The Transient Nature of Power and Popularity.

Neither popularity nor position are permanent. Ecclesiastes 4:13-16 teaches us to avoid unrealistic expectations regarding both.

"How fleeting and altogether temporary is popularity according to men! What does it matter if a man ever has royal power? In one case, the old king, although born to the throne, becomes foolish, senile, unable to discern that his days of ruling are over. In another situation, a young but poor wise man may like Joseph rise from prison to the throne. Such are the constant ups and downs of life; For although the young man was welcomed at first, he too will no doubt share his predecessor's fate. Those who come later will not be pleased with him either." – Walter Kaiser

People are fickle. Today's heroes are tomorrow's bums. Rulers protect their thrones while people clamor for revolution. When the unwise gain popularity, foolishness is allowed because people love what they're used to. Popularity and position come and go, and that never changes. God's plan incorporates all of this. Hegel said, "We learn from history simply that we do not learn from history."

The average legacy of an individual is about 1 generation. Wiersbe said, "The moral of the story in our text is that wealth and position are no guarantee of success, and poverty and seeming failure are no barriers to achievement." Anyone at any time in any state can rise or fall.

There is nothing wrong with wealth or good achievement. Don't miss the opportunity to make the best of what God has given you, while always living according to His Word.

Enjoying position and popularity alone without eternal wisdom and the purpose of God is pointless.

Solomon continues to discuss the danger and grievous futility of living life in isolation in the last section of Ecclesiastes 4. God doesn't call individuals to be great for Him by themselves (John 3:30). Especially in the church, one person doesn't leave a legacy without others. In Christ, we can do eternally great things together. Ronald Reagan said, "There's no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit."

Even like-minded local churches are not great individually over any other church. (See 2 Corinthians 8-9 and 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12.) God's use of individual churches will never be at the expense of their partnering interdependently with other churches to exalt Christ together and propagate His Gospel. We all help each other to be spiritually great.

Wanting to do something great for our Savior is not wrong – but if pursued at the expense of other biblical relationships, a person will accomplish very little for Christ. Good motivation must be checked by God-honoring methodology.

Investing in disciples who will continue to make disciples and making Christ's last command our first priority (Matthew 28:19-20) are the great things that God has for us to accomplish together. Self-promoting ideologies and practices to gain popularity, notoriety, and position abound. Anything done in the name of Christ aside from an organic connection to his local church always proves problematic, both in the life of the isolated individual and for the successful function of the local church.

Anything done alone, even virtuous, won't last. Every created thing has a brief existence and an end. Anything we accomplish will probably be more short-lived than we are. But anything we pursue for Christ together will be remembered far longer than our individual selves.

The enduring legacy of the church is as influential as Christ through us (Matthew 16:18). No one person should seek to rise up and be noticed as great; Christ is the only one to be exalted in His family. A life that touches other lives for Christ is always worth remembering. With Christ and His church, we can do eternally great things.

Application Points

  • If you have any measure of notoriety or position, enjoy it while it lasts! Don't enjoy it alone. Make sure you share with your local church in doing eternal things.
  • What are you truly living for?
  • Will you root out from your heart the destructive thoughts that lead you to pursue selfish and an individualistic pathway in life, even in the context of the local church? Examine your heart for envy of others or bitterness. Is greed distracting you from biblical family and living interdependently with your church family? Is anything pulling you away from the orbit of your local church? No living thing is stagnant. If you are not growing closer, you are most likely slipping away from God's eternal purpose for you.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Those who try to be great apart from God's people are not successful. Consider the stories of Cain, Achan, Demas, Alexander, Diotrophes, and Judas.
  • 1 Thess 2:19-20 – Paul saw his significance within the family of God.