He was a young man who loved God – yet he became a hedonist extraordinaire, a playboy who made Hugh Hefner look like a lightweight. He was highly educated, yet went on unbelievable drinking binges. He was an architectural genius, masterminding the building of incredible structures, and yet chased after women like there was no tomorrow. And he was worth billions.

King Solomon lived thousands of years ago, yet the lessons and experiences of his life are as current as tomorrow’s newspaper. It was he who coined the phrase, “There’s nothing new under the sun.”

Solomon became the king of Israel after his father David’s death. No one, not even David, had such incredible potential to be a great king. He had a godly heritage from his dad, was given wisdom on a scale that had never been known up to that point and wealth beyond anyone’s most fevered imagination. As a result, he had virtually unlimited power to do good.

Solomon started his reign beautifully. But the joy and beauty began to fade all too soon, as he turned away from the Lord who had so richly blessed him. By the time he came to the end of himself in his later years, he had thrown away a life with unbelievable potential. Here’s how he began his memoirs in the book of the Bible called Ecclesiastes:

These are the words of the Teacher, King David’s son, who ruled in Jerusalem.

“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “utterly meaningless!”

Solomon liked the word “meaningless,” using it again and again as he wrote about life. In the original language, the word meant emptiness, futility, a wisp of a vapor, a hollow, empty ring, nothingness, a bubble that bursts.

Ecclesiastes tells us that nothing on this earth will satisfy us completely. No thing, no pleasure, no relationship, no accomplishment will bring enduring value in life. It’s like riding one of those stationary bikes. You peddle and peddle but never really go anywhere. You get off in the very same place where you started.

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon was looking back on a life lived without God. He was reflecting on man’s attempt to meet the deepest needs of human life, while leaving God out of the equation.

Initially, Solomon followed the Lord and his father’s good example. But as time passed, the young king forgot this commitment, allowing his heart to become at first divided, and then hardened. He began to love both the Lord and the world. According to Scripture, however, that will never wash. And in this rebellion against God, much like the prodigal son, Solomon broke away from his roots, his foundation, and decided to take a crash course in sin.

Did he ever! And he had the resources to do it! Unlimited sex, gallons of booze, non-stop partying, unrestrained materialism – not to mention the finest education, entertainment and art collecting. You name it, Solomon tried it. He actually did what most people only dream of. But in the end, it all turned into a nightmare.

The irony of all of this is that he really knew better! Solomon had met with God early in his reign and had been blessed in a special way. He was given the incredible privilege of building a house for God – a wondrous temple in the heart of Jerusalem. At the dedication, he said to vast throng: “May you, his people, always be faithful to the LORD our God. May you always obey his laws and commands, just as you are doing today” (1 Kings 8:58, 61, NIV).

But even as Solomon was uttering these true and glorious words, he was in the midst of violating them. First, he married a person who did not share his relationship with the Lord – which is always a huge mistake. And in time, she began to turn his heart away from the true and living God. While this was happening, Solomon began amassing a huge fortune, eventually trusting in those riches more than the God who had so generously provided them. Before long, he actually began worshiping at the alters of demonic idols, imported into Israel by his many foreign wives.

And then, after many wasted years, Solomon finally came to his senses. He had learned the bitter lessons of life the hard way, but he really had no one to blame but himself. Among other things, he deeply regretted wasting his youth, warning others not to make the same mistake. He wrote: “Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and no longer enjoy living” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, NLT).

Solomon wraps up his book, saying, “Look, take it from a seasoned pro. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about here! If you leave God out of the picture – no matter what else you may have going – your life will be empty, meaningless and futile. Do you want to have a full life, a more abundant life? Do you truly want to live out your life as a whole woman, a whole man? Well, here’s your answer: Fear God and keep His commandments.”

Sadly, Solomon threw away his whole life figuring this out. Following God had been the answer all along, and deep down, I think Solomon knew that from day one. But he trashed his life anyway.

How many times have we heard this? How many more young men and women will step into adulthood telling themselves that submitting to the Lord really doesn’t apply to them? How many more marriages will be destroyed? How many more children deprived of both parents? How many more lives ravaged by substance abuse?

The bottom line is: We don’t have to waste our lives or our potential as Solomon did. We don’t have to self-destruct as the years go by. If only we would take God at His word! If only we would obey Him – even when it’s difficult. To have the courage to say “no” when others are saying “yes,” and “yes” when others are saying “no.”

Most of us will never have the advantages of a Solomon, but God has an amazing plan and purpose for each of our lives that no one else on earth can accomplish. Don’t miss out on life because you missed out on God.

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