Living Now! James 4:13-17
Am I the only one, or does this scripture from James kinda “hit you between the eyes” with reality? Life is just a mist... or a vapor... here for a moment, then it’s gone! “You don’t even know what will happen tomorrow.”
They don’t call it “mortal life” for nothing! Mortality... my mortality... your mortality... our mortality... is a fact of life of which you and I must come to terms. Mortality is a fact for us all.
“Good grief, Jerry! Why talk about death and mortality on a Sunday morning!? Let’s talk about something happy... something that makes us feel good and that’s relevant!”
Well... there’s nothing more relevant than life’s most common denominator! The fact is we’re mortal... life is brief... and that brevity of life means the opportunity to live life is now... this moment.
Of course, the headlines are a constant reminder, if we’re paying attention.
Last Sunday morning as we were preparing to gather for worship... a shooting at a Waffle House in Nashville, left four people dead. Then the news broke on Monday that someone had decided to use a rental truck as a weapon in Canada.
A couple of weeks ago woman from Albuquerque, New Mexico, a woman was minding her own business, when she was partially sucked out of an airplane window when an engine exploded on a Southwest Airlines flight.
In fact, nearly 7,500 Americans will take their last breath today. According to statistics... 2,712,630 Americans die every year... with heart disease being the leading cause of death, followed by cancer, chronic respiratory diseases... and accidents... which claim nearly 150,000 lives every year.
James was right: “You don’t even know what will happen tomorrow.”
There’s certainly good news here: The fastest growing age group in the US - according to census information - is the 65 and older group! How many of us are 65-plus?
Former First Lady Barbara Bush was in that group, too... she was 92 years old, and had the very best medical care that money can buy - which extended her life for sure, and improved the quality of her life - but it couldn’t prevent her death.
And thinking back to that poor lady in New Mexico... most of us have probably been on a plane. There are 43,000 flights every day in the USA (over 100,000 per day world-wide)... and there’s only one death per 7.3 million flights, making commercial air travel literally SAFER than walking... but the one death on a airplane certainly reminds us that life is fragile and short, doesn’t it?
Last year... 37,461 Americans died in motor vehicle fatalities (that’s more people than live in the whole of Chambers County, Alabama); I think it’s safe to say that we will all be traveling in a car, shortly.
NONE of this is to say or imply that we should live life in fear... dreading what may or may not happen to us! It’s all meant to be a reminder that we’re IN FACT called to LIVE life now... because now is the only moment we have! Our scripture asks: “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). That’s why the psalmist prayed, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
Wisdom dictates that we learn to live life in the present... because no matter how many days we’ve experienced, or how many tomorrow’s we’re planning... today is the only day we have. Tomorrow never comes... Since today (this moment) is the only day (or moment) we’re given... it’s crucial that we live this day to the fullest... in alignment with God’s Word and will for our life... being ready and intentional for God’s Will to be accomplished in us and through us.
One of my favorite devotionals is My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers... and his devotional for one day last week reminded me: “Readiness for God means that we’re ready to do the tiniest little thing... or the great big thing... it makes no difference... When any duty presents itself we hear God’s voice as our Lord heard His Father’s voice, and we are ready for it with all the alertness of our love for Him.” Being ready, being alert implies living in the now.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We are now faced with the fact... that tomorrow is today. We’re confronted with the fierce urgency of now.”
Most of us don’t live in the “fierce urgency of now” do we? Most of us are looking to some unknown, unpromised, unrealized TOMORROW... while putting off what needs doing today! And the rest of us are living in some memory of YESTERDAY comfortable with what’s been done, with no compulsion to do what needs doing at the moment!
But life in Christ is about living now... NOT living for me, myself and I... not living for self... but living for Christ... giving our all for the Kingdom in the present... today. It’s about doing everything we do... now... as if doing it unto the Lord!
Not reveling in all we’ve done OR boasting about everything we plan to do!
Every conversation... every opportunity to help a friend or a stranger in need... or to offer a compassionate ear... every chance to show love... to offer hope... to share the Good News of Christ... NOW... that’s all that really matters.
2 Corinthians 6:2 tells us, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
We can view our mortality as a subject to be avoided - OR - we can view it as an opportunity to be about God’s Kingdom work... now... in the present... this moment... the only moment we have.
You know, I mentioned Barbara Bush a few moments ago. Did any of you happen to hear her interview concerning growing older, and death? She said, “I have no fear of death, which is a huge comfort because we’re getting darn close... and I don’t have a fear of death for my precious George or for myself because I know that there is a great God and I’m not worried about that. I don’t like it for young people... but I know we will see Robin again... one way or another... and our families, so I have no fear of death.”
Knowing that we’re not guaranteed tomorrow lends urgency to today: it gives TODAY meaning and purpose. And it reminds us that the worst that can happen to us leads to the best that can happen to us. It frees us to live in this moment, trusting tomorrow to the God of eternity. Romans 14:8 reminds us, that as Children of God and Followers of Christ, “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”
That’s the power of the cross... the power of the empty tomb... the power of the Resurrection. We know that our future is secure in the hands of the God who loved us enough to overcome death’s sting... for all eternity.
And when the fear of death is removed... we can live each day as it comes... We can focus on the opportunities of the moment.