Nothing But Vapor
The Bible confronts us with the following provocation in James 4:14, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” This can be a discouraging, even depressing thought. A person’s life is like water, slowly boiling away under the heat of daily trials and monotonous tasks, and after all is said and done, there’s not much to show for it. The water is gone, and so is the mist of vapor that once gave evidence to it. Much of human existence is like that. Men and women live and die, leaving very little evidence of their life behind. There may be some pictures of someone enjoying their favorite hobby, and maybe a few smiles and fond memories; but so often there is nothing of value and meaning left behind. For many the motto is, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” And so they strive to “enjoy their life to the fullest” by grasping at the straws of entertainment, recreation, intoxication, promiscuity, materialism, consumerism, social status, career goals, political activism; while others live without much ado about anything, keeping to themselves, and never getting much involved with anything or anyone. Yet, all die. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and grasping for the wind. In this short span of existence called life, few learn what the Preacher of old came to understand: “Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) The meaning of life is the fear the Lord. This is the beginning of both true wisdom and real knowledge. Therefore, a life that is lived in exclusion of the living God and His truth is a life lived in vain, a life which disappears like vapor and leaves nothing of value behind.
I am saddened when I attend a funeral and all I hear about is how much the dearly departed loved their favorite sport, or their favorite hobby, or even how much they loved their family and made them their sole purpose of living. Vapor. Gone. Nothing left. I am especially disappointed when this type of eulogy is presented at a professing Christian’s funeral. Where is Christ? Did they love Him? Did they serve Him? No. And so the vapor disappears and nothing of eternal value is left behind for the family to treasure and live up to and pass on themselves. I’m glad mom loved you, but I’m sorry she didn’t love the Lord. Oh, Christian, Jesus said that the one “who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:37)
Christian’s of another time had a different perspective altogether, and said things like “One life ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” (Studd) and “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” (Elliot) This is the sentiment of God’s people who take scripture at face value, believe its truths and live their lives in the light of Christ and the promise of eternity. The Spirit has opened their eyes, and they realize that life is indeed a vapor. It’s quick. It’s short. And if lived without Heaven’s light it is easily wasted. Wasted on frivolous exploits and even well intended good deeds and causes.
The problem is, dear reader, even many professing Christians get this wrong. Rather than seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, many seek first their own lives, their own families, their own needs, their own beloved pursuits. Rather than loving their wives as Christ loved His church, and respecting their husbands in lovingly submitting to them as unto the Lord Himself, they treat their spouses with less affection and respect than they would ever consider giving to their friends and peers. Rather than raising their children in the training and admonition of the Lord, they spend time with their kids on weekend ventures and after school activities. And then they die. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.
What will you leave behind? A vapor trail, or, something of spiritual substance and eternal value? When you die, what will your children and grandchildren have? A picture of you reeling in a fish, a memory of you cooking your favorite dish, a funny story about you; or perhaps real resentment will be left instead, maybe even some who are glad you are dead? Our time is short and fleeting, and there may be some who remember we were ever here; but what are you doing now to ensure that you leave a legacy of faith and a spiritual heritage that can be treasured and admired, inspiring and imitated.
90 years ago my grandfather was brought into this world. When I met him in his fifties, he had plenty of stories about his grandparents on both sides. Godly stories. A Christian legacy. A spiritual heritage. But Jerry Osborne did not speak often of his mother, and even less of his father. They left him nothing but the scars and trauma of abuse and neglect. His grandparents, on the other hand, loved him, and left him an inheritance in the Lord. Although I never knew these people, they lived on in him, and he passed their legacy on to me. His parent’s vaporous life left nothing behind to be remembered, or admired, or imitated; but his grandparents left behind a life that lived on in my grandfather, and now courses through my own veins. This life will be passed on to a generation further, as my own children learn of them.
As for Jerry Osborne himself, what can I say that I have not repeated a million times? He was a great man. He was the greatest man many ever knew. He loved the Lord, and served Him all the days of his life. He was a faithful man of God who sought first the kingdom of God. He never wavered in his stand for Christ. His life was not easy, and his ministry was not without conflict, but He loved the Lord, and till his dying day, he encouraged me to follow after him, and to serve Christ with my own life.
Do I have memories of him bringing in steaks hot off the grill, or barbecuing his famous chicken and peppers? Of course. Do I remember making homemade ice-cream with him, and shooting off fireworks for the 4th of July? Sure do. I remember getting hay for his horse, and watching X-files with him; and I remember being so happy to see him in the stands for one of my football games. I have my memories, but he left more than memories for me. He left truth. He left a pattern. He left the love of Christ. He left behind the meaning of life, which is Christ Jesus. He left behind the goal of life, which is to serve the Master, and to be used by Him.
Too many seek after happiness, and never discover the joy of the Lord which is the great strength of His people. Grandpa knew the joy of the Lord. He leaned upon this joy in times of distress and heartache. He taught his family that this is the joy that makes sweet the bitterness of life. I have great pity for the masses who know nothing more than moments of happiness, and have nothing more to leave behind than a few brief glimpses of smiles in a dissipating life.
Past generations seemed to be a little more cognizant of the brevity of life, and were perhaps a little more interested in providing an inheritance for their loved ones. In our day it seems like no one wants to even think about the fact that they will die, and that they may die sooner rather than later. If you are living for this world alone I suppose that this makes sense; however, for those who profess Christ, they should know better.
We must open the Scriptures of Truth anew and ask for a fresh wind of the Spirit to blow through our lives, bringing conviction and purpose where we have become compromised and aimless. Consider the words of the apostle Paul which he wrote to Timothy just before he died, and keep in mind that Timothy was like a son to him. “My son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus…[and] endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Consider what I say, and…be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [In] a great house there are not only vessels for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them. The time of my [death] is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.” (2 timothy 2-4 abridged)
We can plainly see what was important to Paul, and what he believed was necessary to impart to his dear son in the faith. Paul left a legacy of faith, and a spiritual heritage. This was a substantial inheritance which would benefit Timothy the rest of his days. This was more than fond memories, it was the reality of Christ Jesus lived out in such a way that Timothy would always have an example to follow even after Paul was gone. This was an eternal provision that Paul gave to his beloved son.
If you keep making excuses about church and living a godly life, that is all you will leave behind. If you just blow off the Bible and serving the Lord, that is what your kids will remember. If you never have time for the kingdom of God, it won’t be surprising if your kids don’t either. If you have failed to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength; and if you will not teach the words of the Lord to your children, then your vaporous life will leave nothing behind but earthly dust.
Jerry Osborne preached the gospel. He lived the gospel. He gave the gospel to me. His life speaks to me today as it ever did when he was here with me. Through his life’s verse I can hear him clear as day: “My beloved…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:51) For when we speak the word of God to our loved ones, and live out its truth before them, it will ever remind them of us when we are gone “because ‘All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the Lord endures forever’.” (1 Peter 1:24)
In : Meditations
Tags: jerry osborne life death legacy memories eternity
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