He was destined for great things. It’s what happens when you’re a prince; when your father is the king of an empire. This young man was no exception. When his father, while on his deathbed, imparted the crown to his son, the destiny of an entire empire changed dramatically. You know how managing a family, or business, or even your own life seems a challenge? Running an empire is no different. For this young man, his father became sick and suddenly he found himself wearing the crown of the largest empire in the world. Naturally, he was scared. Naturally too, he was probably a bit excited. But when God showed up in the middle of the night and promised this man whatever he may request, he didn’t ask for riches or fame. He didn’t even ask for victory over his enemies or power to crush any who may oppose him.
His request was simple: he asked for wisdom.
So wisdom he received. And not wisdom only, for in response to his extremely unselfish request, God promised him also what he did not ask for—riches, and honor, and power. Our friend Solomon became known as the wisest man on earth; because God was with him. Solomon grew in fame after an impressive judgment when he solved two mothers’ arguments over a baby. He also conducted a multi-year construction project to build a great, grand palace for himself, and a huge, glorious temple for God. In today’s money, the project surely would have cost billions.
Power and fame and honor, and glory, can open a huge field of opportunity. Where there is opportunity, though, there is inherent risk also, and unfortunately Solomon made some very bad decisions. For one, he violated God’s command against intermarriage with other religions and societies. And he did it time and time again, for Solomon had hundreds of wives. Seven hundred, in fact. They “turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.” (1 Kings 11:4). The Bible says he worshiped their gods and even built temples to Chemosh the god of Moab, and Molech the god of Ammon.
Then the Lord appeared to him and reprimanded him for his actions. Furthermore, because of his sin, Solomon’s descendants would lose control of most of Israel, though they would retain the crown over one tribe—Judah—”for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen,” God said. And the glorious temple Solomon had built for God? Since he didn’t remain true to Him, God’s temple would not stand forever. It would fall.
I’m sure that conversation hit Solomon like a punch in the chest. He suddenly realized how wrong he had been, how stupid he was to turn from His Lord. Thankfully, Solomon repented. “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind,” he stated (Ecclesiastes 1:14). “Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come… the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. ‘Vanity of vanities… all is vanity.'” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, 8)
What a stunning realization that must have been for Solomon: when, in the presence of God, he realized that his life was not infinite—and he had squandered it.
This concept has been in the forefront of my mind recently. When at the end of my life, I don’t want to turn around and see a history of vanity. I want to make a mark on this world. Don’t we all? But what type of mark are we actually trying to make? I don’t want to come to the end of my life and realize that my achievements have no eternal value. Or, worse, that I actually achieved nothing at all.
What are we really doing to make our mark, though?
Playing Candy Crush Saga all day doesn’t cut it. For the record, no, I don’t play Candy Crush Saga. But there are similar distractions that I most certainly have fallen into. How do we spend our time? A recent report from ABC News states that the average teen spends more than seven hours a day on screens for entertainment purposes. That does not include schoolwork. And adults don’t do much better, according to a report by Inc. They spend four hours a day on devices on average. That’s a full quarter of their waking time, and that’s on top of other commitments, such as work and family. (Or does family time equate with device time, now? Food for thought.) Of that time, one hour and fifty-six minutes is spent on social media alone.
I’m not here to rant on screen use, in spite of the fact that I think it’s a huge problem. It’s not even fair to blame our mistakes all on screen use. Our foe has a million ways to keep us distracted. If our ambitions are to change the world, his are to prevent us from doing just that. Don’t let him, friends.
I have pictured, and pictured again, the nightmarish end of my life where I turn around and see nothing but social media and so many other activities that seemed important at the time but really had no lasting value. You fill in the blank of what those activities are for you, whether it’s secret addictions or anything else that sucks the life out of your relationship with God. You know what? I don’t want that end for me, or for you.
Solomon ends his book by saying, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
In old English, that word fear was synonymous with respect and love. To respect and love God, then, and to keep His commandments, is our all. Our all. We were made for more than average. We were made to fly, to achieve great things, to be great things, and to have a relationship with the infinite God. This is man’s all. That is the way to truly live.
I don’t want to live a virtual existence. I want a real one. Let it be so of my life, Lord Jesus.