James 4:14 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.
This question from the book of James is very profound. It asks the reader a question that so often is forgotten and set aside in favour of other things in life such as responsibility. However the question pierces through and divides those things in your life which are real from those things which are not so real. Depending on the maturity level of the reader, there are three kinds of stages to this question, which are all linked together.
- Where did I come from?
- Why am I here?
- Where do I go from here?
These all come back to the question, what is your life? Now some may be tempted to say that life all depends on where you live and what you have. If that were true, God would simply have placed the Israelites in the promised land and placed their enemies outside of it. No, there are much more important things to think about than where you live and what you have. Let us look at an exhortation from the Apostle Paul to the Philippians:
Philippians 4:8-11 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
Contentment is a very important word to understand. Not intellectually, but I refer here to the spiritual nature that God is speaking to us through Paul. Paul learned to be content in whatsoever state he was in. Did that mean that Paul was content with his failures in sin? Scripture clearly answers that in Romans 6-8, in which at one point Paul says of the man who is still failing in sin, “O wretched man that I am”. This is not contentment! So what was Paul talking about when he said he learned to be content?
Matthew 8:19-23 And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead. And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.
Jesus didn’t hide the truth. When that first man came to Him and said he would follow Jesus everywhere He was going, Jesus said “its not an easy road”. “I don’t have a fixed residence and cannot offer you the comforts that you may expect”. He even told the other young man that sometimes you’ll need to make sacrifices to follow Jesus. What is so wrong about burying your own father? The point is that contentment is not found in good emotions and physical comforts. As a matter of fact contentment is not something you will ever find! How did Paul say it in Philippians? “I have learned”. Contentment is something you must learn. It grows in you. It finds its root in the life and example of Jesus Christ. In those things which Jesus had contentment, which Paul had contentment, we are called to have contentment. This requires careful study of the scripture as it is something that is learned. The Holy Spirit replaces our carnal selfish cravings of worldly pursuits of contentment with a renewed heart in the image of His own. Contentment therefore has its source in a relationship with a person. The Holy Spirit acts on our conscience to bear witness to our relationship with our God.
2 Corinthians 1:12-14 For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward. For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end; As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Contentment is a stepping stone to joy. You cannot have the joy of the Lord without first being content in the Lord. Paul states that their rejoicing came from the fact that their conscience had the testimony of simplicity and godliness in their dealings with the Corinthians. Acquiring a clear conscience and maintaining it is a key to understanding God’s design for our life. For example recently I had been reading through 1 Corinthians regarding marriage and God’s Will concerning the activities that sometimes take place in a marriage relationship. I read the section about how a brother/sister is free in the case where an unbeliever leaves that relationship and taking what is said in simplicity without over-analyzing words I had to admit I didn’t have all the answers about broken marriages. There are ideas I had before but now was I fully convinced? No. Immediately I thought of Randy and Dianne and the situation they were in. I talked about this with Vickie and later I prayed to the Lord asking for a direct answer to my doubt in this particular situation. I wanted a clear conscience concerning my dealings with that family. After praying the Lord gave the following:
Matthew 5:30-32 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
God answered my sincere prayer for clarity on a specific matter. My conscience rested and the question is laid to rest. Why? Because of an intellectual study of words? No, that will never do. We can see one thing in life, that is that we cannot trust ourselves. My conscience rested because of a living God who answered by the Holy Spirit in my conscience.
Hebrews 13:4-8 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
Covetousness is a killer of contentment. So long as this sin is furnished with a place to stay in your heart, contentment will be abandoned. Man often compares his possessions or position with others and comes to a heart condition akin to the Israelites in the desert Num 11:5-6 “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely”. Notice the connection here between being content because The Holy Spirit will never leave you nor forsake you. Contentment is in the person of Christ, through His Spirit in you. Notice we may then boldly say The Lord is my helper and I need not fear man. The last portion of the passage encourages us to follow the faith of those who God has placed over you. We are a small group and yet we have the opportunity to show consistency in Christ. We can show how to live in a clear conscience. We can be examples to each other. In this big world of ours there a few examples to be found. Mat 5:16 “Let our light so shine before men”.
Deuteronomy 32:45-51 And Moses made an end of speaking all these words to all Israel: And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law. For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it. And the LORD spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying, Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession: And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people: Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel.
These beautiful words tell us the Word of the Lord to His people is not just a vain unreachable utopia. No it is your life! And Moses was a two-fold example to the people. In one way He was closest to God. In the other he was an example of how great the loss can be when we fail to Glorify God in life. We can miss out on the best God had in store for us because we allowed the flesh to have its moment in time in us.
Matthew 6:25-34, 7:1-2 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Notice how Christ’s words flow right from telling us what our life should be centered around, to the next thought about not judging “where” others are at in their own lives. This has a clear connection to our need to have a clear conscience. Knowing the difference between judging someone and exhorting them to a life of victory is the aspect of Christ’s example that we need to ever learn.
There appears to be one thing that is certain. Life never gets easier. As you gain more experience and become older you have greater responsibility. There is no golden age where you suddenly have no responsibility and can live to all your selfish desires. Consider the three questions we heard at the beginning and see what kind of answer you have. God has a theme that He desires in your answer to them all. May God grant us the Grace of Christ to grow us to an ever deeper life in Him.