The Bible is a book of answers. Within these sacred pages are contained the answers to some of the most difficult questions that are posed by humanity. Answers to why we are here are in this book. Answers about what our purpose is are in this book. Answers about why things are the way they are are in this book. Answers about who God is and how we can have a relationship with him are in this book. Answer about what God is up to are in this book. Answers related to life and death and life after death are in this book. Answers about how life began are in this book. Answers about how the world will end are in this book. While the bible contains answers to the big questions, there are also answers about smaller questions too. This book will answer questions you have about who to marry. This book will answer questions about who not to marry. This book will answer questions about how to have a good marriage. Answers to every day difficulties are here…how to handle money…there’s answers here. What about work…there’s answers here. What about recreation…there’s answers here. Government, justice, law, raising kids – this book has answers to all of those questions. So I say, the Bible is a book of answers. It can handle the difficult questions. And that’s good news, because we need answers…
But, as I read the bible, I also notice that the Bible is a book of questions. Some of the greatest questions ever posed are written for us here in the pages of scripture. Consider the question God asks Job…or should I say the series of questions God asks Job. Job, you’ll remember has had everything he cared about taken away from him. His family is dead, his fortune is gone and his health is decimated. He sits in a pile of ashes, among well-meaning friends, who tell him he must be hiding something from them because bad things don’t happen to good people. And throughout the book of Job we have this verbal tug of war between Job and his friends as they try to determine why Job is suffering so much. Finally, at the end of all their verbal sparring, God steps in. He has heard Job complain, He has heard Job gripe. And now he has a question for Job. God starts asking questions in chapter 38 and he doesn’t stop – except for a brief word from Job – until the end pf chapter 41. Each question which pour in a torrent from God’s lips is designed to remind Job of one thing. Job – I am God and you are not.
There are other great questions in the Bible. One of my favorites is the question found in 1 Kings 18. The prophet Elijah has gathered the prophets of the false God Baal together on the top of Mount Carmel. He asks them this question…how long will you falter between two opinions? If Baal is God, follow him. But if Jehovah, the God of Israel is God then follow Him. That’s a great question. It’s bold, it’s even brash. But, it gets right down to the heart of what’s going on. It’s the kind of question that exposes loyalties. How long will you falter between two opinions…great question from the Bible.
We could spend all afternoon together talking about the great questions of the Bible, because there are many, but I happened upon a question the other day as I was reading and reflecting in preparation for today’s service. This question is found in the New Testament. It too is a great question. It is found in James. James 4. Let me if I can set up for you what leads James to ask this question in the first place, so you understand the context. James is writing a book about faith. He is concerned that people who have faith might say they have faith only, without any evidence of their faith. James is teaching us that you can say you have faith, but if you really have it, it will show up in how you live your life. Faith produces evidences. Faith will let you know it’s present! It’s actually a simple concept. Faith produces works. Genuine real belief in the work of Jesus looks a certain way – that’s the big deal James wants to communicate.
By the time he gets to chapter 4, James has unpacked for us what this might look like. Faith he tells us in chapter 1 produces obedience to God’s commands. Faith, he tells us in chapter 2 produces love and removes discrimination. Faith James tells us in chapter 3 controls our tongues, and produces wisdom. In chapter 4 he teaches us that faith produces humility and then, in v.13 he teaches us that faith produces dependence on God. v.13 talks about a man who decides to go to a city and there to conduct business. Kevin owned his own business – and he had several more businesses planned. We had many conversations about business plans. He told me about cultivating mussels under salmon cages, but then he said someone else beat him to that idea. He told me about his plans to open a seafood restaurant/distributor on the East side, but that fell through. Kevin loved business. Whoever it is that James is talking about was much the same way…they loved business, and their plan was to go to a place and work and make money. There is, I should point out, nothing with wrong with doing this. Kevin had arrived in Alberta for this very purpose. There is nothing wrong with working and making money – the Bible tells us that.
The problem comes, according to v.14-15 when we make such plans without two realities present in our thoughts and minds. What are those two realities? Well, the first is simply this…life is short. v.14 says it best. You do not know what tomorrow will bring. And so any business you conduct, anything you do, any decision you make, any determination you settle on, anything you do must be colored, must be shrouded with this consideration…Life is short. So the thing I am about to do, the determination I have made, the plans i am going to set in motion…would I want this thing to be the thing I was doing if I died tomorrow. You simply must consider that question. James even puts this consideration in the form of a question…what is your life, he says. What is your life? That’s a great question. What is your life. What do you live for? How do you make decisions? What considerations do you make before you set in motion plans you have. What is your life? My life, some people say, is about me – and they live accordingly. My life, others may say, is about my family – and they live accordingly. James, by the way, answers this question. He says, v.14 again, your life is a vapor, that appears for a little time and vanishes away. You know how on a very cold morning you can see your breath? Do you ever do that on a cold morning, just watch your breath? Well, that is your life and then it’s gone. And so, this great question – what is your life is answered with a simple phrase, your life is a vapor. So any plans you have anything you determine to do should be done with this reality in mind – life is short.
Now, given the brevity of life, the shortness of it, the temporary, fleeting nature of life, some might be tempted to say, well then, let’s live for ourselves. There were people saying that in Bible times. Our world isn’t the only time in history when people have lived mostly for themselves. Ecc.8:15 says that there have been other times in history when people have sought to live for themselves – East, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die, goes the saying. That’s what many people want to do nowadays. They are gripped with the first reality, life is short. So why not use it up? So why not live to the fullest, why not pursue my dreams, my vision’s, my goals, my desires, why not do what I want? That’s where the second reality comes in.
The second reality is this – There is a God. Life is short, yes that’s true. We are all struggling with that thought now that we are at the funeral of a man who was only in his 50’s. But the reality that life is short must be followed by the reality that there is a God because if we don’t follow the first reality with the second, then we might be tempted to waste the short life we have. Heb.9:27 says that after death we meet this God. You do not want to meet God having wasted the one life you were given. The bible tells us there is a God to prevent us from wasting the short life we have. And so James says that we should make plans, but we should do so with God’s will in mind.
And what is God’s will? Well, it’s no mystery. The eternal God of heaven sent his Son, Jesus Christ to die on a cross. He did this so that we would have a sacrifice for the sins we have committed. We have all sinned. and because of our sin we have all incurred a penalty. You know what a penalty is – Kevin knew because he played hockey. Infractions against the rules earn you two minutes in the penalty box. but sin against an eternal God earns you eternal punishment. That means we are all awaiting the penalty that is our because of sin – death. Someone always has to die for sin – that’s the price. In the Old Testament it was an animal, but in the New Testament it is Jesus. He dies as a substitute for sinners. He offers his life as the payment for the sins of others, because he himself had no sin. Then, after he was dead and buried he was raised from the dead. His resurrection guarantees the promise he made that those who believe in him would have everlasting life. If the one who promises eternal life stays dead, then surely he can’t be counted on to deliver that eternal life he promised, see. But he is raised from the dead, thus guaranteeing that all who believe in him will receive eternal life. You need to believe this…that is the will of God. You must believe it, or your life will have been wasted.
So what is your life…that’s the question…what is your life. It is about living for yourself? Is about doing what you want to do and getting what you want to get? Consider the two realities of James 4:13-15 Life is short – and there is a God. So take the first reality – you have a short life and live that life in a way that is in full awareness of the second reality – there is a God. Believe on his Son, trust in him by faith, and then put your faith to work in this life. Then when you die, you will know that your life will not have been wasted, because you lived for God’s glory through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ.