In my last Bible study before becoming a Christian, there was one verse that instilled within me the sense of urgency to obey the gospel that is lacking in many people today. We were using the Open Bible Study, and this is one of the last verses in the third study: “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” (Jas. 4:14). In context, James reminds us that we do not know what the future holds for our lives. Realizing this humbles us by reminding us of our own mortality while helping us to understand who is really in control.
Whenever I hear of someone passing away, many things come to mind, not the least of which is my own mortality. That person’s life was here for a moment, and now it has vanished away. Funerals and memorial services are designed primarily to reminisce concerning the departed, but they also serve to remind us that our time here is limited (Eccl. 7:2).
While it is easy to be reminded of these things in times of mourning, James urges us to have this in mind at all times. We will be much less likely to waste our short time here on earth if we do. We cannot forget Paul’s exhortation to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16). It is easy to get lost in our jobs or in recreation and to overlook the things that truly matter: God and family.
Taking care of the poor (Mk. 14:7) and teaching people the saving message of the cross (Jn. 4:35) are worthwhile endeavors in which we can redeem the time. Let us put our focus on the Lord’s work in our daily lives while not neglecting our obligation to worship with the saints (Heb. 10:24-25). This must be the mission of every Christian.
For our children, we have such a limited amount of time with them to “train [them] up … in the way they should go” (Prov. 22:6a). As they get older, training them becomes all the more difficult. That is why Solomon also wrote of the need for discipline (Prov. 19:18a). One day you might wake up and realize there is nothing left that you can do but to pray. Please share with the young parents in your life how important it is to spend time with their kids. After all, saving souls must begin in the home.
What is your life? This question also carries with it a sense of how insignificant we are. If you have ever looked up into the sky on a dark, cloudless night as I have, knowing that our planet is smaller than any of those points of light you may see twinkling in the distance, it is difficult not to think of just how small and unimportant you are in the grand scheme (Ps. 8:3-4). This is not unlike the question we are considering in this article. Through all the vast wonders of God’s creation, what are we but one tiny part of it?
While we are small and insignificant compared to the universe and especially compared to God, He has still blessed us greatly (Ps. 8:4-5). He, the God of heaven and earth, has given us puny humans glory and honor. David goes on to say that He has given us dominion over His creation and expresses how worthy He is of our praise (Psa. 8:6-9). What a great and awesome God we serve!
There is one more thing to consider. Yes, God created us and gave us dominion over the rest of His creation, but there is something much more precious that He has done for us. What is your life? It was enough for God to send His only begotten Son into this world to die for you (Rom. 5:6-10). If just one soul, your soul, obeyed the gospel, it was worth it. This knowledge might make us haughty and proud that Christ came to die for us, but it should truly humble us. We are no better than anyone else since everyone has sinned and has the opportunity to obtain this salvation found only in Christ.
We should use whatever time we have here on this earth to number our days, to walk circumspectly, and to redeem the time while recognizing our small yet important place in this world. Each of our lives may appear to be insignificant in the grand scheme, but it is not in the eyes of God. While we may not know what tomorrow holds, we know who holds tomorrow.
Stephen is the associate minister at the Seven Hills congregation in Lynchburg, VA.