Volume. XXII, No. 20
Sunday, 11 November 2007

The Pursuit of Happiness

Often we look back at our lives and reflect on the different journeys each of us have individually made thus far. It is a good habit to go back and look at the route we have all taken up to the present moment. At different points in our lives we must have pursued what we felt makes us happy. Going forward, we will ask what life is all about and what our plans are for the future. We need to ask ourselves if the pursuit of happiness is all that there is to our lives

We all have our dreams and desires. At school, we work hard to make sure we have good enough SACE scores to pursue further studies so that we can build a good career.  We work for a better part of our lives to pursue our dreams in retirement. There is a phenomenon known as the “grey nomad” in Australia. One of the big, all time favourite Australian dreams when one retires is to make that 6 to 12 month pilgrimage in a caravan, exploring the country we live in ( I have a caravan and this was once my dream too.) In America, there is a similar dream driving down route 66. Most of us love holidays and traveling. We love to fly away to another land far away as though it is a panacea to sooth our nerves and to bond with our loved ones. It is strange that we sometimes fly many hours to be at another beach because in reality most beach holiday spots around the world I have been to are more similar than dissimilar. The water is salty, the breeze is just as strong, the sea smells the same in Adelaide as in Boston or Hawaii and even the sand feels the same. Maybe the temperature of the water is different. And if you are like me, being away for a holiday feels good, but strangely after a few days or weeks we start longing to come back to Adelaide, the city that you paid a lot of money to go away from in the first place. All through our lives, we want to see more and we want to hear more. We all want to experience more things, taste different foods and shop at different countries. The pursuit of a good time sometimes does not come cheap and we squirrel away funds to buy that happy time.

So at some point in our lives we will surely ponder the question “is the pursuit of happiness all that there is to our lives?” Let us learn some lessons from the book of Ecclesiastes and learn from the wisdom of the Preacher.  It is an account of his life pursuits and in his conclusion, he ultimately advises we should really pursue in our lives. Although it was written a long time ago and in a different cultural context, it is so true and applicable to our current context.

The Preacher says that our lives under the sun are nothing more than “Vanities of vanities”  and he pointedly asks “What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?” (Ecc. 1:3). Our lives are stuck in a circumlocution state where

One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.  All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again” (Ecc 1:4-7). It is actually a boring account of life under the sun.

The Preacher also points out that “the eye is not satisfied with seeing, not the ear filled with hearing” Ecc 1:8b. As we live our lives we see and hear many things, but we are never satisfied. For those who feel that they are smart, are well endowed with financial resources to buy pleasure and  happiness, the warning is that a little wealth and a little knowledge is actually a dangerous thing. As we read on, the Preacher identifies himself as a “king over Israel” (Ecc 1: 12) and that He gave his “heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven” (Ecc 1:13a). We are placed in our position as a reality check on ourselves and realize that we are not that smart and that rich after all, compared to the author of Ecclesiastes. What does this wise and rich king say? “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and; behold, all is vanity and vexation of the spirit

As we make it in life, and as God blesses us with wealth and intelligence, how do we use these gifts? We may be tempted to pursue pleasure of all forms, trying this and trying that. Before we get tempted to vainly pursue many pleasurable activities, let us save ourselves time, effort and expense and learn from the Preacher who has “been there and done that” too. If you read Ecclesiastes chapter 2, you will be amazed at relevancy of the teaching and we can almost make a check list from the Preacher’s list of what we have or intend to pursue in our lives. These include:

a) Enjoying pleasure

b) Pursuing happy times and laughter

c) Drinking wine

d) Embarking on big projects

e) Acquiring real estate

f) Planting vineyards

g) Spending much time in the garden, creating orchards and planting all kinds of  fruit tress

h) Having pools of water

i) Having much domestic help to tend to the household

j) Acquiring expensive possessions (gold and silver)

k) Delighting in singing performances

So what was the experience of this king who had the wealth beyond what we can imagine to pursue all of the above? He said “and behold, all was vanity and vexation of the spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.”( Ecc 2:11b)

Let us go back to some fundamentals. We all need a good night’s rest. Proper sleep is the sweet balm of life. To be well rested is important for our health. A few years ago, I used to get phone calls after midnight from business partners in the UK and the USA. A constancy in my daily living was to continue seeking solutions to project and business issues even when I was asleep. I would dream of solutions. Some of these solutions actually turned into profit when implemented. Often I would think up solutions while asleep, then keep awake because I would be afraid that I might forget the solutions and ideas.  To sleep better I later placed pen and paper next to my bed so that I could wake up and jot down my thoughts and then try and get back to sleep again. It was a weird time in my life, but true. It was a terrible and stressful life. I was tired from the lack of good sleep. So for us all, if we are on the go constantly, in the pursuit of acquiring more and more so that we can consume more goods and services of all manner, climb that social ladder of  the nouveau rich, acquire that  larger property, then why not save the effort and the agony and live a healthier and happier life and learn a lesson from the Preacher.

The Preacher writes: “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.  When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?  The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.” (Ecc. 5:10-12). A labourer who is tired out doing his job enjoys that all important rest through better sleep than those of us who may be on higher incomes. This is not to say that we are not to enjoy the fruits of our labour and that all wealth is evil because “every man should eat and drink of his labour, it is the gift of God” (Ecc 3:13). It is, nevertheless, the obsessive pursuit of profit that we have to guard against.  We should remember Elder Khoo Peng Kiat’s message which he preached several years ago that “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim 6:6).  We also have to remember that believing this, we should not complain that we are poor and that others are richer than us because every thing that we own and have comes from God, our Father in heaven. When we complain in this manner, let us stop for a moment and listen to ourselves, because we are complaining to God that He has not provided us with enough. We do not pursue what others have in envy.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ shares a similar concern for our pursuits in life when he said “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul?” (Mk 8:36). This is a serious warning to us because it is so easy for us to focus on the profits we can make in this world so that we can satisfy our deep desire for that special holiday, the better car, the bigger house or the bigger retirement nest egg but lose our souls along the way. It is a sad observation we can make that the troubled come to church to seek the gospel message while those who acquire  wealth along the way are often absent from church not  contributing time, effort and their talents to the furtherance of God’s kingdom on earth.  Some years ago, in Singapore there was a newspaper article of an ungrateful child who was given most of what the parents owned. The child thanked the parents by charging rental for living in the very house that they gave to the child. Likewise God blesses us with good careers, profitable businesses and better paying jobs. Remember that God does not owe us these gifts but we were given these freely. Having received, are we grateful and do we thank Him for all his blessings so abundantly bestowed on us? Do we go to church to worship God, sing praises unto His reverend name on that special Lord’s Day, Sunday, which is reserved for God? Or do we find that the opportunity cost of attending church to worship God is too high because with rising wealth our hourly rate rises too? Like the ungrateful child written about in the Singapore media, are we about to calculate our cost to God who gave us all that we have?

What then should we pursue in our lives that we can find true happiness? In the book of Ecclesiastes, the wise Preacher wants to lead the youth of his time and our times too, away from the destructive path of the pursuit of happiness in worldly pleasures. He leads us into the path of true profit and happiness. It is a book of not just information and knowledge but the preacher teaches and leads by the wisdom that is given to him by God. The conclusion of this article is what the wise preacher leaves us with. He says “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc 12:13).

 Dn David Yeo

More Lively Hope




Holy Baptism on Next Lord’s Day, 18 Nov. Candidate: Jayden Atijatuporn (Parents - Bro Boong & Sis Mariam Atijatuporn).


Looking Ahead

Christmas Concert on Sat, 8 Dec.

National B-P Youth Camp, 11-15 Dec. Speaker: Bro Peter Blake. Theme: B.O.O.T. Camp.

Family Bible Camp at Victor Harbor, 24-26 April 2008. Please arrange your day off work on Thurs, 24 April, now.


Praise & Thanksgiving

Journey mercies Sisters Jasmin Chua (UK);  Shelia George (Bangalore) & Vanessa Tan (Melb/Adl); & all who arrived safely.

Church activities: AFG, Christmas Concert practices , Wed & YAF.

Bro Len Pearson’s successful operation.


Prayer Items

Health & God’s healing - Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren, Rev Peter Chua, Rev Peter Clements, Rev Edward Paauwe, Rev Timothy Tow, Dr S H Tow, Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan; Bros S Dhamarlingam, Makoto Kobayashi, Raphael Ng’s father, Richard Pearson, Winston Selvanayagam, & Hans Ziegelman; Grandpa Ki; Sisters Joyce Chen, Myung Ki, Alice Lee’s father, Margaret, Dianne, & Sarah Pearson, Aranka Rejtoe, Juanita Tong, Susan Veradi, Sylvia White & Giok Yeo’s sister-in-law; Auntie Oei & others in affliction.

Cambodia Missions - Bro Samnang & Sis Chulmay. Ebenezer & Hope teams going to Cambodia in Jan 2008.

Candidate for Holy Baptism: Jayden Atijatuporn and his parents.

Laos Missions - Bro S Dhamarlingam.

India/Pakistan Missions - Pastors & Believers.

Kuching Missions - Teo family.

Sketch n’ Tell Ministry - Bro H S Lim.

Journey Mercies - Sis Vanessa Tan (S’pore); & all those travelling this week.

Full-time jobs - Bro Daniel Volvricht, Sisters Min Yen Chia, Rachel Scott-Pearson (UK) & Juanita Tong.

Year 12 students - Bro Samuel Ki & Sis Amelia Tan.

University students – preparation for exams.

Christmas Concert rehearsals - Sis Sally Teng and participants.



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14 Bedford Square, Colonel Light Gardens, South Australia 5041