The Way of Wisdom #9

Gathering Question

Do you tend to see things more in black and white or as shades of grey?

Gathering Prayer

  • What stood out to you in the sermon? What insights did you gain? What questions did it raise?

Ecclesiastes 1:1
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king of Jerusalem:

Proverbs and Ecclesiastes offer very different perspectives on life. Some believe that both were written by King Solomon – Proverbs when he was a young man and Ecclesiastes when he was older.

  • In what ways have you seen life look different as you’ve grown older?

Ecclesiastes 1:2
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

The word translated as “meaningless” is the Hebrew word “havel.” It means a “vapor.” The writer of Ecclesiastes says that life is just a vapor – here but an instant and then gone.

  • How does it feel to hear that life is just a vapor?
  • What does it say about life that it is here just an instant and then gone?

Ecclesiastes 1:3
What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?

  • What is the difference between our work being a joy and our work being toil?

Ecclesiastes 1:4-9
Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

  • Have you ever gone through periods when your life just seemed to be going in circles? How did that feel?
  • Have you ever questioned whether your life has really mattered? What assures you that it has?
  • How does it feel to know that God’s people have been wrestling with these kinds of questions for thousands of years?

Ecclesiastes 1:10-11
Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.

  • What are some of the timeless struggles of life experienced by every generation?
  • What are some of the timeless blessings of life?
  • What are some of the things in life that can be both a struggle and a blessing?

Psalm 39:4
Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.

  • The Bible says that life is short. How does that impact the way you see yourself?
  • How should that impact how we spend our time and energy?

Spencer had a teacher in seminary who said, “It’s the job of the church to teach people how to die.”

  • What does that mean to you?
  • Why do you think many people try to avoid thinking about death?
  • How can our faith help prepare us to die?
  • How can thinking and reflecting about death help us live richer, fuller lives today?

Matthew 16:24-26
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

  • What does it mean to you that Jesus has called us to deny ourselves?
  • How does dying to self free us to live for Jesus?

1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

  • What are some of the lesser prizes which people can waste their lives running for?
  • What are the primary prizes/goals you are striving for in your life?  What do you think Paul is describing when he talks about running to get the prize?
  • How can the message of Ecclesiastes 1 that life is but a vapor be a wakeup call for us?
  • If life is short, what is God calling you to do or change in your life?

Closing Prayer
Thank God for the gift of life. Confess any ways that you have been wasting this precious gift. Dedicate yourself to living each day to the fullest – loving God, loving others and making a difference in the world.