are living your life for self, the impact of your life in this world is diminished.

It will not matter if anyone remembers us three generations from now or not. What matters is whether God remembers us. If your name isn’t recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life, it will make no difference who remembers you on this earth.

It will make no difference if you build a great name, and people still call your name on earth a thousand years from now. If God does not call you by name into the Kingdom of heaven, nothing you do here will matter eternally.

Jesse Owens was 22 when he won 4 gold medals in Berlin in 1936 and showed the world that Hitler’s goal of producing a superior race of people was in vain. Albert Einstein was 26 when he wrote the theory of relativity. Michelangelo created great sculptures like “David,” and “Pieta,” by age 28. By age 29 Alexander the Great had created one of the world’s largest empires of the ancient world. By age 31 Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. https://visual.ly/community/infographic/lifestyle/20-people-who-accomplished-great-things-20-different-ages

We’ve never forgotten these people.

Their accomplishments are recorded for every generation to know. Their contributions are legendary, but what’s most important is whether they knew the Lord and whether the Lord knew them as his own.

Those of you that have applied for a job may have complained and said something like this: “It’s not how much you know that counts. It’s who you know.”

Or if you got a job because of who you knew, maybe you didn’t complain, but you were thankful.  You were thankful for who you knew, the one that gave a good word on your behalf.

It’s usually a good thing to have someone you know to pass along your resume or to give a good word for you. In spiritual matters, it works that way, too.

It’s not how much you know, or how much you’ve done, but it’s who you know that determines if you have lived a significant life — that “who” is Jesus.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV).

However, Jesus does say this: If we know him, we must do more than give lip service to him. We can’t just throw his name around.  We cannot be Christian in name only.

Jesus says that if we know him, we must do his will.

There is a battle going on in us between doing our will and God’s will.  Perhaps, this is the reason Jesus taught the disciples to pray, “Thy will be done,” in the model prayer.  Not “my will,” but “thy will.”

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride leads to destruction, and arrogance to downfall.” (GNT)

It’s easy to live our lives in such a way that we become intoxicated on our own praise and end up running over the very one we need to be helping.

The secret to living a life of significance is to get ourselves out of the way and find ways to live our lives for others in the name of Jesus.

Paul said it best in his letter to the church at Philippi:
3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Paul is realistic. He knows that we all have needs that must be met. Paul isn’t saying that we shouldn’t take care of those or look after ourselves.

He is saying that we should not do that to the exclusion of others.

If we are going to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we have to be concerned about the interests of others.

To the degree that we look out for the needs and the interests of others, that is going to determine the significance of our lives.

If we don’t give ourselves away in some meaningful way, we will have lived our lives in vain.

Otherwise, life is all about me.

My job is about me.

My marriage is about me.

My friends are about me.

My money is my money and not God’s money. I’m not a steward of it. I earned it, so I do what I please with it. I certainly don’t give any of it away.

My hobbies are about me.

My free time is about me.

My family is about me.

To the extent that we learn to give ourselves away, that is the extent that we learn where to find a measure of meaning, joy, fulfillment, happiness, and learn how to worship God.

For those who follow Jesus, we learn that this is a part of our discipleship. We give ourselves away as a part of understanding what it means to be a disciple.

Jesus is our example. He gave his life and said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Jesus does not usually ask us to die for him or others, but sometimes people do.

Just a few weeks ago Kendrick Castillo, a high school senior in a Denver high school rushed a shooter at his high school, saving the lives of many, but gave his life in the process. He set aside any thought of his own life to save the lives of others.  On this Memorial Day Weekend, we remember many like Kendrick, some about his age, many older, who gave their lives in a similar fashion to secure the freedoms we enjoy as a nation.

It’s sad that we have high school students all over this country that must now contemplate what they will do should they be confronted with a shooter in their school.

While we are all taught that the first action to take is to find safety, Kendrick was in a position to help and that’s what he chose to do.

Likewise, each of us must decide whether we are just going to live our lives for ourselves or whether we are going to live them for others.

Most of us are not asked to die for anyone. However, God does want us to die to self.

Dying to self means that we take “I” out of the middle of our lives and think of others in addition to ourselves. “In humility valuing others above ourselves,” is the way Paul said it.

The longer we live that way, the more significant and meaningful our life will be.

Two generations from now, no one is going to remember our names. Even if you one are one of the exceptions, what good would that be if you meet God and he asks you, “Did you spend your time accumulating, building a great resume, or giving yourself away?”

What will you say?

Could you say, as the Apostle Paul urged the church at Rome, “It was my desire, in view of your mercy God, to offer myself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to you, as a part of my worship to you throughout my life.” (Romans 12:1)

Photo Credit: stefanmisaras.com