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The Tears of Short-Lived Ambition03-20-2016

Pastor Aaron E. Lavender
Sunday Morning, March 20, 2016
Sermon Series: CHASING THE WIND – Sermon #11


The Trail of Tears (4:4-16)
“The Tears of Short-lived Ambition”

Ecclesiastes 4:13-16



This passages’ emphasis seems to be a “rags to riches” story. It is neither possible nor necessary to know the specific person (if any) that Solomon had in mind, but it does not require much creativity to list biblical characters who may possibly fit this description: Moses, Joseph, Saul, David. 

Solomon was himself a king, and therefore may be allowed to speak more freely than most others concerning the vanity of kingly state and dignity, which he shows here to be an uncertain thing; he had before said so (Prov. 27:24, The crown does not endure to every generation), and his son found that to be real. Nothing is more fleeting than achieving the highest position of honor without godly wisdom and the people’s love.

From these verses we are exposed to the “Tears of Short-lived Ambition,” and reminded of two very valuable lessons: the instability of ambition and fame, and the unreliability of popularity.

I.   The Instability of Ambition and Fame: Eccl. 4:13

The king in the story had at one time heeded his counselors’ advice and ruled wisely, but when he got old, he refused to listen to them.

 LESSON:  Be careful that you never become insensitive to godly counsel (Proverbs 5:13; 26:3; Psalm 32:9; 78:8)

 II.  The Unreliability of Popularity: Eccl. 4:14-16

There appears to be a hero in the text, a wise young man who is in prison. Why was he in prison? We are not told. At any rate, he got out of prison and became king. Everybody cheered the underdog and rejoiced that the nation at last had wise leadership.

 But the story goes on. Apparently the young man got out of prison and took the throne because of popular demand. It looked like the new young king had it made, but regrettably, his popularity didn’t last. “Yet those who come after him will not rejoice in him” (v. 16). The new crowd deposed the king and appointed somebody else. Popularity is unreliable and fleeting.

LESSON: Just wait till the next poll is taken. Your popularity will be down.


Is ambition wrong? Is it wrong to be driven, to push to be the best? It can be. The difference between right and wrong ambition is in our goal and motivation—whether it’s for God’s glory or our own.

  • In 1 Thessalonians 4:1, Paul tells us that Christians are to live lives “to please God.”
  • Paul further suggests we work with “sincerity of heart, fearing God” (Col. 3:22).

The quest for ambition and popularity becomes a problem when it turns into a game complete with winners and losers. That happens when:

  • Friends become stepping stones,
  • What’s right is sacrificed for what’s trendy,
  • Fitting in means pushing others out, and,
  • Making friends means forgetting who you are.
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