Brevity of Life (James 4:14b)

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14, AV)

When I was a boy growing up in Pennsylvania, I spent a lot of time outdoors, even in the winter. We would have football games after school even when it was below freezing and there was perhaps a foot of snow on the field. It was so cold that when we would breathe, everyone looked as if they were blowing smoke out of their mouths. Of course, it was not smoke, it was the moisture in their breath condensing in the cold. Interestingly, it seemed as if the moisture or mist that appeared from one’s breath almost immediately disappeared. It was there and in the blink of an eye it was gone. This is the illustration that James gives us regarding the length of our lives. He states that our lives are like a vapor or mist that appears for only a second and then disappears.

Here, James uses the metaphor of the mist in the context of not being presumptuous regarding the plans we have for ourselves regarding the future. The metaphor speaks of a universal principle regarding the brevity of life. Life is short. When you compare the length of our lives to eternity, we will see that our lives are like a mist, here one second and gone the next. This truth should get every one of us thinking. Since life is short, we need to make the best use of our time. Paul wrote, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15–16, ESV).

Since life is so short in comparison to eternity, we need to consider how to make the best use of our time. Let me give some thoughts on this. First and foremost, every person needs to make their calling and election sure (2 Pet 1:10). The question is this. Are you truly saved? Have you truly trusted in Jesus alone for your salvation (John 3:16; Eph 2:8-9). Since life is short, there is no guarantee that you will see tomorrow. Today is the acceptable day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2). Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith (2 Cor 13:5). Do not run the risk of missing God’s gift of eternal life.

Second, use this short time you have to make an eternal impact. We have but this moment to make a difference. Here I am not talking about amassing great wealth, building an empire, or enjoying all the pleasures the world can offer you. No! Here I am speaking about the influence you can have in the lives of others for God’s glory. You have a tremendous influence on the people you meet in life. This influence in their lives can have an eternal significance. You can influence them through your words and your actions in a way that will point them to the love of God and eternal salvation.

Face it, in light of eternity, you have but a second to influence your employer with your Christian work ethic. You have but a second with your children and your spouse. You have but a second with your neighbors. You have but a second with your coworkers. I think you get my point. In fact, many of these people, if not most, do not have a saving relationship with Jesus. You, because Christ is in you, may be as close as most of these have come to experiencing Jesus. Let them see Christ in you (Gal 2:20).

Make the most of the time you have. It is but a vapor, here for a second and then gone. Endeavor to live the Spirit filled life (Eph 5:18). Live by the Spirit (Gal 5:16). Let your light shine before all that they may see your good works and glorify God (Matt 5:16). Let your words be seasoned with the salt of truth (Col 4:6). Be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you (1 Pet 3:15). Make a difference for the good.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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