“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.” — Ecclesiastes 12:13
Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? It is much easier to envision good resolutions than to make them. Setting a goal or making a resolution is one thing; sticking to it is another.
I read that there are four steps to achieving a successful resolution: choosing the right New Year resolution(s); creating a plan to achieve them; staying on track; and remaining flexible while you keep on going. Just because you decide to do something does not ensure success. But if you never determine to make a change you never will.
I’m not much for making New Year’s resolutions any more. The older I get the more I am reminded of the real purpose of life and my commitment to those values that are eternal. While the book of Ecclesiastes is not my favorite book in the Old Testament it does give us an interesting diary of Solomon’s pursuit of meaning in life.
The book begins with Solomon’s total pessimism in life. The word “meaningless” occurs 21 times. Solomon says, “Life is futile.” Obviously Solomon was not a graduate of Norman Vincent Peale’s Power of Positive Thinking course! How different from the rest of Scripture that says in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Or Psalm 118:24, which says, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Then the book focuses on Solomon’s pursuits to find meaning in life. He was a brilliant author, songwriter, botanist, zoologist, counselor and professor. But all of this education and learning did not produce a satisfying purpose for Solomon. He says, “With much learning, apart from God, comes more grief.” It doesn’t solve our problems. It doesn’t restrain the sin nature within us. He even said riches are temporary because we have to leave them all behind.
What good is wealth if you know you are going to die and leave it all behind? It is meaningless. Billy Graham used to say, “You never see a hearse followed by a Brink’s armored car.”
You could say that the book of Ecclesiastes is somewhat depressing until you come to the last chapter. In chapter 12:1 Solomon sums up what he’s learned about life’s ultimate purpose: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no delight in them.’”
Would that young and old alike would take to heart Solomon’s advice! Begin in your youth to make God your priority. Not money, not pleasure, not education, not even relationships. None of those things will satisfy or last. Solomon says, “Remember your Creator” — that will bring you joy and fulfillment. Plus, this life becomes more meaningful.
You can get excited about learning, not because the ultimate hope is education but because you’re trying to learn more about the One who is the source of truth. You can laugh and enjoy pleasure because it’s a temporary diversion and not an escape from reality. And you can work to achieve material goods, not to lay up for yourself treasures on earth but to lay up treasure in heaven, and share it with others and to enjoy them while you have them.
Jesus asked, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” Solomon said, “You want to find fulfillment? You remember your Creator when you’re young! Begin all through life to focus on Him.”
His final conclusion in Ecclesiastes 12:13 is a New Year’s resolution worthy of each of us: “Fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.”
So, what will your resolution be this year? Or more importantly, are you going to live for things or the Lord?
Emmett Murphy is a retired Christian church pastor. He can be reached email@example.com.