Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE ATHEIST’S CONTENTMENT”

Ecclesiastes 4.6

 

This message from God’s Word is directed to you who are here as an atheist. By atheist, I refer to those of you who, like me at one stage of my life, denies the existence of God as having any real significance in your life. To be sure, atheist as a term refers to someone who denies the existence of God.[1] However, the Bible suggests that such hardly exist and that most who are covered by the term atheist are actually individuals who live their lives without reference to God and who move through your daily routines whilst paying no attention to God whatsoever. Let me refer to such as a practical atheist.

Concerning Psalm 14.1, which reads, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God,” Adam Clarke suggests, “The word is not to be taken in the strict sense in which we use the term atheist, that is, one who denies the being of a God . . . [but refers to those who] live as if they were persuaded there was no God either to punish or reward.”[2] So, Adam Clarke clearly had in mind here what I have described as a practical atheist. Matthew Henry also wrote about such people, “They cannot doubt of the being of God, but will question his dominion.”[3] Then there is Charles Spurgeon, who observes the psalmist’s comment is about God and not the LORD when he writes, “It is worthy of observation that he does not say there is no Jehovah, but there is no Elohim; Deity in the abstract is not so much the object of attack, as the covenant, personal, ruling and governing presence of God in the world.”[4]

This is the perspective from which Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes; never doubting the existence of God or a future judgment but allowing for no involvement by God in an individual’s daily life. Throughout Solomon repeatedly uses the phrase “under the sun” to express this idea. Can a person who owns that God is real, that God exists, and that God will someday judge all mankind, actually live his life as though God is not real, is not involved, is not active? My goodness, friend, it happens all the time. This morning’s message is directly precisely to those of you here who live such a life. Don’t be offended by my intentions. Rather recognize your importance to God despite being one who is blind, one who is senseless, one who is enslaved by your sinfulness, and one who is dead in trespasses and sins. Though in your mind you likely accept the reality of God, in your heart you are for all practical purposes an atheist. Therefore, because your heart’s door is your mind I will begin by making an appeal to your mind in an effort to affect your heart by giving evidence of the trustworthiness and credibility of this book of Ecclesiastes.

Turn your attention to Ecclesiastes 1.6: “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.” “This is a remarkable anticipation of the modern discovery of the world’s great wind circuits in the global circulation of the atmosphere.”[5] And it anticipates man’s discovery of the world’s great wind circuits by more than 2,500 years.

Now read Ecclesiastes 1.7: “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.” “Similarly, this is an excellent summary of the earth’s amazing hydrological cycle, as confirmed scientifically only in modern times.”[6] Ocean water evaporates into the air, which forms into clouds, which drops as rain or snow onto the ground, forming streams and rivers, which run back into the seas and oceans. For thousands of years no one knew about this besides Solomon, the human author of Ecclesiastes.

Next, Ecclesiastes 3.14: “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.” “In addition to emphasizing the immutability of God and His works, this passage anticipates the great scientific principle of conservation (conservation of energy, mass, momentum, charge, etc.). Nothing is now being either created or annihilated. An entity may be changed in character and even deteriorate in quality, but it must be conserved in quantity.”[7] That, my friends, is modern physics anticipated 3,000 years ago.

Thus, the book of Ecclesiastes, written a thousand years before Christ was born, and 2,500 years before the dawn of the scientific era, contains true statements about the nature of the world we live in that reflects a profound understanding of the way in which the environment we live in actually functions.

It is rare that a week goes by without a scientist somewhere in the world making use of his standing and reputation as a scientist to make brash philosophical assertions about the nature of mankind and his denial of the existence of God. Therefore, since what is good for the goose is good for the gander, and being that turnabout is fair play, it is only reasonable that you who do not normally read the Bible, you who do not normally pray, you who see no useful benefit in having your sins forgiven, you who dress and act and entertain yourself without consideration of God, should reflect on the pronouncements of a document that is 3,000 years old yet which is scientifically accurate. However, it is not science that we are interested in this morning, but the contentment of the atheist. Please turn with me at this time to Ecclesiastes 4.6. When you find that verse you are invited to stand and read along with me:

 

“Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.”

 

Do you agree with that sentiment? If you do it means that you are a practical atheist in your thinking. This verse perfectly reflects the thinking of the atheist. Not the person who actually denies the existence of God, necessarily, but the person who denies God any significant role in his life, in his thoughts, in his decisions, and in his actions. Are you be such a person as this? Does this verse express your contentment?

Three observations related to the atheist’s contentment:

 

First, YOUR DELUSION

 

Remember that I am not suggesting that you deny God’s existence; just that you deny God’s proper place in your life. Of course, for this to occur with you you must, in fact, suffer from a delusion, actually two delusions:

First, you suffer from the delusion that just because God is invisible He is therefore not involved. However, is this a valid conclusion? Not at all. You cannot see gravity, yet you have no plan to jump off a high building. You cannot see electricity, yet you have no design to grab a crackling power line. You cannot see cold, yet you are not so foolish as to touch the tip of your tongue to a metal post in Minnesota in the winter time. Reflect also on past lives. God was involved in Adam’s life. God was involved in Cain’s life. God was involved in Enoch’s life. God was involved in Noah’s life. God was involved in Abraham’s life. God was involved in Isaac’s life. God was involved in Jacob’s life. God was involved in Joseph’s life. God was involved in Rahab’s life. God was involved in Ruth’s life. God was involved in David’s life. God was involved in Solomon’s life. God was involved in Daniel’s life. God was involved in Nebuchadnezzar’s life. God was involved in Cyrus’ life. God was involved in Esther’s life. Yet God was and is invisible. I could go on and on, but let me switch to more contemporary examples. Would you deny that God was involved in Isaac Newton’s life, the man acclaimed as the most brilliant scientist who ever lived? How about Michael Faraday? It was said by one scientist that “The whole world of electricity started” with his experimentation.[8] Then there is James Clerk Maxwell, the first professor of experimental physics at Cambridge University.[9] Then, of course, there was Lord Kelvin, who “branded his name into theoretical research by formulating in precise terms the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics” and after who the Absolute Temperature Scale is named.[10] If you think God was not involved in those men’s lives you know nothing about them and likely have never read anything that they themselves wrote. These people whose names I have rehearsed to you, both ancient and modern, some being shepherds and others being brilliant scientists, were not so delusional as to wrongly conclude that because God is invisible He is therefore not involved in the lives of His creatures. You would face them and insist that you are right about God’s involvement and they are wrong?

You also suffer from the delusion that just because you cannot see God He is therefore not involved. From Biblical and recent historical examples in the scientific world, let us now turn our attention to you as we address this matter of delusion concerning God’s involvement in your life. Notice, if you will, Second Corinthians 4.3-4:

 

3      But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

4      In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

 

Consider the likelihood that your perception that God is not involved in your life is the direct result of the god of this world creating in you a spiritual blindness, and is therefore a delusion you are suffering about God’s involvement in His creature’s lives, God’s involvement in your life. Now, please, read with me James 1.22:

 

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”

 

This verse shows the very real possibility of a person’s self-deception. Is that not the very crux of the idea of delusion? If you were suffering from a self-inflicted delusion about God’s involvement in your life, the result of self-deception, how would you know?

The entire basis of Solomon’s book of Ecclesiastes is not that God does not exist, but rather is written from the perspective of one who lives as though God is not involved in the lives of His creatures. However, that is utter nonsense, as Ecclesiastes clearly shows. It is, in fact, delusional. God was active in your life when He formed you in your mother’s womb, Psalm 139.15. God is at this moment active in your life, all the while you deny His involvement and give no attention to His providential watchcare over you, Luke 12.7.[11] Furthermore, God will determine the end of your time on this earth and the day of your passing from here to eternity, Genesis 27.2 and Ecclesiastes 8.8. He will decide when you have drawn your last breath and when your heart has beaten its final beat, your soul then slipping off into its eternal destiny.

 

Next, YOUR DESIRE

 

If your delusion is no God, your desire is no disruption. The context of the entire book of Ecclesiastes is from the perspective of “no God,” which is to say no involvement of God. However, it is in our text that we clearly see such an atheist’s desire:

 

“Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.”

 

Do you see the essence of the atheist’s thoughts? The atheist would rather have less without trouble than more with travail and vexation of spirit. Observe that there is a laziness of spirit with the atheist, that person who wants to recognize no involvement in his life by God, because that would suggest responsibility, a responsibility toward God to respond to God, to worship God, to serve God, and the atheist does not want to do any of those things.

Of course, the problem with this desire to avoid at all costs that which is disruptive is that it simply does not reflect the world we live in. Let me illustrate: Muslims are flooding into most European countries at an alarming rate, with most of the Muslims being young men of fighting age who almost immediately engage in violent behavior upon arriving at their destination, after they sign up for welfare. What are the Europeans doing whilst their culture and very soon their very countries are taken from them? Nothing. Nothing at all. They are taking the line of least resistance to invasion and conquest by immigration.

Bringing this tendency to avoid conflict, to seek escape from disruption, to a more immediate and personal application, you seek to avoid anything and everything that will cause you personal discomfort. Of course, the problem associated with this desire to avoid disruption is that God has very clearly stated in His Word that when He begins to deal with someone He guarantees there will be disruption in the form of the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, John 16.8. You see, the Spirit of God reproves sinners of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. But the atheist doesn’t want any of that.

He opts for the tranquility of death rather than the convulsions of life. He prefers the numbness of insensibility to the pains and hurts of life. He would rather be intoxicated by spiritual narcotics than be alert to the real issues and problems of life in this world. That is why the atheist will not read the Bible, will not pray to God, will not give to the cause of Christ, will not engage and involve in evangelism or witnessing at any level. There is devotion, to be sure, but it is not devotion to God but rather devotion to personal comfort and ease.

 

Finally, YOUR DESTINY

 

What is the destiny of the delusional person who denies God’s proper role in his life? What is the destiny of the one who desires at all costs the avoidance of any disruption to his life? It certainly is not heaven. Please do not become angry at me. As Paul wrote I also ask you, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth,” Galatians 4.16?

Each one of us comes into this world dead in trespasses and sins.[12] Each one of us is a born liar, Psalm 58.3. Each one of us is estranged from God and in desperate need of reconciliation to God. And just as the birth process is a traumatic event for each newborn baby, so the new birth has associated with it great discomfort and anguish.

Consider what is described as happening on the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit of God dealt with those men to make them aware of their guilt in the sight of God, and of their profound need of Christ and the forgiveness that comes only through faith in Him, Acts 2.37:

 

“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

 

Notice the result of the Holy Spirit’s dealings with those men as they heard Peter’s anointed gospel preaching: “they were pricked in their heart.” A. T. Robertson informs us that the Greek word translated pricked is a rare word referring to piercing, to stinging sharply, to stunning, and to smiting, and that the Greek poet Homer used the word when describing the effect of a running horse’s hoofs on the dirt, quickly digging in and turning up the soil.[13] That does not suggest a pleasant experience for anyone’s heart.

Now consider the experience of the Philippian jailor, Acts 16.29-30:

 

29    Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,

30    And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

 

This man, though he was a Roman soldier with some experience (inasmuch as he was the jailor), was utterly terrified. By the earthquake? I don’t think so. He was experiencing a terror of the soul that resulted from the Spirit of God dealing with him.

While it must be recognized that not everyone who comes to Christ is as profoundly moved as were those men on the Day of Pentecost or that Philippian jailor, since such seems not to have been the experience of either the Ethiopian eunuch or Lydia in Philippi, “whose heart the Lord opened,” the practical atheist is so committed to avoiding personal heart discomfort that it is not at all uncommon for him to distract himself during worship or to abandon church services altogether.

Thus, there is such a commitment to the atheist’s desire, such a determination to avoid at all costs anything disruptive to life as you have become used to it, that you will quench the Spirit, you will grieve the Spirit, you will cut off all avenues to your heart by distracting your mind. And when a sinner succeeds in so thwarting the effort to bring him to Christ, he can only end up as a result in the lake of fire.

 

The practical atheist’s contentment, sought after from the perspective of the deluded notion that God is not actively involved in His world and in His creature’s lives (or allowed to be actively involved), with an accompanying desire to avoid disruptions to one’s mind and heart, leads to an unavoidable destiny. Time slips by faster than anyone can imagine. The effects of his sins upon one’s thinking are greater by far than is normally understood. And the sinner is gradually changed from being someone who wants his eternal destiny eventually altered but not immediately altered, to becoming someone who has reached such complacency that he resigns himself to the terribly wrong notion that he does not need to be saved from his sins after all.

Oh, my friend, consider things that cannot be denied. It cannot be denied that God is real. You would never go so far as to maintain that lie from the pit. It cannot be denied that you are a sinner. You would never deny your own sinfulness and the guiltiness that results from sinning against God. How, then, can you deny the need of a Savior, that virgin born Son of the living God who died on the cross of Calvary, who was then buried in a rich man’s tomb, and who demonstrably raised from the dead on the third day?[14]

You would not suggest that Jesus Christ suffered an ignominious death on the cross for nothing would you? You would not suggest there is another way of addressing man’s sin problems than by the Just suffering a sacrificial death for the unjust would you? Would you by your own unwillingness to respond to the demand of the gospel deny that what Jesus Christ did was important, deny that what Jesus Christ did was necessary, deny that what Jesus Christ did was unique, and thereby deny that what Jesus Christ did is your only hope of forgiveness and salvation?

Oh, my atheistical friend, be willing to endure the temporary disruption of the Spirit’s conviction of your sins so that you might by the forgiveness of your sins by Christ enjoy eternal peace and tranquility of the soul.

__________

[1] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 118.

[2] Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol III, (New York: Abingdon Press), page 255.

[3] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Whole Bible, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[4] Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury Of David, Volume I, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers), page 161.

[5] Henry M. Morris, The New Defender’s Study Bible, (Nashville, TN: World Publishing, 2006), page 986.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., page 989.

[8] Peter Masters, Men Of Purpose, (London: The Wakeman Trust, revised 1989), page 9.

[9] Ibid., page 70.

[10] Ibid., page 105.

[11] Recommended reading on this matter of Providence is Alexander Carson, The History of Providence As Manifested in Scripture, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, reprinted 2012)

[12] Ephesians 2.1

[13] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol III, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1930), page 34.

[14] I urge anyone who doubts Christ’s physical resurrection from the dead to read Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, The Case For The Resurrection Of Jesus, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2004) and N. T. Wright, The Resurrection Of The Son Of God, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003)

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org