One of the most fascinating books of the Bible was written by the wisest–and possibly the wealthiest–man who ever lived yet who had at a point in his life tried to find his significance in possessions and accomplishments rather than in God. His life became very empty, lacking in purpose and meaning. As a result, Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes which is part of God’s inspired revelation to man. With his resources and position, there was nothing that Solomon couldn’t do or have, yet he said, “All things are wearisome. Man is not able to tell it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So, there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:8,9). “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!…Everything is futility and striving after the wind” (1:1; 2:17).
Solomon’s experience has been repeated millions upon millions of time throughout history by those who search for significance apart from a relationship with God. How true the famous prayer of Augustine: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our souls are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” There is nothing quite so meaningless as human life apart from a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Everything else in this world serves a purpose. Every animal and every plant on this earth serves a purpose. The sun, the moon, and every star in the sky serve a purpose. But for an individual human being, life without God is meaningless. “We were created with a God-shaped vacuum in our heart which only Jesus Christ can fill.” When we try to fill that void inside with anything but Christ, we experience ultimate emptiness and meaninglessness, just as Solomon did when he tried to replace God with things.
The apostle Peter wrote of this in terms of “your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers” (I Pet. 1:18 NASB). The word “futile” (“vain” in KJV) is a translation of the Greek word mataios (mat’-ah-yos) which means “empty, profitless, and idol, vain, vanity.” It has in it the idea of an ineffectual attempt to do something or an unsuccessful effort to attain something. Sounds very much like Solomon’s observation of life doesn’t it? It is futile in that it doesn’t measure up to that for which human life was created which was to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. King David discovered that, as reflected in His beloved Psalm 23 where he wrote: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want” (v. 1). He also wrote: “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psa. 73:25,26). The prophet Jeremiah, though he lived in a time when his fellow countrymen had turned against God and faced judgment, had also found his significance in God and wrote: “The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I have hope in Him” (Lam. 3:22-24). The apostle Paul, though he had been a very religious, devout Jew, only found his significance when he met Christ in his “road-to-Damascus experience” (Acts 9) and later wrote: “For to me, to live is Christ…” (Phil. 1:21). “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).
When Paul went to Athens, Greece and noticed all the idols to their gods, he also noticed one altar with the inscription, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD” (Acts 17:23). It was an indication of how their search for the true God and significance had led them to dead ends. They weren’t sure they had yet found the real thing. So, as Paul preached to them, he said, “What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things; and He made from one (blood) every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist…” (Acts 17:23-28).
God created us to have fellowship with Him and we will never find our true meaning and fulfillment and significance in life apart from that, because that is how and why we are made. That is how we are “wired.” Satan, in the temptation in the Garden, directly questioned God’s truthfulness, implying that Eve could have greater significance apart from God and that eating the forbidden fruit would reveal hidden knowledge, enabling her to know good from evil like God Himself. Being deceived, Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and Adam followed her in sinful rebellion against God. One of the tragic results of this event is that man lost his secure status with God and began to struggle with feelings of arrogance, inadequacy, and despair, valuing the opinions of others more than the truth of God. This robbed man of his true self-worth and put him on a continual, but fruitless, search for significance through his success and the approval of others. In one form or another, Satan’s lie still thrives today. For example, humanism, the central philosophy of our schools and society, teaches that man is above all else, that he alone is the center of meaning. Teaching that man has meaning totally apart from God, atheistic, evolutionary humanism leaves morality, justice and behavior to the discretion of “enlightened” man and encourages man to worship man and nature rather than God. Living without God’s divine truth, humanity sinks lower and lower in depravity, blindly following a philosophy that intends to heighten the dignity of man but instead lowers him to the level of animals. Rather than a spiritual and emotional being made in the image of God, man has been classified as merely a natural phenomenon of time plus chance, no greater than rocks, animals or clouds. The apostle Paul described this foolishness and demeaning perspective of man in Ro. 1:18-25.
We were created by the infinite, almighty, all-knowing God who made us in His image with the ability and need to relate to Him, the only truly significant person/object in the universe. We will never find true significance without having a personal relationship with Him. He made that possible by sending His eternal Son, Jesus Christ to redeem us from that empty, futile way of life that leaves Him out. Peter wrote, “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers (by physical birth), but with precious blood as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18,19). Through faith in the shed blood of Christ at Calvary in payment for our sins, we are emancipated from bondage to self and to sin and to Satan. We then, and only then, can experience not only eternal life, but the abundant life for which we were made. Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). Are you still searching for true significance or have you found it in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ? You won’t find it anywhere else.
P.S. Check out the book The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee (Available through “Man in the Mirror”)