James asked the question, “What is your life?” Knowing James 4:14 so well, most of us jump immediately to his answer: “your life is a vapor, mist, that is here for a moment and then vanishes away.” However, is the uncertain nature of our physical lives the only way in which that question can be asked and answered?
“Bro. Paul, what is YOUR life?” Is it a fair question for us to ask the apostle Paul what his life was like? What did HE do with HIS time and money? What were HIS ambitions for life? What were HIS hobbies? The answers might embarrass us. He didn’t get married, raise children and sit on the porch with a glass of tea. He did not retire in a condo on the beach to fish and golf. Let’s eavesdrop on a conversation where Paul talked about his daily life.
“Did I commit sin in humbling myself ... because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. ... are they ministers of Christ?; I speak as a fool; I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness; besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.” (2 Cor 11 excerpts)
From that description it’s no wonder that Paul said confidently “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” (Phil. 1:21). His life didn’t INCLUDE service to God, his life WAS the service of God! He saw himself as a commodity to be used up; he saw a servant not a king. In contrast, what is OUR life? When we “all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 4: 10) will our record show we spent our hours and days serving God or just ourselves? As we include Service as one of our core Christian duties this year, think about Paul’s sobering words.
- Tim Orbison