We have concluded our Ecclesiastes sermon series.
What have we learned? Here are some reflections that have been contributed, shared with permission:
I found Ecclesiastes refreshing, very meaningful and applicable. A lot of deep searching but really rejoicing each session in the hope and identity I have in Christ. Each sermon helped refine my purpose and reason, though to be honest some sermons were heavy where we encountered why suffering, pain happens to good people too.
Personally, the series strengthened my identity and purpose and reason why we can live each day renewed and run the race well. Pressing on toward the Goal, the high calling as a child of Christ, and ambassador for Him, to share His story of Hope, Redemption, and Restoration; The good news being relevant to every square inch of life.
Just as was shared at the 2021 Watchnight service, on running the Race of Life well, I also felt Ecclesiastes was very timely for the events that are unfolding, each sermon was so timely for every week current events and the situations I went through. Really thankful for each sermon in this series. God Bless, Shalom.
The world is a very broken place and life often seems illogical/meaningless; And in fact, practicing good things like wisdom can cost one dearly. Many things happen for which there is no explanation, and oftentimes all our toiling seems useless. Yet, there is still hope and reason to persevere, because the God of all wisdom has ordained the times and seasons. As mere humans, we are to fear God and keep in step with Him, enjoy the present and be in community, practice what prudence we can and ultimately, know that a day will come when God will judge all our deeds, and put things right. And so we persevere in light of the knowledge that while we may not find meaning, God does, and one day we will understand.
Chang En Qi
The book touched base with reality and how most people feel about it. Hence, it opens up the willingness to look at reality from God’s point of view. The quiet mentions of the words of Christ with reference to Ecclesiastes brings new perspective and understanding to what Christ said. I have personally grown in awe of the words of Christ through Ecclesiastes, especially the richness and essence of what HE is saying.
Having my Action Group cover Genesis at the same time had also helped me understand Ecclesiastes even more, especially on the creation of Work and the great constant evil of man.
I think Ecclesiastes is a very excellent book to have a conversation with non-Christians and to follow up with them. If only we have concise materials, on it and that is able to bring out the ‘frustrations’ in the book.
The Ecclesiastes series has prompted me to examine my life in current pursuit of career, wealth accumulation and relationships in the light of what the writer said: “Vanity of vanities” or meaninglessness when God is not in the picture.
This is particularly poignant after living two restrictive years under pandemic. I felt various degrees of frustration with the situation: the isolation among people or a lostness of direction due to the prolonged enforcement of social distancing; the lost of connectivity between people and more virtual meeting, etc.
I thought the timing to preach on Ecclesiastes is God-guided because it challenged me to re-think the purpose of life, evaluate my spiritual life’s directions and to recalibrate my walk to “fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”
The world is broken and hurtling inexorably towards death. Life under the sun unpredictable, intensely frustrating. But that lack of control and certainty of death is designed to drive us toward the One who is Sovereign and the Giver of Life.
Knowing our Creator and Redeemer is our only hope of living with any meaning or purpose.
Everyone, at every stage of life, needs urgently to remember our Creator who entered His Creation to redeem us, and to live out our days mindful that we are ever in His Presence, and accountable to Him — not just for how we spend our time and resources in our lifetime, but ultimately for our attitude and response to Jesus — Creator, Saviour, returning Judge and King.
I have appreciated Ecclesiastes. I don’t find it a depressing book. The world is very broken and life is hard, even harsh, for many people (Singaporeans are quite sheltered). I’m comforted that God knows how broken the world is, and that His Word records that it is okay for us to feel that the world is broken and that often life can’t be understood, and that it is okay to ask existential questions and to rail against the fates. I would be more depressed if the bible promised rainbows and unicorns, because that would be so irrelevant to life and plainly delusional.
I particularly appreciate the passages in Ecclesiastes that remind me to eat and drink and enjoy life with family, that the simple joys of life are God’s gift to us. And that life can be enjoyed with God’s blessing, even if we can’t understand life and even as life is ephemeral. It’s a good balance, to tell us to get on with life and do what we can to do good and keep it all together, even if we can’t understand why life can be so unfair. Be grateful, don’t take anything for granted, live in the blessings of now. And also, have compassion for the many who suffer the sharp end of life.
Saw (Tan) Seang Pin
I have often felt the sentiments of “The Preacher” since I was a teenager, but somehow I was not able to find anyone around me at that time to engage on this. While I am sure they cared, somehow their words of encouragement felt superficial and hollow as they simply reiterated some of the go-to verses and preaching lines (e.g. God works for the good of those who seek him; God is with you etc.). It was like I could hear this high pitched, discordant note (borrowing Quek Tze Ming’s metaphor) that no one else seemed to hear. Following the sermon on Ecclesiastes, therefore, was vindicating and assuring — someone else is hearing this note too! Not just the Biblical figure of the preacher, but a whole preaching team and the Church.
Difficulties were: 1) fighting the temptation to give up because things are futile, 2) getting weighed down and sad/angry at the futility, or going the other way and becoming selfishly hedonistic, 3) learning to be ok with futility and suffering and pain; and letting God be God.
No particular passage stood out; all were insightful and meaningful. The main thing this series has given me is a reassurance that 1) I am not crazy for feeling like life was meaningless, 2) I can find meaning, reassurance, and even joy in this futile world by turning to the Lord.
Let God be God is a good reminder especially when “bad things” happen. Life is so good that we forget that all things, good and bad, come from God. We often pray that God will remove a bad thing when it happens, e.g. Ukraine crisis. As God is the One who sends it, He will not answer that prayer, and we wonder why and doubt His goodness. The prayer He wants from us is that we plead with Him to be gracious and merciful to the victims of war as He works out His purpose through this crisis. Our prayer, though with good intention, ignores God’s sovereignty in all things.
We pray that we can continue to recognise and accept God’s sovereignty in our lives and our prayers will be “sense” and not “nonsense” (from the book “Sense and Nonsense about Prayer” by Lehman Strauss).
The messages from the pulpit have resonated so deeply with me and with so much relevance. Thank you so much to the preaching team. My journalling today probably encapsulates the essence of my thoughts.
Inspired by a friend’s statement to run when God says run, I harken back to a simpler time of life where I desired His purpose, embraced my makers’ gifts of speed and felt His pleasure every time I ran.
We compete in the race called life.. where according to Darwin’s theory it’s a competition where only the fittest survive, where dog eats dog, and dogs with no teeth starve.
I bite at these worldly truths and the joy of His pleasure and unconditional love diminishes into relativity, and the need to be better or to receive the pleasure of someone better. But ‘better’ or the acknowledgment of better in itself is like the ‘chasing of the wind’ – fickle, transient, unreliable. In pursuit of better, we adopt the ‘stoic drive and suck it in and push on at all costs’ only to look back and find that it’s meaningless ( Ecclesiastes 2:21) and just leaves one drained and empty.
“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Pressing “pause” to refocus on the Hope of His justification, sanctification, adoption and resurrection and to find myself in Him once again – to drink of the well spring of His truth and unconditional love to find His pleasure again.
The sermon series has been challenging and reminds us to reflect on the point of life that we are in and in relation to God’s will. It is a reminder of the temporal nature of life which the poetry of Ecclesiastes so beautifully captured. When we look at the grand scheme of things, and how God has shaped it through time, we have the chance to just marvel at a glimpse of it. The word reminds us and give perspective on our place in the world, and humbles us to realize how small we are and how big God is. In attempting to share the beauty of God’s word with others, it is true that we ourselves are reminded firstly of who God is in himself especially in our younger years – that we are definitely never wasting our younger years – only growing slowly in maturity to realize to let go is to let God.
This book has brought a fresh revelation on God’s Sovereignty especially during this period of uncertainty and chaotic times in our world today. It has helped to foster our church members’ dependency on God’s Provision and Control.
Chuah Chin Yew
A series that is very relevant to our walk on earth and most applicable to our daily life challenges. Thank you to our Pastors and teaching leaders for walking us through this series.
Followers of King Jesus really need sober reflections, even more so during such challenging local & global circumstances. May we then be even more intentional to a hurting world. May we be His hands & feet.
Wonderful sermons. Thank you very much, preaching team. It shows so much clarity in the midst of this messy world. So much to let go and so much to gather.
Praise the Lord for sending us this message.
I’ve enjoyed the sermons of Ecclesiastes so far because it touches on the deeper meaning of life and helped me resolve some of the questions I had.
it has been impactful. my views on life have changed somewhat and i now have a different attitude towards what life is to me. the passages describing pursuing excellence above others was what struck me the most. I now know that striving to outdo others is a pursuit of wind and this has helped me to make peace with all the ways i’ve been lacking.
I found reading Ecclesiastes disturbing because it reminded me of similarities to my own pre-Christian worldview. I see the preacher’s message in Ecclesiastes as reflecting a worldview where life is meaningless because death is the end for all creatures (Ecc 2:14, 3:19-20). As a consequence of this worldview, the preacher believed that death rendered a person’s lifetime “achievements” meaningless (Ecc 9:1-7) – hence one should indulge oneself whenever fortune favoured oneself.
When the preacher’s message is examined closely, a few observations could be made:
1. The preacher did not seem to exhibit a personal relationship with God because throughout the message because he did not once address God with His personal name: LORD (Yahweh) – this is unlike the writings of the other OT prophets. It would be like a pastor speaking on the meaning of life to a Christian audience for half an hour without mentioning Jesus.
2. His philosophy on the meaning of life seemed very self-centred – he did not mention anything about serving others – even when one had benefited from the toils of one’s hands.
3. And because he considered death as the end of all things, his philosophy of life seemed to drift with the ebb and flow of personal fortunes (and may have some contradictions?):
– eat and drink when he had benefited from his toil (Eccl. 3:13, 5:18, 8:15, 9:7)
– despair when things did not go all his way (Eccl. 2:20, 5:13-16, 6:1-6)
The epilogue from Eccl. 12:8 at the end of the book is the commentator’s critique of the preacher’s philosophy. Eccl. 12:8 seemed to be a way for the commentator to throw the preacher’s words back in his face by repeating the preacher’s words “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity”. The commentator said in Eccl. 12:12b “Of making many books there is no end” – that seemed to suggest that he viewed the preacher’s philosophy as “all is vanity”.
For me, the preacher’s philosophy was a consequence of a worldview where this life on earth is all there is without a personal relationship with God. And if one were to see death as the end of all things, then it would logically follow that there is no need to care for others as death too would be the end for everyone else.
But I am thankful that God had revealed His salvation plan for all of His creation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus showed us that this life is not all there is – that there will be a perfect new creation and that meaning in this life can be found through knowing Him, and loving Him through serving others even in the midst of the frustrations and pains of this life.
Soh Kok Hong
If there is one book in the canon that brings me infinite delight, it has to be Ecclesiastes. The book is a microscopic observation of the meaning of life and its vagaries. The author is presumably king Solomon. But does it matter? A good novelist wants his novel to be remembered, not the author. If we see the bible as the Word of God, then God is the author.
Ecclesiastes should be enjoyed for the following reasons:
1) Scintillating diction: 10:1 Dead flies make the perfume’s ointment give off a stench; so, a little folly outweighs wisdom and honour.
2) Complexities of thought: 1:18 For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
3) Juxtaposition of contradictions: 7:16 Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. 7:17 Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool.
4) Stimuli for further thought: 12:11 The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected saying; they are given by one Shepherd.
I was thrilled when Zion Bishan chose Ecclesiastes for its series of sermons. Kudos to the preachers for surfacing nuggets of wisdom from an apparent quagmire of doom and gloom. Ecclesiastes is a collection of contradictions – strands of tension stitched together to tease, confuse, and teach. It is a work of art that shapes perceptions yet challenges assumptions. Therein lies the beauty and power of Ecclesiastes.
P.S. Our sermon series in May will address some of the issues raised in the book as we consider a selection of Psalms.