Grace For The Journey
The Bible says in James 4:14, “What is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”
When was the last time you thought of your life as a “vanishing mist,” as James described it in his epistle? If you are young, it’s likely the thought has never occurred to you. If you have passed age 50, you are probably thinking about it more often, especially when your memory gets “misty” sometimes! That’s certainly true of me; as a young man, I gave the brevity of life no thought at all; today, as a “older” man, I find myself pondering this sobering truth with increasing frequency.
Kay has been doing some journaling and memory book projects from old photo albums of our family. When I look at pictures of our four daughters growing up, and Kay and I at that age, I am amazed at how quickly the time has been passing. I remember that many parents who were older than Kay and I would say things like, “They’ll grow up before you know it!” But who had time to consider an idea like that? We were busy raising four children! Well, I sure do consider it today, and I realize that the years are racing by and life on this earth is rapidly moving toward an end.
There are two things this truth should do for the Christian.
1. It should challenge us.
We are all dying at the rate of 60 seconds a minute, and so we should be busily engaged in doing all God has called us to do with all He has given us to do it with. Jesus cautioned us, “The night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4), and that “night” could come upon us today . . . which should challenge you and me to get the most of every hour God has given to us.
Charles Spurgeon commented on this reality: “There are a thousand gates to death, and though some seem to be narrow wickets, many souls have passed through them. Men have been choked by a grape seed, killed by a tile falling from the roof of a house, poisoned by a drop carried off by a whiff of foul air. I know not what there is that is too little to slay the greatest king. It is a marvel that man lives at all.” So unstable is our life that the Apostle says, “What is it?” So frail, so fragile is it that he does not call it a flower of the field, or the snuff of a candle, but asks, “What is our life?”
Have you ever noticed how David answers this question in Psalm 39:5. “Verily, You have made my days as handbreadths (A handbreadth is a biblical unit of measure equal to 3 inches – Exodus 25:25; 37:12; Psalm 39:5), and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but a vapor. Selah. Surely every man walks about like a shadow; surely they busy themselves in vain; he heaps up riches, and does not know who will gather them.” David says that man’s life is not very long and is uncertain. But David says more than that, he declares that every man’s life is characterized by these realities – Princes, kings, philosophers, the strongest, the healthiest, the ablest, the most virtuous: David says that every man at his best state is like a vapor … even when he is in the prime and glory of his life, when he is most healthy and vigorous, when his eyes are clearest, and his muscles are firmest.
Do not overlook one more emphatic word which David sets in the beginning of this verse, “Verily.” He is writing as if he were quite sure of it, something that all men experience at some point in their life.
We could also consider how Job speaks of our life. The Bible says in Job 9:25-26, “Now my days are swifter than a runner; they flee away, they see no good. They pass by like swift ships, like an eagle swooping on its prey.” Oriental kings employed swift-footed runners to deliver their messages and fast ships to deliver their cargo. We ought not to watch a fast runner or boat without remembering the quickness and brevity of our lives. But Job is not finished. He also compares his life to “the eagle swooping on its prey.” Job goes to great length to remind us of the speed at which life flies towards its end.
St. Augustine used to say he did not know whether to call it “a dying life or a living death.” He expanded that thought with these words, “This is certainly a dying life; its march is marked by graves. Nothing but a continuous miracle keeps any one of us from death. Were God to stay His power but for a moment, earth would return to earth, and ashes to ashes. It is a dying life, and equally true is it that it is a living death. We are always dying. Every beating pulse we count leaves the number less. The more years we count in our life, the fewer remain in which we shall behold the light of day. While we are sitting still in this house, the earth is revolving round the sun, and bearing us all through space at an amazing rate. We are all moving, and yet we do not perceive it, even so we are all being borne onward towards eternity at lightning speed.”
Because life is so short, frail, and uncertain, God’s challenge to us is “so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” … “Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!” (Psalm 90:12, 14) Only through the redemptive work of Jesus do we find substantial, certain, and forever life. Since death is hastening, hasten yourself until you have found a refuge in the cleft of the Rock of Ages, and are safe in the arms of Jesus.
2. It should comfort us.
Because life IS so brief, whatever storms we are facing and whatever waves of challenge are sweeping over us will soon pass away. Before we know it, we will be living on the other side of the grave, where there will be no more storm winds blowing, no more challenges crashing upon us, no sorrow to burden us, nor struggle confronting us.
Here is a good way to look at it:
Whatever you are currently going through, you are going through it.
So the key to accepting the truth that your life truly is a vanishing mist is to live in the light of eternity. We should be challenged to come to Jesus, make the most of every moment (because only what is done for Christ will last), and comforted in knowing that those moments that try men’s souls will soon come to an end.
This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey
… Rest And Rejoice In The Wonderful Truth!