I have seen all the works, which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind. (Ecclesiastes 1:14)
"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity." (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. (Psalm 118:8)
We search all our lives in our quest for satisfaction. We strive against a myriad of obstacles and we make impossible promises to others and to ourselves, in our pursuit of contentment.
Like the gold prospector, we sift through the sands of time, looking for the gem that will bring us fulfillment. Just one more panful, one more effort, maybe that will reveal the pot at the end of the rainbow. Just one more lottery ticket...?
If we think about it, what we seek most is love. Our need is so deep that we kill, if necessary, to eliminate the opposition. At the same time, love is the thing most distorted by the world. In our confusion, we place the label of love on all manner of lust. Love has become hollow and worthless and empty. Through worldly influence, the term, love, no longer has substance.
We also seek joy. We spend millions of dollars on thrills and excitement and laughter. We attend the Disney Worlds and sporting events and luxury cruises and anything else that might bring momentary happiness into our lives.
But the world's joy is elusive. We can spend all day at an amusement park and exit filled with joy. But when we reach the parking lot and discover that our car has been damaged by a careless driver, we lose our joy immediately.
Peace is another thing we kill for. We even have peace armies. Of course, if we can't have peace on our own terms, we have no peace. We train others (such as children) to modify their behavior so we can have our kind of peace. But when we try to impose our peace upon others, we never generate a peaceful condition. As the Preacher says, all is vanity.
As we struggle with life, we realize that being patient with others is an attribute worth working on. People continually disappoint us, but when we lose patience with them we feel more miserable inside. Patience is also an elusive characteristic. It seems that we can be more patient with those we like than with those we dislike. Impatience quickly develops into frustration, which causes us to lose our peace and our joy.
We would like to be kind to the arrogant waiter and the impatient saleslady, but it isn't easy. It's less difficult to be kind to the dog. Girl Scouts blocking our entry at the supermarket are there for a good cause. But when we're in a hurry, it is difficult to be kind.
Should anyone ask us if we consider ourselves to be good, we wouldn't hesitate to give them an affirmative answer. But that may be fantasy. We want to be good, but whether we are or not is difficult for us to decide objectively.
We are certainly faithful, at least to those closest to us. Unless, of course, our faithfulness to one might offend another. Then we have to weigh the conditions and make a logical decision.
We are gentle with the cat, because we have learned it is unwise not to be. Actually, that is pretty much our motivation for all gentleness.
Our self-control is also conditional. It is totally dependent upon the circumstances. When things are going our way, self-control is no problem whatsoever.
Why is there such conflict within us for these attributes? Because they are unnatural to our flesh. Flesh is capable of producing only temporary substitutes. And temporary substitutes are just not enough, so there is never lasting satisfaction.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22,23).
Is the Bible true, or is it an idealistic, impossible philosophy? If it is true, we behave as fools if we try to find love and joy and patience and all the other fruit of the Spirit in some function of the world. We need to read Ecclesiastes and ask the Holy Spirit to give us revelation. Solomon, purported to be the wisest man who ever lived had to learn the truth the hard way. Surely we can learn from him.
If love is a fruit of the Spirit can we possibly find it anywhere else? The world cannot produce Spiritual fruit, the world can only produce substitutes. The world produces lust and calls it love, but it is a poor substitute.
The world produces happiness, but happiness depends upon happenings, specific events that make us feel good. As soon as the event is over, the feeling is gone. The world has no idea of the concept of Spiritually produced joy, because that joy goes beyond understanding. It is not dependent upon circumstances, it is a constant.
The world mandates peace and legislates peace, but it cannot produce real peace. Spiritual peace is a state of being, not an experience dependent upon worldly and personal conditions.
There is no patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness or self-control in the way of the world. The world says that the one who dies with the most toys, wins. The fruit of the world is a competitive, "taker" mentality. If it feels good, do it, regardless of the effect it may have on others.
The disciple understands that he cannot function for the Lord using substitutes, he must have the real thing. That means he has to depend completely upon the Spirit of God to get through every day. His flesh may lean toward the way of the world, but he refuses to yield to his flesh. He knows he cannot produce Spiritual fruit that glorifies God using worldly methods. He also realizes there is no lasting satisfaction in worldly fruit.
We are familiar with Galatians 5:22,23. Do we understand that these most desirable attributes can be obtained only by yielding our flesh to the Spirit of God? Have we reached the point of total dependence upon the Holy Spirit for Spiritual fruit, or do we still strain to produce substitutes? If we continue to strive after wind, all is vanity.
Jesus is King!
P.S. What are you doing of eternal value?
Question for today: What sort of fruit do I produce?