Summary: Live as if this is the last day of your life.
Living in Light of Eternity
Rev. Brian Bill
March 23-24, 2019
I read a compelling book several years ago called, “The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as if He Doesn’t Exist.” Here’s how it begins:
“Hi, my name is Craig Groeschel, and I’m a Christian Atheist. For as long as I can remember, I’ve believed in God, but I haven’t always lived like he exists…you might think it’s odd for a pastor to struggle with living like there is no God. However, in my corner of the world, Christian Atheism is a fast-spreading spiritual pandemic, which can poison, sicken, and even kill eternally. Yet Christian Atheism is extremely difficult to recognize, especially by those who are infected.”
We’re going to see from today’s text how common it is for Christians to be infected with this self-centered sickness. As we read James 4:13-17, let’s ask this question: Am I living my life as if there is no God?
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
Last week we learned this truth: God gives grace to the humble, not the haughty. Here’s where we’re headed today: Live as if this is the last day of your life.
Verse 13 provides the symptoms of our disease: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit.’” This person makes plans without any regard for God’s purposes.
The phrase, “come now,” occurs only here and in James 5:1. It’s a terse and blunt way of saying, “Listen up and pay attention!” This is addressed to business people. In James’ day, merchants would gather goods and products from one city and travel to a distant city and remain until they sold those goods at a profit. Then, using their profits, they’d buy up products from that city and head to another city to sell them.
It would be like a vendor from Green Bay moving to the QCA for a year and trying to sell Johnsonville Brats, Cheese Curds and Packer memorabilia at the Freight House Farmer’s Market. When it was all sold (I’m sure it wouldn’t take very long) he or she would use the profits to load up a semi filled with Boetje’s Mustard, Whitey’s Ice Cream, Lagomarcino’s chocolate, pizza from the QC Pizza Company and move to Michigan until everything was sold.
These business people had a solid business plan – they had a place, a program and a purpose. It seemed like they had everything figured out – or almost everything. The phrase, “you who say” is in the present tense, meaning they said these kinds of things all the time.
• When: “today or tomorrow”
• Where: “such and such a town”
• How long: “spend a year”
• What: “and trade”
• Why: “make a profit”
In all their planning, they left out the most important – the “who.” God was nowhere in their plans. They were self-absorbed, self-assured, self-confident, self-sufficient, self-indulgent and self-centered. Notice they said, “we will go…” as if nothing can slow them down.
I’m reminded of the five “I wills” spoken by Lucifer which led to his banishment from heaven in Isaiah 14:13-14:
• I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God
• I will set my throne on high
• I will sit on the mount of assembly
• I will ascend above the heights of the clouds
• I will make myself like the Most High
Making plans is a good thing, but planning without acknowledgement of the Almighty is presumptuous and puts you in a precarious position.
James then gives us five directives to heal our self-centeredness.
1. Admit ignorance of the future. Listen to the first part of verse 14: “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.” We don’t know what will happen tonight, much less next week or next year. Proverbs 27:1: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” The only time you have is this time, right now.
Yesterday is called the past because it has already passed, and tomorrow is not here yet. I don’t recall where I first heard this but it’s very helpful: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift––that is why it is called the present.” It’s good we don’t know the future. If you knew tomorrow would bring prosperity, you’d likely become proud. If you knew disaster was coming, you’d likely fall into despair.