Summary: What difference should eternity make in the life of the Christian today?
James emphasizes that if we are going to experience the life God wants us to know here and now, we must learn to live in light of eternity. Referring to two extremes of existence - the “haves” and the “have not’s” - James illustrates for us why living in light of eternity benefits the child of God. Living in light of eternity is essential because:
1. It will keep us from despair - v. 9
James uses the two extremes of human existence to illustrate the need to live in light of eternity. Here, he says living in light of eternity will keep me from despair if I am in the position of being a “have not.”
Often when I find myself in the position of being a “have not,” I find myself despairing that someone seems to be better off than me. I worry about how difficult things are, and before long, I’ve yielded to despair.
There was once a grandfather clock that had a nervous breakdown. This clock was ticking away two ticks to the second, just like any good clock should do, when it began to think about how many times it was going to have to tick during its lifetime.
“Two ticks to the second means 120 ticks per minute,” he thought. “That’s 7,200 ticks per hour, 172,800 ticks per day, 1,209,600 ticks per week, and for 52 weeks, that’s 62,899,200 ticks per year!”
Upon completing his calculations, the clock immediately had a nervous breakdown. He was taken to see a psychiatrist who adjusted his mainspring as well as he could, then asked, “What seems to be the trouble?”
“Oh doctor,” the clock replied, “I have to tick so much. I have to tick two times per second, which means I tick 120 times per minute. That’s 7,200 ticks per hour, 172,800 ticks per day . . .”
“Stop,” said the psychiatrist, “How many ticks do you have to tick at a time?” “Oh, I just have to tick one tick at a timer,” said the grandfather clock. “Then let me suggest that you go home and do just that. Just take life on tick at a time.”
James is says we need to learn the lesson of the grandfather clock. We need to take life one day at a time, not thinking about what we don’t have, but thanking God for what we do have today and for what will have through all eternity. For, James tells us, we shall be exalted!
“Let the brother in humble circumstances glory in his elevation [as a Christian, called to the true riches and to be an heir of God].” - James 1:9 (Amplified)
Instead of worrying about our present circumstances and what we don’t have in this life, we should focus on our riches in Christ and what awaits you in the next life. When we live in light of eternity, we will live understanding that God has eternal purposes He is working out in our lives, and that He uses the circumstances of life to fulfill them. This enables us to be trusting in the midst of difficult circumstances rather than be troubled in the midst of difficult circumstances.
“Worry is wasting today’s time to clutter up tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s troubles.” - Anonymous
When we face times when we are a “have not,” we may miss out on the blessings that God has in mind for us through yielding to despair.
But if we choose to live each day in light of eternity, we will be able to trust that God has purposes He is working out in our lives. Purposes that will result in blessings we will receive and enjoy through-out all eternity.
2. It will keep us from pride - v. 10
A young lady went to the famous humorist, Will Rogers, and asked his advice. “Mr. Rogers,” she asked, “What can I do about pride? Every time I look into a mirror, I think I’m beautiful.” Will Rogers replied, “Honey, that’s not pride, that’s a mistake.”
One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is to become prideful about their accomplishments, boasting about all they have done.
“For not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert comes exaltation; But God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another.” - Psalm 75:6-7 (NASB)
Rather than becoming boastful and proud when we find ourselves in a “have” situation, we should be humbled that God has entrusted us with so much, recognizing the great responsibility that is ours. By living each day in light of eternity, we will be reminded that what we have is “on loan” from God, and that all we have is due to His sovereign grace.
George Adam Smith, a renowned Old Testament scholar, used to tell the story of a trip he once took to the Swiss Alps. With his guide, he went up on a lofty peak, the highest one in that particular mountain range. When they arrived at the top, he stood up to take in the panorama of that beautiful mountain range.