Seeking and Searching With Wisdom

See full series: 2018-sermons
See full series: studies-in-ecclesiastes

Seeking and Searching With Wisdom

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Ecclesiastes 1:12-18




In our studies in Ecclesiastes so far, we have noted the consistency of both the natural world and the nature of man.   In Solomon’s quest for life’s meaning, he begins a search through various avenues of life, only to discover that seeking meaning in ANYTHING in this life is grasping at the wind (vanity).     He even realizes that tragically, man doesn’t even learn from the past and the next generation is doomed to repeat the failures of history.

In our text today, we find the beginning of his search as he seeks, with wisdom, to understand what life is about.

  1.   A heart to seek and search (12-13)
    1. Looking for answers is a good thing.
      Ignorance is not pleasing to God (cf. Acts 17:30-31)
      Lack of knowledge destroys – Hosea 4:6
      Paul wrote letters so that they would not be ignorant – 1 Corinthians 12:1, Romans 11:25, etc.
      The brethren at Brea were fair-minded, searching the scriptures – Acts 17:11
    2. He applied his heart to seek and search out by wisdom all things done under heaven
      We have addressed what the heart involves.   When we think of the heart we think of that which is central to who we really are. Our innermost person.
      Solomon’s search was “heartfelt”, meaning, this was not some superficial search.
      God expects us to do whatever it is we do with all our heart – Matthew 22:37.
      Colossians 3:23 tells us that whatever we do, it should be heartily.       Be reminded of how God calls for us to give Him our best.
      Later, in Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 – he applied his heart to know.
      He was seeking and searching by wisdom all things – this was not a half-hearted search. He was seeking – consider Colossians 3:1-2 – seek things above; Matthew 6:33 – seek first the kingdom of God.
    3. As we are seeking to be pleasing to God are with doing it by applying our heart?   How many today approach their search with flawed methods?
      1. They come with preconceived ideas, intending to prove what they already believe, regardless of the truth
      2. Superficially – not looking for real answers, but something else.
      3. Searching without the need for faith – we must realize our need to trust God with whatever answers we might receive.
      4. Thinking man knows better than God. How many today refuse to even give consideration to the possibility of God – Psalm 14:1, Romans 1:20.
    4. NOTE: When we are seeking from the heart, with sincerity we must be prepared to find different answers than we want and accept the truth.  Do we really want the truth?
  2.   A burdensome task given to the sons of men (13)
    1. We were wired with a desire to know these things. Ecclesiastes 3:11 – He has put eternity in our hearts
    2. This is part of being created in the image of God. We can reason and think about matters beyond our mere survival.   This is what sets us apart from the animal kingdom.
    3. But with our minds, we DO think and reason. We contemplate meaning and consider what is going on around us.   This can be a good or bad thing – and it will affect HOW we view everything in this life. Many today, however, begin to find answers they don’t like and quit searching.   Recent surveys (From PEW) show that more than 20% of Americans are unaffiliated when it comes to religion – meaning they are either atheist, agnostic or refuse to commit.
      1. Understand that a refusal to consider our eternal fate will by no means excuse us of the consequences.   John 15:22, Romans 1:20
      2. Nor will futility and frustration excuse you
      3. Not knowing everything is also no excuse
      4. HOW tragic that so many today, want to find answers to why we are here, and yet they REFUSE to consider the only alternative that gives us real purpose – a loving God.   This is the problem with agnosticism or declaring “no preference”.
    4. The “burdensome” tasks of life can either turn us away from God or draw us to Him.   The choice really is ours.
  3. I have seen all the works done under the sun (14-15)
    1. Solomon was thorough in his search as we have noted.
    2. Yet, when our pursuits are limited to this life, all is vanity.   Think of the parable of the rich fool – Luke 12:20-21, whose life was required of Him. As Jesus said next, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
    3. What is crooked cannot be made straight
      There are some things that we cannot change (vs. 15).   There are things about life, that we are powerless to change them.   Such seems to also be true of the way men misbehave.
      Concerning such, we just have to accept them and adapt. BUT realize that tis does not mean we should not try to make things better around us.
      NOTE: What man cannot change, God can!   Cf. Ecclesiastes 7:13.
  4.   I communed with my heart (16-18)
    1. He considered what he had learned and accomplished.
      There is a difference between acquiring knowledge and applying it.   He had applied it, or at least weighed it.   This is the well-reasoned conclusions we ought to be seeking.
    2. He considered his resources – his wisdom from God and his greatness – as a king of influence
    3. He determined to know wisdom, as well as madness (rash and extreme behavior) and folly.   While Solomon engaged in some, if not all, of these to some degree, the point to be made is that he could look around and observe what was going on and reach conclusions.
      We DON’T have to participate in foolishness and “madness” (extreme behaviors) to perceive that they are wrong.  We talk about knowing our enemy so that we can avoid or defeat him – 2 Corinthians 2:11. Ephesians 5:11 calls for us to have no fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness; 2 Timothy 2:22 – Timothy was told to flee youthful lusts; 2 Corinthians 6:14ff calls for us to not put ourselves into circumstances where unbelievers have advantage over us.
    4. FOR, in much wisdom is much grief. Can you think about observing the foolishness and madness around us, that we seem powerless to do anything about, produces grief on our part?
      As Christians, we ought to grieve at the fallen state of this world and our society around us.
    5. It is in this sense that he who increases knowledge also increases sorrow.
      Again, in our grieving, with wisdom we see where we are headed, and yet there is no desire for society to change or even consider true wisdom.
      There is also the realization that the more we truly learn and grasp, the more we realize we don’t know.

Conclusion: As Solomon describes the method behind his efforts, he notes his conclusions concerning the vanity of trusting in this life.   It is, as he now introduces – “grasping for the wind” and “Folly.

As I consider these verses, I cannot help but think of James 4:13-17 which describes HOW we ought to approach this life.     How are we doing in this?   Think about it.