The Pursuit of Happiness

Part 1

King Solomon is widely recognised throughout history as the wisest man that ever lived. With the great wisdom from God, Solomon built vast cities and building projects, wrote world class literature, gained incredible wealth and knowledge as well as marrying many wives. Yet as we read his writings in the book of Ecclesiastes, we see a man who had it all from a worldly perspective, but still struggled to find meaning for his life. Solomon in all his wisdom comes to the conclusion that the best a person can do in life is to Fear God and to follow his commands (Ecclesiastes 12:13). From a man who had all the power, knowledge and every worldly pleasure at his fingertips, meaning was ultimately found in his relationship with God.

Read Ecclesiastes 9:11-18

Discuss
  1. What are some of the ways that you see people in our generation seeking to find meaning in their lives? What are the outcomes of these pursuits that you can observe? Does this bring them happiness?
  2. What brings you your personal lasting happiness?
  3. What markers does the world use to define success? What do you use to define success in your life?
  4. Have you ever seen success come from a failure? What lessons have you learnt when things didn’t go to plan?
  5. What impact does guilt and shame have upon our ability to grow? How can we overcome this?
  6. Read Ecclesiastes 9:16-18. Solomon says that “Wisdom is better than strength”. How have you seen this reality play out? How can we grow in wisdom?
  7. Read Ecclesiastes 12:13. What might this look like in a practical sense?

Respond

Solomon in all his wisdom and power comes to the conclusion at the end of his life that the pursuit of worldly power and wealth is totally meaningless, but that true meaning in life can only be found in the pursuit of a relationship with God, and in living in obedience to him. What is one step of obedience that you can put in place this week to further pursue your relationship with God, and obedience to Him?

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Part 2

As well as being acknowledged as the wisest man in the world, Solomon’s wealth and power were practically limitless. He pursued and purchased whatever his heart desired, from many wives, to servants, vineyards, flocks, monumental building projects, multiple houses and an almighty treasury of gold and valuables. Yet as he surveyed all that he had pursued in his lifetime, he came to the conclusion that without a relationship with God, all of it was meaningless, like chasing after the wind. Furthermore, the pleasure that he sought risked becoming a vice to him.

Read Ecclesiastes 2:1-11; 25-26, Ecclesiastes 3:11-14

Discuss
  1. Why do we pursue pleasure? What can be gained from it? Is there anything wrong with this?
  2. What is God’s perspective on pleasure? How do you come to this conclusion?
  3. What is the risk of pursuing pleasure in and of itself?
  4. Read Ecclesiastes 2:23. Solomon was given great wisdom from God. How did his life lose purpose and meaning over time?
  5. Read Psalm 16:11. What happens when we reframe pleasure to see it’s place from God’s perspective?
  6. Read Ecclesiastes 3:11-13. How can we prioritise the giver of the gift over the gift of pleasure itself? What might this look like?
Respond

God created the gift of pleasure to reflect and share His joy. With it He gives us boundaries that begin with acknowledging and prioritising our relationship with Jesus over and above all that we seek and do. To live a transformed life, we need to seek Jesus first, and through Him we can know freedom from the bondages of pleasures that we may be chasing after. Only when Jesus becomes the object of our desire can our pleasures become a gift instead of a vice. Take a moment now to ask God’s forgiveness if you have placed the pursuit of pleasure on the throne of your heart, and commit to place Jesus front and centre from this day on.

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Part 3

As King Solomon reflected back over his life, he saw that there was nothing to be gained in the pursuit of pleasure and knowledge as ends in themselves. He came to the same conclusion about work. Solomon saw that while it was good for mankind to work, work too was meaningless if it was not seen in the framework of pleasing God.

Read Ecclesiastes 2:17-26

Discuss
  1. Read Genesis 1:26-30 and Genesis 2:15. What was God’s purpose in creating work? How does this apply to us today?
  2. How would you define work? Does this impact on your attitude towards what you do each day?
  3. What can be the consequences when work becomes out of balance in someone’s life? Too much? Not enough?
  4. Read Ecclesiastes 2:17-23 and Proverbs 13:22. Is it good to build an inheritance for others? What can be the benefits? What can be the risk?
  5. Read Ecclesiastes 2:24-26. What does Solomon conclude about working? Why does he come to this conclusion?
  6. Read Colossians 3:23. How might this verse impact how you see work? What might you need to change to see work from God’s perspective?
Respond

God created work – both paid employment and everyday chores – for every person to participate in, as a means to find fulfillment and purpose and to contribute to our own needs. When we see work as a gift from God that can be used to glorify Him, it can give purpose, meaning and a sense of satisfaction to our lives. How do you see your work at the moment? Do you need to see it from a different perspective?

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Part 4
Solomon sought to pursue happiness and purpose with every available means and yet at the end of his life, he concluded that without God, all pursuit of pleasure and wealth was pointless. Solomon finally recognised that our lot in life is a gift from God. He saw that only when we accept our lot can we truly find contentment. Paul summarised this when he said to Timothy “Godliness with contentment is great gain”.

Read Ecclesiastes 5:10-20

Discuss
  1. Why is it hard to trust God when we have a western level of wealth? What else do we trust in instead of God?
  2. Read Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 and 1 Timothy 6:10. What are some indicators that the love of money has become our focus? What can we do to change this approach?
  3. What might it look like for us to uphold God’s priorities?
  4. Often our wants are far greater than our needs. How can we distinguish these two? Why is this difficult?
  5. Our life is a gift from God that we cannot take for granted. How can we be counter-culturally generous with what we have?
  6. Read Philippians 4:12-13. Why do we find it difficult to be content with what we have? What is the secret Paul learnt?
Respond

Discontentment is a condition rampant in our society today, and is a major factor that can lead to our consumeristic lifestyle. A Godly antidote to discontentment is gratitude. What are three things that you can be thankful for today and recognise as gifts from God? What can you do to instil gratitude as a regular habit each day?

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