Sermon Date: August 8, 1910
Sermon By: Pastor Dale Raether
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:18-26
Don't Worry, Be Happy!
At this point in your life, what would it take for you to be happier and not have so many frustrations? Some would say a better paying job or even a job. Others might say more time to do the things they enjoy. Still others are looking for someone to enjoy them with. It’s different for everyone. But what if we could achieve everything we think we need to be totally happy, would we in fact be totally happy? If yes, let’s keep pursuing the things we’re pursuing and teach our children to do the same. But if no, why wait to make some changes?
In our text this morning Solomon had explored every goal in life a person might have, and had done it to the extreme. Here’s what he found, and with school starting tomorrow this certainly applies to teachers, students, parents, well to all of us: Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Understood correctly this is the best approach to life because 1. The world offers nothing but worry and anxiety. 2. God gives true meaning and happiness.
Our text reads, “"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."” The word meaningless in Hebrew contains the thought of a vapor that’s useless, disappears, and so putting your trust in it is a delusion. Now, many tend to think that other people’s things might be meaningless, but not theirs. In chapter 2 Solomon lists all the different things he tried, so let’s see if your thing is on his list. “I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces – Ecclesiastes 2:4-8.” Solomon had more wealth than you could imagine. He used his wealth to take on all kinds of building projects. Not mentioned here is he also used his wealth to create more wealth. He had built up industries and fleets of cargo ships, so that dignitaries from all over the world were coming to see him.Here’s a picture of Solomon’s throne.Each of those lions were made out of solid gold, apparently because he was running out of things to spend his money on.But it was all meaningless. When he died, his son took over and wrecked everything with a few short years. So what was the point of Solomon of working so hard all his life? There wasn’t any.
Some might argue, “Okay, we can’t take it with us, but what’s wrong with getting as much as we can to enjoy as much as can while we’re here?” Solomon had tried that too. He said, “I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well-- the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor – Ecclesiastes 2:8-10.” If satisfaction is in pleasure, Solomon would have found it. Or if satisfaction is in being the greatest king, the great scholar, or in today’s terms, the greatest athlete or rock star – Solomon had been there done that. But he still felt empty.
Solomon’s next attempt at happiness was to throw himself back into his work as just something to do. That turned out to be a waste too. We read, “What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless - Ecclesiastes 2:22-23.”
So, what should our goal in life be? If leaving a legacy is meaningless, if pleasure for pleasure’s sake is meaningless (not to mention maybe illegal, immoral or fattening), and, if even working for just something to do is meaningless, what’s left? Maybe the answer is in the song, Don’t Worry, Be Happy! Ain’t got no place to lay your head, somebody came and took your bed, don’t worry, be happy. Ain’t got no cash, ain’t got no style, ain’t got no girl to make you smile, don’t worry, be happy.Is any of this so far how you want to spend the rest of your life? Is any of this how you want your children to live?
Still, if everything is meaningless, why did our congregation build classrooms in 03? Or, why did Mr. Priebe move down here from South Dakota, and Miss Nitz from Wisconsin? Or why did our teachers before them work so hard at getting our school starting these past 6 years? Because God has a loving purpose in making earthly things be meaningless. He wants us to let go of them and hold on to our Savior. However as we do that, God gives our lives true meaning and happiness.
We read in our text, “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? - Ecclesiastes 2:24-25” Our daily lives once again have meaning, because Jesus has reconciled us to God. He did this by having nothing in our place. Also in our place He was despised by others and rejected by God, a man of sorrows, so that He could fulfill all righteousness for us and pay for our sins for us. Because Jesus has done this, He is restoring and renewing our hearts through His Word. And finally He will restore our bodies as well, when He creates a new earth in a new heaven. Then nothing we do will ever be meaningless, because there won’t be any more sin or death or consequences of sin. But until then here’s Solomon’s approach to life - don’t worry, be happy.
Don’t worry, because our Heavenly Father is caring for us and always gives us what we truly need, even when He’s testing our faith to make us stronger. So, be happy, we have certain hope! Also, be happy by giving thanks, which brings us back to why we built those classrooms, and why our first teachers started the school, and why Mr. Priebe and Miss Nitz are now here. We want others to have the same certainty we have, and in today’s society working through a school is one of the best ways of doing that.
And so, we work as hard as Solomon with all the wisdom God gives us. However, when I say “we”, I don’t mean just our staff, but all of us are toiling to pay the bills and keep our households going, so that we may continue to spread the Gospel. Yet in all of this toil, be happy! Paul writes in His resurrection chapter, I Corinthians 15, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain – I Corinthians 15:58.”
Sometimes we may not see the fruit of our toil. But that’s okay – one person plants, another waters, but all of us will enjoy the harvest of souls together. So again don’t worry, but keep commending your frustrations and brick walls to the Lord in prayer, for He hears our prayers, and the Holy Spirit is interceding for us.
But now if our work is our thanksgiving to God, and since we have so much to be thankful for, and there are so many, who are living meaningless lives without Jesus, shouldn’t we be working all the time? No, because our thanksgiving is thanksgiving. And God is God. It’s He who gives every success and blessing. But His blessings also include the joy of family and friends, or the joy of golfing Saturday mornings. In addition God gives us to ability to enjoy these joys, as we put our trust in Him, and as we make our whole lives our thanksgivings to Him.
So, does this mean that a believer’s life like a walk on a beach, or better yet sitting on the beach with a tall, cool glass of our favorite beverage? Actually, there’s more to it than that. There will be crosses. There will be days when you feel like you’re in a meat grinder. But even then don’t worry, be happy! God’s love hasn’t changed, plus in every difficulty that comes our way, He promises to turn it into more blessings, more opportunities to grow, and more reasons to give thanks.
However, there is only one way we can keep believing all this. God gives perseverance through His Word. Paul told young Timothy as he began his ministry, “Study to show yourself to God, a workman who needs not be ashamed, but rightly dividing the Word of Truth – II Timothy 2:15.” If you look this up at home, it’s a literal translation of the verse. Just as Solomon went after riches, and pleasures and accomplishments, go after the Word! That’s how we can be happy and not worry. That’s how we can learn to recognize this world’s dead ends. That’s how we can have the wisdom, the joy, the strength to accomplish truly worthwhile things that last unto eternal life.
And finally I would like to briefly tell you about some Bible study opportunities here at New Hope. Starting next Sunday at 8:45, with breakfast at 8:30, we will be reading I and II Peter from Today’s Light Bible and then talking about it. In case you’re not familiar with Today’s
Light Bible, it’s an ordinary NIV, but it’s divided into sections, with an introduction and an application for each. Sunday’s lessons will also be repeated on Wednesday’s at 1:00 p.m. Also on Sunday morning will also have Junior High and Senior High Bible studies. And then for younger children we will have Sunday School stories that coordinate and compliment what’s being taught in our Academy, so that we may be one body with one ministry giving thanks to God.
I urge, then, don’t learn the hard way like Solomon did about what’s truly important, and especially don’t make your children have to learn the hard way. Rather let’s learn through God’s Word to not worry, but be happy! Amen.