Summary: A sermon the famous motion, "Only one life, twill soon be past; only what's done for Christ will last."

Only One Life—My Favorite Motto

Chuck Sligh

October 24, 2010

(A PowerPoint presentation for this message is available by contacting me at

(I don’t believe the skeleton of this message is original to me, but I don’t remember the source. My apologies to the originator of this outline. However, the meat of the message is all original to me.)

TEXT: 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.”


Years ago I heard a motto that has never left me. In fact, I don’t think a week goes by that I don’t think of it. Through the years, that little motto has become my favorite one, because nothing else distills in one phrase the whole of the GOAL and PURPOSE of the Christian life.

The motto goes like this: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” Perhaps you’ve heard it before. I’d like us to ponder that little motto today. This motto tells me three things about my life and yours. So let’s see what they are by dissecting this motto:


The first modern missionary from America, Adoniram Judson, said this:

You have but one life in which to prepare for eternity. Had you four or five lives, two or three of them might be spent in carelessness. But you have only one. Every action of that one life gives coloring to your eternity. How important, then, that you spend that life so as to please the Savior.

Those are profound words. Folks, this life you have is the only one you will EVER have, so…

* God help you to make it count for eternity.

* God help you to live your life for the things that count.

*God help you to spend your time doing things that make a difference in God's kingdom.

Illus. – I remember several years ago, when I was an assistant pastor in Tennessee going to visit an old man who had lived his whole life in sin and selfishness. He finally came to the Lord in his sixties. When he was diagnosed with cancer, I went to visit him at his home shortly before his death.

The day I was there he was in a reminiscent mood. But I didn't hear a soliloquy about “the good ’ole days” like I expected. It was more like a confessional. The old man shared with me how before he came to the Lord,

* he had neglected his family for his job;…

* how he had not been there for his children like he ought to have been;…

* how he had not trained up his children in the Lord, or even with any real character;…

* how he had squandered opportunities to make his life count by doing good to others or serving God;

* how he had lived for sin and pleasure and popularity and making money and accumulating material things.

* I recall that during our conversation, he suddenly grew very quiet.

Sensing some inner struggle, I too sat silently—pensively awaiting his next words, pondering the things he had shared with me, frankly not knowing quite what to say. After a few moments, he looked away from me and I saw him wipe a tear away as he said, “I sure wish I could live my life over again.”

As I looked at eyes misty with tears, I remember myself also wishing that he could live his life over again. But he couldn’t—because our lives are single. You only have ONE life to live, and then it’s over—so you’d better make it count because your life is SINGLE!


It’s amazing that we preachers don’t make more of this fact than we do, because it’s a very prominent theme in God’s Word. In fact, it’s the source of many fascinating metaphors and colorful comparisons in the Bible. Listen to what the Bible compares our lives to, and as you do, notice that the central theme of each comparison is the idea of the BREVITY of our lives upon this earth (EXPAND ON EACH AS LED):

* First, our lives are compared to A VAPOR – James 4:14 (our text) – “……For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (COMMENT ON: Vapor from a teapot. There one moment and poof!—it’s gone.)

* Our lives are compared to GRASS AND FLOWERS THAT WITHER AFTER A SHORT TIME IN THE SUN – Psalm 103:15-16 – “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. 16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.” – Illus. – Here in Germany, in the Spring, we see stunningly beautiful wildflowers along the roads and in the fields. But very soon, the highway department or farmers come and mow them down. Their lifespan is only a very short time.

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