Come and See What Matters
This is the seventh sermon in our current series, “Come and See…a study on the life of Jesus”
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As I reflect on the life of Jesus and what it means to become more like Him, it causes me to think about my life and life in general. I think about those things that truly matter and those pursuits and goals that are a waste of time. To self-reflect is one of my goals and to try to see life from an eternal perspective is another.
Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 says, “The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: 2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless!Everything is meaningless.” 3 What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? 4 Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. 5 The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. 6 The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. 7All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again 8 All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. 9 What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. 11 No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.”
I recently heard a speaker discussing his ministry and the years that he’s spent investing his life impacting the Kingdom of God. Two things struck me as I listened. First, he has lived a faithful life and will one day stand before God as a man who has honored Christ. Second, he quoted people and talked about men and women that I remember, but who most of the people in the room did not. As he talked about people who were best-selling authors, speakers, and teachers 20 years ago, I saw people’s eyes glaze over. How quickly the famous, rich, and powerful are forgotten. It reminded me once again of what really matters. We are only powerful and famous for the blink of an eye. James says our lives are a vapor.
I was reminded of this the other day as I watched a TV drama. One of the characters looked quite familiar. It bothered me so much that I looked him up on the internet. It turns out that he was a very popular actor in the 70s and 80s, but was now playing a minor role in a made-for-TV movie.
It made me reflect on how we chase things that don’t last. So many give up so much for so little. Here in Ecclesiastes, with most of his life behind him, Solomon reflects on his experiences from birth to death. He looks at our mad pursuit of the things this world has to offer; living our lives as if we could master it by our efforts. If you think you’re in control, life will teach you otherwise. Solomon sees people vainly chasing after desires and expectations that are, in his words, “chasing after the wind”. He comes to realize that God has ordered things according to His purposes and that as we accept that reality, we can find the true meaning in life.
In his old age he understands that a life, if not centered on God, is meaningless and without purpose. But a life lived in pursuit of God is the very definition of meaningful. Most people sacrifice the things that matter to chase after the things that don’t. I’ve talked about this before, but it seems fitting in this context.
I have a problem with people who live their lives fulfilling all of their desires and then at the end, tell the rest of us…now that they’ve done it all, what’s really important. I have a better plan. Live your life backwards. Project yourself into the future, decide who you want to be, decide what matters, and live a life that gets you to that goal. For the Christian, Jesus already told us what matters most.
Matthew 22:36-40, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Think through the things that count: family, friends, loving others, defending the weak, loving God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength, conforming to the image of Christ, and pursuing those things with all your might. Pursue the goal of loving God and loving others in every area of your life: at work, at school, at home, and on the field. If it’s not done to the glory of God it’s an illusion, a trap, a hamster wheel, a waste of time and energy. When we pursue the world’s priorities, they just never seem to satisfy us.
Ecc. 5:10 says, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.” Let me ask you a simple question. If you woke up and your house was on fire, what would you grab first? What would you make sure you saved? Last year there were some really terrible fires in CA. People didn’t have time to think and so they grabbed what mattered most and ran. And what was the first thing they thought about or worried about when their house is on fire? Simple…the People in it! When you’re dying you won’t be asking for your trophies, diplomas, or portfolio. So, if all I’m saying is true, why do we live the opposite? Why do we spend most of our time chasing things that don’t matter?
Reflecting on the story of Jesus visiting Martha and Mary may help. It’s a very simple story because it focuses on what truly matters in life. In Luke 10:38-42 Jesus comes to visit them in their home. Whatever work Mary had been doing came to an end once Jesus arrived. Not so with Martha. She just kept going. What does that say about Martha? In H. Jackson Brown Jr’s book, Live and Learn and Pass It On, a 64-year-old man says, “I’ve learned that how you do your work is a portrait of yourself.” Self-reflect and then ask the question, “What portrait of me is being painted by the way I work? Samuel Butler wrote, “Work with some…is as besetting a sin as idleness with others.” Let that sink in. Martha worked like a lot of us. She worked hard “for” Christ without being truly Christ-centered. Martha may have been diligent, but she missed the point. She worked relentlessly to “do everything right” yet failed to do the right thing. She didn’t know how to draw the line on her own activities. In the grand scheme of things what she was doing was meaningless.
Have you ever heard of Parkinson’s law? It states, “Work expands to fill whatever time has been allotted to complete it.” Martha saw so much that needed to be done that she allowed work to control her whole schedule. We often do the same. We worry and chase after things that don’t matter. We sacrifice time with God in pursuit of activities that don’t have eternal value. We sacrifice time with our families, working extra hours, trying to achieve certain goals, so we can get to the point where we have more time to spend with our families. Project yourself into the future and you’ll realize that those things we choose to give up while trying to achieve success are the very things we should be striving for in the first place.
The following story illustrates this perfectly. There once was a businessman sitting on the beach in a small Brazilian village. As he sat, he saw a fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite few fish. The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?” The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.” “Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” “This is enough to feed my whole family and share with those in need,” the fisherman said. Then the businessman asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?” The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I relax with my wife, and evening comes, I join my friends in the village to share stories, play guitar, and sing.”The businessman offered some advice to the fisherman. “I am a PhD in business management. I could help you achieve your goals. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, set up your own production plant for canned food and a distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and into the city, where you can set up a headquarters to manage your other branches.”
The fisherman asked, “And after that?” The businessman laughed heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares on the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”
The fisherman asked, “And after that?” The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with your kids, have a relaxing day with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your friends to share stories, play the guitar and sing together”.
The fisherman just smiled.
Eccl. 12:13-14, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”
And that is what really matters.