“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’; 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. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” —James 4:13-17
This is what our lives are—vanishing vapors, fleeting mists. We are here today, and gone tomorrow. We like to think the best always wins. The deserving always are rewarded. The strongest overcome. But, we all meet our limit (Eccl. 9:11-12). “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” (Ps. 90:10). No matter how long we live here on earth, our life is short when in comparison to eternity. Therefore, our life is something we can’t take for granted. In our primary text in James 4, James does more than make the statement that our lives our vanishing. He demonstrates that understanding this should change the way we live today.
We may have all kinds of plans. But we must remember that God is the One who is in control, not us. Prov. 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” We can trust the One who is in control to do what is right and what is best in the long run. Even if things aren’t going our way in the short term, we know that He is going to take care of us (Matt. 6:25-34).
Not only do we need to remember who is really in control, we need to openly acknowledge His control and involvement. Prov. 3:6: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” When we have success, give God the glory. When we have failure, examine the Lord’s discipline, then learn and grow. In all things, point the praise and glory to God.
Don’t lose sight of today, and live in the present. Prov. 27:1: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” A warning for us that a concern for tomorrow overshadows the needs of today. We can make plans, but don’t forget to live in the only moment you can really do anything about.
And lastly, do what is right, without procrastinating. In James 4:17, James is not just talking about getting around to doing the right thing, at some point. Because we don’t know what tomorrow may bring, do the right thing, right now (Prov. 3:27-28). Don’t withhold it. Don’t tell someone to come back tomorrow to do the good. Do it right now. You may not be here to do that good thing tomorrow. So do it now.
Brethren, are we making the most of our time (Eph. 5:15-16)? Take advantage of the opportunities you have today to serve and glorify God. Our time here on earth is precious.