Didn’t See It Coming – Emptiness

This message is a part of our Didn’t See It Coming Series.
Find the rest of the messages in this series here.

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(The debrief is a series of podcast episodes on the Faith Church podcast where Pastor Daniel and Pastor Eric discuss the message from Sunday, answer questions, and share stories or interviews that also relate to the message)

Sermon Notes

If you’re a parent, you’ve no doubt had the experience of taking a trip somewhere and the kids ask the same question 100 times. “Are we there yet?” Our kids ask this on a trip to Holiday World, which is just around 40 minutes. I typically say something like, yeah but I thought you guys just wanted to drive around the parking lot…No we aren’t there yet we are still driving aren’t we?

There’s a form of “Are We There Yet” that we constantly ask as adults, we are constantly asking “Am I happy yet?” We think that happiness is this place we’ll get to once we have enough, experience enough, or accomplish enough.

We constantly tell ourselves, once I get “X” then I’ll be satisfied.
Once I lose 20 lbs, then I’ll be satisfied.
Once I get a better car, then I’ll be satisfied.
Once I find my soulmate, then I’ll be satisfied.
Once I get my dream job, then I’ll be satisfied.
Once I get my revenge, then I’ll be satisfied.
Once I prove them wrong, then I’ll be satisfied…

And life is a constant series of asking, am I there yet?We achieve or get what we had set at the marker of what we’ll make us happy, and we still aren’t there yet… I played a variation of this when I was running regularly. I would say, I’m not going to look at the distance tracker, I’m not going to look at it, ok, I’m going to look at it, I bet I’ve gone almost 2 miles already, oh no, I’ve only gone half a mile… Maybe you do this at work, I’m not going to look at the clock, I’m not going to look at the clock, ok I’ll look at the clock, hopefully it’s almost lunch time, oh no it’s not even 10 yet…

Probably you’re in one of two groups this morning, you’re here and you’re farther along than you expected to be at this point, your job is better than you expected, your house is bigger than you expected, your car is nicer than you expected, your marriage is better than you expected


You’re not as far along as you expected. Your job is worse than you’d hoped, your house isn’t as nice as you’d like, your car is older than you wish, your marriage is not where you want it…

Maybe you move back and forth between those two groups, maybe you go from being grateful for all that you have one week to being envious and unhappy the next week… Whichever group you’re in, whether or not you are father along that you’d expected or not quite as far as you’d hope or whether your doing better or less than you’d expected- None of us are totally satisfied with where are at- no one’s life is perfect and no one is perfectly happy.

Even those of you that life is pretty great and it’s better than you expected, if the right commercial flashed on the screen right now, you’d have a new thing or achievement or experience you feel like you need to have…. We are like people who live at the Thanksgiving Table, stuffed, couldn’t eat another bite, but then someone mentions pie, and we’re like, hmmm. Maybe a little piece wouldn’t hurt…. We are all searching for meaning and significance, we are all searching for what will make us “Truly happy” what will fill the emptiness within us.

We are all constantly asking, am I almost “there” yet?

To prove this point to you, I want to show the writing of a man who went further than any of us could ever dream, he had more money, more fame, more power, and greater experiences than anyone else who ever lived, and still he was asking “am I there yet?”

The author of this passage is Solomon and he was so powerful and wise that he took a small insignificant nation and made it a super power, he had the leaders of other nations coming to see him to get his advice and understand how he had become so powerful. He was so rich that he personally depreciated the value of silver. He had so many lovers that he was married to 700 and had another 300 official mistresses… Guys, that means that everyday Solomon had 3 birthdays and two anniversaries to remember… What he found in all of it was that it wasn’t the answer.

1I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.
2I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?
3I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.
4I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards:
5I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits:
6I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees:
7I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me:
8I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.
9So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me.
10And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.

17Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

There was nothing that held Solomon back, there was no greater authority, there was no limit to his funds, whatever he wanted, he had it, and yet he only found vanity and vexation. The word that Solomon uses here is Hevel which means smoke. It’s like when ever he would try to grab something of meaning, it would dissipate, he couldn’t get a hold of it. He could see it, but he couldn’t grab it. He went farther in the search for “it” than any other person and didn’t find it… He still felt empty. Solomon went after the same progression most people go after, it’s a cycle that everyone follows trying to find their satisfaction or happiness, I think if you’ll look for it, you’ll see it everywhere.

In our search for happiness we pursue more, better, and then different.

At first you want more stuff, then you want better stuff, then you want different stuff. You want more clothes, then you want designer and name brand, and then you want clothes that can’t be found anywhere else than the exclusive place you got that shirt from… This is what Solomon did. He took hold of much, he didn’t hold himself back from what he wanted. He then brought in exotic plants to fill his many gardens.

I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.

There’s new layer to this in our culture today, today people jump at the chance to be considered oppressed, to be in the group that’s been held down- there are people who are oppressed, but when everyone is oppressed it cheapens the justice given to those who are truly oppressed…

When we can’t find the secret to our happiness we search for someone to blame for our unhappiness.

In verse 17, Solomon said “I hated life” – some of you have been there. You have hated life and you’ve been on a rampage blaming anyone and everyone for your unhappiness… Solomon, in his wisdom and despair, realized an important truth and he writes about in the next chapter…  This is important because once you understand this, you’ll see a major flaw in your thinking and behavior. You’ll see the vexation that comes from your endless pursuit of more… He gives us this poetic wisdom that tells us there is a time or a season or a purpose for everything, he’s recognizing that God has a plan in all of this that we call life… Then he says something that I really want you to hear in 3:11

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

The word he uses for world means ages worlds- some of you probably have “eternity” or “infinity” in your modern translation… In other words, he said that our hearts were made for the capacity of the infinite. It means our hearts are a bottomless pit. It means that no matter how much we cram into our lives, no matter how much is on your schedule, how much stuff is in your house, or how many relationships you have, you will not fill the void that is your heart. What Solomon figured out is that no matter how much you cram into your life, you’ll still feel empty.

How many of you had one of these toys when you were a kid? Or maybe your kid did… The purpose of this toy is to teach you about shapes, and how things fit together. I think more people should play with one of these because I tell you every time we sell something on Craigslist the person has shown up in a car that it absolutely inappropriate for the item they were buying. I’ve loaded a boxspring and mattress into a van full of kids… I helped a guy put a weight bench into a hatchback… Once had a guy ask me to help him strap a cabinet on the top of a Ford Fiesta…

I’m not trying to teach you how to load stuff in a car- what I want you to see if that most of us approach live trying to fill our empty hearts, and we think it’s just a matter of finding the right combination, we think if we just find the right stuff, the right experience, the right hobby, the right job, the right spouse, the right house, the right whatever…

What happens though is that just as soon as we find something that fits, that we enjoy, that makes us so, oh this is living, we feel just as empty… The problem is that our heart is a bottomless pit, God has set infinity in our hearts, our hearts were built for eternity, they were built to be filled with something greater… We dont realize that, so we keep looking, and we think, I just need more of that, I need a bigger experience, I need a longer vacation, I need more partying, I need a bigger boat, I need a taller truck, a faster car…. I need more sex, I need more alcohol, I need more money, I need more prestige and respect….

When that doesn’t work we say, Oh, I know what it is now, I’m special, I’m different and what I need can’t be found most places, I’m not a basic so I need more than a basic shape… But even that doesn’t satisfy… Then we think, oh I need religion.  I need to add God to my life, maybe if I mix God with all the other stuff I’m cramming into my life, then finally I will feel full… If Christianity is just something you’re adding onto your already crammed full life, you will still feel empty.

If you merely add Christianity to your life, you will remain unsatisfied.

Here’s where we live, even people who attend church, trying to find more stuff, scrambling to get more, do more, have more, be more so that we fill full… What Solomon found is that it doesn’t work. Even today the richest people in the world are unsatisfied.

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” ― Jim Carrey

Our hearts have an eternal hole within them… So what’s the answer?
The only way to fill a bottomless pit is to plunge into something bigger than it is and the only way to fill the emptiness in our hearts is to plunge it into something bigger than ourselves. That means dying to self and living for Christ. That sounds scary, but what’s really scary is living for self and never being satisfied.

The only thing scarier than dying to self is living for self.  – Nieuwhoff