Ecclesiastes 1:1-14, 1 Corinthians 14:24-25
‘Everything is meaningless!’ This is the cry of Ecclesiastes. Did you ever feel that way? For some it’s a momentary frustration, for others it’s an ongoing philosophy. Atheists believe life is meaningless; a mere accident in time. Christians believe it has meaning because a Creator always has a purpose. But just as atheists have moments of belief, so Christians have moments of doubt. And just as atheists have moments when they wonder if something spiritual happened, so believers have moments when they don’t see the spiritual side of life and things seems meaningless. Perhaps this was Solomon’s position when he said ‘Everything is meaningless!’ Or maybe he was trying to provoke doubters to think deeper; to look past the temporary things of this life. Either way, from an evangelistic perspective, both the atheist and the doubting believer need a bit of help if they are going to be convinced that God is close and life has meaning.
Very often the cry of the atheist is ‘Seeing-is-believing – if God is there show us!’ Did Jesus have an answer to that? Well yes I think he did. Admittedly, not many in his time were atheists, but not many were ready to follow him as the Christ either. If Jesus was going to have any influence he needed to show people the Father’s kingdom. And he did. His miracles convinced masses of people. And after he ascended into heaven he poured out his Spirit on the church so they could continue to demonstrate the kingdom in the same way. The church is gifted to do what he was doing. This is what the gifts of the Holy Spirit are all about. The gifts are there to help all people, including atheists and doubting believers, to see that life is not meaningless. The gifts usher in the supernatural reign of God – and usually in a way that is very personal and impacting to the doubter.
Think of what happened when Nathanael doubted Jesus. After Philip explained who Jesus was and that he came from Nazareth, Nathanael said “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” But when Jesus saw Nathanael he said, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus said, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that” (John 1:47-49). It seems the Father had given Jesus a mental picture or mini-vision of Nathanael under the tree, because Nathanael was convinced there was no natural way Jesus could have seen him. We now refer to such divine knowledge as a ‘word of knowledge,’ and it operates quite frequently among believers who believe in the gifts of the Spirit.
In the video below John Wimber tells how God gave him divine knowledge about a man who was seated next to him on an aircraft. He saw superimposed across the man’s face ‘Adultery’ and a women’s name. After John told the man what God had shown him the man repented of his sin and became an instant believer.
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Speaking of such divine insight into an individual’s life Paul said ‘If an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in [to the gathering] while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”’ (1 Co 14:24-25). And this will work for the most hardened atheist. When God speaks all debate ends.
Jesus also got divine insight when he was speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well. He told her, “Go call your husband.” She said “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.” She was so moved by the fact that Jesus knew this that she said to the people of her town “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:16-19,28-29).
The moment God spoke through Jesus to Nathanael and the Samaritan woman everything changed. Nathanael’s doubts about Jesus disappeared, the Samaritan woman’s shattered life suddenly had hope and direction. And in the video above the man Wimber spoke to began to live for God instead of himself. God just has to utter a word and suddenly a meaningless life becomes meaningful.
Is there an answer to the endless debates over the existence of God and meaning of life? It seems there is. When God speaks all debate stops and faith begins. It really is that simple. The amazing thing is that you can lead the most established atheist and the most knowledgeable philosopher to Christ without the intellect to refute them or the skill to debate them. The gifts of the Spirit are simply that powerful.
For this reason every Christian needs to learn to operate in the gifts of the Spirit. It is essential that every soldier in God’s army can receive a message from their Commander and pass it on to those in need. Life is meaningful – when God speaks.