April 19, 2012 | In: From Steve

WHATEVER … Solomon in Ecclesiastes 2:1-8, 11, 20; 1:2-9

Do you ever dream what it would be like to have everything?  When I was a boy, I dreamed of having it all: making the winning score with my amazing athletic skill, beautiful girlfriends, wealth, famous friends, a life of adventure traveling the world.  Then real life moved in.  I discovered I couldn’t have all of these things.  I was faced with an ordinary life.

There was a person who had it all in real life, but he was not happy and fulfilled.  He was trapped in apathy; life felt meaningless.  How could this happen?  How could he fall into the trap of apathy.

In Ecclesiastes 2:1-3, Solomon looks for meaning and fulfillment in all kinds of pleasures.   If a little pleasure is good, then more is better.  Advertising wants to convince us that pleasure is the main point of life.  We may disapprove of a life devoted to partying, yet our lives are saturated with television, movies, computer games, and music.  These things can be outlets for stress and relief from the hassles of life, but these things may come to consume us.

Author Kalle Lasn claims that media can stimulate us to the point of blunting our emotions.  “The more indifferent we become, the more voltage it takes to shock us.  This emotional caffeine has eroded our sensitivity—our ability to empathize.”  Saturation with media not only can numb our emotions, but can cloud our ability to relate.  A psychologist writes, “This generation is more bored and has grown used to a great deal of external stimulation.”  Significant relationships are exchanged for a “drug fix” of pleasure and entertainment.  Instead of seeking the support and growth of interchange with friends, we escape with electronic distractions.  We become more apathetic about life.

1. Apathy comes from being distracted by pleasure.

Are you satisfied in life, or apathetic about life?  What do you use to fill up your life?  Is pleasure a key component of your life?  If distractions still leave you feeling empty, where do you find purpose?

I eventually outgrew my childhood fantasies of being a star.  My quest for pleasure was replaced by a new quest: go to graduate school to have a productive career.  If pleasure wasn’t my fulfillment, then surely achievement would be.  But I discovered that no matter what academic diploma I received or what job advancement I gained, I still felt restless.  My restless spirit for more unsettled both me and Karan.

It was even more unsettling when people I knew who had made it to the top were still lonely and empty—more responsibility, less fulfillment.  They were going through the motions because there was no where else to go.  An author of successful novels was once asked what he would like to have known as a boy.  His answer: “That when you get to the top, there’s nothing there.”

So in Ecclesiastes 2:4-8, 11, 20, we find Solomon had it all—wealth, achievement, fame and wisdom, and every possession imaginable.  He had gold, jewels, expensive clothes, gourmet food, exotic animals, and the latest technology in modern weapons.  Solomon had achieved everything.  Maybe that’s part of the problem: when we achieve everything we want—there’s nothing left to live for and we become apathetic.

One day you will retire from your job and career.  If career has been the main source of your fulfillment and meaning in life, then what?  You are left with nothing.  For some, retirement means waiting for death.  When I had to recover from heart surgery some years ago, I was stuck at home on the couch for 2 months.  I had a taste of inactivity with no achievement.  It was not a taste that I want to experience again anytime soon.

 2. Apathy comes from relying on achievement. 

Do you ever find yourself striving to achieve something and leaving your true priorities behind?  As long as we keep striving to achieve, we never stop long enough to identify the wounds in our souls.  But someday when our achievements no longer fill our empty space, we will be staring directly into the hollow, lifeless eyes of apathy.  Instead, seize today to bring God’s kingdom to earth as it is in heaven!

Rewinding back to Ecclesiastes 1:2-9, Solomon’s title “the Teacher” means “one who gathers.”  “Searcher” might be a better label.  Solomon has searched and sampled many different ways to find fulfillment in life.  Instead, he found apathy—“everything is meaningless.”   Meaningless means something temporary and unsubstantial.  Nothing man does, no matter how hard he tries, will endure.

Even the earth itself is a series of cycles just like man.  Nature can’t provide meaning or purpose; it can only demonstrate repetitive patterns.  The sun rises and sets each and every day.  The wind constantly blows and shifts direction.  The water cycle of rain→evaporation→rain never ends.  Nature and man’s generations are just monotonous circles.  So what’s the purpose?  Will anything we have done with our life even be noticed, much less remembered?  Will we make any difference??

Nothing is really new under the sun, though there are variations.  Landing on the moon was a variation of discovering the New World.  Cell phones are a variation on smoke signals.  Space ships are a variation on chariots.  Technology brings us no closer to the meaning of life.

Solomon’s final conclusion is that we have a choice: resign to apathy or find meaning outside the circle.  Only God who exists outside time and space can step into history to provide life with meaning.  God intervened into the circles of nature and man’s generations to provide redemption that gives life meaning and direction.  Life without God has little meaning in the end.  Settling for spiritual mediocrity is a partial surrender to apathy.

3. Apathy comes from life without God.

Do you find yourself feeling like your life is a tiny speck in an endless cycle?  No matter how much you distract yourself or what you achieve, it doesn’t fill your soul?  Perhaps this emptiness has led to apathy—a feeling of “whatever”—nothing really has meaning.  You are just going through the motions, wondering if something is missing.

Something IS missing.  Do you see your life as a story with meaning and direction?  Is your story connected to God’s bigger story of redemption?  God is the counterpoint to apathy!

Author Erwin McManus was speaking at a conference in Florida and brought his family along for vacation.  One morning Erwin and his 10-year-old son Aaron were walking down to the beach.  A double amputee with specialized crutches was awkwardly making his way out of the ocean water.  As he attempted to navigate his way back up to the hotel, he fell.  He pulled himself up again only to fall a second time.  Erwin pretended not to notice and nudged Aaron in the opposite direction.  Everyone on the beach also ignored the man.  Erwin’s son surprised him by saying, “Dad, I have to go help that man.”

McManus writes, “His words pierced through me, and I stood there paralyzed in my hypocrisy … it was clear that Aaron was seizing his divine moment.  I had missed mine.  Aaron’s compassion moved him to heroism.”  Aaron went down to help the man but was unable to lift him.  But several people from the crowd came and worked as a team to get the man up to the sidewalk.  Aaron walked back up to his father with tears in his eyes and said, “I couldn’t help him, dad.  I wasn’t strong enough.”  The truth was that no one would have helped the man if Aaron hadn’t cared enough to take the initiative.

So how does apathy worm its way into our lives?  Would you do what Aaron did?  Spiritually are you willing to sacrifice to live a passionate life for God that gets involved in others’ lives even if it’s messy?  Inserting yourself into the mosaic of God’s story is the ultimate cure for apathy!

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