Summary: How do we keep on living on purpose for God regardless of our circumstance?
“Life is short; eternity is long. It is only reasonable that this short life be lived in light of eternity.” - Charles Spurgeon
James refers to the two extremes of human existence and illustrates why thinking in terms of eternity is beneficial for the Christian.
1. It will keep us from despair - v. 9
Thinking in terms of eternity will keep me from despair when I’m in a “have not” situation. Christians aren’t immune to difficult times. But when we face times of “having not,” we need not despair. Why?
A. We are comforted by God’s presence.
“Not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from God’s notice (Matthew 10:29), and neither does one of your tears. When Hagar lifted up her voice in the wilderness of Beersheba, God drew near (Genesis 21:17). When Hannah wept bitterly outside the temple of the Lord, God noticed and remembered (1 Samuel 1:10, 17). When David became weary with moaning, God didn’t become weary with listening (Psalm 6:6–9). The God of all comfort keeps watch over your weeping. He gathers up all your tears and puts them in his bottle (Psalm 56:8). Like a mother sitting beside her child’s sickbed, God marks every sigh of discomfort and pain. No matter how much of your anguish has gone unnoticed by others, not one moment has escaped the attention of the God who neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4). As God says to King Hezekiah, so he could say to each of his children, “I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears” (2 Kings 20:5).” - Scott Hubbard, Desiring God Article
B. We are comforted by God’s purpose.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son . . .” - Romans 8:28-29a (NLT)
The sinfulness of this world or the sinful choices made by others or made by ourselves are why we face “have not” circumstances. And though they can’t be described as “good” God uses them to bring about His greatest good to us. He deals with us and teaches us and changes us to become more like His dear Son. As we focus on His love for us and surrender to His purpose to make us more like Jesus, we can experience that purpose being brought about in us through lessons we learn.
C. We are comforted by God’s plan.
“God always has the plan in place before the problem arises.”
Even before the problem of man’s sin and mankind’s fall, Christ was: “. . . the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made.” - Revelation 13:8b (NLT)
So when we find ourselves in a “have not” situation in life, remember, God always has a plan. It isn’t for us to come up with a plan and ask His approval; but for us to look to God for His plan and then obey.
So whenever we find ourselves being a “have not,” let’s lean on God’s presence, live for His purpose, and look for His plan; remembering that God says we occupy a high position before Him, which we’ll one day fully realize when eternity is ushered in. This is why Paul said:
“(We do not) grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” - 1 Thessalonians 4:13b (NIV)
2. It will keep us from pride - vs. 10-11
Not only does thinking in terms of eternity keep us from despair, in “have not” situations, but when we find ourselves being one of the “haves,” thinking in terms of eternity will keep us from pride.
A young lady once told humorist Will Rogers that she needed his advice. She said she was having a big problem with pride, because every time she looked in a mirror, she thought she looked beautiful. Rogers replied, “Lady, that’s not pride, that’s a mistake!”
One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to be prideful in a “have” situation, thinking we deserve the credit and giving God none.
“No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt themselves. It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.” - Psalm 75:6-7 (NIV)
Rather than being proud when we’re in a “have” situation, we should be humbled that God has entrusted us with so much and recognize the great responsibility that is ours to give Him glory for all we enjoy.
“Whoever brags should brag about what the Lord has done.” - 2 Corinthians 10:17 (GW)
Jonathan Edwards identified 7 symptoms of a prideful heart.
1) Fault-Finding - While pride causes us to filter out the evil we see in ourselves, it also causes us to filter out God’s goodness in others. We sift them, letting only their faults fall into our perception of them.