Hebel – guest post by Mike Breaux

Come on, be honest, have you ever snuck a peak at someone’s diary or journal?  Pretty fascinating what you can learn about a person by reading things that are unvarnished, vulnerable, and deeply personal.  Thousands of years ago an extremely wealthy guy named Solomon wrote down his thoughts. It’s not at all like that series of books, “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid”. It’s more like “The Diary of a Wealthy King.”

This guy was like a Forbes Magazine cover boy…a Time Magazine’s ‘Man of the Year’ candidate. The dude was powerful, handsome, charismatic, creative, filthy-rich, and wise. And at the end of life, he was very honest, transparent, broken, and repentant.  Dang, if he would have just got there sooner.

In his journal called Ecclesiastes, as an old man, he gets super vulnerable, and talks about his mistakes and misguided wanderings.  I’ve been reading through it, and I’m amazed at how relevant, practical, and preventative his writings are.  You discover some ways to get life really right and some ways to get it really wrong.

You hear him say, “Don’t do what I did. Don’t pursue happiness and fulfillment the way I did. Don’t view relationships the way I did. Don’t run after stuff that can’t deliver what it promises. Don’t let the pursuit of success and the applause of other people consume you. Never isolate your self from healthy community. Don’t drive through life without any guardrails, get some healthy boundaries, some core values, some godly wisdom. And those of you who are young, don’t ignore God. Remember your Creator when you are young, don’t live like he doesn’t exist. Whatever you do, please don’t wreck your life like I did! Walk with God now and reach your full potential. Walk with God and know real freedom. Walk with God and know deep rich meaning all the days of your fleeting life.”

Like all of us, his life began with such promise and potential. You can read all about him in 1 Kings in Old Testament of the Bible.  He was the second son of King David and Bathsheba and was handed the kingdom of Israel from his father. One night God comes to him in a dream and tells him, “Ask me for anything and I’ll give it to you.”  Solomon was really humble and responds, “To tell you truth God, I’m completely overwhelmed. I am in over my head. I need your wisdom to govern and lead these people. What I want above all else, is your wisdom.”

Well, God was thrilled with that selfless request, (he always is impressed by humility) and tells him that he would make him uncommonly wise, so that he could lead well. And He did.

When Solomon was young and centered on this humble, dependent relationship with God, he wrote things like the Song of Songs. It’s this cool (actually hot) little piece of poetry about true love, romance, and sex. You’d like it. Really. He talks about when a man and woman and God wrap themselves around selfless love and become one, it’s a beautiful thing.

When he was walking with God, when he was chasing after God, he wrote the incredible book of Proverbs. It is a must read for every guy, short and to the point with one sentence pearls of wisdom. No pictures, but it’s close to the perfect guy-book.

But you know, it’s one thing to have wisdom, quite another to apply it to your own life. You can know and espouse great principles about living and never actually live them yourself. As a teacher I realize the very real danger of that. You can possess all kinds of wisdom and still make terrible choices. You know how it goes, right? Those appetites get screaming. Lust and envy lure you down a certain road that you know you shouldn’t be traveling, and you end up wrecking your life.

Solomon’s strength became his weakness. Instead of embracing the wisdom that God gave him, he began to trust his own. Instead of seeking after God, he began seeking after pleasure, and the pursuit of happiness became his ‘god’. So he sits down and puts his thoughts on paper saying, “Don’t do life the way I did. I spent my life chasing the wind.”

Thirty-eight times in Ecclesiastes, Solomon uses a Hebrew word to describe his frustrating pursuit of happiness. The word is Hebel, and is translated, “meaningless, emptiness, futility, a vapor that which vanishes quickly and leaves nothing behind.”

He’s saying as an old man, “Looking back on my life, I can tell you that life apart from God, is like chasing the wind. It’s hebel, it’s meaningless, it’s futile, it’s a vapor, a fog. It’s like popping a soap bubble and there’s nothing left.”

Before he started drifting away from God, before he began trusting in his own great wisdom, Solomon wrote this:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

And now he’s saying “I wish I would have never stopped doing that.”   Ecclesiastes is kind of like him saying, “Please, let me repeat, trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Don’t you ever stop doing that. Never stop walking with Him. Life apart from Him is hebel, it’s meaningless.”

Deion Sanders was recently inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. I know that some don’t like him for his brashness, his bling, and his showmanship (ie. the ‘PrimeTime’ dance ten yards from the endzone) but I always kind of liked him. Now, I do like the classy ‘hand the ball to the ref like you’ve been in the end zone before’, but I’ve always been a fan of Deion the football player. He was dominant and fun to watch.

I heard and read about how the whole ‘Primetime’ thing was just a mask for insecurities he felt as a kid. He created this alter ego, this super hero if you will, for everyone to see on the field. Truth was he was a very shy kid with a ton of pain.

I’m not sure how many years it’s been now, since Deion finally surrendered his life to Jesus Christ, but in a segment of his autobiography he writes about his ‘Solomon-like’ pursuit.

“Everything I touched turned to gold. But inside, I was broken and totally defeated. I remember sitting at the back of the practice field one afternoon, away from everybody, and tears were running down my face. I was saying to myself, “This is so meaningless. I’m so unhappy. We’re winning every week and I’m playing great, but I’m not happy.” I tried everything. Parties, women, buying expensive jewelry and gadgets, and nothing helped. There was no peace. I had everything the world has to offer, but no peace, no joy, just emptiness inside. The Bible describes it in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes as chasing after the wind, and that’s exactly what it was like.”

And it is.  And Deion is a fast dude! You’re not going to catch the wind, either.

I like what Dr. Henry Cloud says in his book ‘The Law of Happiness’: “When we are pursuing the things that don’t have the power to make us happy, we are ignoring the ones that do.”

When we get caught up in pursuing all the things that Deion and Solomon talk about, all these things that just don’t deliver what they promise, we miss out on the ones that do.

Happiness is an ‘inside out’ kind of thing, but we are convinced it’s not. We start looking at all of these external things saying,  “IF ONLY…”

IF ONLY…I could make just a little more money, then I’d be happy

IF ONLY…I could get married, then I’d be happy

IF ONLY…I could hook up with her, then I’d be happy

IF ONLY…I could get that promotion, then I’d be happy

IF ONLY…I could own a home, then I’d be happy

IF ONLY…I could sell my home, then I’d be happy

IF ONLY…I could move to a different city, then I’d be happy

IF ONLY…I could go to a different school, then I’d be happy

IF ONLY…I could just lose twenty pounds, then I’d be happy

IF ONLY…I was better looking

IF ONLY…I was rich

IF ONLY…I was famous, THEN I’d be happy.

It’s almost like back in the Garden of Eden. The serpent slithers into our life and says, “Yeah I know God has given you all of this amazing fruit to eat, but I’m telling you THAT ONE holds the keys to your happiness. If only you could have THAT! Come on, can’t you see that God is holding out of you.”   So we chase after fruit that will not satisfy.

Extensive research in the area of happiness and fulfillment shows that none of these things have the power to bring lasting happiness. Like a gallon of milk marked July 9, external happiness based on circumstances, has an extremely short shelf life. Solomon was right. Hebel.

I’m discovering that happy people don’t chase after happiness, they chase after God and happiness catches them.

That’s where Solomon finally lands at the end of his life. I’m praying you will land there today.

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Categories: A First Faint Gleam

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