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“Rat Race” or “Right Race?”

What do you really want out of life?

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), was a lawyer, civil libertarian, and leading member of the ACLU. He was known in his hometown as the “Village Infidel.” The story is told that Mr. Darrow was visited by a pastor near the end of his life. When asked to put the meaning of life into a sentence, Mr. Darrow picked up a Bible and read Luke 5:5. “Master we have toiled all the night and taken nothing.” In other words he felt that his life had been wasted.

So many people talk about their need to be significant, to find purpose and meaning in life. They say things like, “I want to make a difference.” I want to make the world a better place.” “I want my life to count for something.” “I want to make an impact.” “I want to make a contribution.” “I want to do something important with my life, to conquer, achieve, excel, to prove myself.” “I want to be somebody.”

If our goal in life is do get wealth and power let me give you a little significance test, let’s play the game of tens: Can you name:

•The ten wealthiest people in the world?

•The ten most admired men in America?

• The ten top corporate executives in America?

• Ten Nobel Prize winners?

• Ten members of the President’s cabinet?

• The last ten Vice President’s?

• The last ten batting champions, American or National league?

• The last ten leading rushers in the NFL?

• The last ten leading scorers in the NBA?

Even the highest achievers in out society are, as James puts it, “What is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” [James 4:14].

What do you really want out of life? Let’s look at Israel’s wisest man, King Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, a man who had everything to live with and nothing to live for. The key word in the book is “vanity,” the futile emptiness of trying to find happiness apart from God. Watching the daily news, we are bombarded with celebrities who think they are doing something important. Or the very rich who use their millions to try to make up for something lacking in their lives. A lot of self-aggrandizement, self-worth; self-importance; it all just adds up to one word SELF! or SELFishness!

King Solomon, in Ecclesiastes takes us through five well-traveled paths that turn out to be dead ends. 1] The way of selfishness and self-interest. 2] The way of renouncing all bodily pleasures. 3] The way of wisdom. 4] The way of avoiding feelings in an effort to avoid pain. 5] The way of piety and religious surrender. Solomon tried, “labor” [1:3]; “wisdom” [1:13]; “pleasure” [2:1]; “wine” [2:3]; “houses, vineyards, gardens, pools, servants, herds, flocks, silver, gold, and treasures,” then he declares, “I had everything my eyes desired. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure” [2:4-10].

King Solomon’s conclusion: “I hated life” [2:17] “You leave it all to someone else to squander” [2:18-21]. Then he admits he knows that everything will happen “in its time” [3:1-9]. Then he concludes that the only important thing in life is a good name [7:1]. He tried “living simply” [9:7]; telling us to “live joyfully with your wife, and work hard [9:9,10]. Finally he comes to the real truth, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” [12:13,14].

What have you tried? What do you really want out of life? Will it be the “Rat Race” or the “Right Race?” Listen to Paul’s epitaph, “I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar. This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting—God’s applause! Depend on it, He’s an honest judge. He’ll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for His coming” (2 Timothy 4:7,8, the Message). My that epitaph be yours and mine!

What will your epitaph be? What do you want on your tombstone? Old time comedian W.C. Field’s epitaph reads, “All things being equal, better here than Philadelphia.” One tombstone reads, “See, I told you I was sick.” My mother-in-law’s tombstone reads, “Her children rise up and call her blessed.” [Proverbs 31:28], followed by the names of her children. Or the tragic tombstone of, “Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who taught Israel to sin.” So what do you want on your tombstone? how do you want to be remembered?

Here are three verses that should control all of life’s activities, highlight these in your Bible:

1] 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

2] Colossians 3:17: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

3] Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, do it heartily (with all your heart and soul, with a clear conscience), as to the Lord and not to men.”

Whatever you do: Do it to the glory of God! Do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks! Do it heartily, with all your heart and soul, with a clear conscience!

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