TLP 450: Yes, Your Children’s Lives Are Meaningless | and why they need to know that
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This summer TeamTLP and I have been working on creating videos for our counseling ministry. It’s taking a little longer than expected, but they are going well.
So — over the course of the summer — we’ve been revisiting some of our previous content. And — since it’s all biblically-based — the information is both eternally evergreen and relevant.
For those new to the show, I pray it’s been a helpful introduction to those topics, and for our long time listeners, I hope it’s been a timely reminder.
However, I’m such a sucker for milestone episodes that I just had to a post brand new episode to celebrate our 450th show.
That means that this content is brand new to our show . . . no one’s heard it until now. Then next week we’ll revisit one more episode in order to close out the summer and our 19th Season, and — after that — we’ll start September with a bang. We’ll be celebrating our 5th year of podcasting and getting back into all-new content.
I hope you’re looking forward to that.
But some of you may be struggling thinking about anything other than the title of today’s episode. It sounds so wrong. The title is, “Yes, Your Children’s Lives Are Meaningless | and why they need to know that.”
But this is an exceptionally important and very biblical parenting discussion we need to have, so I pray you are ready.
But — real quick — before we talk about the meaningless of your children’s lives, I want to praise the Lord for sustaining this ministry for the past 5 years. We’ll talk more about our history in a couple episodes, but the Lord gets all the credit for keeping this ministry running.
You see, Truth.Love.Parent. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. That means that we don’t make the funds necessary to keep the lights on. We rely heavily on the gracious gifts of God’s people. As of today’s publishing date, our TLP Friends — the ones who give every month — send in $980 a month.
We also have sweet individuals who have sent in one time gifts totaling $1,350.
That means that — this year — we’ve received a grand total of $4,765.76.
And we praise the Lord for every penny.
But I’m also certain that you can tell that it’s challenging running a ministry and supporting a family of four off that income.
So, whether you’ve been listening to the podcast since the beginning or you’re brand new, I invite you to click on the "TLP Friend" link in the description of this episode so you can learn more about how easy it is to support Truth.Love.Parent.
Gifts of any size are appreciated!
Thank you in advance for all that you will do.
Also, if you’re new, today’s episode notes and transcripts can be found on our blog at TakingBackTheFamily.com. And there should be a link in the description.
And — with that — let’s talk about the meaninglessness of life.
In our “Biggest Parenting Challenges You Will Ever Face” series we discussed many topics — all of which were rooted in our identity. Each of those episodes were so powerful and transformative. In fact, a new listener recently said, "The very first podcast in the series might be one of the best podcasts I’ve ever listened to.”
If you’ve never listened to that series, you really should. If you’re a parent, you are going to encounter all of those challenges at one point or another. And we all need to know how to navigate them to God’s honor and glory.
But, it was the final episode in the series that talked about the crucial nature of how we identify. Who are we? What is our purpose?
And — during that episode — we talked about how each of our kids must discover and develop their potential, choose their life purpose, and then find opportunities to exercise their potential and purpose.
Now, I recognize that some of that may sound confusing or even a shade or two of wrong. If you listen to the episode, it will make sense biblically because I support each of those claims from the Scripture.
Anyway, any time anyone talks about identity, eventually they’re going to bring up the meaning of life. And everyone is very opinionated when it comes to the meaning of life, and I am no exception.
Many years ago I was preaching in a Christian school chapel. The title of the message was “The Meaning of Life,” and I covered the first eleven verses of Philippians 1.
As an introduction to the topic, I had googled “What is the meaning of life?” And found these gems.
According to Robert Louis Stevenson from his work “Familiar Studies of Men and Books,” “To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.”
But it was our dear friend, Edgar Allan Poe who said, “The best things in life make you sweaty.”
However, Albert Camus postulated that, “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
As most of you know, “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,” written by Douglas Adams, claims that, “The Ultimate Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything is...42!”
But there are much darker approaches to this topic as well. Joseph Campbell believes, “Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”
And — even darker still — Henry Miller wrote, “Life has to be given a meaning because of the obvious fact that it has no meaning.”
And — what’s probably most interesting — is that Henry Miller was probably more right than most like to admit.
“But, Aaron, how can you — as a professing Christian — say that?”
For that, I would like to invite you to join me in the book of Ecclesiastes.
Most of you likely know that Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon, David’s son and the wisest man to ever live.
It was written as a personal memoir as well as a teaching aid for God’s people.
In the book, Solomon frequently references the term “vanity.”
Now, that Hebrew word can be translated delusion, emptiness, futility, useless, vain, and worthless. Referring to idols in Jeremiah 10, the author calls them a delusion and worthless. Both of those words are the same Hebrew word translated “vanity” in Ecclesiastes.
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary defines the terms this way: “First, the word represents human ‘breath’ as a transitory thing . . . . Second, [it] means something meaningless and purposeless . . . . Third, this word signifies an ‘idol,’ which is unsubstantial, worthless, and vain.”
This word shows up more in Ecclesiastes than any other book, and it’s used 5 times in the second verse alone: “‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher, ‘Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.’”
That’s quite a bold claim being made by a follower of God whom the Lord gifted with unmatched wisdom. But it’s for that very reason that we need to pause.
We just read that Solomon promised that “all is vanity.” But — thankfully — he also provides a handy list of what exactly is vain, futile, and worthless.
Chapter 1 discussed the futility of all of man’s endeavors, and it ends discussing the worthlessness of wisdom itself!
Chapter 2 discussed the futility of pleasure, possessions, and even labor (which links back to the first episode of our “Biggest Parenting Challenges” series).
And — over the course of the rest of the book — Solomon bemoans the worthlessness of riches, life, and even food.
Allow me to read a few verse from chapter two: “I said to myself, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.’ And behold, it too was futility. 2 I said of laughter, ‘It is madness,’ and of pleasure, ‘What does it accomplish?’ 3 I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely, and how to take hold of folly, until I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives. 4 I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; 5 I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; 6 I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. 7 I bought male and female servants and I had homeborn servants. Also I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. 8 Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men—many concubines. 9 Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also stood by me. 10 All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. 11 Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.”
Now, it’s my hope — one day — to do a family devotional curriculum for Ecclesiastes. In fact, if you’re listening to this in the future, I invite you to check out our store at TruthLoveParent.com. Who knows, it may already be ready already.
But, for now, I don’t have time to help us understand the eternal truths of this book by working all the way through it.
But I do want to sum up a few of them.
1. Everyone needs to learn the lessons of Ecclesiastes . . . including our children.
All throughout the book, Solomon refers to himself as the Preacher. This Hebrew word refers to an assembler, a collector of words that are intended to be delivered to an audience. In chapter 12 verse 10 we read, “The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly.”
Now, take that understanding and add to it that the Holy Spirit perfectly breathed the truths of this book into Solomon and carried him along as he wrote it.
That means that they are necessary and applicable for all people everywhere. Ecclesiastes is not merely the autobiographical ramblings of an ancient philosopher; the truths presented in it are repeated all through the Scripture.
That means that if we parents are going to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and parent them in a Deuteronomy 6 fashion, we need to increase our Parenting Bibles to include the vanity of Ecclesiastes.
The title of today’s episode is “Yes, Your Children’s Lives Are Meaningless | and why they need to know that.”
The first reason “they need to know that” is that it’s part of God’s Word to us.
The second reason they need to know that their life is meaningless is so that they can do something about it.
If your children mistakenly go through life believing their life has value when it doesn’t, they’re delusional. They may “die happy,” but to die after living a meaningless life from start to finish only results in an eternity separated from God. “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his own soul?”
Also, if your kids believe that their life has value, and that value contradicts God’s Word, now they’re not only living a meaningless life, they’re sinning against God and will receive the additional consequences of their destructive lifestyle.
We can’t afford — and our kids can’t afford — to allow our kids to blithely wander through life uncertain of its meaning.
We must tell our kids the truth, and the most basic (and painful) truth is that we come into this world in a vain state of futility. All is worthless.
“But, Aaron, if everything really is meaningless, and there’s no purpose to anything, then God isn’t real, and we may as well lie to our kids so they can at least experience some worldly happiness before they die.”
And you would be right . . . if you were right.
But here’s the thing a lot of people miss about Ecclesiastes and may miss about this episode. Everyone is born into a meaningless existence . . . but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
It all goes back to our identity. So what is the truth we need to teach our kids? Am I suggesting that we look at our five year olds and shout, “Your life is meaningless and will never have meaning!”
What they need to learn is . . .
2. Depending on your identity, life has no meaning.
All humans are born into this world estranged from God because of the sin that’s tangled in the very core of their being.
All humans are also born into this world capable of worshipping only one person . . . themselves.
We have a lot of episodes dedicated to the topics of sin and self-worship, so I encourage you to listen to the series I’ve already mentioned as well as checking out the description of this episode for more links.
So, because your kids were born separated from God in their sin, and because they’re only capable of worshipping themselves, their life will amount to nothing more than another name that will never be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. They will live a vain, futile existence doing nothing more than using everything at their disposal to experience a paltry, superficial satisfaction.
And age has no affect on this reality. A child who becomes an adult doesn’t all-of-a-sudden achieve purpose when they get married, have kids, buy a huge home, or win a gold medal. It’s still meaningless because the pleasures of sin only last a tiny season in the scope of our mist-like lives, and though winning a gold medal may not be inherently sinful, doing so for our own pleasure as an act of self-worship is.
If your children are not yet born again followers of Christ, their life has no real, lasting, God-honoring meaning.
And our kids have to know that if they ever hope to achieve any kind of meaning in this life.
And that leads us to . . .
3. Depending on your identity, life has eternal meaning.
Solomon ends his treatise on futility with these words, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
The only way our kids can have any meaning in their life is to fear God and keep His commandments. That’s the only way anyone can have any meaning.
We need to stop worshipping self, and we need to start worshipping God. Every moment spent worshipping the Lord is a life of meaning and purpose.
I have another podcast called The Celebration of God. I created that podcast to help families learn what it takes to worship God with every movement of every day. It’s a discipleship experience designed to help us accomplish exactly what we’re talking about today — live a meaningful life.
Our kids need to know that. They need to realize that perusing that romantic partner or that major or that job or that standard of living or that experience has no value when detached from God’s will for their lives.
They need to better know God, love God, and obey God.
And that doesn’t simply go for our unbelieving children. Yes, there’s nothing they do that has eternal value as long as they’re not born again, but even believers can live futility. Every time I sin, I’m slipping back in worthlessness. However my sin manifested itself, that was a destructive and otherwise empty pursuit.
Therefore, even our born again children need to realize that there is no cosmic guarantee that everything they do will have value simply because they made a decision to follow God. Our futility is tied to our choices. Christ-honoring choices made as an act of worship to God have meaning, all the rest don’t.
Now, at the beginning of this episode I referenced a message I preached from Philippians 1. Allow me to end this episode by continuing to answer the question, “What’s the purpose of life?”
Simply teaching your kids that life has no meaning isn’t helpful. But teaching them that their life is meaningless and then helping them to discover and develop their God-given potential, choose their God-inspired life purpose, and then find opportunities to exercise their God-empowered potential and purpose . . . that is truly valuable parenting.
So . . . so far we’ve learned that all life is futile without God. Therefore, the only way to have meaning is to fear and obey God. You can learn more about what it means to fear the Lord in our “Teach Your Children to Learn” series. My plan is to also talk about this in much more detail toward the end of Season 20 (in November). If you’re listening to this episode after 2021, I encourage you to check out “Your Family’s Fear of God, the Circle of Learning, Part 4.”
So, let’s briefly discuss how Paul illustrated the fear of the Lord to the Philippians.
1. Life has meaning when we participate in the Gospel.
In Philippians 1:4 Paul tells the the church that in his every prayer for them he expressed joy over the fact that they’ve participated "in the Gospel from the first day until now.”
This participation in the Gospel is the first step. It starts when we are grieved by the fact that we are spiritually destitute, and we not only recognize Who God is in His perfection, but we also humbly turn to Him for forgiveness, life, power, and meaning. Only as we are justified and sanctified by God can our children’s lives have meaning.
Once our children are born again, they can have meaning in the next four areas.
2. Life has meaning when our love abounds.
In verse 9 Paul writes, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment.”
We have a series called “The Four Family Loves.” If you’ve never heard it, it would be a great study for your family this year.
In that study we talk a lot about the fact that the world has no idea about what real love is.
But Paul describes it here as something that grows. The word “abounds” has the idea of increasing and being in abundance. Paul says that it needs to “abound still more and more.” His layering of repetitive terms is so instructional. Is your children’s true, biblical love growing, or does it seem to have stalled?
Well, if it’s never grown, seemed to stall, or simply needs to continue growing as all of ours does, Paul teaches how to mature it . . . it needs to abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment.
What is “real knowledge”? Well, in Colossians 1:9 Paul writes, “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”
And Peter says something very similar in II Peter 1:3, “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”
The knowledge that causes our love to abound is the knowledge of God from His Word.
I believe the use of the word “discernment” here is also intended to layer ideas. We must not merely have head knowledge, we need to be able to discern how to use the knowledge in a Christ-honoring way. Another word for that idea is wisdom.
But Paul continues . . .
3. Life has meaning when we approve that which is is excellent.
Allow me to read the next verse in context: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent.”
To approve something is to examine it, test it, and see if it’s fit for use.
There is a lot of stuff in this world. There are trillions and trillions of possessions and entertainment choices and relationships and experiences and philosophies. But — in order to live a meaningful life — true followers of Christ must test each one that crosses their path in order to discern if it’s biblically excellent. The word excellent refers to truly valuable and worthwhile. Basically, it refers to that which is Christ-honoring.
Our kids’ lives will only have meaning and value as they are able to use the knowledge and understanding of God to wisely live for Him.
Such a life will produce another facet of a meaningful existence.
4. Life has meaning when we are sincere and blameless.
Again, allow me to read the next verse in context: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.”
Why do we strive to approve that which is excellent? Because we want to be sincere and blameless before God.
“Sincere” refers to that which has been judged pure. It’s like subjecting something to the harshest light, interrogation, and testing only to find that it is completely unadulterated and pure.
And “blameless” refers to both not stumbling into sin ourselves as well as not causing another to stumble into sin.
Our kids’ lives will only have meaning as they growing in their knowledge and love for God so that they can wisely discern what pleases Him and therefore live a sincere and blameless life accordingly.
And then Paul ends the description of a meaningful existence by teaching that . . .
5. Life has meaning when are filled with the fruit of righteousness.
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
This final concept is an all-encompassing description of everything that came before it.
To be filled with the fruit of righteousness is the natural outcome of living a sincere and blameless life. And we will only be able to live such a life as we diligently test all the choices that are presented to us in order to participate in those which are biblically excellent and reject the rest. And we’re only ever going to be able to do that as accumulate the biblical knowledge and discernment of God. And we’re only every going to pursue that kind of life as we love God.
And this all boils down to our identify.
Are your children worshippers of God, or are they worshippers of self.
The answer to that question will reveal what parts of their lives are meaningless and which parts are full of eternal purpose.
Now, please do us and all of your friends a favor by sharing this episode on your favorite social media outlets.
And don’t forget that we would love to personally serve you if you have any questions or struggles in your life. All you have to do is email us as Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com or call (828) 423-0894.
Lastly, I hope you’ll join us next time as we once again open God’s Word to discover how to parent our children for life and godliness.
To that end, we’ll be discussing the highest goal you can have for your parenting.
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