Print Friendly, PDF & Email

This lesson by Brent Riggs is based on the Book of Ephesians as presented in Chapter 13 of “Created for His Glory” by Jim Berg. It was delivered by Brent as the final speaker at a three day conference featuring Jim Berg teaching the material in this book.

  • The answers to the DARK MYSTERIES of life are founding the DIVINE MYSTERIES of Ephesians
    • Jim Berg’s opening statement for his book was “what you don’t see, CAN hurt you”.
    • Stand for reading God’s Word.

      Ephesians 4:17-19 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. (NKJV)


  • This is addressed to the Church, to believers.
    • So by implication, it is POSSIBLE to walk this way as a Christian.
    • It is INEVITABLE you will walk this way as a UNBELIEVER.
  • He is saying there is danger out there that we aren’t always aware of and it can hurt us.
  • There are things we don’t know instinctively, we have to search for them
    • There are bad things, pitfalls, dangers and dark mysteries about life that can hurt you if you don’t see them
    • You can find yourself discouraged and in despair and not even understand why – caused by things you cannot see.
    • Most of the world is unhappy and unsatisfied (including Christians) but can’t tell you why exactly – they speculate, they guess, they seek… but they are groping in the dark; blind leading the blind.

God gave us one book in particular that plainly reveals the dangers of trying to live life without God.

Summary of Ecclesiastes

  • Written by King Solomon, wisest man to ever live, richest man ever
  • Philosophers in his day would write defenses of their viewpoints
    • Cultural apologetics ( to defend culture; to defend a way of life )
    • Part of Solomon’s warnings (1:12-14) about “much learning” and “many books” was warning to his fellow philosophers they were wasting their time, they had missed the boat.
  • His reason (God’s reason) writing Ecclesiastes?
    • To show that no matter how much time, resources and opportunity one has to pursue the world, it is futile without God.
    • There is absolutely NO thing, nor any combination of things that will bring fulfillment, satisfaction or happiness apart God.
    • We have no excuse to offer if we are chasing happiness in anything but God, but God has given us the perfect test case, and evidence, and warning already

      Ecclesiastes 1:2 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” (NKJV)

    • This is the great dark mystery of life… that a person will NEVER be happy without God.
    • No matter how much they insist they are; fake it, pretend or try; every person stumbles through life, blind in the pitch darkness unless they turn to God for light
  • Without God you are blind and spiritually dead – what you can’t see (the futility of life) WILL hurt you
    • The despair and discouragement so prevalent today is the result of not having the God’s truth illuminated in the heart
  • If you are made alive in Christ, the divine mysteries (Godly truths) will be the light that dispels the darkness
    • These truths don’t just fall in your lap – you don’t get them by default because you are Christian
    • When you become a Christian you now have ACCESS to them, but God must reveal them and you must seek them
  • Solomon shows the true nature of life on a horizontal level

Ecclesiastes 1:14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind. (NKJV)

    • “Under the sun” – Horizontal living, a viewpoint of physical only, earthly only, man only
      • Solomon’s wisdom was practical human wisdom, not Godly wisdom
      • Vertical living is always look up at God

Ecclesiastes graphically depicts the dark mysteries of this life: the result of pursuing happiness apart from God.

  • A thorough understanding of it will keep you from chasing the wrong things in life and wasting precious years you could be serving the Lord
  • Younger people who are at the fork in the road in life, can make the right choices NOW and avoid regrets
  • Middle aged folks who realize they are unhappy and unfulfilled can know why and change the rest of their life
  • Older folks who can’t figure out why life is so disappointing, and just didn’t turn out right – can know the real answer why; and use their experience to testify to others about the truth of Ecclesiastes; and live out the rest of their life pursuing God
  • Ecclesiastes is not pessimistic and cynical, just brutally honest – Solomon is merely stating the exact truth of things after experiencing the very best that this life and world can offer
    • In the first eleven verses of Chapter one we find a rapid fire indictment and description of life for the human race without God:
      • All is vanity – everything about life if futile
      • There’s no use working hard, it will be stolen from you; or you’re cheated out of it; or someone else will squander it
      • Nothing changes generation after generation; nothing ever gets better
      • No matter what happens to you the world just keeps on going; no matter how bad it gets for you, the world won’t slow down and notice
      • Life is monotonous
      • Life is wearisome and brings no satisfaction
      • Man will never change anything that is wrong
      • We never learn from the past
      • You will quickly be forgotten when you are gone

Why would God want us to know all that? Won’t it discourage us?

No, it’s to warn us; to caution us; to inform us; to redirect our natural tendency to pursue the world and direct us to the solution

Goads and Shepherd’s Nails

Ecclesiastes 12:11The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd. (NKJV)

  • Goads were pointed sticks used to jab an animal and get him moving faster, or moving in the right direction
  • Goads are truths that prod us in the right direction; it is wisdom that pokes us towards God.
  • Goads warn us about a danger; and then try to move us in the right direction.
        • A goad doesn’t just get you to move for the sake of moving; it gets you moving in the desired direction
  • Here are some goads from Ecclesiastes
    • GOAD: It is pointless to work hard, save and gather wealth only to have some foolish person (family or government) who doesn’t appreciate it, squander it; or some circumstance you can’t control take it from you.
    • GOAD: How do you handle the injustice in the world when good things happen to bad people; evil befalls the righteous and the guilty go free because of corrupt courts?

      Ecclesiastes 3:16 Moreover I saw under the sun: In the place of judgment, Wickedness was there; And in the place of righteousness, Iniquity was there. (NKJV)

      WARNING (goad) DON’T STOP HERE, MOVE ALONG; dwelling on fairness and getting justice is futile

    • GOAD: How do you deal with monotony and frustration; and just when things get good; something happens to ruin it. You’ll be quickly forgotten after you die.
      • Ecclesiastes 1:3-9 What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun? One generation passes away, and another generation comes;

        But the earth abides forever. The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, And hastens to the place where it arose. The wind goes toward the south, And turns around to the north; The wind whirls about continually, And comes again on its circuit. All the rivers run into the sea, Yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, There they return again.

        All things are full of labor; Man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun. (NKJV)
      • WHAT’S THE USE!!!

        WARNING (goad) DON’T STOP HERE, MOVE ALONG; dwelling on the monotony and never ending cycle of life will discourage you…
    • Sounds depressing! That’s the point. It is. Life without God is hopeless, futile and depressing
      • Solomon was expressing the TRUTH about life in order to goad us to move towards the only solution to this truth of futility
      • Solomon is POKING us with wisdom that is meant to move us away from one direction (horizontal living) and towards another (vertical living).

Ecclesiastes 12:11The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd. (NKJV)

  • The “Shepherd’s Nails”are truths that anchor us during life’s storms and give life meaning.
    • Whether building nails, or more likely here tent stakes, these nails or spikes are meant to secure us, anchor us, give us stability in the turmoil of this life
  • To demonstrate, let’s look at some Nails from Ecclesiastes
    • Work is a gift from God to be enjoyed

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—
it is the gift of God. (NKJV)

    • Riches, abundance, prosperity, comfort – material blessings are a gift from God to be enjoyed
      • Ecclesiastes 5:19-20 As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor — this is the gift of God. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart. (NKJV)
    • The Really Big Nail – to fear God… this is the key to living life and being happy

      Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil. (NKJV)

  • Fearing God is the key to life. (FEAR GOD should have a much clearer and deeper meaning to you now after Berg’s lessons)
    • Fear God – to realize that someone is ruling over the darkness of life and knows about every dark mystery of this existence and provides the light to illuminate the darkness
  • That brings us full circle back to Ephesians where Paul reveals to the meaning of fearing God.

The GOADS of Ecclesiastes prod us toward the answers in Ephesians

GOAD: Life is futile with God
NAIL: Fear God and keep His commandments
How do you fear God: Paul tells us in Ephesians

Turn to Ephesians 4 and let’s see how the warnings in Ecclesiastes are answered by Paul’s warnings in Ephesians.

Ephesians 4:17-18 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk (they walk horizontally), in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; (NKJV)

  • Paul forcefully commands us not to “walk like the Gentiles” – Ecclesiastes explains what the “Gentile walk” is – horizontal living
  • It is the walk of hopelessness, the walk of despair, the walk of the world… the walk of “what’s the use?”
  • That is the walk of futility. That is the walk of the sin corrupted world, groping about in the dark, helpless and hopeless and lost but desperately searching for anything to dull the pain and despair. That is the walk of the Gentiles.

Notice the power and brutal truth of Paul’s words:

  • Don’t walk like the world who have no hope;
  • who don’t truly understand anything about life;
  • who live totally estranged (alienated) from God
  • because of how ignorant they are;
  • and are blind in all ways to the truth.

Remember, Paul is addressing Christians. Because he is warning us NOT to do it, by implication it means that it IS POSSIBLE for Christians to walk in a life of hopeless futility.

How can you recognize the “Gentile walk? WORLDLINESS

  • We look like the world, talk the world, act like the world, want what the world wants and live like world… all the while claiming to NOT be worldly (walking like Gentiles)?
  • Why do we choose to be like the world? Are Paul’s words unclear? “Without hope; no understanding”… is that somehow vague?
  • Do we simply not believe what he said? “Estranged from God; ignorant; blind”… was Paul wrong?
  • Reasons why we walk like Gentiles:
    • We love the world too much
    • We feed and grow our worldly appetite because we indulge in it too frequently
    • We are ignorant of the destructive effects of worldliness
    • We spend too little time with God

It seems to be an insanely simple choice: futility, ignorance, blindness, despair and punishment OR salvation, holiness, righteousness, blessing, joy, peace, love and eternal life.

And yet, we regularly choose the “walk of the Gentiles”.


  • In Ephesians, Paul commands us to not walk like Gentiles

  • The Gentile walk is defined in Ecclesiastes which “goads” us way from this walk

    • The solution (the Shepherds Nail) is to FEAR GOD
  • Paul explains about the Fear of God in Ephesians
  • And finally, Paul reveals three Divine Mysteries (that naturally result in a Fear of God) in Ephesians that are Shepherds’ Nails of truth that anchor us and give hope in the face of life’s futility and hopelessness.

In the depths of trials and trouble Paul reveals three great mysteries that sustain us our whole life (we’re just stating these truths here; not a full study of them)

  • Mystery of the Church (Eph 2:11 – 3:21)
    • The church is the solution and provision for unity in Christ
    • All of existence is ultimately to be unified under the headship of Christ
    • The Church is a picture of this greater truth that will occur in perfection ultimately
    • We are all unified in Christ as redeemed sinners
  • Mystery of Marriage (Eph 5:22-33)
    • Marriage is a tangible picture and practical exercise in spiritual unity
    • Marriage is the picture and demonstration of Christ’s relationship to the Church.
    • God intended for marriage to be a living picture of all of His over-arching plans for humanity
  • Mystery of Christ (Eph 1:1-2:10)
    • The foundation of unity is found in Jesus Christ
    • All things about our existence and God’s plans are demonstrated, implemented and fulfilled through Christ
    • If you are in Christ, you are in the dead center of what God is doing with this Universe!

All of this leads to an awe, reverence and security – THE FEAR OF GOD!

And this is the conclusion of the whole matter: to fear God and keep His commandments! This is the whole duty of man.