It happened in the fall of 1973. My favorite football team, the Baylor Bears, was mounting a feverish comeback against TCU. Having battled back to within a touchdown of the Frogs, quarterback Neal Jeffrey was leading the Bears down the field on a potential game-tying score. Then, it happened. Assuming the Bears were beginning a third down play and needing to stop the clock, Jeffrey took the snap from the center and quickly threw the ball out of bounds. The reality was that it was fourth down, and he had just proceeded to throw his team’s comeback hopes away. His assumption that afternoon left his team on the short end of the final score. Assumptions can be dangerous. They can leave us out of downs, options, and life itself.
In James 4:13-17, a wake-up call is issued to readers who assume a tomorrow in this life, for which there is no guarantee. James paints a verbal picture of eager businessmen making plans for future transactions on future days in future places. He proceeds to call out those who make their plans as if everything hinges on them and has little or nothing at all to do with the ultimate reality—God Himself.
It’s not that planning is wrong. We ought to exercise foresight and plan wisely for the future. The problem arises when we arrogantly assume that everything depends on us and act as if God is an irrelevant, disinterested bystander.
To drive home his message, James reminds his readers of the biblical perspective of the nature of our earthly existence. Our lives are but a momentary mist. They are a vanishing vapor. Therefore, we must be careful about boasting of a tomorrow for which we have no guarantee. The right thing to do (James 4:17) is to steward time and opportunities with a profound awareness of how both depend completely on God.
Ultimately, this text can be summarized and applied through a focus on two key terms: discern and depend. We are to discern the fragile, fleeting nature of our lives. We are to depend on the Lord and acknowledge our desperate need of Him for whatever tomorrows He gives us in this life.
In what setting or environment can these principles be reinforced? One of the best environments for reinforcing robust biblical ideas like these is in a Sunday School class where the Bible is explained and applied with a view to daily obedience.
When you become a part of a class, you immediately get connected to something bigger than yourself, and that lasts for longer than a fleeting moment. You gain a distinct venue to reach out to unsaved people in Christ’s name, to sit under the regular teaching of the timeless truths of God’s Word, and to minister to fellow believers in Christ’s name. Don’t assume that involvement and investment in a Sunday School class can wait for another day, month, or more convenient season of life. In God’s economy, they can’t. Dare now to maximize the mist that is your life. See you in class!
Matthew McKellar serves as a Professor of Preaching on the faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He and his wife, Jennifer, are members of our church. He is currently the teacher of the Sonburst Sunday School class.