Nothing New Except Me
Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 Nothing New Except Me
Years ago, H. A. Ironside said in a sermon at Moody Church, Chicago, “If it’s new, it’s not true; and if it’s true, it’s not new.” We agree for, whatever is new is just a recombining of the old. Man cannot create anything new for God is the creator and man is not (v. 9). Oh, I know, you point to technology but remember computer formulas are a recombining of math equations. Materials used to build a computer from motherboard to monitor are materials always in existence and now used in a different combination. We may come up with a new gadget but the old reasons for use and/or old emotions in the use are the same. For instance, nuclear bombs came into existence in my lifetime but the elements of the bomb were already in the world and the reason for the bomb is as old as warfare. Thus elements and emotion are in play. All things that people invent are from the elements that God had already made. We just rearrange them and make them in different shapes or forms. Thomas Edison, one of the great investors of the past, said that his inventions only “bring out the secrets of nature and apply them for the happiness of mankind.” When significant advances in human knowledge and benefit are made, we celebrate. However, our excitement of the invention or discovery of what was there but just now found soon passes and that new invention or discovery becomes routine activity for human life. Remember the excitement of having a phone with you at all times? Know the frustration and addiction of having to have a phone with you at all times? A phone that does far more than you want or need it to do?
For people who only live for that which is “under the sun”, life can become a dull routine, a vicious cycle or a feeding of a variety of addictions in both work and play. Life, for most, is a treadmill--motion but no progress. One arises from sleep, washes, dresses, eats, goes to work or about a routine of activities that may or may not vary from day to day. No matter the activity of the day--fun or featureless; feast or famine, the day ends and you go to bed. The next morning, it all starts over.
Routines and nothing new (v. 10)… We attempt to keep our lives from becoming a dull routine of the same ole, same ole for days, weeks, months, years… Yet, believers, don’t despair, for we who are in Christ--saved and secured--must remember that God is doing a work in us and through us each day of our routine lives even under the sun. In the midst of our activities, He is building our character, conforming us into the image of His Son, gifting us as members of the Body of Christ. In our routines, we find opportunities to help others as needed, to be a witness for Christ to the lost, to simply take time out to be in His presence. When we integrate the sacred and the secular--the under the sun and the over the sun--in our everyday, it allows us to move out of the run-of-the-mill and into the righteous path in which we are called and equipped to walk. Like Jesus, we will not be conformed to what is under the sun but we will be transformed personally as well as be a transforming agent for our culture as we prove and approve by our living in the will of God all that is good, acceptable, and perfect. Jesus, while in the flesh for such a short time--33.5 years--displayed His inner nature and glory. So we Christians are to outwardly make known our inner, redeemed nature every day that we live; for we mirror Christ to the world as we “...are being transformed into the [His] same image from glory to glory...” (II Corinthians 3:18).
“See this it is new!” People rush to seminars and conferences to hear some new thing that can be done to change their life, their job, their income stream, their family, their home, their church. Really? Isn’t it true that what is heard at those conferences are only a new take on old ideas. Some of those ideas have never worked. Some of the ideas are only a short-term-quick-fix with no lasting value. Some of those ideas are only a rehash of what has been heard before. Some of the ideas work only for the place and people leading the event. Not all ideas work everywhere. “Methods are many, principles are few/ methods always change, principles never do.” Life principles that transform our lives are found in Jesus Christ.
Why do we think “things” are new? We have a limited view that cannot penetrate beneath the surface of things. We have a limited experience. What excites youth is old hat for those older. The country boy goes to town or the city girl goes to the country. One is enthralled by the growth and expanse of the city. The other digs potatoes and thinks it's a miracle. Limited experience. We are unable to remember. Why do we read the previous minutes at a business meeting? Because we don’t remember all that we agreed or, sometimes, promised to do.
How does God make you new? God transcends the same ole same ole with possibilities of newness--
You are made a new creation in Christ--II Cor. 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature [there is a new creation]; the old things passed away; behold new things have come.”
You live a new life in Christ--Romans 6:4, “...so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
You sing a new song in Christ--Psalm 40:3, “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.”
Things become wearisome for those who are bound to life under the sun because there is no such thing as a permanent legacy (v. 11). Contributions to society in the form of work performed, or gifts given are soon forgotten once the individual passes from this life. Streets are named, but after who? Buildings are named but, in whose honor? Books are written, read, and placed on shelves to be forgotten once their new or best seller status is forgotten as a moment in time. Athletes and musicians are enshrined in halls of fame, but visitors to those museums of human accomplishment scratch their head and read the plaques as they wonder who these people were? Kings and Queens of nations, like presidents in ours, can have their portraits on walls of fine buildings but will, with a few exceptions, go little recognized as the years pass. Percy Shelly’s poem Ozymandias reminds us of this simple truth:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
For those whose accomplishments are less, their small feats are soon forgotten. Even leaving an inheritance to those who come after has little value for many. Eighty percent of most inheritances received in our day are spent in the first two years they have been received. Gone, forgotten. Even when one seeks to have their name or life remembered with some measure of power or fame, life and their desired memory seems to give them no personal satisfaction.
Yes, others may benefit from the life and the gifts or the accomplishment of abilities of the person but death brings a quick end to fame. No matter how great one appears to be, little will be remembered of them after death. Everything one has worked for their entire life is left behind. But note: The resurrection of Jesus Christ provides a new dimension to fame. The resurrection to the life yet to come in heaven reveals how influential our Christian witness has been while living under the sun.
God remembers our work and labor of love (Hebrews 6:10-“For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.”)
Treasures laid up in heaven are the only eternal benefit that remains (Matthew 6:19-20--“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.) True, you can’t take it with you but you can send it on ahead.
Conclusion: Solomon sounds bitter throughout the book as he realizes in his old age that all he has worked for and achieved will be left behind and given to another. Perhaps, he has forgotten that he was given the plans for the building of the temple of God and that he inherited the kingdom throne from his father, thanks to his mother and the prophet Nathan. Had he forgotten so soon?
However, there is an alternative to Solomon’s despair:
Augustine, an early church father who influenced Western Christianity, wrote in one of those now dusted off books of theology, “You have made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” Only when we rest in Jesus do we find eternal peace, joy, and fullness. Are you empty and unfulfilled, restless and dissatisfied, disappointed, frustrated or regretful?
Paul reminds us of his joy when death seems imminent as he writes to Timothy (II Tim. 4:6-8--“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”)
John, the Apostle, heard a grand word from heaven which he records in Revelation 14:13, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
There are those we have introduced to Jesus Christ and He has become the Lord of their life. They will be there. There are some for whom we have planted the seed of the gospel that never germinate and produce until after we have moved on to another place or even after we die. A tree may be planted and we never sit under its shade. “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:9)