Guest post - Fulfillment and Purpose
It is a pleasure to welcome my brother-in-law, Pastor Scott Bills of Faith Reformed Church to my blog today. He has some great thoughts on satisfaction with our lives and fits right in with the books on Solomon - the Loves of King Solomon series. So grab a cup of tea, sit back and enjoy some encouraging words from Pastor Scott. "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I don't believe there is a single human being not on a journey to find the kind of "satisfaction" Lewis writes about. Even the Rolling Stones sang about that journey. Remember... "I can't get no... satisfaction?" Today we tend to frame that satisfaction in terms of words like "fulfillment" and "significance." From one person to the next, the biggest difference is what path we choose in order to find that fulfillment, how we define significance, and the nature of the resources we draw on to sustain us while on the journey.
Even those who choose destructive behaviors; even those who chose criminal activity are on this same journey. Though misguided, their desire may be to become the "best" car thief. It's "best" they're reaching for; the best at anything. Something in their nature took a wrong turn somewhere along the line, but being the "best" or finding "success" became equated with fulfillment and significance regardless of how right or wrong the end result may have been.
King Solomon went down that same road. At some point, he made a choice to see how successful he could be without dependence on God. He chose to explore everything at his disposal as a potential path to fulfillment. Being the wealthiest man alive (for his day), that left his options wide... really wide open. Chapter 2 of Ecclesiastes gives us a fairly complete rundown on the roads he chose to follow. He sums up his grand experiment in verse 10:
"I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure."
Solomon had the resources at his disposal and the freedom as the king to live that out to mind-boggling extremes. I don't think any mortal man has ever had an opportunity like that to pursue any desire; any pleasure.
This king - once considered the wisest man alive - was testing the potential of self-sufficiency with unlimited resources to see if that could provide fulfillment and significance. His experiment was to discover if toys, pleasure, applause, accumulated wealth and even good deeds might lead him to a point where he would consider life full enough to feel personally fulfilled.
Many of us set out on that same path only to discover that our limited resources run out long before we get to the "full" part. And we blame limited resources for the shortfall; not the fact that we chose a wrong path. Rather than question the wisdom in the path we choose, we begin to live lives filled with "if onlys." "If only I had the money..." or "If only I had the time..." or "If only..." When we live our lives this way, we create a kind of dream-world in which we believe the gold ring we're reaching for is still out there, just waiting for us to figure out a way to get to it.
How much different was Paul, the Apostle's approach, outlined for us in Philippians 2:6-8. Paul chose Jesus' own life as his example to follow. He describes the path Jesus chose to walk toward his fulfillment like this:
... being in very nature God, [Jesus] did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8 NIV)
Solomon, on the other hand, chose the path of personal pleasure and set the pattern for many even in our own day. "If it feels good... do it!" The result? By the number of times Solomon uses words like "meaningless," or "futile," and phrases like "chasing after the wind" you get the idea fulfillment or significance were fleeting; completely missing at the end of it all.
On the other hand, Jesus' choice to the path of humility and service brought far different results. Philippians 2:9 says:
"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above all names..."
You don't get any higher praise than that! I'm not trying to suggest this path is easy. Don't forget, for Jesus it meant a wooden cross but led to a victorious empty tomb!
In time Solomon made the discovery C.S. Lewis wrote about in the quote I opened with. He tried - as we usually do - to fill the void with everything we can think of. And Solomon's bottom line acknowledged that what we're trying to do is assume a role that we can't fill. The emptiness Solomon felt, that we all feel, can only be filled by the One who created us, the only One who knows us best.
After making a mess of most of his life, Solomon finally came to this conclusion:
"...remember your Creator in the day of your youth" (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
Jesus, though "He was in the form of God (the Creator), started out His life by remembering the purpose and path the Father had for Him and then took the focus off himself and relied on His Father to take care of anything that could concern Him (from Philippians 2). Instead of going His own way, He:
Took on the role of servant Humbled himself Sacrificed himself Jesus' path of obedience and seeking to God's will led to recognition by His Father, our Creator, fulfillment of His mission and the a most glorious significance.
There will always be the temptation in us to seek our own way, find our own purpose. Can you relate? What if we take a step back and look up to see the One who made us, our Creator? Ask Him to show us His purpose for our lives. He's got a path and a plan uniquely fitted for each one of us. Jesus knew it. Solomon knew better but went another way.
I daresay that if we seek the path God's Son chose, we will find far more fulfillment than we will on any other path--both in this life and for all eternity.
Thank you, Scott!