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The Pursuit of Happiness

By David Robinson/ January 24, 2016

Series  Ecclesiastes: Life Under the Sun

Context  Westminster Chapel Toronto

Topic  Apologetics

Scripture  Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

The desire for joy is not ultimately satisfied in this world. Even in Eden joy was found not in the perfect created order, but in fellowship with God.

Scripture:  Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

Sermon Notes:

  1. Solomon offers an honest assessment of life in this world – a raw and candid perspective: life under the sun entails toil and, apart from God, it has no lasting meaning.
  2. Solomon is not saying there is no meaning; nor is he saying that it is pointless. But we need to look beyond the horizon of this life to find ultimate purpose.
  3. Solomon conducts an experiment in finding lasting meaning and significance: in the pursuit of wisdom and learning one finds only sorrow and vexation (Ecc. 1:12-18); in the pursuit of pleasure, one finds nothing lasting (Ecc. 2:1-11).
  4. There is an impulse for joy in each one of us; we were made for joy. However, we do not find that joy in earthly things; instead we find it in Christ.
  5. Laughter is good, but it provides only temporary relief. Our culture is dominated by seeking a good laugh, often based on illicit and debased content.
  6. Wine is not unlawful in its place (Ecc. 9:7) but even that is a fleeting pleasure.
  7. Solomon made great projects seeking to create a garden which emulates paradise on earth (Ecc. 2:4-6, 7-8).
  8. Solomon accumulated silver, gold and treasure and he enjoys the beauty and the goodness of his garden.
  9. In trying to re-create the pleasures of Eden, Solomon resorts to abuse and profound injustice, taking slaves and concubines.
  10. The same sinful impulse that was at work in Solomon is at work in us: a sinful, selfish desire for personal gratification.
  11. After this experiment, Solomon considers in Ecc. 2:11 that all is vanity.  Solomon gets no lasting satisfaction for his soul, no joy, no rest. Nothing is gained under the sun.
  12. The impulse for joy is not sinful; we were made for joy, and God gave us the ability to experience joy. We were made to appreciate the goodness of the world; we are made to provide joy and pleasure for others.
  13. CS Lewis in Mere Christianity reasoned that if we find in ourselves a desire that cannot be satisfied in this world, we must conclude we are made for another world.
  14. The desire for joy is not ultimately satisfied in this world; even in Eden joy was found in fellowship with God, as Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the evening.
  15. It is in personal contact with God Himself that we find our lasting joy (cf. 1 John 1:1-4).
  16. To apply Ecclesiastes 2 to our own lives we need to test, repent, and share:  1) Examine our own lives to see if we are looking for lasting joy in earthly things.  Is that selfish impulse governing us?  Are we using God’s good gifts rightly, with thanksgiving and to bless others? 2) Repent of the vanity we have been pursuing, and seek Christ (Psalm 16:11). 3) Share your own disappointments with friends or neighbours, and ask them, where do you find joy? Then share with them the lasting joy of Christ.
  17. In the Sacrament we see that Christ is for us (Gal. 2:20).

Application Questions:

  1. Evaluate Solomon’s experiments at finding meaning in earthly pursuits.
  2. What is the result when our selfish impulse guides our quest for joy?  What is the proper place for earthly joys?
  3. Are we using God’s gifts rightly, i.e., to thank God and to bless others?
  4. Where can we find ultimate joy and satisfaction?
  5. How can we use the insights of Solomon in our conversations with non-Christians?