Life Is but a Vapor
Missey Butler, Author, 1.cbn.com
At a very early age, I was blessed to discover the wonderful writings of King Solomon, the humble ruler who unselfishly asked God for wisdom, instead of the typical list of wants compiled by most kings.
I am not sure if he won my affection by his great insight with the teaching of the two disputing mothers and the baby, or when after he experienced all the pleasures life had to offer, he then had the conviction to tell the world, “None of it matters.”
God must have had something up His sleeve, because as a youngster, He made sure many nuggets of truth were planted deep within my very impressionable heart. It produced a kind of “Princess and the Pea” fairy tale effect. It caused me not be able to rest too comfortably on the “mattress of complacency.”
The Holy Spirit always made sure that soft whispers of wisdom would consistently move in and out of my life for many years. I recall one particular verse that I could never seem to forget. It was one of those sayings that you weighed everything against.
It’s found in the book of Ecclesiastes. It says,
It is better to spend more time at funerals than at festivals. For you are going to die and you should think about it while there is still time (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
You must be thinking as I did, Goodness gracious, what a depressing statement! A real bubble buster! Actually, for me it was quite the contrary. That rather gloomy statement would cause me to continually reprioritize my life.
The Holy Spirit made sure that particular Scripture was stored in a “refer to often” file within my mind. He was faithful to lead me to that mental index whenever I developed the self-centered notion that somehow my life was my own and I could live it anyway I pleased.
As James often reminds us,
For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanishes away (James 4:14).
This verse is certainly not one of those “claim it” verses we so readily display on our fridges with a cute little magnet. But then again, why don’t we? Are we so in love with our lives or so deeply immersed in our pleasures that we cannot bare to be reminded that one day it will all disappear like a passing mist?
On the front of my computer at work, I keep a small, neon-colored “post-it” with the following words displayed directly at eye level: “Soon this life as we know it shall pass … only what’s done for Jesus will last.”
So what is our duty? The wisest king that ever lived summed it up in one sentence.
Fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
So, in closing, I leave you with a K.I.S.S. – “Keep It Simple Saints.” And always remember, “It’s only a minute, but eternity’s in it.” Make your vapor count!
“You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).
Living knowing that your life is a vapor is different than just living. Things here are passing away. You’ve got to hold on to what will stand. Savor what matters. This collection of thirty-one articles is full of that heart-longing after Christ that distinguishes Piper’s preaching ministry. Readers will feel as though they have stumbled into a garden as they enter these pages. The Scripture cuts, Christ is exalted in God, and we worship Him.
Life Is Short. Eternity Is Long. Live Like It.
You will exist forever. You and God are both in the universe to stay—either as friends on His terms, or enemies on yours—which it will be is proven in this life. And this life is a vapor. Two seconds, and we will be gone.
In these thirty-one meditations, John Piper will connect you to a fresh understanding of God and a renewed relationship with Him. You’ll find your faith stirred to make every day count for Christ when you consider life as a vapor.
Time is precious. We are fragile. Life is short. Eternity is long. Every minute counts. Oh, to be a faithful steward of the breath God has given me. Three texts resound in my ears: “Redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:16 ); “It is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4:2); “His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10 ).
Surely God means for our minutes on earth to count for something significant. Paul said, “In the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain” (Philippians 2:16). In the same way, I have good hope from the Lord that my “labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
“Jesus Christ came into this world – this fleeting, fallen, fickle world – and did the greatest thing that will ever be done” (p. 12).
“Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen tomorrow. What is the nature of your life? You are [really] but a wisp of vapor (a puff of smoke, a mist) that is visible for a little while and then disappears [into thin air].”
– James 4:14 Amplified Bible
“I remember my youth and the feeling that will never come back any more—the feeling that I could last for ever.” These impressions were the work of author Joseph Conrad in his classic novel, Youth. But his words express the feelings common to many young people, for whom time seems to have no end. In their youthfulness, it may seem that life will “last for ever.”
Yet, as we age, we understand more clearly that life is short. The Bible says it is like “a wisp of vapor.” It quickly fades and soon is gone.
Many marketers want us to forget these facts, urging us to live for today. They promote the mindset that we will find contentment and pleasure through acquiring more “things.” We constantly are bombarded with advertisements designed to make us feel discontented, lusting after new things and experiences.
In themselves, there is nothing wrong with new things, products, or trends. But we must remember that filling our lives with these things is often just “chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14 NIV). The world’s pleasures don’t last. They can distract us and consume our hearts and minds, taking our attention off of serving God and living for Him.
Today, ask God to give you His perspective on your life and the things of this world. Don’t spend your time just chasing the wind or pursuing things that cannot produce lasting satisfaction.
Ask the Lord to help you evaluate your heart. Where is your treasure? What are you doing with your time and resources?
Remember: Your life is like a wisp of a vapor, gone in a flash. Make your life count for eternity. Invest your time, talent, and treasure into God’s Kingdom.
From: Streams In The Desert, By: L. B. Cowman
“Not much earth” (Matthew 13:5).
Shallow! It would seem from the teaching of this parable that we have something to do with the soil. The fruitful seed fell into “good and honest hearts.” I suppose the shallow people are the soil without much earth–those who have no real purpose, are moved by a tender appeal, a good sermon, a pathetic melody, and at first it looks as if they would amount to something; but not much earth–no depth, no deep, honest purpose, no earnest desire to know duty in order to do it. Let us look after the soil of our hearts.
When a Roman soldier was told by his guide that if he insisted on taking a certain journey it would probably be fatal, he answered, “It is necessary for me to go; it is not necessary for me to live.”
This was depth. When we are convicted something like that we shall come to something. The shallow nature lives in its impulses, its impressions, its intuitions, its instincts, and very largely its surroundings. The profound character looks beyond all these, and moves steadily on, sailing past all storms and clouds into the clear sunshine which is always on the other side, and waiting for the afterwards which always brings the reversion of sorrow, seeming defeat and failure.
When God has deepened us, then He can give us His deeper truths, His profoundest secrets, and His mightier trusts. Lord, lead me into the depths of Thy life and save me from a shallow experience!
On to broader fields of holy vision;
On to loftier heights of faith and love;
Onward, upward, apprehending wholly,
All for which He calls thee from above.
–A. B. Simpson
Living each other if one has a cause for complaint against another; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so should you forgive. Colossians 3:13 AMP
I saw a meme on Facebook that said, “Gratitude is our ability to see the grace of God, morning by morning, no matter what else greets us in the course of the day.” One October many years ago, the grace and gratitude connection became very real to me.
The crisp fall evening was perfect for a square dance in the country—starry sky, lively music, hay bales, yummy food, sweet fellowship. A night to remember in so many ways. My husband, our six-year-old daughter, my mom, and I had a delightful time with church members and friends. Shortly before the party ended, we said our goodbyes so we could get Mom home.
A few minutes later, our full-size conversion van lay upside down in a ditch from the impact of a speeding car. A drunk driver. We had planned to deliver Mom to her Pleasant Valley address. Instead, God welcomed her in heaven, and doctors didn’t expect me to live.
In an instant, our lives changed dramatically. I lost my best friend, our kids no longer had their grandma, we had to rely on others’ help at home and with our businesses, and I entered into a several-month period of recovery. Yet in the midst of the shock, healing, and grieving, my husband and I were able to forgive the man whose choices caused this unnecessary tragedy.
As you may know, the ability to forgive doesn’t come naturally. When someone has wronged us, we want to retaliate, or hate the person forever. Many times I’ve thought about how we were able to release those feelings, especially after having to endure the man’s false accusations and a horrible court trial experience. I can honestly say it was only because of God’s grace. During all this, God gave me a glimpse of how much he had forgiven me. To not offer the same gift to another would be like saying I was better than God.
It may seem strange, but extending grace to those who’ve wronged us is an act of gratitude for the grace we’ve received from God. We are, in a way, saying, “Thank you, God, for your kindness and mercy. Thank you for your unmerited favor. Thank you for your unconditional love.”
And whether the person acknowledges our gift—or even has awareness of it—we do it more for ourselves. It’s a gesture that brings freedom. By letting go and pardoning others’ actions, we’re able to move forward with our lives. We’re not stuck in the rut of bitterness, resentment, anger, and all those negative feelings that imprison us.
Over the years I’ve learned that grace can’t be explained; it can only be experienced. And when we realize the amazing gift we’ve received, we can’t help but be grateful. God sees our hearts and smiles when we’re able to extend the same grace to others.
No, it doesn’t make sense, but it feels so good. And that makes me grateful all the more.
When they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. – Luke 23:33 KJV
Avis Burgeson avoided the limelight. Encouraged by her grandmother, she began writing poems when she was just ten. Born in Chicago on this day in 1895, she married Ernest Christiansen who later became a vice president of Moody Bible Institute. Avis kept writing throughout her lifetime. Before her death in 1985, she had written many hymns and published two books of poetry.
One day while listening to a sermon on the subject of Christ’s atonement entitled “Blessed Redeemer,” Harry Dixon Loes, a well-known hymn writer, was inspired to compose a tune that felt appropriate. But the tune needed words.
He turned to Avis, sending her the melody with the suggested title, asking her to write lyrics. She accepted the challenge, and the resulting hymn proved a great blessing. Worshipers have been moved by the hymn’s heart-felt sincerity since then.
Avis described the scene as Jesus walked up Calvary. Ahead was the horror of the cross that He faced for sinners, “that He might save them from endless loss.”
Amazingly, even as He was dying, Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them!” Avis sensed He was motivated by love. She could only respond, “Oh, how I love Him, Savior and Friend, how can my praises ever find end!”
For her this was personal. Jesus was her “Blessèd Redeemer! Precious Redeemer!” He wasn’t just dying for sinners in general. He was “dying for me!”
Yes, He was dying for you, too!
Streams In The Desert
By: L.B. Cowman
As dying and behold we live (2 Cor. 6:9).
I had a bed of asters last summer, that reached clear across my garden in the country. Oh, how gaily they bloomed. They were planted late. On the sides were yet fresh blossoming flowers, while the tops had gone to seed. Early frosts came, and I found one day that that long line of radiant beauty was seared, and I said, “Ah! the season is too much for them; they have perished”; and I bade them farewell.
I disliked to go and look at the bed, it looked so like a graveyard of flowers. But, four or five weeks ago one of my men called my attention to the fact that along the whole line of that bed there were asters coming up in the greatest abundance; and I looked, and behold, for every plant that I thought the winter had destroyed there were fifty plants that it had planted. What did those frosts and surly winds do?
They caught my flowers, they slew them, they cast them to the ground, they trod with snowy feet upon them, and they said, leaving their work, “This is the end of you.” And the next spring there were for every root, fifty witnesses to rise up and say, “By death we live.”
And as it is in the floral tribe, so it is in God’s kingdom. By death came everlasting life. By crucifixion and the sepulchre came the throne and the palace of the Eternal God. By overthrow came victory.
Do not be afraid to suffer. Do not be afraid to be overthrown. It is by being cast down and not destroyed; it is by being shaken to pieces, and the pieces torn to shreds, that men become men of might, and that one a host; whereas men that yield to the appearance of things, and go with the world, have their quick blossoming, their momentary prosperity and then their end, which is an end forever.
“Measure thy life by loss and not by gain,
Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth.
For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice,
And he who suffers most has most to give.”
We get it that many people today are spiritually homeless when it comes to a church or doing much with their faith. But the Blessing is all about getting to know and love Jesus — whose love and blessing we’re going to be living out with others. He modeled loving people well — blessing them. He calls us to be people of blessing as our job and as a key part of our purpose. So we certainly love people who don’t know Jesus or see much value in prayer. But a Blessing Group is one where people are going to pray, just like Jesus, who took time out to pray to his Father and with the disciples. Prayer is like spiritual gravity. It’s a way of connecting and sharing with God. If you haven’t done much praying — alone or in a group — it’s not as hard as you think! Picture one of those really big balls that are super soft. Whoever is praying is picking up the ball and tossing it to the Lord. And then it gets tossed back, and then we toss it to the Lord. It’s like being in a conversation with someone. Even if this spiritual side of things is a little uncomfortable, we ask that you choose to be uncomfortable for a time. Our prayer is that you’ll become more spiritually comfortable in a safe place where people aren’t going to grade you on your prayers. Just be glad there are people around you who are tossing the ball back and forth with the Lord — praying for you and one another.
A Final Blessing Story
We started this book with two stories of people who missed the Blessing, but we’d like to close this book with the story of a couple who decided they were going to keep giving the Blessing — no matter what. That’s our prayer for you, that you’ll find ways to keep reminding yourself that the Blessing is your “job,” and that you’ll lean in and bless others — just as this couple did whose son couldn’t hear a word they said.
Years ago my wife, Cindy, and I were teaching about the Blessing at a conference for physicians and their spouses. That’s when we met little Aaron’s mother. She came up quietly. She shared her story softly. Yet it left a profound impact on our lives — that is, after Cindy and I had stopped crying and thanking God for what we had heard. It seems that several years before, this woman and her husband (both physicians, by the way) had traveled from out of state to attend a similar conference of ours. They left their precious three-year-old son, Aaron, at home with a babysitter. While they were gone, Aaron began to spike a fever. The babysitter called, then called again. But the cell phone reception wasn’t great in the hall, and it took them some time before they could return her call. By the time they did talk, the sitter was terribly worried about their son, particularly because his fever was so high.
Imagine two doctors, thousands of miles from their hurting son, unable to do anything to help. Needless to say, they left for home immediately, but by the time they got there, little Aaron had been diagnosed with viral meningitis and sustained profound hearing loss as a result of the fever. The parents, of course, were devastated when they got this news. But they determined their son’s hearing loss wouldn’t stop them from blessing him — not for a single day.
Up until the day their son lost his hearing, this couple had done something that they had seen in one of our videos. The video showed Cindy and I singing that simple little blessing song we had made up for Kari and Laura when they were little to wake them up in the morning. We would hug them as we sang:
Good morning, good morning, how are you today?
The Lord bless you and keep you throughout the day.
We love you, we love you, we love you, Kari (or Laura).
Aaron’s mom and dad had thought our song was cute and adopted it as a way to bless their son in the mornings. Ever since he was tiny, they had been singing, “We love you, we love you, we love you, Aaron.”
But now Aaron couldn’t hear that good-morning song or blessing. So they immediately set out to learn the words in sign language. That way, as Aaron grew older, he wouldn’t miss a day of them sharing that he was special and valuable to them, that God had a special future for him, and that his parents would always be committed to him.
I think of all the children I have met whose parents never bothered to say “I love you” even once to them, who never told them anything about their future except words like, “Don’t take algebra. That’s for the smart kids.” Parents who would never take the time to write a blessing letter, no matter how much it could mean to their child.
And then I hear stories like Aaron’s — stories about parents who are going to give the Blessing to their child no matter the challenge. And that’s our blessing for you: that you keep the Blessing going. That one million parents like Aaron’s will step up to the plate and hit it out of the park by passing on the Blessing to their own child… and many others.
And may a million more lives be changed in the process.