[ 2 minutes to read ]I once dreamed I was Charles Spurgeon and … not really. Ecclesiastes has a way of working on you. I recently finished preaching through the book in our services. The book tends to make me think about everything much more. I think about life, death, youth, old age, working, living, laughing, a good steak, a good book, what has been, and what will be. I’ve generally been thinking about what it means to live all aspects of life while being subject to the vanity of the creation.
Many find the book pessimistic and cynical, but this is a case where rather than pessimistic, the book is realistic and rather than cynical, the book is honest. Solomon strikingly illustrates that life under the sun is subject to vanity and there are two main ways to navigate it—wisdom and folly. He also continually exhorts us to joy and strains all his might to teach us that true joy in this life can only be had through wisdom and it is a gift from God.
It doesn’t last
Solomon exposes the emptiness of the things we prize and pursue. They are empty because they cannot bring any lasting satisfaction to us. They cannot bring lasting satisfaction because they themselves do not last. Even if you achieve your most cherished dream, where do you go from there?
Solomon poured himself into every endeavor he could think of until they were all exhausted of enjoyment. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Were a few more going to make a difference? He feasted after a fashion the earth has not known. Was more wine or more steaks going to make a difference? He built the temple, palace, and houses for all his wives. Was it the next building project that was going to bring satisfaction? He had servants to cater to him and every need met lavishly. Were a few more servants or more clothes going to bring contentment?
So, as a preacher, don’t get caught up in thinking bigger and better about the church. Some preachers dream of pastoring that large church with great facilities. Some want to build from the ground up to outstrip all the other churches. Even if all your preaching dreams come true, it will not last and will probably be less than you hoped it would be.
The inimitable Mister Spurgeon
Charles Spurgeon is known as one of the most successful preachers of all time. He was so successful that just about every theological flavor out there tries to claim he was one of them. He died somewhat young while his mind was still sharp and his preaching still effective. Had he gone on to live long enough, his mind would have slipped and his preaching deteriorated along with health and body. Had he continued on pastoring, the church would eventually diminish.
Solomon identifies waning popularity as a vanity of this creation (Ecclesiastes 4:13-16). Even Jesus’s popularity died off (John 6:66). Some of John the Baptist’s disciples were upset when his ministry began to decline (John 3:26). John gave the best answer to this reality (John 3:27, 30).
A pastor is called to love and feed Christ’s sheep. That is what you should focus most on, whether those sheep be few or many. It is reported that a young preacher once lamented to Spurgeon that his church was so small. Spurgeon wisely told him he would think them plenty numerous when he had to give account for them before Christ’s judgment seat.