Chasing the Wind
Ecclesiastes 1: 1-17

A high school teacher was teaching a class filled to the brim of students who did not want to learn.
They couldn't care less.
The teacher finally got fed up with their apathy.
So, the teacher grabbed a piece of chalk and wrote on the chalkboard in large, foot-high letters:
A-P-A-T-H-Y.

One of the bored-couldn't-care-less students struggled to read the word.
Unable to pronounce it, he started spelling it: A-P-A-T-Y, and mispronounced it,
"Aa-Payty-ee".
Then, he leaned over and muttered to his buddy, "What in the world is 'a-paythee?'"
And his friend yawn back with a sigh: "Who cares?"

Apathy rules and nobody seems to care.

Someone has suggested that there are four lies about life.
1. "Laugh and the world laughs with you.
Cry and you cry alone."
You will probably find the opposite true.
"Laugh and you laugh alone.
Cry and you get a crowd."

2. "Every day in every way our world is getting better."
What a tragic, disillusioning dream.

3. "There is a light at the end of every tunnel."
Murphy laws said that the light at the end of the tunnel was really
"the headlight of an oncoming train."

4. The fourth came from the pop music of yesteryear.
"Things never are as bad as they've seem.
So dream, dream."

Things are not really as bad as they seem.
They are often worse, and dreaming make them any better.

There's just one reason people keep telling us these things, and that is to make us
believe that happiness, and other such wonderful blessings are ours if we simply keep on hoping.

But hope cannot exist in a vacuum where facts are ignored.
The fact is that the world is not wonderful.
The world is wicked, corrupt, and depraved.

And work isn't always enriching and fulfilling; it is tiring and futile.
And sometimes, it blows up in your face.
On the whole people are not kind and generous; many are selfish and cruel.
And, to make matters worse, apathy rules.

Many years ago there lived a king, named Solomon.
He wrote what he discovered about life.
His father, David, had left him a rather large estate -- and more money, etc. --
than anyone could imagine.

Solomon ruled 40 years over a nation free of war.
So Solomon was free to use his money to finance his pursuits and to discover life.
So, he writes to tell us what he discovered.
And, right at the beginning he writes: "Vanity of vanities. All is vanity."
He was saying that life is completely empty.
Apathy everywhere.
Life appears to have substance, yet when you dig into it there is nothing there.
It doesn't satisfy.

Solomon even asks: "What advantage does man have in all his work... which he does
under the sun
?" (Ecclesiastes 1: 3)
The keyword is advantage, which comes from the original Hebrew word, meaning,
"that which is leftover when the transaction is complete."

We would say, "When it is all said and done, when you turn the light out at the end of life,
when you finally close the door on your business and retire,
when you walk away from the fresh grave of someone you love -- the final advantage is zero
."

From time to time we can expect futile days.
Some of what we plan will miscarry.
Paths that looked promising will die out.
Pillars that we lean on will collapse and send our hopes tumbling down on us.

When sickness strikes or financial reverses it, futile days can stretch into empty weeks or months.
We find futility where we least expect it.
Values that we treasure prove false, and efforts that should succeed come to failure,
and pleasures that should satisfy increase our thirst.
That's life!

Do you believe that?
That is depressing.
Are you weary of hearing all this?
Good!
That's exactly what Solomon wanted!

Listen to some specifics about life under the sun.
Listen to this statement:
"A generation goes and a generation comes... " (Ecclesiastes 1: 4)
That's futility even in the cycle.

There are people born today and there are people who die today.
There will be beautiful people and gracious people who will die.
There will be tough and determined people -- who will die.
Gifted, talented and entertaining people will die.
People who make us laugh, and people who make us think will die.
Those bright, beautiful, fun loving, capable people will die just as empty
as those who grieve at their funerals.


Then chapter 1, verse 5: "... the sun rises and the sun sets; and hastening to its place
it rises there again
."
There is monotony in Solomon's words.
Then, we read in Ecclesiastes 1: 6: "Blowing toward the South, then turning toward the North,
the wind continues swirling along; on its circular course the wind returns
."
It's course is monotonous!

Solomon writes in verse 8, with a deep, long sigh: "All things are wearisome;
man is not able to tell it
."
As children we were told to keep looking and to keep discovering because there is beauty
to be found and wonders to be found.
This is true up to a point.

But as we get older we discover that what we find is not satisfaction,
but only another question mark.
It is maddening!
So, we decide to become philosophers -- people who talk about stuff they don't understand,
but make it sound like it's everyone else's fault.

None of this is new.
"Not even the ear is filled with hearing."
If you doubt that, you are not acquainted with an audio sound system, such as surround sound
or a car driving by with its "boom, boom" which vibrates your windows.
You can almost bet that the owner of that car believes he needs more "boom, boom."

Then, in verse 11, Solomon says: "There is no remembrance of earlier things;
and also of the latter things which will occur
..."
In effect Solomon is saying, "I'd like to forget it."
Have you ever felt like that at the end of the day, when you would like to forget that day
or that school... that job... that person.
Why, because apathy rules!
So, "who cares!"

In verses 12-17 Solomon is telling us: "I've researched all these things...
I've explored all these things
."
His conclusion: "What's the use?"
Verse 17: "And I set my mind to know wisdom and I know madness and folly;
I realized that this also is striving after the wind."
Solomon said, "I've been there."

It is wisdom to listen to the person who has been there.
In fact, it is foolish not to listen to Solomon.
We don't have his money, and we don't have his knowledge.
So, we couldn't go to the depths he went to, even if we tried.
That's all the more reason to listen to him -- he has been there.

He is saying, "I am anxious to tell you what I have experienced..."
He is going to say, in effect, "It's not worth it to get into drugs."
And he would say, "You're foolish to give yourself to alcoholic drinks."
And he is going to say, "If you think that an affair is going to satisfy -- think again.
For I have had every possible affair you can have, and I can tell you that
it will not make you happy
."

He would also continue: "And if you think the answer is some high-powered business venture
or money or great athletic achievements -- then, one day you will wonder
why you thought it was a big deal -- none of these things will satisfy!
None of these things will bring lasting happiness."

That is Solomon's advice!
Let us listen!
Let us learn!

Solomon is trying to teach us that the only way to find lasting satisfaction
and to find relief from boredom is to have a relationship with the living God.
Apart from God -- apathy rules.

Ecclesiastes 1: 16-17: "I said to myself, 'Behold I have magnified and increased wisdom
more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth
of wisdom and knowledge.'
And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly;
I realized that this also is striving after the wind
."

Look at what he said.
He was saying, "I stopped at nothing. I have poured over it.
I have been there.
I gave it my best shot.
I set my mind to know wisdom, madness, and folly.
I finally realized that I was merely chasing the wind
."

So if, there is nothing under the sun, our only hope must be above it.
Our source of hope is beyond this earth.
So many have tied all their hopes to this earth -- to only what they can see and touch --
and they block God out of their lives.

If a man who had everything, investigated everything visible, then to one thing most needed
must be invisible.
So few really hear the inaudible.
So few really see the invisible.

An Indian was walking in downtown New York City alongside a friend who was
a resident of the city.
Right in the center of Manhattan, the Indian seized his friends arm, and whispered,
"Wait. I hear a cricket."

His friend said, "Come on! A cricket? Man, this is downtown, New York."

He persisted, "No, seriously, I really do."

His friend responded, "It's impossible. You can't hear a cricket!
Taxis going by. Horns honking. People screaming at each other.
Brakes screeching.
Both sides of the street filled with people.
Subways roaring beneath us.
You can't possibly hear a cricket
!"

The Indian insisted, "Wait a minute!"
He led his friend along slowly.
They stopped, and the Indian walked down to the end of block.
He went across the street, looked around, cocked his head to one side, but couldn't find it.

He went across another street, and there in a large cement planter where a tree was growing,
he dug his hands into the mulch and found the cricket.
"See!" He yelled, as he held the insect high above his head.

His friend walked across the street, marveling,
"How in the world could it be that you heard a cricket in the midst of downtown,
busy Manhattan
?"

The Indian said, "Well, my ears are different from yours.
It simply depends on what you are listening to.
Here, let me show you.
"

And he reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of change, and said, "Now watch."
He held the coins waist high and dropped them to the sidewalk.
Every head within a block turned around and looked.

He said: "It all depends on what you're listening for."

I believe that I am speaking to a many here who are truly pursuing excellence.
You look good.
You're bright.
You have potential.
You are well-educated.
You live a decent life.
You pay your bills.

You are still dreaming.
You keep telling yourself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
You keep telling yourself that it is life and happiness that you are looking for -- the real life.

But I want to warn you!
If you are living a life without Christ, it is nothing more than a handful of change.
The only way you or I or anyone else will find lasting satisfaction is trusting in Jesus Christ.