We Have Overcome! 10. Overcoming a Boring Life
Ecclesiastes 9: 10; Colossians 3: 17 A 10 year-old boy was asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Influenced by the threat of nuclear war and the reality of terrorist attacks around the world, the boy thought for a moment and then replied with just one word: “Alive.” All of us join him in his wish. The love of life lies deep in the human soul. Jesus summed up his mission to earth with these famous words: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10: 10). Yet many people, including many Christians, are utterly bored with life. Many go to work mainly to escape the boredom of life at home. Many teenagers say they are bored with school. Some teenagers get drunk on weekends because they are so bored. Boredom is a combination of weariness, apathy and unconcern that causes a person to feel like doing nothing. To the bored person, the world is all shades of gray. When you are bored, there is nothing to do because there is nothing to do that matters. To the younger generation, 1 word encapsulates boredom, the all-purpose answer - “Whatever.” The word “whatever” in that sense means, “I don’t even care enough to give you an answer.” 2 primary causes of boredom – 1. Overstimulation. We live in a society that encourages us to believe that more is better. If a little of anything is good, then more will always be better. If 1 drink is good, 2 is better, and 5 will send you to heaven. If 1 pill helps, 2 is a kicker, 3 is a party, and 5 will knock you out. We see this in relationships as people jump from one person to another. We see it in the pressure to constantly move “up the ladder,” so people hop from one job to another, hoping to find the perfect fit. We move from city to city, and from church to church. We are so overstimulated by TV, radio, music, movies, the Internet, and by video games, that we are hyped up, tense, wound up tight, and as a result, easily bored and quickly distracted. 2. Undercommitment. This is partly a result of the massive overstimulation. Too many people live at the 20% level of commitment. We’re like the man who, when asked what he believed, replied, “A little bit of everything.” We have a “little of this” and a “little of that” and not much of anything. We are 20% committed to our marriage, 20% committed to our work, 20% committed to our relationships, 20% committed to our families, 20% committed to our careers, 20% committed to our church, and we end up being 20% committed to Jesus Christ. No wonder we are frustrated. No wonder we are bored. We aren’t committed enough to anything to find a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Underneath all this is a deeper problem. Boredom comes from an excessive self-focus. Bored people are essentially selfish people who view the universe through their own stunted perspective. The reason you are bored is because you have become a boring person. To be truthful, you are bored with yourself. The problem is not “out there” somewhere. Look inside if you want the answer. I do not think busyness is the answer to boredom. Busy people are often very bored. They use their busyness to mask their inner emptiness. Boredom is a disease of the soul. It is a warning sign from God that there is a “dis-ease” in your heart that must be faced. Boredom is a sign that your life is moving in the wrong direction. How can we overcome boredom? It requires a reorientation of the way we approach each day. I’d like to combine 2 very familiar verses—Ecclesiastes 9: 10 and Colossians 3: 17—in order to find a biblical answer to boredom. We overcome boredom by … 1. Doing Whatever Lies Close at Hand. “Whatever your hand finds to do” (Ecclesiastes 9: 10a) The Message - “Whatever turns up, grab it and do it.” I like that because it emphasises the unpredictable nature of life. No matter how well planned your day may be, something unexpected is always bound to “turn up.” When it does, grab it and do it. That’s good advice. The deeper meaning of this phrase challenges us to take hold of the ordinary responsibilities of life and make sure they get done. It’s easy for any of us to live in the never-never land of what we plan to do tomorrow. So we dream about starting a diet or getting a new job or buying a new computer or meeting the person of our dreams or somehow finishing that assignment or painting the lounge or calling on a new client or applying for a loan or going back to study, or any of a thousand other worthwhile ideas. Meanwhile, there is work to be done, much of it tedious, that somehow gets left undone while we are dreaming about what we are going to do “someday.” Unfortunately, someday never comes for many people. Better to do what you need to do than to waste 4 hours dreaming about what you would like to do. There is always work to be done. That’s what life is—a whole lot of duties large and small that “someone” has to do. It won’t do to complain and say, “I don’t feel like doing it.” Your feelings don’t matter. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it! This is the Word of God. We all have work to do, we all have jobs, responsibilities, assignments in life. No one gets a free ride. You can’t stay in bed forever. One of the best cures for boredom is to get involved helping others. Crawl out of the cave of self-pity and get involved in the world of hurting people. It is very difficult to be bored when you are giving yourself to help those around you. Boredom comes when we focus on our own needs. Crawl outside yourself and your problems will seem smaller and your boredom will soon disappear. We overcome boredom by … 2. Doing Our Work with Passion. “Do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9: 10b) Not only are we to do whatever lies close at hand, we are to tackle our work with enthusiasm. Life is too short, too fragile and too precious to take lightly. Whatever we do, we should do it heartily, with passion and with 100% commitment. But most of us don’t approach our work that way. The biblical view of work is that all work is noble if it is done for the glory of God. Even the most mundane task is worthwhile if we do it in the right spirit. Martin Luther said that a dairymaid can milk cows to the glory of God. If your job is shovelling manure, than do your best and shovel that manure for the glory of God. If you do it well, you honour God just as much as the brain surgeon who saves someone’s life. We all struggle with this on one level or another. Society tells us that some jobs matter more than others. Certainly some jobs pay more than others and some jobs gain much more praise than others. It’s easy to fall into the trap of saying, “I hate my job. I don’t feel good. I don’t like the place where I work. I’m surrounded by jerks. My boss hates me. The woman next to me is mean. The pay is lousy. No one likes me. And I’ve got a bad cough and a headache.” Poor baby. I’m sure that everything you’ve just said is true. Why should I doubt you? The biblical answer is: Grow up! You’re not supposed to like your job every day. It’s not supposed to be fun all the time. That’s why they call it work. If work was supposed to be fun all the time, it would be spelled F-U-N. Many days you won’t feel like going to work, and if you go, you won’t enjoy it. Big deal. Go anyway. Do what you have to do. Do it with all your heart. Put your passion into your job and see what happens. God says, “Do it with all your might even when you don’t feel like it, you don’t like it and you don’t want to be there. Then leave everything else in my hands.” If you believe in the sovereignty of God, then it must be true that you are where you are because God wants you to be there, because if God didn’t want you to be there, you would be somewhere else. If you believe that, then you can do your work each day, even in a very bad situation, as unto the Lord, with all your might, for his glory. We overcome boredom by … 3. Pondering the Brevity of Life. “For in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 9: 10c) This is such a downer. Who wants to hear that they are going to the grave? That’s a fact we’d all rather ignore. CEV: “Work hard at whatever you do. You will soon go to the world of the dead, where no one works or thinks or reasons or knows anything.” When I read that, it made the hair stand up on my neck. “You will soon go to the world of the dead” sounds like something you would find in a bad Chinese fortune cookie. But it is entirely true whether we like it or not. We’re all going to the land of the dead sooner or later. Old joke - Why is there a fence around the cemetery? Because people are dying to get in. Sports coach - everyone should go to 1 wedding and 1 funeral each year. The wedding gives you hope for the future and the funeral reminds you that so much of what we worry about doesn’t really matter. Life is not a dress rehearsal. We only get one chance to do whatever we’re going to do on earth. Sooner than we think, our moment in the sun will be over. One of the ironies of it all is that it takes a tragedy to force us to face the brevity of life. Have a realistic view of life and death. We overcome boredom by … 4. Remembering You Represent Jesus in Everything You Do. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3: 17a) NLT: “And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus.” His name is attached to our words and deeds because his name is attached to us! We are “Jesus people” who claim to walk the “Jesus road.” We call him our Master, our Saviour and our Lord. We tell the world that we have left everything to take up our cross and follow him. We even call ourselves “Christians"—"Christ-followers.” Whether we like it or not, his name attaches to everything we say, even the foolish remarks, the unkind words, the angry insults, the swear words, the threats we utter and all the rest. His name attaches to our complaints, our excuses, our boasts, our lies, our flattery, our moral compromise, our laziness, our dishonesty and even to the worst sins that we can commit. If we steal money, the name of Jesus goes with us. If we abuse our children, the name of Jesus gets dragged down with us. We would be more concerned about the details of life if we remembered that we are the face of Jesus on the earth today. We like to say that Jesus is the light of the world, and he is. But we are also the light of the world. As the saying goes, we’re the only Bible some people will ever read, and we’re the only Jesus some people will ever see. We overcome boredom by … 5. Being Thankful for Things Large and Small. “Giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3: 17b) We must cultivate a thankful heart in all the circumstances of life. Fits in well with Ecclesiastes 9 – v. 6 – 9 - the writer urges us to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. You’re going to die soon so … enjoy your food and drink, dress up and smell good, enjoy your wife and the pleasures of married life. All these things are gifts from God. They are simple pleasures—food and drink, nice clothes, a happy marriage. This is not hedonism—far from it. This is taking pleasure in the daily blessings of God. If you are bored, it is because you have chosen to live a boring life. Boredom is not an issue of bad circumstances. It’s a disease of the soul caused by excessive self-focus. It comes from being overstimulated and undercommitted. Life is never boring when you commit yourself 100% to Jesus Christ. Are you bored with life? Crawl out of yourself and make a new commitment to the Lord. Reach outside yourself to help someone less fortunate and your perspective on life will radically change. Boredom is a warning sign that we are living for self when we ought to be living for God. As long as we live at the 20% level, we will be miserable, unhappy, frustrated, angry, upset and bored. There is no one unhappier than a 20% Christian. Commit all your ways to Jesus and your life will never be boring. Amen.