Summary: Life is but a vapor; and with each breath of air, or wisp of wind; with each tick of the clock, life is quickly passing by, only to disappear into eternity. Are your ready for that day?
Life is a Disappearing Act
#16 in the Book of James Series
By Pastor Jim May
Kefa Sempangi was a national pastor in Africa and barely escaped with his family from brutal oppression and terror in his home country of Uganda. They made their way to Philadelphia, where a group of Christians began caring for them. One day his wife said, "Tomorrow I am going to go and buy some clothes for the children," and immediately she and her husband broke into tears. Because of the constant threat of death under which they had lived for so long, that was the first time in many years they had dared even speak the word tomorrow.
Their terrifying experiences forced them to realize what is true of every person: there is no assurance of tomorrow. The only time we can be sure of having is what we have at the moment.
There are two days in every week about which we should not worry – two days that should be kept free from any fear and apprehension. One of these days is Yesterday, with its mistakes and cares, its aches and pains, its faults and blunders. Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot undo a single act we performed; we cannot erase a single word we said; we cannot rectify a single mistake. Yesterday has passed forever beyond recall. Let it go and live for today.
The other day we should not worry about is Tomorrow, with its possible , adversities, its burdens, its large promise, and often, poor performance. Tomorrow also is beyond our immediate control. Should Jesus delay his coming, Tomorrow’s sun will rise either in splendor or behind a mass of clouds – but it will rise. And until it does, we have no stake in Tomorrow, because it is as yet unborn.
That leaves us but one day – Today! And for most of us, it’s all we can do to fight the battles of just one day.
James 4:13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
In ancient times, as it still is today, the world is engaged in international trade. In Bible times the merchants of the cities would travel long distances by camel caravan in order sell and buy goods for great profits. Their whole lives were spent in buying and selling without giving any thought to the brevity of life itself.
Those caravans were so slow in moving and the cities were often very far apart so that it was not unusual for a caravan to be in transit for a year. If the trading was profitable, the merchants would set up shop and stay until the profits fell, then move on.
The Jews traded all over the known world in cities like Tyre, Sidon, Caesarea, Crete, Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, and Rome.
James isn’t condemning free trade or the making of profits. He is cautioning us against being presumptive towards God. Let us never forget that we have no promise of tomorrow and make sure that each day arrives with our hearts prepared to meet God for this may be that day.
How do you know that you will see another day? You don’t – so it pays to be ready all the time.
James 4:14 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.
Life is a vapor, a smoke that is ever shifting with the wind, no matter how slow it blows.
It is a smoke, always fleeting, uncertain, constantly changing, and obscured with various trials and afflictions.
One poet said it this way:
Like leaves on trees the race of man is found,
Now green in youth, now withering on the ground
Another race the following spring supplies;
They fall successive, and successive rise.
So generations in their course decay;
So flourish these, when those are passed away.
What is life anyway? What is it like? It is like a drop of water that rises with the heat from the surface of the earth. It becomes a tiny bit of steam and the cloud constantly changes its shape. Then as the years of live cool down and the steam forms a droplet, we find ourselves in the twilight of our days and it’s over before you know it.
That’s the way that life travels on. Time and circumstances wait for no man.
James 4:15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
There are two conditions of doing anything; the one is, if it should be agreeable to the determining will and purpose of God, by which everything in the world comes to pass, and into which the wills of men should be resolved, and resigned; and the other is, if we should live, then we should make the most of it since life is so very uncertain and precarious.