What does James 4:14 have to do with our American “Tax Day” of April 15th? On April 15th 2003, God taught me a massive lesson about the “mist” of life. Life is here today, and we are not promised that it will be here tomorrow. Scripture has plainly spoken of this reality, but unfortunately many times we are caught off guard when death visits our friends or family.
It was 10 years ago today that my friend William Harrell died suddenly in a car accident. I will never forget receiving the late night phone call informing me that William had died while traveling home from having dinner with his brother. It was a shock that I can still feel today as I rethink those moments. I recall having fear, doubt, questions for God, and sadness in my heart for his wife who was only 10 weeks pregnant with their first child.
The Bible says the following in James 4:14 – “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Who can boast of tomorrow? Who can boast of plans they have for next month? The reality is – no person is promised tomorrow. In fact, Proverbs 27:1 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” John Owen said these words, “We cannot enjoy peace in this world unless we are ready to yield to the will of God in respect of death. Our times are in His hand, at His sovereign disposal. We must accept that as best.”1
This past week, I was in the remote mountains of Ecuador with a mission team from our church. We traveled into small remote villages to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. As my team and I went up this small path to a house, we were greeted by two women (a mother and her adult daughter). As we started to share the gospel, the mother was resistant, but the younger woman was interested in hearing the message from the Bible. After a very lengthy presentation and conversation on the gospel of Jesus Christ, it was clear that these two women were not willing to repent and trust Jesus Christ for their salvation. As we were preparing to leave, I handed a Bible to the women and pointed to the book of John as a good starting place. Before we walked off, I asked, “What was your view like this morning?” The older woman responded, “It was clear, but the clouds came in suddenly and surrounded us.” This particular village is located at approximately 10,000 feet of elevation and the clouds will often encompass the entire mountain causing it to be like a thick white fog of mist. After hearing her answer, I said, “That is exactly what the Bible teaches us about life. Our lives are here today, but they may not be here tomorrow. Therefore, it is extremely important for you to turn to Jesus Christ today for salvation.”
As I spoke to that woman, I was speaking from personal experience. I had a friend named William who loved Christ and was a man who challenged me in the Word of God. On April 15th 2003, his life proved to be like a mist – it was in front of me – and then it passed away. That same thing shall one day prove true about my life. In comparison to world history, my life span will prove only to be a short mist. It suddenly arrived and departed from the scene of humanity. Although my life has lasted longer than my friend William, it is nevertheless a short mist that will soon be driven away by death. It would do us all well to consider how quickly life is passing by and how soon we will be in eternity. It would be foolish to be constantly setting our plans in order and marking our calendars with life events without first considering the reality that we may be in eternity tomorrow. Are we prepared?
Luke 12:16-21 provides a graphic illustration regarding the fool’s lifestyle:
And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Did you know that in the Bible the word “fool” appears 76 times in 72 verses – most of which are found in the book of Proverbs (wisdom literature)? It would be an extremely foolish thing to live as if you are going to be here tomorrow. We must be prepared to die. A quick walk through any cemetery will prove that young people die and are buried right alongside the elderly. How many people do we know who are speeding through life unprepared to stand before God? How many Christian men are speeding through life without preparing their children and wives spiritually? How many Christian mothers are racing through life on their i-devices while neglecting their children? How many pastors are going to die tomorrow without preparing their churches yesterday through the gospel? We must understand that life is short – like a mist – it is here today and gone tomorrow. Are we prepared to stand before the Lord of glory?
1. John Owen, Meditation on the Glory of Christ, Preface.