Summary: A reflection on how short our lives really are and the importance of making the greatest impact for God out of the short time that we have.
The Brevity of Life
Introduction: In case you don't know brevity means shortness or briefness. Memorial Day weekend is a time to reflect on those who have passed away, mainly from military service. But the holiday has been broadened recently to remember loved ones who have also passed away. This morning we take a look at how short life really is.
Harry Houdini was known as the ultimate escape artist. He was known for defying death again and again. The Daily Mirror challenged him to escape a pair of handcuffs that took the craftsman 5 years to make them. He took the challenge and after an hour he escaped. He would be placed upside down with his feet shackled in a water tank, He would hang from tall cranes in a straightjacket, his legendary act of being buried alive almost cost him his life in 1912 and had to call for help in a panic his hand broke the surface and later he said "the weight of the earth is crushing."
On the afternoon of October 22, 1926, two University students visited Houdini's dressing room. Houdini was looking through his mail, when one of the students, J. Gordon Whitehead, asked Harry if he could indeed withstand any blow to the abdomen. Harry responded that he could, if given time to brace himself, at which point Whitehead hit Houdini four times in the abdomen, assuming that Houdini had indeed braced himself for the blows. Throughout the evening, Houdini performed in great pain. He was unable to sleep and remained in constant pain for the next two days, though he did not seek medical help. When he finally saw a doctor, Harry was found to have a fever of 102 degrees and acute appendicitis. He was advised to go to the hospital for immediate surgery. However, Harry decided to complete his show as planned that night.
By the time Harry arrived on stage, his fever had risen to 104 degrees. He was tired and in pain and his assistants often had to step in and offer help. Audience members reported that Harry missed his cues and seemed in a hurry. By the middle of the third act, Houdini asked his assistant to lower the curtain as he could not go on. When the curtain closed, Harry Houdini collapsed where he was standing and had to be carried back to his dressing room. He continued to refuse medical care until the next morning when his wife, Bess insisted he go to the hospital. Harry relented and had his appendix removed, however it had already ruptured and doctors did not have much hope for his survival. On October 31, 1926 the man who had escaped death so many times before, lying near his wife and brother, Harry Houdini died. It seems that even the great Houdini could not escape death. Death is inescapable.
James offers some godly perspective on the way they were conducting their affairs as he addresses a group scattered Christians. It was a general letter reproving Christians for their degenerating faith and manners.
* James rebukes a Presumption about Life
"Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." James 4:13
This is the attitude of the people in Noah's day and in Lot's day. We read in Luke that before the flood and before Sodom was destroyed, the people were eating and drinking and marrying, and building and planting. Not that there is anything wrong with these things in and of themselves, but the point is that they carried along with life without any thought of God. James rebukes their presumption. Just as in the days when the ark was being built and Noah was preaching, and God's anger was rising toward Sodom and Gomorra and Abraham was praying, the people were entirely given up to their pursuits, their pleasures, and their sins. If God is a part of a man's life, He is set aside for Sundays and Wednesdays only, while the man pursues his own dreams of prosperity without him.
Their sin is a sin of sensuality. Today man is obsessed with doing what FEELS good rather than taking any pains to do what IS good. God's own children forsake him to do what they desire. They conform his word to their desire, rather than allowing God to conform them to his desire.
James exposes a presumption that everything is at their own disposal. Our happiness mostly lies in the hope we have in the promises we make to ourselves. Some aspiring young person says to themselves "I will graduate with honors, then obtain a degree from this prestigious university and then start a practice here or there and prosper." or a young lady promises herself "I will marry the man I love and we will build a house in this town or that city and have lots of children and grandchildren." others are like the character George Baily in "It's a wonderful life." who says: