Thursday, November 23, 2006

Food for thought - Hypocrisy and party pills

(Local newspaper column)

So the sex shop in Letterkenny has withdrawn mind-altering 'party pills' from shelves after a public outcry on Highland radio.

But they aren’t the only mind-altering substances on sale in the shop. The whole concept of pornography itself is mind altering. Pornography alters our perception of women and reduces them to objects rather than people. It alters our understanding of sex, reducing it to an act of self-gratification, rather than an act of gratifying the other. Pornography with all its fakery gives unrealistic expectations. Porn alters our psyche with regard to what is acceptable behaviour, as thrill seekers have to descend on a downward spiral to find new levels that will excite them. Studies also show that there is a link between pornography and violence against women.

If a drug was available that reduced men’s perception of women to that of sex slaves and made them violent and more likely to rape or abuse, it would bring about a similar public outcry as the current ‘party pills’. Yet because no-one wants to be seen as a prude no-one makes any fuss, and so we strain out the flea while swallowing a camel.

The final irony is that the owner of the shop said in an interview in the Irish Independent, “Looking at it from a parent's point of view, I would not let my children take them.”

Does that mean that he would be happy for his children – daughters, if he has them – to star in the same films that he stocks, or pose for the same magazines he supplies, and become fantasy-fodder and gutter-talk material for the men from the same town in which they live?

There seems to me to be a certain element of hypocrisy in this. In fact the truth comes out later in the same interview: it’s not his children, but his wallet which concerns him, “I have built up a good loyal customer base in this town and we would be shooting ourselves in the foot if we continued to sell them.”

It’s all just further evidence of what happens when we make a god out of money or sex, or anything – we end up not being able to think straight, or see the inconsistency of our position. It is as God says in Rom 1:21

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools… Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator… Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts… Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

Our only hope is to call men and women not to seek mind-altering drugs, or body-satisfying sex, but to seek the God who alters our damaged souls, and who completely satisfies those who turn from rebellion and put their trust in him.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Book Review - Apostasy, Destruction & Hope

Apostasy, Destruction and Hope – 2 Kings simply Explained
Roger Ellsworth
Evangelical Press


What, two reviews on commentaries on 2 Kings!? I know, but do you do when two good commentaries appear at the one time?

As you will know if you have read many of my reviews, Ellsworth is another of my favourite writers. And this commentary on 2 Kings is no exception.

But what is there to be gained from having two commentaries on 2 Kings? Being honest, unless you are going into the ministry, aim to have one book on every book of the Bible. But not everyone is the same, and some will like Davis and some will like Ellsworth.

Ellsworth is different in his style from Davis. Davis would be a little more technical than Ellsworth (telling you about Hebrew words, and chapter structure), whereas Ellsworth’s book came from a series of sermons he preached. Where Davis tends to take one theme and structure each chapter around it, Ellsworth will look at many different themes within one chapter. With Davis it is like inspecting one jewel in-depth, with Ellsworth it is like looking at many different gems.

Both men demonstrate how the Old Testament is all about the gospel, yet both do it in different ways, Davis points to the broad themes and the character of God which make the gospel necessary and possible, Davis looks at the parallels in the Old Testament stories to the Gospel. Both men point us to Christ, but in different and valid ways.

Ellsworth too is masterly in his application, pushing the details of the passage into our lives. He also considers the original audience that 2 Kings was written for – the Jews in captivity – and asks the question, ‘What would it have meant to them’. This in turn opens up other areas of application.

Both are great commentaries – have a look at each and see which appeals to you. Either way you are in safe hands.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Today's favourite website

I came across this today with the headline:

"DOES PHYSICAL FITNESS REDUCE THE RISK OF DEATH?
MOST LIKELY IT DOES."

And I thought to myself, "Hmm interesting - I wasn't aware of anything that made death less of a certainty."

Must try exercise, maybe that was Elijah's secret.

Food for thought - Las Vegas in the hills of Donegal

(Column for local newspaper)
Donegal band ‘Goats don’t Shave’ appear to belong to the mystical fraternity of prophets and soothsayers. Back in 1992 they were singing about casinos and building “Las Vegas in the hills of Donegal”.

Did they know something that we didn’t? It would seem that way, for if recent talk has been anything to go by then casinos are bound for Letterkenny, if they aren’t already here.

“What’s the harm? Sure it’s just a bit of fun.” I know that we have the EuroMillions jackpot coming up this week, and we have “Winning Streak” and the place is full of bookies and scratch-card outlets; so what harm could a casino do?

It just adds to the pressure. Gambling is destructive to society. Let me give 9 documented reasons why gambling is destructive:
  • It exploits the poor – UK Surveys show that there are three-and-a-half times more problem gamblers among people earning less than £15,600, than among those earning over £31,200. The people who can least afford to gamble are the ones most hurt.
  • It often leads to addiction – The cycle of ‘some you win, some you lose’ which makes gambling so attractive is what makes it extremely addictive, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
  • It allows people to get into serious financial difficulty very quickly. The mathematical rules behind gambling mean that you aren’t meant to come out on top, rather you are meant to get in deeper. Casinos aren’t there for the public good. Organisations that help the public financially are helpfully designated by another name: ‘Charities’.
  • It leads to crime – The state of Wisconsin experienced an average of 5,300 additional major crimes a year due to the presence of casinos. Those who gamble and run out of funds need to find more funds somewhere to satisfy their addiction.
  • It destroys lives and damages society – According to the House of Lords/House of Commons Joint Committee set up to look at the impact of gambling, the harmful consequences include “job loss, absenteeism, poor work/study performance, stress, depression and anxiety, suicide, poor health, financial hardship, debts, asset losses, exposure to loan sharks, bankruptcy, resorting to theft, imprisonment, neglect of family, relationship breakdown, domestic or other violence, burdens on charities and burdens on the public purse.” Gambling is not harmless fun – it destroys lives, it destroys society.
  • It exacerbates weaknesses and develops greed. Gambling confirms some people in their weaknesses and cultivates greed in others. Casinos will draw in more easily those people who need just the opposite, namely, encouragement and guidance in financial matters.
  • It creates a culture of laziness – where people spend more time at the gaming table or the bookies rather than working to get money and contribute to society. If everyone made their money gambling we would have no-one to staff our hospitals or empty our bins, or sell us food.
  • It creates a burden for others – It is estimated that each problem gambler affects approximately 15 people’s lives and costs the state £35,000.
  • It makes a good thing an ultimate thing. Money isn’t evil, but taking a good thing and making it into the ‘be-all and end-all’ around which our life pivots is to make a god out of it. That is called idolatry. Of all the reasons this is the most serious. All the others speak of the damage gambling causes in this life, but this reason speaks of lives wrecked for all eternity. God will not tolerate being substituted by a few measly banknotes.
So often decisions are made for wrong reasons: it will be good for the economy, it will bring people to the area which can only be good for businesses. Seldom are the important factors considered: what will it really mean for people’s lives. Here the evidence abounds: gambling only makes a mess of people’s lives.

As well as all the above evidence, the Bible tells us that: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction… Some people, eager for money… have pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). In other words, the desire to be rich brings only grief. And to encourage grief and hardship by permitting casinos is only cruel.

So I urge the town’s councillors to have the courage to stand for what will be good in the long term for our county and not concede to the financial pressures or rewards. Be men and women of compassion and integrity. Take your obligations and responsibilities seriously so that you will not add to the problems of people who are under your care. We don’t want to need more support groups. We don’t want to add to the list of things that push people to the brink of suicide in this county.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Book Review - The Power & The Fury (Dale Ralph Davis)

The Power and the Fury
Dale Ralph Davis

Christian Focus


5 years ago Davis brought out his commentary on 1 Kings, and those who enjoyed it have been eagerly looking forward to the arrival of 2 Kings.

What are we to make of the ministry of Elisha – how always seems to be in the shadow of Elijah? What about the endless succession of kings, where it becomes almost impossible to keep track of who’s who?

Davis is a brilliant at explaining the familiar stories, and showing you what is really happening. So often we read the Old Testament narrative as if it was just a filler between Eden and the Gospels – well we may not actually think that in so many words, but we read it simply as stories with a few moral lessons thrown in, instead of asking ourselves what is God doing here. Dale Ralph Davis always focuses on God, the covenant making and keeping God. The great strength of this book is that it helps us to see God rather than the people who fill the stories.

In a way that is refreshing, humorous and penetrating Davis opens up the book of 2 Kings and provides sound, wholesome teaching. It is only when you look in the footnotes at some of the weird and wonderful interpretations from various scholars that you begin to appreciate the quality of what Davis is giving to you. His quick-fire no-compromising-with-scripture demolition job of these authors, coupled with his simple clarity, reassures the reader.

His writing is deceptively simple, but underneath it lies a wealth of knowledge. And one of the great benefits of Davis’ books is that as you read them you learn how to understand how books of the Bible are put together, and how to see the big themes that Davis himself keeps coming back to.

Like his other commentaries ‘The Power and the Fury’ is pointed in its application, and revealing in its illustration. It is hard to read this book and not be encouraged by who God is, and challenged by our own faithlessness.

As I said the last time I reviewed Davis – go and buy everything he has written on the Old Testament.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Book Review - Corner Conversations by Randy Newman

Corner Conversations: Engaging Dialogues about God and Life
Randy Newman
Kregel Publications

Randy Newman’s first book ‘Questioning Evangelism’ is one of the best books on evangelism around. If you haven’t read it – buy it, read it and put it into practice. ‘Corner Conversations’ is his follow-up, although you won’t need to have read ‘Questioning Evangelism’ to understand ‘Corner Conversations’.

‘Questioning Evangelism’ was marked by conversations where Newman showed how his principles would work out in practice. ‘Corner Conversations’ is all conversation and no theory – or to put it another way, all the theory is imbedded in the conversations. It makes for a great way to learn. It reminded me of one of my other favourite books on apologetics – ‘Persuasions’ by Doug Wilson which also uses the conversational method. In “Corner Conversations” Newman creates fictional conversations which cover 7 topics, including science, suffering, is Jesus the only way, and homosexuality.

The conversations are all evangelistic and Newman has sought to make them as real as possible by running the book past friends who aren’t yet Christians, as well as those who are.

It is a useful approach, and is based on many conversations he has had in his work as an evangelist on university campuses. It is useful also because it allows us to see that evangelism is long term and relational. None of the conversations end in conversion, but each is a step in the journey to understanding more about Christianity. Too often we expect too much from one conversation, or we think we have to get the whole message across in one conversation. If we are doing our evangelism where we should – primarily among those we see regularly – we won’t need to unload everything at once. One of its strengths is that it lets you see how ordinary conversations can come around to deal with some aspect of Christianity, and flit in and out of the subject.

Newman has been clever in many ways, but one that I enjoyed was that the style of the conversations is different – some are very friendly, some employ the cut and thrust of friendly but pointed argument. Yet each conversation is marked by openness and compassion. So there is something here for each of us, and something here for our different types of friendships, each conversation having several points that you feel that you could use yourself. And the chapters finish by pointing you to further resources.

It isn’t a book to read in one sitting though – you can get over-conversationed!

The one area I felt Newman was weak on was the chapter on science. His character, and hence Newman suggests that we don’t need to hold to a literal 6-day creation, and that those who hold to literal 6-day creation aren’t good scientists. His implication is that they (or we) are na├»ve and don’t really understand what is happening in Genesis. I would venture to suggest that the naivety lies elsewhere in allowing the ever-changing views of science to influence our interpretation of the Genesis.

That said, there are enough strengths to the book, and enough help to be gained for it to be worth reading.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:16 - I can’t get no satisfaction

What really satisfies you? Is it work, or food, or friendship, or your car?

The thing is, like many people find, when you get what you want, it has a hollow feel to it, it doesn’t really satisfy, and if you think different just ask yourself how you feel when they bring out a new model?

Like U2's lyric many would say – "I still haven’t found what I’m looking for."

From the tail end of Chapter 3 and all of chapter 4 Solomon points out 6 things that make life unsatisfying, and we will see how they find their ultimate answer in Jesus.

Life doesn’t satisfy
Now some people would disagree with that statement straight off. They would say that they are very satisfied with life – but I would want to ask them, “Are you satisfied with sickness, are you satisfied with unfairness that happens at school to your kids, are you satisfied with the pain you have in your hip because although you have everything, your body is getting old and falling apart, are you satisfied that there are people in parts of the world working in sweatshops so that you can enjoy simple pleasures in life?”

And unless we bury our heads in the sand or live in some sort of isolation chamber we have to face the reality that life is ultimately disappointing.

Solomon sets out six areas which make life unsatisfying

Injustice

v16-17 “And I saw something else under the sun: In the place of judgment—wickedness was there, in the place of justice—wickedness was there.”

Early Friday morning 3 Christians in Indonesia were executed. According to news reports it was for masterminding a series of attacks on Muslims.

Their execution had been postponed three times, then the government removed the police chief who gave the stay of execution and replaced him with a hard-liner who favoured their deaths.

Evidence pointing to their innocence was ignored and death threats made against their legal representatives, and a bomb was planted at the house of one legal advisor.

The three Christians were evacuating children under attack in a church school. Militants burnt the school to the ground. No Muslims have been brought to justice.

According to Jeff King, President of International Christian Concern: 'In the attacks from 1998 to 2003, there were approximately 10,000 Christians murdered, 1,000 churches and 80,000 homes burned down. In that orgy of violence against Christians, the only individuals the government chose to convict were these three Christians - this is a glaring injustice.'

There’s something in us that knows instinctively what justice is and wants it done.

But the great failure of this world is that justice doesn’t always happen and sometimes, worse happens and the innocent are punished because the wicked are in power. And it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

So how do you live in an unjust world?

Death

Death and the prospect of death leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Life gets cut short, we don’t know when this invading force will step in an out lives will be over, and there is something deeply unnatural about death – something in us cries out against it. It doesn’t seem a good enough answer to life.

It’s like staying up late to watch the end of a film and it just finishes abruptly with so much left unsaid, or like reading a book and finding that the last ten pages are missing.

And it doesn’t seem right that conman and Christian, nuisance and neighbour, each so different just come to the same end.

In a sense we all live in a death row cell. And we can enjoy life, but we still live on death row. And there is something in us that cries out for it to be different.

Oppression
And then as Solomon looks around he sees something else that creates in us a longing for something more, a hunger that there has to be more to life than this. Oppression. Injustice is when the judge has found in favour of the guilty, that’s injustice, but Solomon sees oppression as well – its just the fact that bad stuff is happening, not in the courts but everywhere, people are taking advantage of anyone less fortunate than themselves. Tim Keller reminds us that “only a small number of people in the world have lived in relatively safe conditions, and we are part of that privileged minority.” We can’t allow our western comfort to mollycoddle us from the harsh realities that our fellow human beings live under.

And when you watch the news and you see people starving in Africa because rich countries can’t be bothered to use their resources to take their excess. That’s oppression. And when you see people dying in shantytowns in flash floods because those in power have spent all the money on palaces and country retreats. That’s oppression. And it doesn’t stop when the powerful get what they want – they don’t turn around and start to help the needy – power is on the side of the oppressor and the poor still have no comforter. And when you see that, your heart should cry out – there’s got to be more to life than this. The one life that people have is made misery – that’s not right.

Work – dissatisfaction with what we do and get
Solomon turns to the dog eat dog world of work, where envy drives people to get up early, stay late, to get more, to be one step ahead, to have what the neighbours have, to have what they don’t yet have. And when you get what you wanted, you don’t actually enjoy it because the motive for getting it is tainted, and so then how can the fruit satisfy?

Or where work becomes an end in itself, and the endless chase of perfection and excellence comes to dominate all. And even when we get things to where we want them, we aren’t able to slow down because we have worked ourselves into the habit of work.

Or where you work so hard, but don’t have time to enjoy the fruit of your work v8.

And something in us says, “There’s bound to be more to life than this?”

Loneliness
Solomon moves on to something that increasingly is becoming a feature of 21st century life. Loneliness. As big a problem in 10th century BC as in the 21st century AD. The world is becoming smaller, we can communicate globally, but people are becoming increasingly isolated. In America

Social Changes in America over the Past 25 years
  • the number of restaurants is 25%, snack places is down 50%, but fast food outlets are up 100%
  • family dinners are down 33%
  • having friends over to your home is down 45%
  • from 1980-93 America’s #1 participant sport, bowling, was up 10% but bowling leagues were down 40%
In a world where communication abilities have increased incredibly actual communication has decreased. And people are lonely, and here is another factor that leaves an unsatisfactory taste in the mouth – is this what life is about?

Fickleness
Solomon looks then at a scenario in v13ff. He describes a young man who comes from disadvantage to rule a country in the place of a foolish king. People follow him with enthusiasm, but as time goes on the mood changes and his popularity goes. There is a fickleness in politics and in people, where opinions seem to change at the drop of a hat, and you are left wondering “What happened there?”

To be let down by friends or family, or people we have worked with or for is part of life, yet when it happens it leaves a bitter taste in our mouth – and it is just one more area where we find life deeply unsatisfying.

And that is what Solomon is wanting us to see that no matter where we look in life there is a bug in the system, something that prevents us from finding complete satisfaction. He knows that we are apt to ignore it, and just focus on our own little lives, hoping that we will find satisfaction, but then when problems arise we are surprised because we think that an easy life is our right. Solomon says, that isn’t the way it is.

And what he is showing us is that there is a deep set of longings inside us that long for satisfaction that is beyond the scope of this life to produce.

We have an innate hunger for justice, for life, for comfort, for satisfaction, for companionship, for stable relationships. And what Solomon is doing is highlighting all these things so that we will see the collective force and be dissatisfied with life and look for more. Because all these are good God-given longings. And so what people claim as objections to God, or proof that God doesn’t exist are actually given by God to point us to him – to show us that we should make gods out of things, but rather seek him. And Solomon in his own ways provides pointers to God as he goes, but what I want us to see this morning is that all these longings find their ultimate satisfaction in Christ. Now we’ll not find Jesus’ name in Ecclesiastes, but Ecclesiastes is a book of questions that don’t find their ultimate answers until Jesus comes.

Finding Satisfaction in Jesus
As in the ancient Roman Empire all roads led to Rome, so it is in Christ that we find the iultimate answer to these dissatisfactions.

And Jesus is the answer in two ways – first he is the answer because he provides the solution to all these longings, and second, he is the answer because he has stood in each of these places and felt the injustice, and oppression and loneliness and the hollowness of work, and fickleness of the crowd. So when we come to him, not only has he the answer, but he knows how we feel, and the answer comes from the depths of his experience. And that is comforting.

Let me show you how Jesus is the answer to each of these problems. Some of you are still looking for satisfaction in yourselves or your work, remember the Rolling Stones, and U2 “I can’t get no satisfaction” and “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”. I want you to see that Jesus far surpasses all of them. There is nothing that satisfies like Jesus, and his is a multifaceted satisfaction. Some of you are have found peace and forgiveness in Jesus, but its all too easy to replace him with other things when it comes to finding satisfaction.

Jesus will bring justice
Too many of life’s stories end untidily, unless of course this is not the end. That’s what Solomon tells us here in v17.
“I thought in my heart, “God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed."

So in Luke 18:7-8 Jesus says:
7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”

It will be a profound justice, every wrong will be righted. And the person who comes to Jesus has the burden of injustice done to them lifted because they know that Jesus will deal with it. He will either deal with it by bringing judgment or bearing it. He will judge those who have not asked him to bear their judgment. And he will bear the judgement deserved by those who have asked him to bear it.

But there will be justice. All loose ends will be tied up. Death doesn’t mean that justice has been escaped, but rather than justice is now guaranteed.

And that gnawing hunger for revenge, or the bitterness of resentment is taken away.

And for those smarting under the feeling of injustice, in Jesus you will find one who knows exactly that feeling – accused and tried for crimes he was innocent of, by men who were desperate just to kill him, and who broke every law in the land to get him killed. You can take your injustice to him, and find one who knows where you are coming from, and will provide the strength to live with it util you see him come.

Jesus defeats death and brings life
Death is not natural. Our longings know that, and that is why Jesus promises in John 10:10:

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

“our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”

Here is the promise of a life that will not be interrupted, which will not be cut short. But it is also a promise of a way of life here and now in which death is no longer an ominous threat. The sting of death has gone, and death becomes a doorway into this wonderful new existence for all those who come to Jesus now.

And he has stood there, he has seen loved ones die, as a boy his father died, as a man his friend Lazarus died. He knows the pain of death as a bereaved one. And he says to the bereaved, let the ache of bereavement and the dissatisfaction that it brings, bring you to me, so that you may find life and have it to the full.

Jesus brings comfort to the Hurt
Solomon makes the statement that it would be better not to have been born than to face the hurt of this life. And many of us think that’s ridiculous, but that’s because our lives haven’t hurt as much as others. Listen to these words of a friend of mine after writing that his mother shouldn’t have been allowed to have children:

“I know that going by this standard I would not exist - I have no problem with this - I honestly believe that my mother should have been forced to abort me.”

How do you identify with someone who has borne so much suffering? I can’t. And it would be patronising to attempt. But can anyone say to one who bore in his body all the sins of his people and the punishment that he can’t know their pain? He has seen all hurt in close up technicolour detail, and experienced the awfulness of it as it was laid on him.

And now he says, “I will wipe away every tear from their eye”. He is the father to the fatherless, the defender of the widow and the orphan, he came to release the oppressed.

And he does so by giving us a hope that nothing in this world can take away, and he does it by taking all our hurt, and turning it into a trowel with which he builds his kingdom. Through our hurt he reaches to others who are hurting so that they can come and find healing and completeness. In all these things we are more than conquerors.

Jesus brings contentment in a world of envy
Solomon’s observation is that it is a dog eat dog world which doesn’t actually satisfy. When we get what we want, we find we want more. That is because we are wired in such a way as to know that somehow somewhere there is more to life, but like little boys without a compass we don’t actually know how to find it, or what it is we are lacking.

Yet what Jesus does on the cross is to purchase for his people everything they will ever need, so that they can say:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack no good thing”
“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

So we know that if it is good for us to have something, God will give it to us. We don’t need to get into the rat race. For what’s the point of being top dog in a death row cell. Jesus liberates us from the cell and says, “I’ll give you all you need for this life.”

And then he gives us a task that is born, not out of envy, but out of compassion. “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.” And when you succeed you know that it will last forever.

Jesus is the friend who sticks closer than a brother
Solomon acknowledges that friendship is the cure to loneliness, but in Jesus we find a friend who says, “I will never leave you or forsake you” And why does he make that promise? Because he knows the awful pain of being forsaken by his friends, being despised and rejected of men, and he knows what it is to be forsaken by his father.

And not only that, what Jesus does on the cross is to purchase a welcome into his family and the community of his people for anyone who comes to him.

And loneliness, even the loneliness of being in a crowd of people and still being lonely, is a signal in our hearts that our hearts are still looking for one who will never leave us.

And so to all the lonely Jesus comes and says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18

Jesus is unwavering and faithful
In a fickle and changing world where people change and let us down, when we rely on people only to be disappointed we need one who is unchanging, and who will never drive us away. And so it is only in Jesus that we can find that rock, because even a faithful friend will desert us at death, but here is one who is there for us continually in life and in death.

“whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37)

James describes God as “one who does not change like shifting shadows” – James 1:17

And to those hurt by the changeable opinions of others, Jesus says, I too know what it is like. What musts it have been like to hear your closest friend say, “I never knew you” or to see 11 of your closest friends turn and run, or to be betrayed by one with whom you had shared meals.

He knows and because he knows he is able to bring satisfy those who are hurting because of the fickleness of others.

So in all these areas where life can let us down we find one who never lets us down, one who provides for us in a deeper and more lasting way than anything this life can offer. Every hunger is satisfied.

A life that satisfies

Not found in things but in a person.
We want to finish by applying this. How then should we live?

Put your trust in the one who satisfies
If your stomach is sending out hunger signals you don’t eat chewing gum – although it might suppress the hunger pangs for half and hour or so, it doesn’t solve the problem. You get something that fills you.

Some of you are trying to satisfy yourselves with the chewing gum of life instead of the steak of Christ. Like being in a top class restaurant see menu – all paid for, all you want the lollipop by the till

You need to come to the one who satisfies ultimately and completely. Because sooner or later in life you will find that all the others let you down, the only problem is that often it is too late to change, because you have convinced yourself that they really satisfy, and like a homeless man who has the offer of a house but who is so used to sleeping outside in the gutter that he has convinced himself that it is better.

You need to come to Jesus and ask for forgiveness for putting your ideas of what is important in the place of him. And you need to ask him to come and transform your life so that you can see what is important.

Live like Satisfied people
All this doesn’t mean that life suddenly takes a turn for the better and that you no longer experience injustice, death, loneliness, or envy, or being let down by friends. But it does mean that you have a way of looking at all these problems. You look at them from the perspective of someone who has hope.

We need to keep finding our satisfaction in Jesus and not in our circumstances.
  • With regard to injustice we can leave it all in his hands – we can look beyond and live beyond the injustice done to us.
  • With regard to the uncertainty of life – we know that we will go at exactly the right time, when our saviour calls us home, when our work here is done.
  • With regard to hurt caused by others to us – we can learn to live with gratitude to the one who took hurt and was oppressed so that we wouldn’t be. And if being hurt by others is a consequence of following Jesus, well, surely we can take a few shots for the one who took our hell.
  • With regard to the continuous pursuit of more in life – we can learn to life with contentment because we have a saviour who provides everything. And so we can trust the shepherd to provide for his sheep, whatever happens – illness, or farming, business disaster.
  • With regard to loneliness we need to learn to cultivate our relationship with Jesus, to develop our relationship with him, so that when we find ourselves lonely we turn to him. Develop our relationship with Jesus’ people.
  • With regard to the fickleness of people – we need to realise that people will always let us down, but that Jesus will never. We need to learn to build our self esteem not on others view of us, or even our view of ourselves, but on what Jesus thinks of us. Because no matter what has happened to us, or what we have done, or what we think of ourselves, Jesus tells us that if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation. They are his child, they are precious. It is when we build our satisfaction on others that we find dissatisfaction, because only Jesus can sustain the weight of expectation – only Jesus knows how bad we are and is prepared to completely overlook it.
Christ is the only one who will satisfy all our needs. But if we were to stop there we would be wrong.

Ecclesiastes isn’t just about us, it is about living in this world. And so if we are to live like satisfied people we will want others to see that it is Christ that makes the difference, therefore:
  • With regard to injustice, we need to be people who encourage justice, and who deal fairly, and who stand up for those who have been dealt with unfairly. Solomon writes that God allows man to behave in such a way so that man will see the animal likeness of his actions and be shocked. But we are not to be like that. Christians are to stand out for how they treat others.
  • With regard to the uncertainty of life Solomon tells us that we need to live in such a way that people can see that the shadow of death doesn’t hang over us – we are to enjoy all that God gives, family, food, friends, relishing the gifts of God. Also we are to be people that make it clear to others that there is a difference between man and beast.
21 Who knows that the spirit of man rises upward and that the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?"
  • We are to be people who stand up for the oppressed, who seek to make life easier for others. That may mean being like our saviour in living sacrificially – putting yourselves out for the sake of those less well off, so that they will see Christ in us.
  • With regard to work, we need to learn to take Solomon’s advice to heart – better one handful with contentment, than two handfuls with toil and a chasing after the wind. In a world where everyone is encouraged to seek advancement, which means that you have more work heaped on top of you, and more responsibility, the Christian will draw the line and say – this is as far as I want to go. Or of circumstances permit they will say, I can go further. That may mean cutting back on work so that we can enjoy the relationship that God has given to us. It gives us a right perspective on our work. It isn’t the be all and end all of our lives – it comes after our relationship with God, and our family, and our church. We will seek to avoid the rat race.
  • With regard to loneliness we will seek to draw near to others, to befriend. In a world of loneliness, those who have been befriended by Christ should be reaching out to those who are alone. We will also invest in friendship.
  • In a world of fickleness we will seek to mirror Christ’s acceptance, and steadfastness in friendship, even when we are let down.
When Adam and Eve cut the tether that bound all of life to God that had a knock on effect in every area. Life needs to be tethered to God, nothing else provides a solid enough basis. Solomon’s counsel to us is to look to God rather than things for satisfaction in life, because all else will fail, but God will fail you never.