1. Open your bibles to James 4:13-15.
2. In a previous lesson we discussed things from this passage.
(1) We discussed the warning that when we make plans for the future, to not leave God out of those plans.
(2) Also, from James 4:16, we discussed that is evil to boast and become arrogant about claiming personal credit for our successes in life.
(3) Also, from James 4:17, we discussed that to know to do good and not do it, it is sin!
3. In this lesson we are going to discuss James’ warnings about the uncertainty and brevity of life.
I. FIRST, JAMES 4:14a WARNS ABOUT THE UNCERTAINTY OF LIFE.
1. Let’s read James 4:14a, “14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow..”
In the first statement of verse 14 James is teaching that no one knows what will happen tomorrow. You may have plans for tomorrow, but you do not know for sure if those plans will come to pass!
2. Life is uncertain. Man does not know if he will be alive tomorrow. Man is on the earth for a short period of time. Everyday people die who thought they had years to live.
3. During the last two full weeks of June 2009 (June the 18th & June the 24th) Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson died at ages younger than most. ( FF approx. 60 – MJ 50).
4. Turn to Luke 12:19&ff. In this parable Jesus teaches that the rich farmer that was having bumper crops and was going to build bigger barns. He assumed that he had many years of life left. Let’s read his comments, starting with v. 19, “19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
21 “So is he (John David or Shirley or Mike or Marcus or etc.) who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
(1) How many other rich farmers – school teachers – doctors – truck drivers – equipment operators – young people – college students have thought that they have many years to live but then suddenly die in an accident or from a fatal disease?
(2) Jesus pointed out in the Luke chapter 12 parable, the shocking reality, that as soon as one dies everything that they had been calling their own will belong to someone else!
Do you have a lot of fine clothes? Do you have a horse or a four wheeler? Do you have a blackberry phone with internet capabilities? Do you have an iphone or a mp3 player!
Do you have a car or a pickup? Do you have a boy friend or a girl friend? What do you have that you really love and adore?
What ever you have – what ever it is – it makes no difference how hard you worked for it – the split second you die it will belong to some one else!
Are you prepared and ready to give it all up? And give it up suddenly!
(3) In the Luke 12 parable, Jesus teaches that the only way we want come out on the short end of the stick, as we turn all of our material belongings over to someone else, is for us to have been “rich toward God”.
5. Let’s read Luke 12:20&21, “20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
(1) There is never anything wrong with working and prospering and accumulating, unless we do so and are laying up treasures for our self instead of laying up treasure in heaven.
(2) Jesus says those who have material blessings must be “rich toward God”.
6. Turn to 1 Tim. 6:17-19. In these verses Christians are taught that “to be rich toward God” is accomplished by being good stewards of what God blesses them with and contribute generously to spiritual works. Let’s read 1 Tim. 6:17-19, “17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
(1) “Rich in good works” from v. 18 would refer to the work of the local congregation through personal effort and through contributions. It would refer to contributing to mission and evangelistic work. It would refer to using our monies to help the needy.
(2) “Ready to give”, also from v. 18 is usually always characteristic of a faithful Christian, when the giving is for a good and scriptural cause.
(2) “Willing to share”, the latter part of v. 18, would refer to sharing with those having a need for food and clothing. It would refer to helping folks that encountered the bad effects of a hurricane, a tornado, a flood or a drought.
(3) Verse 19, “storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” is being ready at a moment’s notice if our life would be taken.
6. This 1 Tim. 6:17-19 passage lets us know that, if we die suddenly or however, that even though we turn every thing of a material nature over to some one else, at death, we will not wind up on the short end of the stick.
(1) Definitely not, a faithful and generous Christian, at death, will have opportunity to “lay hold on eternal life”.
(2) “Eternal life” has much more to offer that our earthly life, even if our earthly life were for all eternity!
(3) The important thing is to live each day in a way that a “sudden awakening” in another world won’t be a huge disappointment for us!
II. SECOND, JAMES 4:14 WARNS US NOT ONLY ABOUT THE UNCERTAINTY OF LIFE, BUT IT ALSO WARNS US ABOUT THE BREVITY OF LIFE, EVEN IF WE LIVE TO AN OLD AGE!
1. Let’s read James 4:14, “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”
(1) James raises the question: “for what is your life”? James answers his question by teaching that man’s life is exceedingly short: it is like a vapor that for a little time appears, but soon vanishes.
(2) You may have seen puffs of vapor or steam come out of a tea kettle or out of an iron. Maybe you have seen puffs of vapor or the hot air hitting the cool air, quickly rise and then immediately be gone from a cup of hot chocolate or a cup of coffee. Maybe when you would walk out doors on a cold day you would see a puff of vapor when you would take a breath. The hot air hits the cool air. You would see it, but then it would immediately be gone. Life can also pass from this earth just as quickly as a puff of smoke from a fire.
2. Every knowledgeable person is aware of his mortality or the fact that his physical body it going to die, but in youthful years young people are especially prone to think that death comes to old folks only or to the other fellow.
3. The average person, perhaps, having lived through many illnesses and escaped many dangers, begins to think that such will ever be his fortune; although he understands he is a mortal being – a person that will eventually die, he likes to think that he will be spared for “a few more years.”
4. Edward Gibbon, who wrote a monumental work on the Roman Empire, remarked to some friends one evening that he expected to live for fifteen more years; he was dead before the dawn of the next day.
5. Multitudes of individuals act as if there will always be a tomorrow because of all of the tomorrows that came to them in the past. But we are assured of only the present moment, not the next.
6. Turn to Job 7:6-10. Here, Job compares the brevity of life to a number of different things. Let’s read and discuss Job 7:6-10, “6 “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,” Here Job compares the brevity of life to being as fast as a needle on a sewing machine. The needle bobs up and down so fast that it would be impossible to count the strokes that it makes. Job says that life goes by just that fast.
v. 6b, “ And are spent without hope.” We will make comments on this in a moment.
v. 7, “ 7 Oh, remember that my life is a breath!” Job says that life is as brief as when we take a breath! Let’s do that – Chris – Malorie – Sis. Dixon take a breath – compared to eternity our whole life is no longer than one breath!
v. 7b, “My eye will never again see good.” Let’s read verses 3-5 to explain this and the statement in v. 6b, “my days ….. are spent without hope”. “3 So I have been allotted months of futility, And wearisome nights have been appointed to me. 4 When I lie down, I say, ‘When shall I arise, And the night be ended?’ For I have had my fill of tossing till dawn. 5 My flesh is caked with worms and dust, My skin is cracked and breaks out afresh.”
V. 8, “The eye of him who sees me will see me no more; While your eyes are upon me, I shall no longer be.” Job says that the eyes of others will never see our physical body again once we are put in the grave.
V. 9a, “ As the cloud disappears and vanishes away,” Job also says that life goes by just as fast as the disappearing and vanishing of a cloud. You look up and see a cloud. Something distracts you for a few moments. You look back up and the cloud is gone!
V. 9b, “ So he who goes down to the grave does not come up. 10 He shall never return to his house, Nor shall his place know him anymore.”
Job says that the place were we lived PHYSICALLY will never have us to get up out of the grave and come home again.
7. Turn to Job 14:1&2. In these verses Job points out not only the brevity of man’s life, but he also the hardships that one often encounters as they go through life. Let’s read Job 14:1&2, “1 “Man who is born of woman Is of few days and full of trouble. 2 He comes forth like a flower and fades away; He flees like a shadow and does not continue.”
(1) The first figure of speech that Job uses to teach the brevity of life is “He (man) comes forth like a flower and fades away”.
A flower blossoms brightly and displays its beauty; it may be gathered into a bouquet and placed in water, but it will fade away in a few days. If the flower is left in its natural state, it will last only a short time. At best, a man’s life is short and its end is definitely going to happen sooner or later.
(2) The second figure of speech that Job uses to teach the brevity of life from verse2 is, “He (man) flees like a shadow and does not continue.”
A shadow passes over the landscape and is gone, leaving no trace of its passing. A cloud moves over us, casting a brief shadow on the land; a large bird flies overhead, casting a shadow on us as it continues its flight.
The shadow is pictured as “fleeing”—as though being pursued by an enemy. A shadow has no substance and leaves no mark on the land. A man’s life is like a shadow—it is
on earth only for a short space of time, and frequently leaves little to mark its presence.
1. James and other biblical writers that we have read and studied in this lesson have impressed upon us the uncertainty of life and also the brevity of life.
2. The bible also impresses upon us that each one of will encounter our appointment with death unless Christ comes back first.
3. An important thing, especially for a Christian to keep in mind is the fact that, for the Christian who is prepared for death, everything associated with death is not all bad.
4. Death in many ways has many blessing that the non Christian might not ever give any thought to.
(1) Without death, the wicked would only grow more wicked; those in pain would only have increased agony, without any escape;
those in great sorrow could only look forward to greater sorrow; those who are sick would get sicker.
Evil and suffering would intensify, and there would be no relief.
(2) On the other hand, for a faithful child of God, death is the ultimate doorway to the utopia of Heaven! In heaven there is none of the sorrows or evils which prevail here:
In Rev. 21:4 we read, “4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
It is no wonder, therefore, why God made the statement of Psalms 116:15: "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints."
5. Turn to 2 Cor. 6:2. This passage stresses the importance of obeying the gospel today! It is too big of a gamble to think that we might have another opportunity at another time.
This verse makes the appeal, “2 For He says: “ In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
6. If you are subject to the gospel, at this time, you can express your belief, your repentance, your confession and obey the command to baptized.
7. You may be a Christian and need prayers.
7. Please come as we stand and sing!
Acknowledgments for a lot of thoughts in the development of all the sermons on the book of James are to go to:
(1) Bob Winton CD Commentary on Matthew 27:50-54. 464 Ridgewood Drive Manchester, Tennessee 37355. If interested in CD covering many O. T. & N.T. books call (866) 753-8456.
(2) Miscellaneous commentaries by numerous others.