I was sitting on a stone wall in front of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. I watched the world pass by. Young, old, infants and grandparents, moms and dads. I watched people from Europe, Africa, Central and South America, and, of course, the US. Men and women in high-dollar suits raced between meetings trying to turn one more deal before the month ended. There’s got to be a better way!
You could have been in that crowd.
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?Ecclesiastes 1:2, 3
What do we gain? We live, and then we die. There’s got to be a better way. Culture has no answers.
Groucho Marx quipped from his deathbed, “This is no way to live!” He was right. Like mice on a running wheel inside a small cage, we say, this is no way to live.
There’s Got to be a Better Way: The Problem.
1. Everything is Temporary
We live in a briefly appearing world. We are born, and if extraordinarily fortunate, we will live for a hundred years and then vanish into an unseen world. Within those 100 years, we have maybe 50 years of real productivity. Our total contribution to the world is less than a century. We take our last breath, but the clock keeps on ticking.
James described our life as “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). From my experience, and probably yours, that is a spot-on observation. There is no permanence to our lives. It’s just a run from one meeting to the next, go home and sleep, and then start again the next day.
Solomon, an extraordinarily wise Israelite king, remarked, “I hated all my toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool” (Ecclesiastes 2:18, 19). Why do we work so hard for things so temporary?
2. The Future is Dark
As the news drones on and on, we are bombarded with dismal prophecies of failure. Crime is rising, and politicians are powerless to stop it. Test scores are dropping, and educators have no answers. If the experts are clueless, what are we to do?
The Bible tells us that things will get worse. Paul said that “evil people and impostors will go from bad to worse” (2 Timothy 3:13).
If you’re like me, you are afraid to read the headlines. What’s next? Supervillains and Superbugs rule the day! It’s not surprising that people are anxious and afraid. Is this as good as it gets?
3. There is no satisfaction
Do you like your job? Really, do you get up every day excited about your work? What about your relationships? Do they satisfy? Does the other person “complete” you? Are your children a blessing or a chore?
Lockdowns stopped many of our friendships, and even now, we’ve not found the time to refresh them. We get up, go to work, come home, and crash. We eventually drag our tired bodies to bed, sleep a few hours, then start again. Satisfaction is fleeting. We run like the little hamster on the wheel inside his cage but get nowhere.
There’s Got to be a Better Way: There Is!
1. Find Real Peace
In a letter to the Philippians (4:7), Paul speaks of a peace that “surpasses all understanding.” When was the last time you enjoyed a few minutes of real peace? In Jesus, you can have peace that comes from a realignment of your priorities and a changing of your trust model.
The first priority is Jesus and his work. Jesus spoke of worrying about what we acquire and consume in life. His advice is simple and straightforward: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). But, if you make that change in your priorities but do not also change who and what you place your trust in, you will be more anxious than ever!
Trust must be placed in something trustworthy. If we’ve learned anything we have learned that we cannot trust anything. Our leaders shade the truth and often lie to us. Our financial accounts rise and then fall just as quickly. Like a flailing sailor tossed violently in the waves, we need something to cling to. We need something that will not sink in stormy weather. We need someone who is trustworthy. Jesus said:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30)
Would you know the peace that comes from Jesus? Come, learn of him, trust him, and give him your heart. You will not be disappointed.
2. Untangle the Knot
Have you ever stopped to think about how entangled we are? We cannot say “no” at work because we want to be seen as a team player. We volunteer for projects at our child’s school because we want to be seen as good parents. Our front yard must be pristine because we fear a note from the neighborhood association. And, somewhere along the way, we need to find time for our spouses. There’s just too much going on!
God’s faithful have always struggled. Hear the writers description of some great figures in the Bible:
who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:33-38).
They bore up under struggles and managed to find what was better. The two verses tell us that something better was waiting for them – just like it is waiting for you.
Trust in Jesus will not untie the knot, but it will give you a fresh perspective on the truly important things in life.
Look, there is something better. Life can be better. You can be a part of something that is bigger than yourself but also profoundly meaningful to people around you.
3. Think Outside the Box
Look, I get it. Spiritual things are not viewed well today. The decline of culture and the decline of the reputation of the church mirror one another. I’m not sure which came first. I do know that much of what has passed for “church” is little more than a traveling medicine show. It’s about entertainment – not worship. It’s about pop-level psychology – not holiness. You can almost feel the disconnect between churches and Jesus.
There is no disconnect between Jesus and the church he established and died for. It’s still here and you can be a part of it regardless of your past.