Thursday, January 7, 2010

Your Life as a Vapor - Make it Count!

Many of you are familiar with James 4:13-15, which reads "Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."

James cites at least two people who have made some serious plans about getting some serious monetary or material gain. This is nothing new - there are countless people who may or may not be saved thinking similar thoughts every day. That in and of itself, is not necessarily a problem. The problem James cites here is HOW they went about their planning - They left God out of the mix. They were the center of their own universe and were seeking to live life on their terms. They were boastful in themselves and in essence were practical atheists.

The problem was not the planning, but rather the planning that was based on man's ideas and for temporal purposes alone. Planning is a good thing. We all plan to some degree. However, the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is to plan with much more than the temporal and earthly in mind. We are to plan with eternity in view. Christ said in Luke 16:8-9, "So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. 9 "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. This is an exhortation to use the resources that God has provided for us in grace to invest in eternity- to plan, yet with an on the future with a desire for eternal riches. Christ also said in Luke 18:29-30 "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 "who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life." Christ is encouraging planning that may be costly to you materially in time that will be more that worth it in eternity.

In James 4 we find people making plans based on their own self-confidence and self objectives with the assumption that the future was entirely in their control. It is worldly planning that we see here with an obvious desire for earthly riches. The problem was that these people presumed that they were in control of their own lives, and that they could control the outcome of events while ignoring God and His Word.

The question is, are we doing the same thing?

We may be involved in things that are not really bad in and of themselves, but because they are done with the wrong attitude and function as the end all, it is all vain and they become sin to us

Many of us and our children are involved in many things that are not bad and even good in and of themselves – they can become idolatry when those things take precedence in our thinking and are elevated to a level of importance that in essence places your relationship with the Lord and the things of Christ to that back burner – when what is driving us is some aspect of self satisfaction on a temporal scale and not the glory of God in what we do – we are guilty of idolatry and what James is driving at right here – there is nothing wrong with money or sports or any other activity you may be involved in – but how do you look at it?

Do you see it as a chance to become involved in the lives of other people, seeking the objective that an impact for Christ can be made in their lives and do you see it as an opportunity to reach the lost and demonstrate God’s grace in your life through success and failure.

Or is it just about filling the void and partaking in activities just to have fun or to excel in and accomplish something that ultimately doesn’t matter? That is vanity.

When we plan, we must not make the same mistake that these people did. And part of not duplicating this mistake is understanding the true nature of this life on this earth.
In v. 14 James explains exactly what the true nature of this life is. He makes two points that cannot be denied.

1) We don’t know what will happen tomorrow – there is a dose of reality. We do not even have any guarantees that we will make it to tomorrow. But most of us really don't take that too seriously – and yet it is entirely possible that a tragedy could strike or something else that you wake up in heaven sometime tonight.

2) Your life is a vapor that appears for a little time and vanishes away. Impressive, isn't it. Vapor is just not that impressive and in the context of history and eternity our lives are nothing more than the steam rising from a whistling tea kettle. How impressive is that?

While you are on this earth you are as fragile as a vapor, and you are only here for a little while. Your time on this earth is short, and you must keep this in mind as you live your life. If what James says here is true (and it is,) does it matter if the disciples Christ challenged in Luke 18 lost their homes? What mattered was that they were planning and preparing to redeem the time for when this vapor of a life is over.

And so James writes, “you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills…’”. your life is a vapor and what will count for all eternity is "did you do the will of God?" If our lives and our activities will only ultimately count in God’s will, should we not have the mindset that the Lord is in control and that we exist for Him ---not He exists for us? The posture James is after here is one of humility that recognizes that it is in Christ we live and move and have our being – and the only reasonable thing to do is to live for Him who died for us. period.

The proper attitude is to be one of presenting yourself to God for His purposes and seeking first His kingdom and His plan for His glory.

Otherwise it is likely that you will merely seek God, if at all, to bless your plan because you are going to do what you want anyway and If it works out great – if not I’ll just do something else – oh I’ll nod to God and give Him some cursory respect – but I am not looking to Him to direct my steps because it is all about me and my plans.

I have found that it is easy to fall into the routine or the approach to life that we let life direct our decisions and our planning and so we react to what is before us. Instead, we should be taking steps to actively, before the Lord, seek personally to allow Him through His Word to direct our steps.

The goal should be that Biblical priorities and principles dictate our planning -

As you ponder the new year, would you consider orienting your thinking so that part of your planning includes perhaps meeting the needs of others. Would you consider specifically praying how you can be used in greater capacity than you were used this past year. Perhaps you would consider praying for and actively pursuing someone the Lord has put in your path to witness to. Perhaps you can plan to have the attitude of the apostle Paul toward the unthankful Corinthians: 2 Corinthians 12:15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.

I have found that if there is not an overall goal of consciously honoring the Lord in all that you do, you will simply allow what life throws at you coupled with temporal objectives that are not wrong at all in and of themselves --- but in many cases add up to vanity ---to run your life to drive your bus. The result will be your decisions will be wrapped up in what is before you instead of seeing the bigger picture of honoring the Lord and doing His will

For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away (James 4:14).

Not many believers consider this to be a “claim it” verse that is placed on the fridge. But perhaps it should be.

Are we so in love with your life or so deeply immersed in our pleasures or agenda that we cannot bare to be reminded that one day it will all disappear like a breath on a cold day?

Matthew 6:19-21 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 "but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world (however you define it) and wastes his life?

And always remember, “It’s only a minute, but eternity’s in it.” Make your vapor count! Take time to think and to meditate on the Lord and allow Him and His word to direct your steps so that you make your vapor count.