When I was a youth pastor back in my seminary days, I had a teaching session where the students were assigned to write anonymous questions. I would attempt to answer these questions the following week. One common question was, “How can I know God’s will for my life?” This is a question that many students, and adults, often ask. Students in particular may be about to finish high school and ask themselves, “What am I supposed to do now?” But what they are really asking themselves is, “What is my purpose on this world? What has God designed and made me for?”
Have you ever asked yourself that question? Maybe you’ve faced this crossroads several times in your life. If you’re not careful, how you end up answering this question can lead to any number of good or bad decisions and consequences. For the Christian, however, quite simply the purpose of your life is to worship Jesus and delight in who He is. We must consciously make an effort to place him in the center of our lives and allow the rest of it to unfold in a journey of trust.
We must be content with just knowing and delighting in Him. If you live like this it could be said that you have a Christ-centered worldview. Let me illustrate this:
Think about a wheel. A Jesus-centered worldview would mean that Jesus is the center section, called the hub. The spokes would be the part of the wheel that come out from the hub. If Jesus is the hub, then other facets of your life are the spokes: your work, your hobbies, your financial goals, your security, your philosophies of life, and your relationships. If everything in your life is going to roll correctly, then Jesus must be the center.
The nagging question of “what is my purpose?” is similar to the thoughts we have about why the world is the way it is. Why do certain things happen? This was a question that plagued King Solomon in the Bible. He truly desired to find out all the ways of God in the world. But he could not. If we ever find ourselves stumped in our question for purpose and knowledge we can find ourselves going down one of two paths:
1 – Rejection – we can reject God because we cannot know him exhaustively and He doesn’t give us all the answers we seek.
2 – Trust – we can cling to him and learn what it means to trust him.
Growing in wisdom means we will put Jesus at the center of our lives and trust him with all of the spokes of our lives.
The first one of these spokes could be this idea of knowledge or understanding. It’s the idea of purpose and meaning. It’s this search that Solomon made to know how the world works and to understand why things are the way they are. As Solomon found out, a life without Jesus at the center leads to emptiness.
Ecclesiastes 1:12-13 states, “I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven.
This preacher is widely believed to be Solomon: the wisest and greatest king of Israel. The occasion for writing this book is that it is the end of Solomon’s reign and life and he is ready to write his memoirs and give the world his wisdom.
Solomon sought to understand why it is mankind does what it does. Why does the world work the way that it does? In short, what is the meaning of life? What is man’s ultimate purpose? Solomon asked God for wisdom and God gave it to him. But he gave it to him through an inquisitive mind that desired to know everything about everything. Solomon was a learner and he learned more than anyone that he knew. Solomon wasn’t interested in being a popular king or being a significant king or an accomplished king. He wanted to be a learned king; a wise king. In short, he was addicted to the pursuit of knowledge. But the pursuit of knowledge cannot be the hub. It is a spoke.
The next part of the verse is interesting. It reads, “It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.”
Solomon states if a person dwells on why the world is the way it is and constantly tries to solve its riddles then the result is that he becomes unhappy and even depressed. The longer Solomon looked for answers and the harder he tried to understand life, the more depressed he became. Sometimes the more we try to understand life the more frustrated we get with life’s questions that we can’t answer.
Solomon then remarks, “I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.” The word “vanity” literally means “vapor” or “vapor of vapors.” Solomon has seen and experienced everything in the world and he has declared that it is but vapor. Here today, gone tomorrow. Finding joy in anything and everything is like chasing the wind.
The point is this: when you make the pursuit of something, anything, your ultimate goal, your hub of your wheel, at some point you will realize the futility of your quest. Your journey just…ends. A life without Jesus as the hub is ultimately empty. You chase it but there is nothing there.
Next week we’ll continue our look at Solomon’s quest for wisdom and meaning as we’ll look at other spokes of the wheel we seek to make the hub.