What Is Your Life?

James Smith, 1865

"What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes!" James 4:14

If God asks a question we should listen to it, think of it, and prepare an answer. Here the Lord puts a question to us; it refers to the brevity of our mortal existence; he asks each one of us, "What is your life?" We think much of it. We make great provision for it. We spend much thought upon it. We are very careful to preserve it.

But what is it? Let us ponder this question. Let us give it the attention it deserves. It is especially suitable to us when shut up in our sick chamber, when afflicted and tried with losses and crosses, or at the commencement of a new year.

Our sufferings may be great, our trials may be many but they must be short for what is our life? Let us look at the DURATION of our life. It is exceedingly brief. No one figure can set forth its brevity, or sufficiently affect our minds with it and therefore many are employed.

Our life is like a flower, which springs up under the influence of an eastern sun, which blossoms for an hour, and then fades and dies.

Our life is like a shadow, which lessens and lessens until in a few minutes it is gone.

Our life is like the shuttle which flies in the weaver's hand, and passes before the eye so swiftly, that one can but just see it and say it is gone!

Our life is like the wind which rushes by us; we hear it, we feel it and it is no more.

Our life is like the dried leaf which is made the sport of the breeze, and soon carried out of sight.

In one passage in the book of Job, we have figures taken from three elements, to represent its rapid flight.

"My days are swifter than a runner; they fly away without a glimpse of joy. They skim past like boats of papyrus, like eagles swooping down on their prey!" (Job 9:25, 26). My life is like the swift ships, with all their sails spread, which, with the canvas crowded, glide along the watery way. My life is like the eagle hastening to its prey, compelled by hunger; with strong pinions it cuts the air, and is soon at the point where it would be!

What then, is your life? "You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes!"

What is your life in retrospect? Look back over the past ten or twenty years; how swiftly they have passed away, and every year appears to pass more quickly than the last!

What is your life in comparison? What are your thirty, or forty, or even seventy years if compared with the age of the antediluvian patriarchs Methuselah, for instance? But what are they in comparison with eternity? Think of endless duration, of interminable ages; and while you think of them, ask, "What is my life?" Ah, what? No comparison can be drawn but the thought may be improved. May the Lord help us to improve it.

This naturally leads us to inquire What is the DESIGN of our life? Why was life given us? Why is it continued to us? Our life has reference to three parties:

First, to ourselves the design is to prepare us for eternity. We must live forever; but how depends upon the present. If we live in sin here we must live in suffering forever. If time is spent in folly eternity will be sent in bitter, unavailing remorse and sorrow. But if we believe in Jesus, exercise repentance toward God, are renewed in the spirit of our minds, and devote our lives to God's service then eternity will to us be an endless existence in pleasure, satisfaction, and unspeakable delight.

In reference to God the design of our life is to glorify him, which we can only do by believing his promises, embracing his Son, observing his precepts, and consecrating our time and all our talents to his praise. Here we should live for God and then in eternity we shall live with God. Here we should aim in all things to honor God and then in eternity God will honor us.

In reference to our fellow-men the design of our life is to benefit and do them good. No one is created for himself. Each one is bound to his fellow, and every one should aim to benefit the whole. We should serve our generation by the will of God.

Our life is misapplied, it is squandered, it is wasted in folly if we do not use it to secure our eternal salvation, to promote God's glory, and to advance the holiness and happiness of our fellow-men.

What is the CHARACTER of our life?

Looking at its natural character it is a gift conferred upon us by our beneficent Creator. A gift which, if rightly used, will prove invaluable; but which, if abused, will be an occasion of eternal regret. God gave us life; he placed us highest in the scale of his creatures; he made us capable of serving, enjoying, and glorifying him for ever; he has given us also the means of grace, set before us the way of salvation, and promised his Holy Spirit unto those who ask him. Having given us life, he has crowned that life with loving-kindness and tender mercies, and has pointed out the way by which we may obtain everlasting blessedness.

But let us look at its moral character. What is our life in reference to others? Is it exemplary? Is it convincing? Is it useful? Is it likely to make a good impression? What is our life in reference to ourselves? Is it holy or profane? Is it godly or ungodly? Is it befitting an immortal being, one who must live forever? This view of the subject is not sufficiently attended to by many. Is it attended to by us?

What is the IMPORTANCE of our life? Ah, who shall say? Who can describe, what language can set forth the importance of our present life?

Our life is the bud of being the flower will not open on this side the grave.

Our life is the youth of existence we shall not be full-grown in this world.

Our life is the seedtime of eternity what is sown now will be reaped in an eternal, changeless state.

Our life is the introduction to immortality!

What then is its importance? Ask the dying sinner, whose eyes are just opened, whose soul is just awakened to the solemnities of the eternal world. What reply will he give? Look at his death-struck countenance, mark the expression of his half-glazed eye, hear the accents of his tremulous voice; but he fails, he tries in vain to set forth the importance of the present life. He exclaims, "Oh, that I had my time over again! Oh, that I had one year but one month, one week, of the time I have squandered! But wishing is in vain! The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and I am not saved! The importance of life I cannot describe. The value of time I can never declare."

Ask the lost soul. The soul which, like the rich man, lifts up its eyes in Hell, being in torment. Despair now rules over the immortal spirit. Agonies, beyond description, torture the never dying intellect. What is the lost soul's estimate of the importance of life? It would require a new language to describe, unearthly figures to illustrate, and a voice such as we have never heard to set forth its estimate of the precious gift of life! Only in the depths of Hell, or in the highest Heavens is the value of life really known!

The glorified saint, while he tunes his golden harp, sings his never-dying song, and drinks in pure and celestial pleasure, can estimate but not fully describe, the importance of this present life!

Unsaved sinner what is your life? Is it sin? Time spent in opposing God? Time squandered upon folly? Time dreamed away to no useful purpose? Is it trifling? On, how many trifle away their precious time! They despise their own souls. They live as if existence were bounded by time and all beyond were annihilation. Is it folly? How many live as fools! They provide for the body but they neglect the soul. They live for time but they lose sight of eternity. The allotted time passes away unheeded. The day of salvation is spent in sin! They only lay a foundation for everlasting self-condemnation, and open in their own hearts a source of never ceasing agony!

Believer what is your life? Is it Christ? Can you say with Paul, "For me to live is Christ!" Does Christ live in you? Are you spiritually minded and do you find it life and peace? Is it a wise preparation for eternity? Are you living now as you will wish you had lived by-and-bye?

Life is at best but short let us improve it.

Life is uncertain let us make sure work for eternity.

Life, if rightly viewed, is very solemn let us spend it as intelligent and accountable creatures should.

And when tempted to trifle, when inclined to squander away a day or an hour let the question influence our decision, "What is your life?" If it is brief should it be spent thus? And let the Savior's question be seriously considered by all who make gain the end of life "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36, 37.)

Reader! the time is short, eternity is near, salvation is of infinite importance! Let us therefore decide, and accept the Savior's glorious invitation at once, and so shall we be saved forever!