Better: How Jesus Satisfies the Search for Meaning

Better: How Jesus Satisfies the Search for Meaning

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by Tim Chaddick

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“What does it take to find satisfaction? Will I ever find something in life that’s better than this?”
Most people live a life they never would have planned. The good news is that coming to the end of their expectations means they’re on the brink of great wisdom, peace, and joy. That’s what the ancient…  See more details below


“What does it take to find satisfaction? Will I ever find something in life that’s better than this?”
Most people live a life they never would have planned. The good news is that coming to the end of their expectations means they’re on the brink of great wisdom, peace, and joy. That’s what the ancient author of Ecclesiastes helps us figure out—it is quite possible to face detours and dead-ends in life and still find more satisfaction than you ever could have imagined.
Better explores the mysteries, scandalous lines, and deep truths of Ecclesiastes and applies them to life today. Better seeks to show how the questions of the heart find their answer in the person of Jesus. Here you will find a vision of life that is neither naive nor cynical, but realistic and hopeful. Because the truth is, when God answers the questions, you finally realize what is better.

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Editorial Reviews

Brad Lomenick

Tim Chaddick's Better is an important call to seek after God, as well as an insightful commentary on today's media-obsessed culture. With characteristic passion and wit, Chaddick unpacks the book of Ecclesiastes for the modern leader and reader, engaging the hard questions and many paradoxes found in this Old Testament book. Here is a work stocked full of ancient wisdom for this age of seekers, skeptics, and young visionaries. Don't miss it!
Jon Tyson

Tim Chaddick has written an important book. Not simply because it highlights the beauty of Jesus, but because it unmasks the temptations and distractions that leave us empty and unfulfilled. An insightful, thoughtful, and compelling vision of why life in the Kingdom of God is better than life in a shallow, consumer culture.
Justin Holcomb

In this powerful book, Tim Chaddick winsomely explores how the writer of Ecclesiastes speaks to the human search for significance, calling us to face the cosmic anxiety of the meaninglessness of life without God and pointing us to the mind-blowing reality that Jesus' life, death, and resurrection change every part of our lives. Chaddick is an important voice in the church who is doing fantastic work in Hollywood, and I am thankful for his ministry and for this book.
Britt Merrick

Tim is one of my dearest friends and also one of my greatest teachers. His insights into God, people, culture and Scriputure always inspire and challenge me deeply. When Tim speaks I listen, and now I look forward to years of reading everything he writes.
Mark Driscoll

"Tim Chaddick is a gifted young Bible teacher with a flourishing ministry in a tough urban context. I'm excited to see him connect the timeless truths of one of the most overlooked books of the Bible with the empty pursuit of lesser gods such as sex, money, fame, power, and possessions."
David Lomas

"Tim ministers in the city of LA, a place where searching for significance can easily take over families, careers, and even life itself. I know the message of this book has satisfied the souls of countless people because, as Tim's close friend, I've seen this message change him as well. He's one of the most helpfully provocative thinkers I know, and he practices what he preaches."

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Product Details

Cook, David C
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5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)

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David C. Cook

Copyright © 2013 Tim Chaddick
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7814-1086-1



Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

—Ecclesiastes 1:2

Why is vanity such a story-killer?

—Jonah Sachs

Life not working out the way I thought it would turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.

I used to daydream about taking my guitar in for fifth-grade show-and-tell. I pictured myself placing my amp on the teacher's desk, flicking the switch, and tossing my hair out of my eyes. The crowd (a.k.a. the rest of my class) would hush in anticipation. And then I would play. The jaws of the crowd would drop in awe. This would be the moment where my musical genius would shine, confirming that I was a musician, that this was my identity, and that from this day forth my life would never be the same.

As far as I can recall, these daydreams were the first moments in which I thought about how my time on earth might work out. They were my first attempts to write a script for my life. Soon I would evaluate every circumstance and every life change in light of that script. Needless to say, it did not take long before this way of thinking created certain expectations for myself, others, and life itself.

We all write our autobiographies long before we live our lives. Sure, we make some edits and revisions along the way, but even in our youth we quickly develop ideas of how things should go, how our lives ought to play out. This vision of our life stories helps us determine and then track our dreams, goals, and expectations. After all, we are all living for something, right?

Living in Los Angeles, I hear a lot of people's stories. I'm familiar with this particular script: "I was born into obscurity in ________ and forged through tough years at _______ school, and then I made the bold move to Hollywood, where I will be misunderstood and underappreciated for three years before rising from the ashes like a phoenix in glory and success!"

Driving much of this is what cultural critic Neal Gabler calls the new American Dream. The old one was based on seizing opportunity, but the new dream is about realizing perfection. Perfect skin, perfect abs, perfect career ... perfect you. But things don't always go according to our plans. Especially not in Hollywood. In fact, most of the frustration and bitterness I see in people stems from unmet expectations. Most of the angst that people voice about their lives comes through claims that sound like this: "If there is a God, He didn't come through for me. He didn't follow my script! He didn't fulfill my dreams!" Some of these people may have gotten exactly what they wanted, and yet the prize turned out to be fool's gold, leaving them jaded and cynical.

Has everything been in vain?

I never did get to display my guitar talents in the fifth grade. By the time I reached high school, I began to realize that life was not going to work out as I'd hoped. After all, I came across plenty of other great musicians, so many excellent songwriters, and far too many better bands. But still it hurt when my own band lost the talent show in my freshman year. Aside from the humiliation I felt, the greater pain was the realization that my script had failed me. This was not how it was supposed to go! I always looked for something better than what I already had.

This feeling of frustration only intensified as I got older. Relationships seemed much more complicated and unsatisfying than what I had in mind, the escape I sought in various substances wore off too fast, and realistic career options were always at odds with what I really wanted to do.

Eventually my fifth-grade dream, along with many others, evaporated completely, and today I am a preacher. I have a family. I live in LA. I am a Christian. I teach the Bible at a church we started in 2006. Nothing could be more different from what I pictured for myself earlier on in life. And the truth is, I couldn't be more satisfied and more at peace. And that is because God taught me to doubt.

Yes, doubt.

Most people would not associate doubt with Christian faith, but there is a kind of holy doubt, a sacred skepticism that asks hard questions about life. While many people spend time questioning the Bible, it may come as a surprise that the Bible actually questions us:

What do you expect out of life?

What if your expectations are wrong?

Where did your expectations come from?

You and I often get anxious when we hear questions like these, but they can lead us to find out what really matters.

As a pastor in Los Angeles I come face-to-face with the harsh reality of the quest for success and fulfillment. The woman in tears whose acting career is over because the other actresses always stand out more. The frustrated man who gained recognition for his musical talents but is now in danger of losing his record deal. I see the constant anxiety that stems from unmet expectations in a culture that promises so much.

I know that you will face detours and dead ends—and it's possible that life may not work out the way you hoped—but I also know that you can still enjoy peace and joy in this world. It just comes down to the script you wrote for yourself ... and one simple yet colossal question.

Are you willing to have your script reworked?

What if there was a way to see the detours and dead ends in advance? What if someone could help us correct the script before it gets exposed as a lie? What if there was a guide or mentor who could point us toward lasting peace and a vision for a life that really matters? What if someone had traveled through this life and knew it well, and what if this person didn't wear rose-colored glasses or deal in naive sound bites? What if this someone could give us straight-up truth and wisdom that would prepare us for the unknown that lies ahead? It may very well be that the reason we haven't found what really matters in our lives is because we've been asking the wrong questions.


Enter Ecclesiastes, that strange and famous book—which, oddly enough, is found in the Bible. The author is a skeptical man by nature, the sort who asks hard questions and shrugs off easy answers. The author was certainly at the center of ancient Israel's political and religious life. In fact, many believe he was the great King Solomon, though in the book he is simply called "the Preacher" or "the Teacher," because he has something to say and he wants all of us to listen.

The Preacher blows our cover. He says that even though he is not able to give us joy and peace himself, he can certainly prepare us to receive it by challenging our cherished expectations in life. He blows our cover by sharing hard lessons and difficult truths. He has no time for half-baked hopes or whitewashing—and nor should we. He is always in search of that which is better, a word he uses again and again throughout his journey. He helps us observe what is often hidden in plain sight, gets us to ask the questions we are afraid to ask, and sets us up to receive what can come only from beyond ourselves.

Pierre Huyghe—a French artist—believed that "being an artist means asking questions about the reality of existence." Huyghe's work has followed this line, which led Time magazine to call him a "question maker."

Well, the writer of Ecclesiastes is our Question Maker. He's the one who exposes the plot holes in our prewritten stories, the man who looks us in the eye and asks, "Is that really what you think matters in life? Where did your assumptions come from?"

A lot of people have said a lot of things about Ecclesiastes. Herman Melville, author of the classic novel Moby Dick, called it "the truest of all books," while the medieval thought it a "dangerous book." Which opinion is right? In my mind they're both on to something, and Ecclesiastes is especially dangerous if you are content with a superficial life. The Preacher calls life as it is: the good, the bad, and the ugly. That's why it's so refreshing.

Ecclesiastes was one of the first books of the Bible I read when I became a Christian. I'm thankful for it in the same way I'd be thankful for someone who sat me down and said, "Your guitar playing is decent, but you're not good enough to make it." The words could either destroy my fragile world or encourage me to examine the problem and move forward in the right direction—which is what the Preacher did for me. He helps us all to examine the problem by looking at the common approaches to life and pointing out the dead ends so that we can avoid them.

"Vanity, Vanity, all is Vanity!" he writes (Eccles. 1:2, author's translation).

The Preacher's words have become famous and are often misunderstood. The way he uses the word vanity has less to do with mirrors and makeup and more to do with the meaning of your life. He says, in essence, "If this life is all there is, if you are only living for the temporary and transient, then it's all vanity—it's all pointless." Doesn't it seem to contradict everything else in the Bible? Aren't God and His creation the opposites of vanity, the antidotes to futility, folly, and meaninglessness? Why is the Preacher writing in this way? Is he trying to depress us so that we'll give up?

I don't think so.

In fact, my goal is to show the opposite. I believe that, as philosophy professor Peter Kreeft once said, "Ecclesiastes is the question to which Christ is the answer." Ecclesiastes helps us ask the right questions, the ones we often avoid, and thereby sets us up for the hope that the rest of Scripture brings. The Preacher is right. If there is "vanity" in what we live for, then we should be living for something else. Something better.

When we see Ecclesiastes as a kind of provocateur, it gives us the key to understanding some of the more scandalous phrases found in the book. Like this one:

Bread is for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything. (10:19)

Now, before you get too excited and think you just discovered the best-Bible-verse-ever, listen to what he writes afterward:

But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. (11:9)

Contradictory? Perhaps. But then again, life seems contradictory at times. The Preacher is sharing different opinions from different perspectives on life. He has gone on a lifelong journey, the greatest of all road trips, and all the while he has searched for meaning and purpose, for something better in each area of life. Verses like the one about bread, wine, and money are part of his report back. There very well may be a time in life when cabernet sauvignon, carbs, and cash seem to be all we need. But that time and that script change the moment we face the harder questions that life will inevitably throw at us.

The Preacher adopts the perspective of a secularist, not necessarily denying God's existence but trying to make sense of life as though God were optional. It's actually where most of us begin when we write our life script anyway. Most of us work out what we want in life before we add God in as an afterthought, viewing Him as some kind of cosmic vending machine. He's just there to help us get what we really need.

But the Preacher calls us out.

He's already tried the popular routes to find meaning and purpose. If, for argument's sake, we take God out of the equation and assume that life ends with the grave, then all we are left with is what is found "under the sun," a common phrase used in his teaching. That phrase represents everything "as it is." And when we look at what we have around us, when we explore and expose the assumptions on which we have built our lives, we begin to see that so much of what we thought really mattered is called into question. If nothing lasts, and even we don't last, then what is the point?

This is why we need to hear his preaching: if we don't doubt the perspective of "life without God," then we won't appreciate the truth of "life with God." And that is my goal in writing this book.


The Preacher of Ecclesiastes pushes us to look beyond life under the sun. And he paves the way for another Preacher-King who comes along centuries later, one who not only asks the hardest questions of all but also gives the greatest answers the world has ever known. This man is Jesus, who is the grand subject of the entire Bible, the Savior of humanity.

We will explore all the connections between these two Preachers in this book and what they mean for our lives today. This, I believe, is the best way to read Ecclesiastes. We must let it help us discover the power of Jesus in a world of vanity. To discover how His life, death, and resurrection actually change every part of our lives. We will see that it is possible to have a vision of life that is neither naive nor cynical but instead realistic and hopeful. And we need that more than ever. I wonder if the reason why so many people ignore Christianity these days is because so many Christians appear not to have wrestled with the hard questions at all. The church itself seems to have abandoned this essential responsibility. It must be reclaimed. If ever there was a treatment for superficial Christianity, Ecclesiastes is it.

And so Ecclesiastes is for everyone. It is for the Christian and the non-Christian, the professional and the amateur, the old and the young. The Preacher helps every single one of us to rework his or her personal life script in light of hard truths. And though he may be ancient and dead, his wisdom still speaks, encouraging our eyes to focus above the sun and helping us to come alive here on earth.

We will take the journey with this Preacher through some of the major sections of his book, looking at three main categories of life before the final conclusion. First we will look at our aspirations, or what we are expecting out of life. Then we will move to our assets—how we use some of the things we have in life. And finally we will turn to our attitudes, or how we respond to what life gives us. Money, work, sex, friendship, anxiety, power, religion ... they're all here in Ecclesiastes. They all overlap, of course, but each one deserves its own inspection. Along the way we will discover where our perspectives on life have been on the right track and where we've been wrong, as well as how to put things right by making the connection to the rest of Christian Scripture. I hope that we will even discover where we've written destructive elements into our stories and how they can be redemptively rewritten.

This is exactly the kind of transformation that has taken place in my own life. That's why I am so passionate about preaching through this book. I never would have thought in my younger years that today I would be a pastor teaching the Bible in the heart of Hollywood, but it has become one of the greatest experiences of my life. I've had the privilege of seeing so many people's lives changed from the inside out, brought from fear to fearlessness, from despair to hope as they discover that God is the great author of hope for their individual stories.

I pray that the same happens for you.

I pray that the same happens for the church.

Together we will expose the myths that often form our thinking in life and discover an alternative that is actually much better. We will ask, "What if we've been building on the wrong foundation?" What if God actually does exist and everything we do does matter? And what if my not winning that high school talent show was a good thing?

The great script revision begins now.



"Is that all there is?" [is the question] my generation is asking of a world that seems increasingly meaningless despite our outward progress and technological development.

—Dimitri Hamlin, "Is That All There Is?," The Huffington Post

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"? It has been already in the ages before us.

—Ecclesiastes 1:9–10

Nearly every day I drive by one of LA's biggest ironies, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Hundreds of well-known actors and actresses are buried in the earth between Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, but what about them is forever? Each time I zip past the gates I think about how odd we are as people—so aware of death and yet so desperate to last beyond it. All of us press on, making mental notes for our careers and bucket lists, hoping to find something different from and fresher and better than what others did before us. We have a need for newness.


Excerpted from BETTER by TIM CHADDICK, CRAIG BORLASE. Copyright © 2013 Tim Chaddick. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Tim Chaddick is the founding pastor of Reality LA, a rapidly growing church in the heart of Hollywood, California. Reality LA is part of the Reality family of churches, a movement committed to relational church planting and serving the broader body of Christ. Tim and his wife Lindsey, live in Los Angeles with their three daughters.

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