Your Life is a Vapor
In James 4:26, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.” From James 4:13-17, we should glean some important truths from this thought-provoking question and the comments James gives in reply. We see from this passage that:
Life is uncertain – James 4:13-14 – some will say, “Tomorrow we will go…”. And James replied, “ye know not what shall be on the morrow.” Solomon said, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for you know not what a day may bring forth,” (Prov 27:1). James is not saying that it’s wrong to make plans. The Bible is clear that planning is a good thing. Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” Planning is a good thing. The problem? In our planning, we often forget that life is uncertain.
We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We act like we can plan our lives when we don’t even have control over the next five minutes. Our lives are unpredictable, and they’re also short. James compares us to a mist that appears for a time and vanishes. That was very common in the Palestinian climate. Water droplets in the air would form into condensation and then just disappear. Our lives are like that. Your job, if it even exists, will belong to someone else. Your great-grandkids, if you have them, won’t know your name. We’ll be forgotten. Life is not uncertain to the Lord (James 4:15), but it is to us.
Life is short – James 4:14, “It… appears for a little time.” Paul told us that we should be “Redeeming the time,” (Ephesians 5:16). I believe in being patient, but you have to put your hat in the ring and get going at some point. You don’t realize that a day turns into a week, and a week turns into a month, and a month turns into a year, and a year turns into a decade, and a decade turns into a lifetime. And it just happens so fast. My Dad said, “if you have something in your heart that you think you need to do, do it. For the time will come when you can’t.” When will you step up? We have a place for you to serve When you know to do good and you don’t, you sin, James 4:17.
Life is temporal – “and then vanishes away.” Paul was faithful, yet he ended up in prison and martyred. John the Baptist, who Jesus declared to be the greatest person born of woman, was faithful but was beheaded. Millions of faithful people have been martyred, have lost everything, or have come to the end of life with nothing to show for it. Think of the Persecuted Church. But the end of life is not the end. In God’s eyes, the greatest heroes of faith are not those who achieve prosperity, success, and power in this life, but those who treat this life as a temporary assignment and serve faithfully, expecting their promised reward in eternity.
Hebrews 11 is God’s Hall of Fame and is much more valuable than the Hockey Hall of Fame or the Baseball Hall of Fame, etc. Hebrews 11.13, 16. Your and my time on earth is not the complete story of life. We have to wait until we join God for the rest of the chapters. It takes faith to live on earth as a foreigner. When life gets tough, when you’re overwhelmed with doubt, or when you wonder if living for Christ is worth the effort, remember that you are not home yet. At death you won’t leave home, you’ll go home.
So, keep a good testimony and continue to be a faithful witness. What is James saying? Only the gospel can give us hope in an uncertain world. Jesus rescues us from a life of randomness and uncertainty to a world in which we can know that God is for us, that God is at work, that God will bring everything to justice, and that He’s given us resources – like His family – to help us through this wild and uncertain life.
Life is uncertain. How are we going to survive it? By remembering that he’s sovereign, by trusting His justice, and by praying and supporting each other. Get busy for the Lord. And keep your eye and your heart on the eternal things!
“We are called to service in the kingdom of God. The Christian life is not about what you claim. It is about what you believe. True belief cannot be separated from what we do.” Author: Tyler Edwards