The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
August 25, 2013


1) "What is Your Life?" (Bobby Witherington)
2) Prayerful Living (Gary Henry)
3) News & Notes


"What is Your Life?"
by Bobby Witherington

"Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 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.  For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that" (Jms. 4:13-15).

The book of James is a four chapter, 106 verse "general epistle" which was written to "the twelve tribes scattered abroad" (Jas. 1:1).  The particular "James" who penned this epistle is generally thought to be "James, the Lord's brother" (cf. Gal. 1:19; Mark 6:3).  However, in the letter bearing his name, James simply and humbly described himself as "James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (Jas. 1:1).  In all likelihood, "the twelve tribes...scattered abroad" (to whom this epistle was addressed) constituted Jewish Christians who were "scattered" by reason of persecution (cf. Acts 8:1-4).  As is implied by the subject matter, the primary purpose of this letter was to warn Jewish Christians against various besetting sins, and to encourage them to steadfastness under persecution.  

In some respects, Jewish Christians "scattered abroad" faced many of the same dangers faced by their national ancestors who were taken captive by the Assyrians and Babylonians -- not the least of which was the danger of blending in with their surrounding culture, and taking a "business as usual" approach to life.  And similar dangers face Christians today.  In our quest for survival in the world that now is, it is so easy to lose sight of the world to come.  In so doing, we lose our focus and we become more consumed in making a living than in making a life.  Hence, the admonitions contained in this book are as applicable to Christians today as they were to the original recipients of this inspired letter.  

With regards to the verses with which this article begins, you will please note that James addressed some who were making business plans -- determining to go to some city, "spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit" (Jas. 4:13).  Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong in buying and selling and making a profit.  Honorable work, and honest trading for a profit stabilizes the economy and enables people to feed their families.  This is good.  However, it is not good for a person to make plans irrespective of the brevity of life, and without regard to what "the Lord wills." Planning ahead is wise, but presumptuous planning which makes no provision for an uncertain tomorrow and a certain eternity is foolish.  With this in mind, James asked, "What is your life?"  And he then answered his own question, saying "It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" (Jas. 4:14). The obvious point is that "life," at best, is short -- so brief that it is likened to a "vapor" that soon "vanishes away!"  There is one thing upon which all "old folks" will agree; it doesn't take long to live a life!  Hence, instead of "boasting" (v. 16) about what they plan to do in the future, sober-minded people will say "If the Lord wills we shall live and do this or that" (v. 15), and then act accordingly.  

Having made these observations, we now focus more directly upon the question, "What is your life?"  Contextually, the question was intended to emphasize the brevity of life. And we must never lose sight of this fact.  Indeed, these verses are but a few among many which force upon us an awareness that a person's journey from the cradle to the grave is incredibly short -- especially when compared to eternity.  That being the case, the question "what is your life" should receive due consideration by every responsible person.  The balance of this article is written with this in mind.  We have already addressed this question with regards to the brevity of life, so we now ask:         

What is Your Life With Regard to Purpose?

The real value of life is not measured by quantity, but by quality.  The biography of the oldest man on record is given in four short verses (Gen. 5:21,25-27).  These verses tell us about Methuselah.  We learn that Enoch was his father; he bore "sons and daughters," including Lamech; he lived 969 years "and he died."  This is all that is actually stated about Methuselah.  Using a little math, we can conclude that he died in the year of the flood; he may have died in the flood.  But, regarding Methuselah, who lived 969 years, everything we know about him can be summed up in one short paragraph which can be memorized in five minutes.  

Conversely, Jesus lived on earth for about 33 1/2 years, but four New Testament books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are books of biography dealing with his life.  The Old Testament looked forward to his coming; the New Testament looks backward to his first coming, and it looks forward to his return.  The Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44) all spoke of the coming Messiah.  The life of Jesus was so significant that the apostle John, after having already written about Jesus, concluded, saying, "And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (John 21:25)!

Methuselah's life had length.  Jesus' life had purpose.  Jesus summed it up, saying, "I have come down from heaven, not to do My Own will, but the will of Him who sent me" (John 6:38).  Jesus knew his earthly stay would be short; hence, he said, "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4).   

Yes, we know about Methuselah, and we know about Jesus. But, friend, what about you?  "What is your life" with regards to purpose?  The purpose of many is to accumulate as many  material goods as possible, even though each one must die (Heb. 9:27), and not one of us can take any earthly possession with us (1 Tim. 6:7).  The purpose of others may be summed up in these words: "eat, drink, and be merry" (cf. Luke 12:15-21), but this approach to life produces misery instead -- both here and hereafter.  

What should be our real purpose in life?  Solomon answered this question in these words: "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is the whole duty of man" (Eccl.  12:13).  

What is Your Life From the Standpoint of Destiny?

This question is inseparably connected with the previous question.  Purpose and destiny go hand in hand.

Speaking of destiny, there is a hell to shun (Matt. 10:28), and there is a heaven to gain (1 Pet. 1:4).  Hell is inconceivably horrible.  Heaven is inconceivably wonderful.  But the duration of each is the same; it is "everlasting" or "eternal" (Matt. 25:46).

One doesn't have to be morally wicked in order to be lost. In fact, all one has to do to go to hell is nothing! When Jesus returns he will take "vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess. 1:8). The inspired writer expressed it this way: "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin" (Jas. 4:17).  

Mindful of the agonies of hell, mindful of the boundless joys of heaven, mindful of the length of eternity, and mindful of the value of the soul, Jesus asked: "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26).  

"The way" that "leads to destruction" is "broad" and heavily traveled, whereas "the way which leads to life" is described as "difficult," and there are but "few who find it" (Matt. 7:13, 14).  But the "way" in which we travel determines direction, and direction determines destiny.  


We could view the question "what is your life" retrospectively, introspectively, and prospectively (looking backward, inward, and forward). But we have chosen, in this article, to ponder this question with regards to duration, purpose, and destiny. Indeed, "what is your life?"  Do you need to make some changes to make it what it ought to be?  If the answer to that question is "yes," then right now is the time to start making those changes!  Tomorrow may be eternally too late!

-- Via Truth Magazine, June 6, 2002, Vol. XLVI, No. 11

"Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice" (Prov. 16:8).

"How much better it is to get wisdom than gold!  And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver" (Prov. 16:16).  


Prayerful Living
by Gary Henry

"If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3:1-2).  

DO WE HAVE DIFFICULTY KEEPING OUR MINDS PEACEFULLY FOCUSED ON GOD WHILE WE ARE PRAYING?  If so, a part of the reason may be that we have not cultivated the habit of thinking about God throughout the day.  Minds that do not normally think of God at other times will find it hard to stay focused on Him during occasional periods of prayer.  Thus it will help us, when we are praying, to be people who are accustomed to "living prayerfully."

There is such a thing as a prayerful state of mind even when we're not actually praying. We can think about God as we fulfill the routine of our daily activities.  We can be mindful of Him in a general sort of way. Historically, those who have tried to take the spiritual life seriously have always reported that they found it beneficial to live consciously in the "presence" of God, being aware of His reality at each moment.  Doing this is hard at first, simply because our minds are undisciplined.  They are used to wandering wherever they wish: here, there, and everywhere.  But with serious intent and with the discipline that is acquired in living the spiritual life, we can learn to live in a constant state of mindfulness about God.  He can become our preoccupation.  

When we're not specifically thinking about God, we can at least be thinking about the higher and better things in the world that He has made.  Paul wrote, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things" (Philippians 4:8).  To think on these things is to bring ourselves closer to God and to make our minds more inclined to the act of prayer.  

God is pleased with those who seek Him diligently.  And seeking Him surely means that, amid the welter of our worldly concerns, our minds will always be seeking Him out.  

"Another way to stay with prayer is to keep your mind from wandering too far at other times of the day.  Keep it strictly in the Presence of God.  If you think of him a lot, you will find it easy to keep your mind calm in the time of prayer" (Brother Lawrence).

-- Via WordPoints.com, August 20, 2013


News & Notes

All in all, it had been 25 precancerous and 3 cancerous spots that Terry MacDonald recently had surgery to remove.  All went well. 

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

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