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The Pursuit of Pleasure Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

The Pursuit of Pleasure
Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

A Teacher's Bible Commentary

Paul J. Bucknell

Ecclesiastes Outline | Design
The Pursuit of Pleasure | Cycle of Satisfaction | The Pleasure Cycle | Bible Study Questions

'The Cycle of Pursuit and Satisfaction,' part 2 of 4 on a larger study of 'The Pursuit of Pleasure', reveals through a chart the way man pursues his life plans, large and small, and the temptation he faces along that road, including the excitement, frustration, long process, success and sudden lack of purpose.

The Cycle of Pursuit and Satisfaction

This Cycle of Satisfaction Chart is derived from a number of personal observations of life mixed with scriptural observations. It is reflected somewhat with what we see in Solomon's life.

Cycle of Satisfaction diagramExcitement.

He suddenly chose to chase after some new thing. Something flickered in his mind, and it triggered a deep down desire. He would go for it. He would get very excited. This pursuit promised to answer all his needs of life at that time in life. Of course, he might not have thought at that level. Most of us do not. We only think, “That looks good!” or “That sounds interesting.”

Depending on what it is, there is, often, a burst of excitement over how something can bring hope and direction back to our lives. We are excited about it. When sharing with our friends or pastor or parents, we only take what they say as good when it confirms our hope and disregard what they say when it doesn’t affirm what we now believe will bring help to our lives. We are willing to put time, hard labor, risk and money in all of that.


More than often, we face some serious struggles when we first try to adjust our lives to obtain that goal. We can call it life’s reality check. We might ask, “It takes that much time?” Or you might feel once the assignments come in that you can never get through. Some people stop here and give up.

Slow pursuit.

Others, though, pursue their goal. They might go slow, it might take years to accomplish what they want, but they are being motivated by the deep hope within them.


Some people actually are able to accomplish their goal. Who knows what it might be? Not a few make their goal to be a millionaire by 30. Others to retire by 40. Others to become self-reliant. Others to have a nice home. Others to get some degree. Others to feel good about oneself. Others to master some challenge such as climbing a mountain, etc. Some actually obtain their goal; many don’t. Those that don’t end up resigned to some despair or criticism against those who held him back. But some do make their goal and are for a very short time quite excited.

Bottomed out.

But what happens afterwards? They suddenly become aimless, purposeless and empty. They find that it is the pursuit that excites them rather than the accomplishment of it.

Where are you at in life? The excitement? The frustration? Facing the challenges? Delight of accomplishment? Or in the pit of aimlessness?

We will make some application of this to our lives in a moment, but let us reflect again what it all means. Many cannot see this cycle repeat itself so many times as Solomon Most of us don’t have the time, drive, money or health to run after so many things. But the point that Solomon is saying,

“I’ve been there. I’ve done it. I enjoyed it all. But none of it is really as rewarding as one thinks. In fact all of it is so meaningless in the end.”

He said, “My wisdom also stood by me.” He hadn’t allowed his despair or success ruin his analysis. Chasing after our dreams do not can satisfy us. We can anticipate the purchase of some computer program or inventing some device or the marriage to a person would fully satisfy us. This is what we believe. We work hard at getting it. But it doesn’t in the end fulfill us. If it fulfilled Solomon, then he would not have needed to go after one thing after the next.

Temptations at the Stages of Life and Success

In case you need to run out in the middle of the message, let me make a few observations that I hope will help you, no matter what stage of life you are in. These things apply a lot to each aspect of our lives including the spiritual dimension. We have many scriptural teachings for each of these turns in life.

1) Excitement of pursuit

You can make a lot of mistakes here. You can leave God. You are most likely overestimating the good impact of something in your life, whether it is a risky investment, a girl, a guy, a job, etc. You need to remember that the seeking of God in all these things is the most important. You are living for something much better as a Christian. Stages of TemptationWe will go through these cycles of pursuit and the hopes that we gain, but always live in light of a more glorious pursuit of knowing God. Otherwise, you will end up running into dead ends, getting hurt and hurting others. The temptation here causes us to think that the chasing after these things will satisfy us so that we leave God out of our lives.

2) Frustration over difficulties

Many of our frustrations are over making too much of our expectations. Even if the pursuit you are in is good, recognize there will be difficult times reaching it. This is part of the road. Disappointments are a part of life. When it seems that the hope offers everything but then the quick loss of that hope results in despair. They now believe they cannot reach their goal which they think will bring that happiness in our lives. If it persists, they get depressed and some even entertain the thought of suicide. Success might be right around the corner, but they cannot see it. They think it is a dead end.

We should not put our hopes on things in the world even if it is the greatest guy in the world. Instead, look at this time of frustration time as a proving time. God wants to grow you. He is reminding you that He should be your goal and that you cannot do these things on your own. Pray to Him. Don’t forget Him. And of course, check your goals. Is the pursuit a legitimate one? Why is it so important to you? At times, we will see that our pursuit was not of the best intentions and that God was trying to keep us from error.

3) Slow pursuit

Challenges are normal in life. They are the times to learn. Don’t look at the goal with such glory that you miss the steps to get there. Most of life consists in this slow pursuit of things. Enjoy the pursuit!

In other words, it is fine to work at a startup on some new fascinating discovery or application. But don’t make it your all. Don’t work so hard that you forget the special spouse you have. Don’t spend so much time in the lab with things that you neglect your time in the temple with God. Don’t forget your other joys of children and simple things as a walk. Someone was just sharing with me as a busy student, she hadn’t had much a chance to look at the moon lately. Enjoy life. Don’t miss it. Obtaining one’s goal is nice but is short and gone. Once you graduate, the euphoria has passed.

Don’t try to rush success. Enjoy the slow process. Never take shortcuts that ask you to compromise God’s values. Protect your family and your spiritual life. Some people around you believe the project is their god. Evaluate new jobs and opportunities in light of their commitment to the project. If their all is in it, then they have nothing else than that to chase after. They will not be good to work with during difficult times. They will be dangerous to be around when accomplishment is right around the corner.

4) Delighted with accomplishment.

Watch out. Success is dangerous. For it is here that pride and arrogance can be released. All along, a person thinks much of this great thing happening. He might finally reach that goal. But then, when it happens he can easily lose perspective. He can forget God. Lose his morals. Be rude to others.

In other words, if you take glory to yourself, you will step away from God and worship your achievement. You will be unhappy with the Mordecai’s around you that do not wish you well. You will not be nice to others. You will also be tempted with certain prizes of actually catching your prize. People tend to indulge themselves. This is where we lose our morals. “Why do I need to put up with my wife who complains on coming late for dinner?” Satan comes about and subtly introduces a thought, “I don’t deserve that treatment. I can get much better elsewhere.” This is where a study of Joseph, Job or Daniel can help us so much.

This delight in obtaining our goal will last for a little while. Be very careful to give thanks to God and recognize His part in all of this. Remember that this is not your end goal. You have a much greater one of knowing Christ. Stay close to the Lord and constantly remember to give thanks to Him.

5) Bottomed out

Many who have actually reached their goal have a hard time afterwards. They might have heard about the bottoming out but never thought it would happen to them. They have reached one of their life goals. It is tremendous. But once obtained, much of the excitement, and sometimes all of the excitement of accomplishment, drops away. Suddenly, when least expecting it. One realizes how alone he is. How this whole thing does not really mean anything. The sting of how you might have hurt people even backlashes upon you.

I wonder if this was where David was when instead of going out with the army, he just aimlessly wondered about his castle. It was there on the roof, he was suddenly inspired with a new plan. A new goal, any new goal, looks mighty attractive when one is bottomed out. As a general, he fought and defeated his enemies. It didn’t mean much to him anymore. He was now king. His enemies were no threat to him. Fighting had no more appeal. But a look at a woman that wasn’t his, gave him a new reason to live.

Instead of feeling left out and aimless, make it a time of reflection, confession and rededication. Purposely seek the Lord. Stay close to God’s people. Straighten out what needs to be straightened. This includes restitution. If you have used others to get your goal, don’t just apologize. Recognize their efforts. Share your new wealth with them. Write how important the team was.

This is where the phrase ‘Waiting upon God’ comes in. Satan will tempt us to put our hopes in the things he offers. be careful. We have gone all the way around the cycle, Trust God for timing. Be patient. He is proving your heart and seeing if you really want what He wants.

It is easy to pick up any project, but that does not mean that it is best or wise. Pray carefully that you will seek God’s will and not just follow something to avoid the silence of the pit. This is where many people get into a bad cycle that only will bear bad experiences.


Where are you at? I have up to this point only shown what is going on behind the scenes. By observing Solomon we find that he went from one thing to another. He was seeking pleasure here or there. What was it that he was looking for? What is hedonism? How has it affected our own society? This is what we will spend the rest of our time on.

Let's continue on looking at Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 by looking at "A Pursuit of Pleasure."