God’s design for the Christian life is to be lived in and amongst community. His people are there to lift us up in times of trouble, rejoice in times of celebration, and pray in times of desperation. Simply said: life is better together! Timothy “TA” Ateek walks us through Ecclesiastes 4 to see that a life in community brings flourishing and more of Jesus.
What's up, Porch? How are we doing tonight? It's so good to see you, whether you're here in the room here in Dallas or you're watching at one of our Porch.Live locations. I want to give a shout-out right now to our Porch.Live location in Fort Worth, also the one in Midland watching tonight, Indianapolis, and Boise. I'm so glad you're tuning in. If this is your first time ever at The Porch, my name is Timothy Ateek, and I'm one of the teaching pastors here at Watermark on Sundays as well as Tuesday nights.
If you don't know what you just stepped into, if you feel like you've gotten tricked into being here, let me just tell you what you stepped into. The Porch exists to call any and every young adult to see Jesus. That's what our hope is for you tonight: that you would see the beauty of Jesus Christ and you would believe it is worth it to surrender your life fully to him.
Here at The Porch, we believe the Bible is the Word of God. We believe God has gone to great lengths to give us this book, and when we open this book, it's like God is speaking to us. So, every week that we gather, we take this Word seriously. We want to study it, we want to know it, because we believe this is how God speaks to us today.
I want you to think about that, whether you're an atheist in the room or an agnostic or you're a student at Dallas Seminary right now. Wherever you're at, God wants to speak to you tonight. If that's the case, here's what I want to ask you to do very quickly. I want to invite you to take a moment and pray for yourself. Just say, "God, speak to me tonight." Just pray that really quickly. If you've never talked to God, just say, "God, if you're real, then I want you to speak to me."
Lord, thank you that you're not a God who sits far off but that you're a God who has moved near to us. So much so that you left heaven and came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to draw near to us, and you've given us your Word so we can open it and hear from you. We don't have to wonder what you're thinking. We don't have to wonder whether you love us or not. You've given us your Word so we can hear from you. So, speak to us tonight. We need you. We love you. In Jesus' name, amen.
For me, it was college when I really found my people. When I showed up to Texas A&M University my freshman year, I met a group of guys who would be the people I spent all of my time with at A&M, and then they are the people who have become lifelong friends for me. These were the people I took spontaneous road trips with. These were the guys I went to Kyle Field with to cheer on the Aggies.
These were the guys I had prank wars with. These were the guys that I crushed up fiber pills and put it in their protein supplements to kind of help their plumbing along. These are some of my closest friends. Even as I was preparing for this, I thought about this one time my junior year at A&M where one of my roommates was studying with this girl.
He and this girl had this weird romantic tension going on in their friendship. It was unspoken, but they felt like they needed to finally talk it out. So, they went out into the parking lot of the apartment complex and began to talk about the romantic tension that was there. They started taking laps around the parking lot. The other four of us roommates were like, "He's our good friend. We want to help him out."
So, we went to the second story and opened up the windows, and we put stereo speakers into the windows and started blasting the "Wedding March," you know, what they play at weddings. We were like, "This is probably where this is headed. This is the beginning of something beautiful." It turns out he was getting the friend talk, so we totally misread that situation. It was not helpful, but he was blessed to have us in his life anyway.
These were the guys I met in college, and they've become lifelong friends. They've seen me at my best moments and at my worst moments. These were the guys who were there to pick up the pieces in my life at the age of 24 when I hit rock bottom due to sin in my life. These were the guys who stood next to me on the altar on my wedding day. These were the guys who celebrated with Kat and me when we got pregnant. These were the people I called when we had a miscarriage.
These are the people I've called anytime we have made a major decision in our lives. These are the guys who have challenged me and encouraged me on countless long-distance phone calls and now Friday mornings for breakfast. These are the guys who have pushed me for decades now to be a faithful follower of Jesus, a faithful husband, a faithful dad, and a faithful friend.
So, I just want to stand up here tonight and make something very clear. Here it is: intimacy is better than isolation. Being loved is so much better than being lonely. I just want to be clear. I am not talking about dating relationships right now. I am not talking about getting married. I am talking about, if you're a guy, there is something so valuable to having other guys in your life who you have intimate connection with. Like, they know you. They know all of you, and they still love you.
If you're a girl, you have other girls with whom you can truly be fully known and fully loved. That's what I'm talking about. When I talk about intimacy, I'm just talking about having people in your life who know everything about you, yet they don't run from you. Everyone deserves that. Some of y'all hear that, and you're lonely right now, and you're like, "Yes, I want that." You're discouraged that you don't have that. If that's you, I'm so glad you're here tonight, and I hope tonight is helpful for you.
The reality is I believe so many people in this room will just settle for living in isolation. You might hear that, and you're like, "I'm not isolated. I'm around people all the time. I'm in a room now with thousands of people, so you're not talking to me." Well, I want to make sure I'm not talking to you right now, because I believe it is possible to be surrounded by a lot of people… You can be surrounded by everybody but known by nobody. I think that's possible.
I'll illustrate it this way. Awhile back, a good friend of mine… He and his wife were watching the video of their wedding reception years ago. They were watching it, and they saw me dancing on the dance floor at their wedding reception. They felt like I needed to see it, and they sent it to me. It was honestly haunting. It was horrifying, especially when they posted it on Instagram.
The reason it was so horrifying… This video is from a couple of decades ago. First, I don't know what dance move I was doing. It was like this. I don't know if that's, like, screwing the light bulb-type thing. I don't know what I had going on, but I was going around the dance floor like this. That's what I was doing. But that wasn't the worst part. This was the worst part. The worst part is I was surrounded by so many people, yet I was dancing with no one. It was so sad.
You see me, and I'm there doing this, and then you see other people, but everyone has their back to me. They're with other people, but then there is Timothy Ateek on the dance floor, surrounded by everybody but dancing with nobody. I wonder if that's your life. I don't know. Maybe. You're like, "No, bro. That's just you."
Just think about it. Is that you? You're surrounded by people all the time. You were surrounded by people at work all day today. You're surrounded by people now. This weekend, you're going to go for a run. You're going to go for a workout. You're going to play volleyball. You're going to be surrounded by people, but no one actually knows you. Just answer this question really quickly: Who in this world truly knows you?
Who knows all of you? They know your strengths. They celebrate your victories, yet they've seen behind the curtain of your life. They know your sinful tendencies. They're aware of your insecurities. They know what triggers you. Who actually knows you? Is there anyone in this world that you are truly fully known by and, at the same exact time, fully loved? Here's the reality: if you're only partially known, then you're not fully loved.
Recently, I was talking to a guy, and I sensed there was something in his life he was hiding, so here's the question I asked him. I said, "Hey, I want to ask you this. Is there anything in your life that you have never told anyone else?" He said, "Yes." He still hasn't shared it because of fear. It's the fear of "If I were to expose this, if other people were to know this, they would run. They would no longer love me."
But here's the deal. If you're only partially known, you will not be fully loved, because people can only love what you show them. People don't love you; they actually love the manufactured version of you that you are projecting about yourself. That's a really miserable place to be because you never truly know that people actually love you because you have this aspect of your life that you're hiding. They don't love you; they just love parts of you. So you're having to manage something, and that's stressful. That's exhausting.
Here's the deal. Tonight, I firmly believe that in the very beginning of the Bible… What does it say in Genesis, chapter 2? God says, "It is not good for man to be alone." Often, we hear that verse and think it's just referring to marriage. When we hear it's not good for man to be alone, we think the only answer for that is marriage, but I just want you to know that verse doesn't just speak to marriage; that verse speaks to life. Whether you're single, dating, or married, every person in this room needs to know it is not good for you to be alone.
Every person in this room and everyone listening online deserves to be fully known and fully loved. God has actually wired you for deep, meaningful relationships. Why? Because when you live life in deep, meaningful relationships, that is when you are reflecting the character of God, because God himself is a community. He is three co-equal, co-eternal persons that exist in one essence. He is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, yet there is only one God.
God himself is a perfect community. At the core of God's character are deep, meaningful relationships. So, one of the ways we reflect God is by enjoying those types of relationships ourselves. So, tonight, as we step back into the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon… Remember Solomon. He's writing the book of Ecclesiastes. It's the last book he wrote. It's just kind of this old dude who's walking back through his old journal entries, and he's like, "Oh, yeah." You're seeing what he values.
He's reflecting on his life and everything he has learned as one of, if not the wisest person to ever walk the face of the earth next to Jesus Christ. What you're going to see King Solomon argue is that life is better together. So, if you have a Bible, join me tonight in Ecclesiastes, chapter 4. We are looking tonight at verses 4-16, but I'm going to teach them out of order.
What I'm first going to do is jump straight to the climax of the passage, which is in verses 9-12, where Solomon is going to argue, "Life is better together. It's better to be loved than it is to be lonely. Intimacy is better than isolation." Then we're going to zoom out, and the good thing about this passage is that Solomon is going to identify reasons we will settle for less and why we will miss the joy of deep, meaningful relationships. So, look with me first at Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. This is what King Solomon says.
"Two are better than one…" There's his thesis: two are better than one. Why? "…because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken."
All eyes on me. Don't miss what Solomon is really saying here. His thesis is "Two are better than one," and he gives different pictures to illustrate this. He pictures two people on a journey together through life. He's like, "Look. You always accomplish more when you work together." That's what he says in verse 9. You're going to be able to work more and produce more if you do it together.
Then in verse 10, he's like, "Man, if you're on a journey, and you're walking on a path, and you fall into a pit, it is so helpful to have someone else with you who can pull you out of that pit. It's a bad day when you're by yourself, fall into a pit, and no one is there to bail you out." Then in verse 11, he's like, "You know what? If you're on a journey…you're sleeping outside, and it is freezing…it's nice when there's someone else there you can kind of cuddle up next to. You can share body warmth. But it is a cold night when you're there by yourself."
Then in verse 12, he's basically like, "If you're on a journey and you get jumped, it's so helpful when someone has your back and can fight for you." Then he says, "A threefold cord is not easily broken." He's saying, "You know what's better than two? Three." So, Solomon's point is "Two are better than one. Intimacy is better than isolation. Being loved is better than being lonely." I just want you to think about this. If you were to take verses 9-12 and apply them to the Christian life, imagine what is possible for you. Imagine what God wants for you.
Just think about it. Look again at verse 9. Just look at the wording. He says, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil." If you were to apply this to following Jesus, then if Solomon is right, you will be a more healthy, more mature, and more fruitful follower of Jesus Christ if you actively follow Jesus with other followers. You run through life together. It's just going to go better for you.
Right now, my son and I are watching the Tour de France together. We watched this documentary about the Tour de France, which is a 21-day, over 2,000-mile bike race. We watched it on Netflix, and it was so fascinating it caused us to want to actually watch the Tour de France each day. Who knew that bike racing could be so exciting? Some of y'all watched that documentary, and you know what I'm talking about. The majority of you are like, "Bro, I don't get it yet." Anyway, you will at some point.
The amazing thing about the Tour de France is it is a team sport. It is not possible for you to win the Tour de France on your own. You're on a team. There are eight people on a team. What's amazing is every team chooses one leader, and then the other seven riders all ride to help that one person win. It's crazy. Seven people will ride over 2,000 miles to help someone else win.
At any given point in the race, this one leader will have three to four different teammates surrounding him to protect him or to ride in front of him to block the wind so it is 40 percent easier for him to pedal. Certain teammates will pull the leader along and use all of their strength, and once they've used up all their strength, they'll just peel off so that the leader is launched to keep going. I'm like, "Man, what a beautiful picture of the Christian life."
The difference between the Tour de France and the Christian life is that there isn't only one winner. Everyone can win. What if we began to ride for each other to win? What if we were committed to seeing each other flourish in our relationships with Jesus? We need it. Anyone want to be honest and just say, "Man, I feel disconnected from God right now"? Anyone? Yes, thank you. We have people waving their hands. Yes, if we were honest, many people feel disconnected from God.
I wonder if anyone is dealing with doubts about God right now. Anyone dealing with doubts toward God? Yes. Anyone just feeling dry in their relationship with God? Yes, of course people are. My question for you if you feel that way is…Who is racing with you? Who's on your team pulling you along, encouraging you along the way? Solomon says in verse 9, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil."
Just imagine. If you want to see movement in your life, let me encourage you to do this. Find at least one other person and get on the same Bible reading plan together. You can do Join the Journey, which is Watermark's Bible reading plan. Just go to jointhejourney.com. You can get the app. There are other Bible reading apps where both of y'all can be linked up. You can read the same thing. You can share your notes with each other. Do that.
Share prayer requests with each other every day. Try this for seven days. Every day for one week text one God story to another person. A God story is simply one way you saw God show up in your life that day. If you're driving, just send a voice memo really quick of what God taught you that day. Go out on a Saturday and try to share the gospel with other people, but do it together. I promise you are going to get traction. You're going to get momentum.
Memorize a verse together. You can get the Bible Memory app. When I talk about memorizing Scripture, I'm just talking about literally finding a verse that is really meaningful to you and committing it to memory, because when you memorize it, you're more likely to recall it and be encouraged by it. Proverbs 27:17 says, "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another."
Solomon goes on in verse 10 and says, "For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!" This is about, "Hey, how do you bounce back from falling royally into sin?" How do you bounce back from cheating on your boyfriend or girlfriend? How do you bounce back from those compromising decisions that caused you to get fired? How do you bounce back from a season of a bunch of random hookups or a long season of getting wasted on each night of the weekend?
Or what about this? How do you bounce back from having an abortion that is causing a lot of shame in your life right now? How do we bounce back from moments like that? Solomon is saying there are going to be times when we fall into sin, and we need to make sure we have the right people in our lives to help lift us up, because here's the reality: God uses his people to lift up his people.
I can speak from my own experience. When I was 24 years old, I was in an extended season of compromising decisions, and it resulted in my life hitting rock bottom. I was living a hypocritical life. At the time, I was going to seminary, and I was actually working as an intern here at Watermark. I was working with high school students, and I was encouraging high school guys to be men of character, integrity, and purity, but I wasn't doing that in my own life.
What happened was I had to step out of my position of leadership at Watermark because I simply was not qualified anymore. What I said to be true and the way I was living didn't match. My compromising decisions led to a season of brokenness and shame. And what did God do? He put the right people in my life to lift me up.
I had a few guys who were so committed to my health. They were with me. They were encouraging me. I was able to confess to them and share openly with them. I was in seminary at the time. I didn't have a job making a bunch of money, so they said, "Hey, you can come live with us. Pay us $200 a month. You can live with us. We're going to care for you. We're going to encourage you and challenge you along the way."
Then when I started dating my wife Kathryn, these guys pressed in on me. They asked me the right questions just to ensure I made decisions that led to joy instead of brokenness and shame. What I have realized in my life… I have been the guy in the pit Solomon is talking about in verse 10, and at the same time, I've experienced the friendships of people who can come and lift you out of the pit. What I've realized is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of Jesus Christ, is sufficient for everyone in this room.
Jesus went to the cross. If you don't know the significance of Jesus Christ dying on the cross… Why did he die? He died to set us free from sin that enslaves us. He went to the cross, and he endured punishment that was rightfully ours. No one is naturally right with God. All of us have sin in our lives that separates us from God, yet Jesus Christ dealt with all of our sins. He made payment for our sins.
When he rose from the dead, it was a demonstration that he had conquered all of our failures. When we put our trust in Jesus Christ, when we invite him into our lives to be our Savior, to be our King, his forgiveness is sufficient for every single person in this room. He wipes you clean. He makes you new. Yet it's possible for you to be forgiven by God yet stay down. When you fall, sometimes you don't feel worthy to get back up, so you just stay down.
What we have to understand is God uses his people to lift up his people. You might be sitting there like, "God could never love me." I know he loves you. Do you know how I know he can love you? Because he has loved me. He has loved me through all of my failures and all of my brokenness. There is nothing you could come down here and tell me that would shock me or make me rethink the idea that God is sufficient for your deepest failures. Yet you might be someone who needs people in your life who can lift you up.
I'll just say this. Do you have the right people in your life who, if you've fallen, can lift you up? Do you have people you can go to tonight and just say, "Look. I've failed. Will you help me?" If you've had an abortion, we have a ministry here, Worth More. It exists to help lift you up. You don't have to stay in that shame.
Solomon goes on in verse 11. "Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?" Here's the reality: life can be bitter cold sometimes. Bad things happen. Getting fired happens. Breakups happen. Rejection happens. Parent divorce happens. Depression happens. Chronic pain happens. Cancer happens.
Do you know what our tendency is when life gets cold? Our tendency is to withdraw and shiver alone, yet God loves us enough that he has wired us for deep, meaningful relationships. You deserve to be known. You deserve to be loved in the coldest seasons of life. Can you imagine having people in your life who are so committed to you when life is cold that they are there day after day to make sure you get out of bed and shower and go to work?
They're there to remind you to actually eat. They're there to listen and process with you. They're there to help you sift through what is a lie and what is truth. They're there to comfort you and encourage you. They're there to go with you to professional counseling if that's what is needed. They are there at the funeral with you. They're there to make sure you don't do stupid things, because sometimes when we are hurting most we sin the most. So, they're there to encourage you along the way. Two are better than one, because when life gets cold, you don't have to shiver alone.
Then Solomon says in verse 12, "And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken." It's just a reminder that every person in this room has an enemy. I'm not talking about some other human being. I'm talking about Satan himself. All of us have an enemy who hates us. We all have an enemy who wants to destroy, ruin our relationship with God, and cause us deep pain in this life.
The question is…Do you have a few people in your life who are like a small army that will fight for you? Now let me be clear. Jesus has already won the victory. He has already conquered Satan, sin, and death through his death on the cross and through his resurrection from the dead. He is the one who has been victorious for us. So, there's not some cosmic battle between God and Satan where we bite our nails, like, "Who's going to win?" It has already been won.
Satan is just a really sore loser who fouls the rest of the time until the clock reads zero. God doesn't need us to be strong and do things in our own strength, yet, often, God displays his power in our lives through his people. Did you hear what I just said? Often, God displays his power in our lives through his people. Do you have the right people to fight for you in your life?
A while back, I watched two different YouTube videos on the same day. I realize that doesn't sound impressive to you at all, but the reason I share that is that these two YouTube videos could not have been more different in their outcomes. The first video I watched was a video from a documentary from a long time ago called Planet Earth, which was basically this documentary about planet earth and all of these magnificent shots of nature.
Well, on this one particular video I watched, there was this herd of caribou on an open plain. There were hundreds of caribou on this open plain, and then there were a few wolves that were looking for their next meal. So, you see these hundreds of caribou and maybe just a handful of wolves that kind of fan out and spread out, looking for their next meal. What happens is that one of the wolves isolates a baby caribou.
So, you have this aerial drone footage where you see this baby caribou get farther and farther away from the herd, and at the same time that he is getting farther and farther away from the herd, you see the wolf getting closer and closer to the caribou. Eventually, the wolf overtakes the caribou, and it's game over for the caribou. That was the first video I watched.
The second video I watched had a much different outcome. In case you weren't one of the 90 million people who watched this video, I'm just going to explain it to you, but you should go and watch the Battle at Kruger, which is eight minutes of glory. It's this video about water buffalo and lions. I don't know if you know this, but there's some serious stuff going on between water buffalo and lions. The animal kingdom… Those two do not get along.
In this one particular video, this herd of water buffalo come upon a pride of lions. The pride of lions runs after the water buffalo, and they chase the water buffalo off. You see this one lion tackle a baby water buffalo calf. He tackles him and drags him into the water, and you think it's game over for this little baby water buffalo. Some random person on a safari is filming this, and all you're watching for a little bit of time is this lion just sitting there going after this calf.
You're like, "At some point, you just turn the camera off," but they kept it rolling. I'm so glad they did, because at one point, it zooms out, and what you see is the whole herd of water buffalo shuffling together. They're like, "Look. We're all going together. There's safety in numbers." It's like women going to the bathroom. They're like, "We're all going. We're all going to do this." So they all shuffle together.
Meanwhile, this lion is so fixated on his next meal. Then it zooms out, and what you see is this herd of water buffalo has surrounded this one lion. Then one of the water buffalo jacks the lion to where he somersaults through the air, and that baby calf gets up and runs off and is fine. It brought new meaning to 1 Peter 5:8, which says, "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."
My question for you is…Do you have a few water buffalo in your life that have your back? If not, you need to get some. If no one knows the extent of your porn struggle, if no one knows you're starving yourself, if no one knows you're cutting yourself, or if the only people around you are cheering you on as you party, as you hook up with people, as you lead people on, then you need to know you are a calf isolated from the herd, and there is a lion that is prowling around, seeking to devour you.
I assure you…I beg and plead with you to hear me now…you're on a path that will only end in brokenness. We will always be here at The Porch to help you put the pieces back together in the name of Jesus, but I just want to plead with you right now. Wake up. You're on a path to brokenness. You need a few men or a few women with whom you're fully known and fully loved. They know your sinful tendencies, they know your insecurities, yet they don't run from you. That's what you deserve. You deserve for someone to hear everything about you and not flinch.
That's what I deserve. I deserve to be able to share every aspect of my life, the darkest thoughts, the darkest actions, the darkest motivations of my heart, and for someone to not flinch. Why? Because they themselves have their own sin. We both are desperately in need of the grace of God. Both of us have brokenness we can share with one another and both rejoice that Jesus Christ has come and made us new. He has washed us clean. He has freed us from our past, and he loves us.
Let me say this. I still remember sharing with some college students to go and be vulnerable and to share. I remember this one student came and found me later, and she was angry with me. She said, "I did what you told me to do. I went and shared, and it caused deep hurt." Here's the reality. Some of you guys don't realize it, but you're acting like you need God's grace less.
People have been vulnerable. They've shared their darkness with you, and you've shamed them or have mismanaged what they shared with you. You need to confess that to the Lord and seek forgiveness. We're imperfect people, and we all need each other, and we all need the grace of God, every single one of us.
So, let me just say this. God has wired us for deep, meaningful relationships. He has. Do you have people who can run alongside you? Do you have people who can lift you up when you've fallen? Do you have people who can keep you warm during the cold seasons of life? Do you have people who will go to war for you? You deserve that. If you don't have it, you're missing out.
So, that's the climax of the passage. "Two are better than one." Now let's zoom out very quickly. Solomon tells us why many of us will settle for something less than what we deserve. Look quickly with me. Verse 4: "Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind." That word envy there, when he talks about envy of a neighbor, points to competition and rivalry.
Do you want to know why you don't have close friends? Because you don't have friends; you have frenemies due to competition. One pastor talked about each of our need for, what he called, the "er" factor. Something in us needs to be able to look around at the people around us and know that we are smart-er, funni-er, pretti-er, skinni-er, talented-er, successful-er. We need to know that. It causes competition, and competition kills closeness.
Just think. Some of y'all subtly resent the fact that one of your friends gets more attention from guys or girls than you. Or you're single, and you feel this interesting relief when your roommate's relationship ends. Right? Or some guys… You feel relief when that girl tells that guy "No" when he asks her out. It's like, "If I got a 'no,' he should too."
Or you have that roommate who never has to think twice before booking the next trip just because he has the money, and something in you hates that, that you're having to watch every single penny you spend. It's competition. Competition kills closeness. I still remember, years ago, I was at the gym running on the treadmill. I share that just so you think I work out. So, that one time I was running on a treadmill, and it really felt like God slapped me on the side of the head.
He didn't speak audibly, but I will never forget where I was at that gym on that treadmill when God said this to me: "You need everyone around you to be a nobody so you can feel like somebody." Isn't that crazy? What he was saying was, "You need everyone to fail so you can feel like a success." That's competition. It's hard to get close to people when you want them to fail or when you celebrate their failures.
So, there's competition. Here's another reason many of us will miss out on deep, meaningful relationships. Verse 5: "The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh." That's a weird statement. He says, "The fool folds his hands…" When do you fold your hands? It's when you're lounging on the couch. It's when you're relaxing.
He's painting the picture of a lazy fool who does nothing, and because he does nothing, he has nothing, so he starts eating his own flesh. He has no motivation, he has no drive, he has no job, he has no money, and he has no friends. He has no activity. He never gets out. Do you know that person? Maybe you are that person. Like, this was a big step for you even to be here tonight. Someone had to drag you here, because you already had plans to do nothing.
Do you know what it's like? There's no drive. There's no discipline. There's no initiation with other people. See, what you have to remember is deep relationships require selflessness, thoughtfulness, care, respect, patience, and initiative. Laziness and apathy are the enemies of intentionality. Maybe you have friendships. Just analyze. Are you only talking without ever asking? Are you attending and never planning? Are you only receiving and never giving? If so, that might be straining your relationships.
Verses 7 and 8. Just another reason many of us will settle for something less. This is a huge one. I hope you don't miss it. He says, "Again, I saw vanity under the sun: one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, 'For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?' This also is vanity and an unhappy business."
Here is a picture of a guy who values profit and possessions over people. What you see is a person with a relentless ambition to work and to obtain wealth, and because of that, there's never any time for relationships. Solomon is like, "Look. He makes all this wealth, yet he has no one to share it with." So, on one end of the spectrum you have laziness and apathy. On the other end you have a professional ladder-climber. You're like, "What does that mean?"
I mean you're always climbing some ladder. It's like, "When I make $100,000 a year…" So, you're going to climb that ladder. Do you know what the problem is? At the top of that ladder is the bottom of another ladder. You're going to start making 100K a year. Then it's like, "You know what? I want to be executive vice president," so you're going to climb that ladder. The problem is at the top of that ladder is just the bottom of another ladder.
At some point, you're going to die on a ladder. You're going to make tons of money, but you've spent all of your time prioritizing profit and possessions at the expense of people. I remember these friends who graduated college and moved to New York to go into investment banking. They were working 100 hours a week and making a ton of money, but they never got to enjoy it because they were always at the office working.
So, let me just beg you. Be ambitious, be successful, but do not sacrifice people for the sake of profit. Then, finally, verses 13-16. It's this weird little story at the end. I'm just going to show you one detail about it. Solomon says:
"Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. For he went from prison to the throne, though in his own kingdom he had been born poor. I saw all the living who move about under the sun, along with that youth who was to stand in the king's place. There was no end of all the people, all of whom he led. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a striving after wind."
I'm not going to unpack this story for you. The only thing I want you to see is that there is a king in the story who could not take advice. Do you want to know what will keep you from deep, meaningful relationships? Your inability to receive counsel and advice from other people. It's really hard to be friends with someone who is never wrong. It is. It's hard to be close with someone who is always right and never wrong.
Proverbs 27:6 says, "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." That's such an interesting proverb, because it's saying you need people in your life who are not afraid to punch you in the face with the truth. They love you enough to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.
Do you know who an enemy is? An enemy is someone who will just kiss you on the cheek and say, "Just keep doing what you're doing." Yet many of us will miss out on intimacy simply because of pride, thinking that we know best. Competition, laziness, an insatiable drive for success, and an inability to receive advice will absolutely keep you from deep, meaningful relationships.
From the beginning, God has been clear. It is not good for man to be alone. It's not good. You have been wired for deep, meaningful relationships. So, let me encourage you. Take a step tonight. Don't just take this talk, process it, and say, "You know what? Yeah, I need to get more friends someday." No. I want to encourage you. Take a step tonight.
Maybe you need to grab one of your friends here, and you just need to sit in this place, or maybe y'all need to go together to the prayer chapel where there's going to be worship and prayer happening. Y'all just need to get together, and you need to say, "I need to be honest with you. I need to be fully known by you. I'm going to show you everything in my life, and I'm going to trust that you're not going to run, you're still going to love me through it."
Or maybe you just need to take a small step. Maybe you just moved to town, and you don't know anyone, or maybe you've been in Dallas for two years and still don't know someone. This Friday night, Chicken N Pickle, 7:00 p.m. We're playing pickleball. That might feel so lighthearted, but maybe the reason you're going to pick up a paddle this Friday is because you're going to meet somebody who you're going to begin to journey through life with. You're going to experience intimacy with them.
Or maybe you need to go out and go to the table out there (you're going to see a big banner), and you need to sign up for our Labor Day weekend Launch retreat. If you haven't found your people, we're giving you an opportunity. Hundreds of young adults are all going to be together for a weekend. Come find your people. Stop making excuses about why you're not going to come. The whole point of the weekend is not just a shot of adrenaline; it's relationship. It's for you to find your people so you can be known and loved.
Or maybe your way of connecting with people is just through serving. Outside now, you can go up to the Loft and hear about how you can serve behind the scenes at Launch. Maybe that's a way to shrink Launch down to a size that is going to feel good, where you can serve behind the scenes and have meaningful conversations with the people you serve alongside with.
Maybe you need to take a step with membership here at Watermark or you want to jump into a Community Group. You can go to Stage 2 up the stairs and through the doors, and you can talk to our Next Steps Team to figure out how to take a step into community. Then some of you are here tonight, and you need to go seek forgiveness from someone who shared with you, and you didn't manage their information well. You know what? Allow the grace of God to do a magnificent work in your life through that.
If you need to talk to someone or pray with someone, we'll have a team of people down front. I just want to close by pointing you to the most important relationship you could ever have. It's a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the one who lifts us out of the pit of our sin, and he does it by saving us from our sin through his sufficient death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.
Jesus Christ is the one who can keep us warm in the midst of a broken world. Through his conquest on the cross, he has ensured that a day is coming where he's going to make all things new, and we will spend eternity with him, enjoying his presence, enjoying wholeness. Jesus Christ is the one who went to war with our Enemy, and he conquered Satan, sin, and death. Why? So we could be free and we could have life in him.
So, let me be clear. If you're here tonight, and you don't have a real relationship with Jesus Christ, your next step tonight is a step of surrender. It's being fully known and fully loved by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We're so glad you're here tonight. My hope and prayer is that you would be a people that take a step. So, here's how we're going to close tonight.
I'm going to turn it over to the band, and we're just going to worship. You need to know from this point on, you're free to go. If you have somewhere else to be, you can go, but if you're going to go, I'm going to ask you to leave quietly, because we're going to respond in worship. We're just going to spend a little time worshiping. You're free to go, but you're also free to stay. Let's meet with God, let's meet with one another, and let's respond to what God is doing in our lives.