Pastor Randy’s Top 66 – James
‘What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.’James 4:14b
James, the author of this New Testament Book, is also referred to as James the Just, and he was a brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55), and leader of the Jerusalem Church. Since James was executed for his faith in AD 62, the Book of James was probably written in the mid-40’s AD. Some people have likened the Book of James to the Old Testament Wisdom Book of Proverbs because of the variety of subjects covered in a short Letter; it is filled with pithy sayings about the Christian faith; and related to that, it is a very practical Book, as Proverbs can be.
This particular verse that I have chosen is the second sentence in the fourteenth verse, and in order to fully understand its meaning we need to (as we always should!) take it in context with the verses before and after it. The preceding verse and the first part of this fourteenth verse say,
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or
that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money’. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.”
James is simply warning Christians of presumption. I know we all do it; I know that we all make our plans to tomorrow, and the next day, and onward. Most of us have Google calendar or some other program on our laptop, iPad, or iPhone that helps us with our scheduling. How many of you remember Daytimers? I was notorious for getting a new Daytimer in December, filling in appointments for January, and then losing the book by January 15th! Now fortunately, it’s all on the Internet or in our computers, and that helps me tremendously.
James is not saying here that we shouldn’t make plans – of course we should. Here are a couple of verses about the wisdom in making plans:
Proverbs 15:22 – Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.
Luke 14:28 – Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?
But what James is warning us of is the making of plans presumptuously without even a thought of praying or asking the Lord what He might have in store for us, or at least asking Him to bless or change – according to His good providence – whatever we believe we should be doing next. As we mature in our faith it should become more and more natural for us to ask the Lord, or at least to be sensitive about jumping into something too quickly without asking the Lord to correct/stop us, or give us a peace about His plans for us.
Timing is everything. Thirty-nine years ago Becky and I were absolutely convinced that we should get married on September 10, 1977 and then drive to Florida the next day for me to attend graduate school at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Well, He DID want us to go to Florida, but not on September 11, 1977, but rather we arrived here September 9, 1978 – just when He wanted us to be here. And the rest is history….or should I say, “His-story”?
I know that it is a sign of maturity and independence to be able to make reasonable plans and follow through with them, but over the years I have learned – by God’s grace and Spirit – ‘To seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all of those other things will be added unto me’ (Matthew 6:33). I’ve learned to ask first (the Lord, that is) and allow Him to lead me by His peace, wisdom, His Word, His providence, and common sense. Here are some wonderful verses about our plans and the Lord’s plans:
Proverbs 16:3 – Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.
Proverbs 16:9 – In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.
Psalms 143:8 – Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love,for I have put my trust in You.Show me the way I should go,for to You I entrust my life.
Isaiah 28:29 – All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, Whose plan is wonderful, Whose wisdom is magnificent.
So, James is saying in verse thirteen that the Christians he is writing to are in the habit of making big plans about relocating to another city, starting a business, and making money, but then goes on in the first sentence of verse fourteen to wake them up by reminding them that they don’t even know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Again, we get it; we should make plans, but not be presumptuous, and certainly not so cocky that we are already predicting our future success, but James has more to tell us in this portion of the fourth chapter.
What I think James really wants is for us to be thinking about how important it is that we make every day count – or as the Scriptures would phrase it, ‘numbering our days’. We read in Psalm 90:12,
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
This means that we shouldn’t waste our life, but make every day count, and the way we make every day count is to be trusting, and walking with the Lord – conversing with Him – hiding His Word in our hearts – so that we will be more sensitive to His daily acts of providence that He arranges around us for His glory, and our benefit. But so often we are so busy wasting time; selfishly living for ourselves; or just living oblivious to His Hand of Providence upon us, that we miss out on the blessing of the moment. And to put it all in perspective for us, James gives us the second sentence of verse fourteen:
‘What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little
while and then vanishes.’
James, and the Lord, want us to wake up and realize that our life – this seventy-six years or so that the average American lives on this planet – is really just a mist – a vapor – a puff of smoke – that we see for a little bit, but then it vanishes. Oh, of course, when someone’s life is lost at the age of seven or twenty-five we say that the life they lived was so brief or short that it WAS just a vapor, but now that I’ve just turned sixty-two, I look back at my life and say, “Where did it go?”
Sure, when I think about my childhood; and then my teen years; and then college; then moving to Florida and living in the Bay Cove Apartments on US19 – those times do seem like ‘another lifetime ago’, but then on the other hand, it seems like just yesterday that my son Zachariah was born, and he’ll be thirty-three this Thursday! Where did the time go?
I have done funeral services for ninety-eight year olds – stillborn babies, teenagers, and a three month old – they are never easy. At least we can say that the ninety-eight year old lived a long, long, life, but again, I bet if I asked him the day before he passed he would’ve told me that when he thinks about it, his life was but a vapor – a mist – it was over before it ‘started’.
And of course, when we think in terms of eternity, our life is but a vapor, and THAT IS WHY you need to come to faith in Jesus Christ today, so that your heart will be forgiven; you will experience God’s peace; you will have the assurance of eternal life; and you can make every day from this point forward to count for something. And that something is: for God’s glory; for the advancement of God’s Kingdom; for the increase of the family of God through the conversions of those whom you have the privilege to pray for and share with; and to be able to live a life that has REAL purpose.
Don’t you want your life – this brief vapor of a life – to mean something? I know that I will be forgotten by the human race a couple of generations from now – but what I do for the glory of God will last for all of eternity. And anyway, what a joy it is to serve the Lord every day – not because I’m a minister, because I don’t mean that at all. I’m talking about serving the Lord as one of His children; being sensitive to the needs around me; encouraging people I see everyday with the Gospel, or with a smile, helpful hand, a donation, or just flat out loving people! As I quote often but it’s relevant so often: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
Do what you can tomorrow/today to ‘make today count’! Put a smile on someone’s face. Do something for someone that they cannot pay back. Point someone to the victorious cross of Jesus Christ. Help a child in some small way. Read the Bible to a nursing home patient. Clean out your closet and take the clothes to a homeless shelter. Pay for the groceries of the person behind you. Read God’s Word. Pray. Love Jesus. Love one another. And then at the end of the day you can lay your head down on your pillow and humbly say, “God is good – all the time; He allowed me to live another day and serve Him for His glory. Lord, what do you have in store for me when I wake up? And whatever it is Lord, I can’t wait to see, because You are a Good, Good Father.”