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Making a Role Model out of Vapor

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The passage begins with a very discourteous call to attention.

Greek word AGE (Strong’s G33)
Similar to “Lo!” or “Behold” – but there is a bite in this expression.

“Hey, YOU!” “Come on Now!”
Whistle that brings children and dogs running.

James is the only author who stoops this low. While he has been very blunt with others, he whistles to get the attention of two.

A Slave-masterJames 5:1-6 – Those who use people as tools to do what they want – The belief that they are the strong and everyone else is weak or ignorant – like Nebuchadnezzar

A Treasure-hunterJames 4:13-17

  • Life is about who can accumulate the most toys.
  • Life is about one thing – “for to me, to live is ME!”
I don't need you to worry for me ‘cause I'm alright
I don't want you to tell me it's time to come home
I don't care what you say anymore, this is my life
Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone
I never said you had to offer me a second chance
I never said I was a victim of circumstance
I still belong, don't get me wrong
You can speak your mind / But not on my time – Billy Joel

The title of this message is drawn from the question posed in v. 14 – WHAT IS YOUR LIFE?

  • Life is more than the chemicals.
  • It is more than a multitude of organs all operating in harmony. (a pumping heart, a filtering liver, etc.)
  • It is much more than responding to stimulation, pleasantly or protectively.
God is not going to gather His children like a doting grandfather and ask them, “Did you have fun while you were on earth? What did you do? Did you get to see any of those 3D movies?”

At its root, life is spiritual. The body moves because it has an eternal soul dwelling within. When the body fails, the soul is released. Who you are is more than your body. Your being is rooted in life.

Since your soul is eternal, it is critical that we answer this question:


For to me, to live is …

I. Surplus – Is success is measured by who has the most toys when he dies? v. 13, 15

-A. God is in charge of my sacred times, but I am in charge of my secular affairs.

–B. James Illustrates with a traveling salesman.

His business plan is simple

  • In the near future
  • Staffing – WE WILL
  • Location, location, location
  • Persevere for one year
  • Buy low, sell high – Emporium
  • Get Rich – to be rich, increased with goods, and in need of nothing.

Problem – He is not God

He seizes control of that which only God controls. – Tomorrow.

–C. Tomorrow’s certainties

  1. The sun will rise at 7:42 a.m. / sunset 5:03 p.m.
  2. Temperatures will stay cold for about another month and then gradually get warmer.
  3. Tomorrow’s certainties reveal the Creator

–D. Tomorrow’s ambitions - we all have plans

  1. Your alarm clock will sound at the appointed hour.
  2. You will go to work, school, or other appointments according to schedule.
  3. You will relax in the evening and retire for sleep at a reasonable hour.

But all of tomorrows plans rest in the hands of God.

–E. Is it wrong to plan?

  1. Without plans nothing of value is accomplished
    • It is wrong to think that God wants all of life to be spontaneous.
    • The virtuous woman prepares for winter – Prov 31:21
    • The Bible tells us that sowing bountifully is critical to reaping bountifully. – 2Cor 9:6
  2. Plans must be bathed in prayer. v.15

-F. Godless ambitions die with their human creator

Joseph Stalin had a plan in 1953. He planned to exterminate the medical doctors who were of Jewish descent. He fanned the rumor that all Jewish doctor, in league with the United States, planned to poison him and other Soviet leaders. On March 1, he laid out his plan. He arranged for a mass execution of all Jewish doctors in Red Square on March 9. He told his cabinet that agitators would cause the crowds to demand that all Jews pay for the crime against the state. Most would be shipped to Siberia. The room was filled with silence. Outraged, Stalin cursed out his cabinet and stormed out of the room. Four days later, Stalin died of a stroke. The orders were ignored. (Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible)

II. Stature – Is success is measured who remembers you after you die? – v. 14

James 4:14 is often cited to support the fact that life is transient – In the grand scheme of things, it is like the vapor that comes out of a person’s mouth on a cold day.
While this is true enough, I don’t believe it is what James has in mind.
He is not asking the Philosophical Question: “What is life?

Neither is James is asking, “What is OUR life?”
Romans 8:18 or 1Corinthians 15:53-54 Our present existence is nothing compared to our eternal existence.

James asks, “What is YOUR life – you who have made your ambitions to be god.”

–A. The Beauty of the Vapor –

Once on a cold, but sunny morning in the midst of winter, I was driving. The sky was cloudless until I came over hill. In the distance, I saw a billowing cloud of vapor. Its outline was in the shape of a "V". I quickly recognized that the cloud originated from the chimney at the power plant about five miles away. I had never seen such an awe-inspiring cloud before or since. Weather conditions must be PERFECT for that to happen.
  1. I do not dispute the beauty of the wealthy
    • King Tut exhibit – wealth that is still enviable – Golden Sandals – He reigned from age 8-18 – boy king.
    • Modern mansions
    • It is easy to become covetous and envious.
  2. I do not diminish the excellence of those who have achieved greatness in sports, or music, or theater.
In a few weeks, thousands of winter athletes will gather in Russia to compete and entertain the people of the World. For some, with fame will come great financial reward.

–B. The Vanity of the Vapor –

  1. No one can prolong its display
    • Vapor from the mouth lasts only seconds.
    • The vapor from the power plant has left no indelible mark.
    • The winners of previous Olympics have been forgotten by all but a few devotees.
    • Do you remember Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards – the British Ski Jumping champ of 1988? He did not medal. Can you tell me who did?
  2. By its character Vapor is EMPTY
  3. Why are we holding up vaporous stars as role models?

–C. The Alternative to the Vapor

  1. James is implying – the vapor may be your choice, but it is not mine.
  2. Mr. Treasure hunter, your life will end, and what you own will no longer comfort you.
    • Rich man and Lazarus – Luke 16:19-31
  3. Paul expected more – “To live is CHRIST, to die is GAIN – Php 1:21

Why then do Christian parents allow this world to make entertainers and athletes the role models for the next generation? - Their Vaporous will vanish.

Instead, why not make the saints that God has placed in your church to be those role models? If you have no esteem for their ministry, neither will your children.

III. Self-Worth – Is success is measured by how much respect you get before you die? – v.16

-A. The Emptiness of Haman – Esther 5:9-14

–B. Let the mind of Christ rule – Php 2:5-11

  1. He deserved full respect
  2. He could have demanded full respect
  3. He became a sacrifice for you and me
  4. He humbled Himself and coveted only the respect of His heavenly Father.

IV. Spirit-leading – Success is measured when God says to you, “Well done!” v.17

–A. My life must be occupied with HIS will – to do the good things He desires.

  1. To know His will
  2. To embrace His will – v. 15
  3. To do His will – v.17

–B. Story of the Bigger Barns – Luke 12:16-21

–C. God’s will is not as mysterious as some would like. - 2 Peter 3:9

Click here for next message: <War on the Wealthy – On Which Side Is God?>

Click here for <more Messages and Illlustrations> by Pastor Berglund

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