In this passage James discusses the brevity of life. He also shows that everything we do ought to be done realizing that life deals with what the Lord will's. "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."
THE BREVITY OF LIFE
James in speaking of the brevity of life compares it to a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Just like those days when the fog forms in the early morning and then is burned off quickly by the sun, just like the steam that rises quickly out of a boiling pot of water and then just as quickly vanishes away never to return, so is the time that we live on this earth.
The Psalmist said, "The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away (Psalm 90:10). The Psalmist states that the days of our lives are seventy years, and if a person is strong he may make it to eighty. In the Psalmist day the average age at death was evidently around seventy years, and I don't believe that it has changed much today. For those in their teens or early twenties or even thirties that seventy years seems like a long time. Have you thought about the fact that if you are in your forties you have probably lived over half your lifetime? If you are in your forties half of your life is gone. What does that say for those of us who are in our fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties?
Job said, "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and are spent without hope" (Job 7:6). How swift is a weaver's shuttle? A weavers shuttle was a part of the instrument that was used to weave linen into clothing or other useful articles. From what I understand, it was so fast that you could hardly see the shuttle going back and forth. That's what your life on this earth is -- that's how swift it goes by. Job also said, "Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble" (Job 14:1). How much is a "few days?" Not many compared to the years that man has been on this earth (perhaps 4000 to 10,000). Itís nothing when you compare our days on this earth to eternity. Our days are few, and Job says they are full of trouble. If they are full of trouble why would we want them to be any longer than a few days?
And what happens at the end of those days? Death, and then judgment. Hebrews 9:27 says, "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment..." Paul wrote, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10). After the days we live on this earth are over we will die and then we will face Christ in judgment.
Have you ever looked back and wondered what happened to your childhood? It's gone. None of us will ever be able to go back to those days again. We will never again be able to experience those days of innocence and joy that we experienced then. James says that "life is a vapor." Physical life appears only for a limited time and then vanishes away. As we get older, we appreciate the rapidity of life more. The mile posts pass swiftly. It will only be a short time until we are all gone, we all die and then face Christ in Judgment. And not one of us will escape that Day, will we.
Have you thought about the fact that each human being is born to die. Have you thought about the fact that each human being who is born again into the family of God dies to live? Paul wrote, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22). Christ came to make it possible for all of us who die physically to live spiritually - to live eternally in heaven when our life here is finished.
Friend, do you know that the way you live this life will determine where you will live when this life is over?
WHAT IS YOUR LIFE?
We need to think about the question that James asks: "What is your life?" What is your life? As you think back on the years that have passed, what is your life? Are you satisfied with how you have lived? I don't know about you but I'm not satisfied. There are ways, of course, that I am, but there are many ways that I'm not.
Has your past been wasted? What have you done for the Lord? What have you done for others? What have you done for your family, your spouse, your children? Have you made this life better or worse by being here? Have you kept your sacred vows to your spouse? Have you obeyed your father and mother? Have you seen to the needs, both physical and spiritual, of your children? Have you been faithful to Christ?
There's a little poem that some of you may have learned in school many years ago.
What is your life? When that hour is gone, it is gone forever and can never be re-lived.
What is your life? Are you satisfied with how you have lived your life in the past? Are you what you pretend to be? Are you willing to face yourself in the mirror of God's word?
Have you become like the man that James talks about? Have you looked into the perfect law of liberty, the mirror for the soul, and then forgotten what kind of person you are? Do you remember that you are a Christian and that you are to be a doer of the word and not just a hearer?
Have you obeyed the gospel? Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God as He teaches in John 8:24? Have you repented of your sins as Jesus teaches in Luke 13:3? Have you confessed that you believe that Jesus is the Son of God before men as He taught you to do in Matthew 10:32-33? Have you been baptized as He commanded in Mark 16:16?
What is your life? Are you a Christian? Are you a faithful Christian?
WHAT IS YOUR LIFE NOW?
The past is gone. All the wasted moments, hours, days and years are gone. We can't go back and live them over like we should have the first time. We can't do anything to correct the wrongs or change the sin in the sense of making it so that those things never happened. But we have now, don't we. We don't know how much future we have, it may not be much for some of us and it can't be much for all of us, but we have time now. Time to make things right - time to repent -- time to obey the Lord -- time to begin to live our lives like we know we ought to live them.
Paul had lived a life where he severely persecuted the church. He had even sent Christians to their death. He was a mad-man when it came to hurting Christians. But he said: Phil 3:8-14
Paul forgot those things of the past -- in the sense that he did not let them stop him from serving Christ now. Do you think he forgot the great wrongs that he had done to the church? To the children of God? Do you think he could ever forget seeing Stephen stoned to death and the other Christians dying that he had brought back to Jerusalem? Of course not. But he knew that today was all that he had and that today was the only opportunity he had to make those things right as far as he could.
He wrote in Philippians 1:21, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." What did he mean, "For to me, to live is Christ?" Didn't he mean that his life from that moment on would be for Christ? To love Christ, to serve Him, to win souls for Him, to always put Him first? Isn't that what "to live is Christ" means?
WHAT IS YOUR LIFE IN THE FUTURE?
Notice that last phrase in Philippians 1:21, "and to die is gain." Can you truly say what Paul said? Are you assured in your own mind that if you died tonight that it would be gain?
Are you going to die in the Lord? The Bible says, "Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' "Yes," says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them'" (Revelation 14:13). My friend, if you died tonight would you die in the Lord? Not if you haven't obeyed the gospel? Not if you haven't been baptized into Him as Romans 6:3-4 and Galatians 3:26-27 teach. Not if you haven't been faithful and put the Lord first in everything.
What will your life be in the future? What will it be in the future as you stand before Christ who will judge us by His word (John 12:48)? What will your life be? What will you hear Him say? The Bible teaches that there are really only one of two things we will hear Jesus say when He pronounces judgment on that day.
Which will you hear? What will your life be then? There are only two destines awaiting everyone of us: Jesus said, "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matthew 25:46). Everlasting punishment and eternal life. What will it be for you?
Do you remember what Jesus said in Revelation 22:14? "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city." This is eternal life. Can you do wrong by obeying Jesus' commandments? Can you do wrong by following His perfect example? What did Jesus do when He was on this earth? "...though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him..." (Hebrews 5:8-9). Jesus learned obedience. He set the perfect example for us. We must obey Him, because He is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.
What is your life? Is it a life of obedience to Christ? Is it a life of doing right? We have everything to gain and nothing to lose by humbly and willfully submitting to the gospel provisions Christ has taught. Do you believe that it would be good to obey the commandments of Jesus? Do you remember what James says in our text? Hear him! "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin" (James 4:17). Can we not see, that every time we reject the invitation of our Lord - every time we reject the gospel - every time we fail to obey Jesus - that we add sin to sin? We know it's good, we know we ought to do it, but we reject Him, and we add sin to sin.
What is your life? My friend, you can't go back and take back all the wasted years. You can't go back and do away with all the wrong in the sense of making it as if it never happened.
But you can begin where you are. You can start out now on the right course, on the narrow way, and forget those things of the past in the sense of never letting them hinder you again. And live in the present obeying and serving Christ all the days of your life. And then you can look forward to the future, when Jesus comes again and takes you home to heaven with Him, to live forever.
Why not obey today?
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