The Futility of Life

“A generation goes, a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.” (Ecclesiastes 1:4)

He says that backwards. We normally say, “A generation comes, a generation goes.” He starts with the departing generation and then the one replacing it. The unending, unstoppable passing of time as seen in the constant going of the older generation and the constant coming of a new generation. The new generation thinks they will always be young, cool, and hip. But quicker than you can blink they become the departing generation. There is always a new one displacing the old one.

Young people today have no idea yet how true this is. But if you’ve been around the block a few times, you know the feeling. It’s the creeping sense that your role and importance, your health and vitality, is slipping. Almost imperceptibly declining. And with it, our sense of importance and place in our world.

Two weeks ago I made a very quick trip to Iowa. My high school invited back the varsity basketball team from the 1985-1986 season to honor the 30th anniversary of the year we went 26-1, the best record by far in school history. We were arguably the best team in school history. It was my senior year. They honored us at halftime (see picture below). It was great to see my old teammates. Great group of guys. It was a privilege to play with them.

Steve's High School Team

A few things stood out to me. One was how old my teammates looked. What happened? Second was the general lack of interest by the current student body. As they introduced us, they gave our stats, and we had polite applause. But we were just old guys from a bygone era. Third was when I asked the current coach, “Why isn’t there a banner for our team in the rafters? They had other years featured, but not the best team in school history?” He said, “Well, there used to be but a former coach took it down and I found it crumpled in the back of a closet.” What? Don’t they realize how amazing we were? How important we were? But that is the way things go. “A generation goes, a generation comes.” What is cool, hip, and really important today, is passé, irrelevant, boring, and forgotten tomorrow.

That’s not encouraging at all! Why write this? If all is meaningless why write 11 more chapters?

Ecclesiastes describes man after the Fall and before the cross. I wonder if chapter 1 feels like your life? Is that the state of your soul as you sit here today? It certainly describes the world with incredible accuracy. We see the decay and anguish all around us. Is there hope?

Chapter 1 is like going to the doctor and hearing that you have a rare form of cancer. The doctor slowly describes the cause, the conditions, and the effects. You listen with shock because the symptoms he describes are what you have been feeling for weeks. Every detail is spot on with your life. His diagnosis perfectly describes your experience.

How do you leave the appointment? Impressed. This guy knows his stuff. I want to hear more, perhaps about a cure? Ecclesiastes is spot on to the world we live in and the world of our own lives and hearts. This guy knows his stuff. Is there a cure?

Here is where one eye looks ahead to the cross of Jesus. Why did Jesus come?

  • “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8)
  • “…that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)
  • “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Jesus Christ came into the world and died on that cross to save hungry people. Futile-living people. Vapor-like people. And on the other side of the cross, everything matters. And it can matter for you too if you put your hope in the faith of the Son of God, repent of your sins, see Jesus as dying for them, and be granted the gift of eternal life. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” My desire is to see God draw the futile-living man or woman to be a faith-living man or woman so that you can experience all of the joy that comes from it.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2016 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address ( on the copied resource.

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