January 2, 2012 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Mark L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church
What is particularly striking about James 4:13 is that it accurately captures the sentiment and approach people have towards their lives. They have well-laid plans with regards to the paths of their careers, to their retirement plans, and to their financial portfolios. They strategize and devise the trajectory of their lives so that they can insure maximum success, comfort, and personal satisfaction. This is all done, however, on the faulty assumption that the next day is guaranteed, that the future is certain, and that life will not throw any wrenches into the most well thought out plans. On the most basic level, it is the idea that one is in control over one’s life and can do whatever he or she pleases. To live out one’s dreams and wishes is something that is encouraged and categorized as a personal right. But in the eyes of God, this is utter folly and not true to reality.

James 4:14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Life is frail, and it is uncertain. I don’t think those who boarded the flight, or those workers who went to work at the World Trade Center, or those firefighters who reported for work on that fateful day on September 11 would have ever imagined tragically that it would be their last day of life. Life, one’s own health, the well-being of loved ones, and even one’s own sanity isn’t guaranteed. The fact that I am living today, going to work, coming home to a wife and two kids, having the opportunity to serve in our church, and being in a community of brothers and sisters is nothing but a gift. There is nothing that I did nor is there any reason that would explain my life today.

James 4:15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

The right approach that I need to have with regards to my life, to my future is to submit to the will of God. He is the one who has provided me with life and all of its blessings. It is only when I submit myself and obey God’s commandments will I experience the life that He has intended for me. There was a period in my life where I had followed my own desires and wishes. I had my own ideas as to what would constitute as happiness and satisfaction and a lot of it resembled closely with the world’s notion of success.

2 Peter 3:9 He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

I am recipient of God’s patience. The frustrations and the disappointments that I experienced in life due to having my plans fall short was something that God used to bring me out of darkness and to repent over the fact that I was still master and lord over certain areas of my life. It was done out of God’s love for me and to see the truth that it was God, and not I, who would be in control over my life. This was done because of the fact that as 1 Peter 4:7 states, “the end of all things is near.” As I thought about how I would live my life should this year be my last, I commit myself to living a life of loving people. What will matter at the end of my life isn’t so much how I have accomplished or attained success in a worldly sense but whether I have obeyed God’s call to love Him and to love others. The reality is that time is short. There is no guarantee that my life will extend to the expected age and it is these truths that I want to commit to as I live out 2012.
Submitted by Sandra.L from Gracepoint Berkeley Church
Reflect on the somber yet practical passages below about our approach to the times that God has granted us. What truths are here about time, about the future, about our lives, and about the proper response to these truths?

As I welcome this new year and anticipate all that it will bring, I am very thankful that God is gracious and gives me a chance to start over, start anew in my relationship with him, and further resolve to serve him and him only. As I read these passages, I am hit again by the urgency and warnings that these texts give. The world teaches me to plan very well for all sorts of things and to have contingencies for the future by equipping myself with graduate school, all sorts of certificates, planning for my family, planning for that rainy day, etc. The list is endless. But apart from the Bible, I have never received instruction and guidance on how to actually plan for the end of my life, my eternal future. If anything, I am taught by the world to distract myself from these things, busy myself with the daily distractions and worries.

1 Peter 4:7 states that the end of all things is near. It instructs me to be clear-minded and self-controlled. And what leads from this is to love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins. This reminds me that in the end, the thing that matters most is to love those around me, because in the end that is the most important. I know that this is the case, but when I zoom into my life on a daily basis, my preoccupations often circle around getting things done with the tasks and responsibilities I am given, including ministry responsibilities. This instructs me that I need to be clear minded and self controlled to be able to recognize that most important thing is people in my life and loving and caring for them, above all the tasks that I need to get done.

2 Peter 3:8-13 gives me another reminder of the nature of the Lord’s coming. He is a loving and compassionate God, patient with the desire that all will come to know him, but there will be a day when we will all have to give an account for our lives. It can happen any day, and I am reminded of this reality through the stories I hear on the news of sudden deaths through different tragedies, or even people dealing with different sicknesses in my midst. Since I do not know when the Lord will come, I need to live every day with the goal to live a holy and godly life. I need to also anticipate the day of the Lord’s coming, and even “speed it up” by anguishing in prayer for this generation and loving others.

Dear heavenly father, thank you for your word that gives me such clarity and sharp focus on what is truly important in my life. In the end, the measure of my life will only be determined by my love and devotion to you, whether or not I built on the firm foundation of your word, and if I entrusted my life to you. I confess that often times I let the little and mundane things of my life cloud my vision of what is truly important. Help me to gain clarity by coming back again and again to your word and refocusing. Help me to speed your coming by living a holy and godly life. Thank you for your word which always gives clarity around what is truly important.
Submitted by David T. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church
The first thing from each of these passages that I noticed is that they all spell out some truth about the brevity of life and how unpredictable life is. “You do not know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). “The end of all things is near” (1 Peter 4:7). “The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10). These are all very true statements about life. Life is unpredictable, and we have no good way to know when our lives are going to come to an end, and the end of all things is coming soon when this earth will disappear and the judgment will come. These are true statements of great importance in our lives. These are not inconsequential truths, but truths that should definitely affect how we live every single day of life that we have on this earth.

And then these passages continue to tell us how then we should be living our lives, in light of these truths. “Anyone, then, who knows the good that he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (James 4:17). “Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:7-8). “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 4:12). In light of this, God’s Word tells us that we ought to be doing good, praying, loving one another deeply, and living holy and godly lives. And we do not do good for the sake of doing good, but because of the times and because there is an end goal in mind–we do these things because we are looking forward to the day of God and we speed it’s coming. We do things with that day in mind and we live our lives in preparation for that day when everything is going to change. The end is coming and people need salvation from their sins because whether or not they accept the Gospel is going to determine whether they spend an eternity in heaven or an eternity in hell. These are not revolutionary new ideas. These are things that I have known from the moment that I became Christian until now. It is a fact that I live in a dying world, so my efforts should not be on creating a home for myself here on this earth, but rather doing all that I can in terms of praying and loving others and doing good to bring as many people with me to heaven as possible–my family, friends, coworkers, and just everyone around me. But the reality is that I do not often live a life that really reflects a belief in these truths. In my mind and with my mouth I say that I believe these truths, but when I look at the things that I actually spend my time and energy chasing after, such as leisure time for myself, personal comfort that is not disturbed by other people, things to puff up my ego and sense of importance. This shows that the truth that I actually believe is that it is all about building up my life here on this earth and being as comfortable as possible here on earth. But, when I put pursuit of this kind of life against the backdrop of the reality that is described in these passages, then it is revealed as the foolish, sad, pathetic, shameful and dishonorable life that it actually is. To spend a life to pursue personal comfort when time is so short, when people need salvation, and when all the things that I build here on this earth is not going to last, it just doesn’t make any sense.

So, then, what are the things that I ought to be doing in light of the times and situation that we are living in? What is the good that I ought to be doing, the prayers that I ought to be praying, the people that I ought to be loving, and the ways that I ought to be living a holy and godly life? One area that came to mind is my approach to my ministry in Interhigh. Here is a chance for me to do some work that will affect the eternities of these youth students. My work for them needs to really expand beyond Sundays, and I really need to be upping the intensity in how much I am praying for them and thinking of ways to show love and care for them throughout the week and over the whole year. Another way that I need to change is in becoming someone who is easier to correct and someone who is not always trying to protect his ego by trying to avoid painful truths about myself. So often it takes a long time for issues and problems with my conduct and character to be dealt with, because my pride makes it very difficult for me to confess and hear truth about myself. But, giving the times that we are living in, this really needs to change as well.

Father God,
I thank you once again for this gift of a new year, another chance to live my life in a right way in light of your Word and the reality that it describes. Lord, I pray that this year my life would line up with how I know that it ought to be as I reflect correctly on the urgency of the times. Lord, I know that the only worthy and honorable and sensible way to spend this life of mine is in full commitment to you and to the work of the Gospel. Please help me to sacrifice all of my lesser goals and my lesser dreams and my desires for the greater purpose of the work of your Gospel. I pray that I would really mature in this way in this coming year that you have given me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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