This Life is a Vapor

This Life is a Vapor

The call to follow Christ is a call to steadfastness and immovability (1 Cor. 15:58). Elsewhere, the Apostle Paul includes such resoluteness as part of the very essence of Christian maturity (Eph. 4:13–14).

To be constant, sure, and steady is what it means to be a grown-up believer as opposed to being a childish believer. Mature Christians are calm in the midst of storms of change: “that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14). One of the places that such constancy comes from in the Christian life is from knowing who we are in Christ and, ironically, from knowing that in a world of winds we too are a mist, a vapor.

I want to suggest that knowing your place in the world and your times in God’s hands provides the most wonderful ballast when all around us is tumult and chaos. Mature believers know who God is, and so they know their place in the times in which they live.

This perspective comes from the book of Ecclesiastes. One of the most helpful things to know in reading the book is that the Hebrew word hebel, often translated as “meaningless” (NIV) or “vanity” (ESV), is far better rendered “mist, vapor, shadow.” The idea is not that everything is meaningless or vain in the sense that everything has no purpose and life has no value. Rather, the book of Ecclesiastes is a long meditation on what the whole Bible recognizes about human life: “Man is like a breath [hebel]; his days are like a passing shadow” (Ps. 144:4). The genius of Ecclesiastes, however, is to set our brevity in the context of God’s eternity. Its stunning surprise is that the more we come to terms with how we are like the morning mist—here one moment and gone the next, whispers spoken on the wind—the more we are free to enjoy life for the good gift from God that it is. This happens the more we are astounded at the constancy of God. He is not like us. He is the Creator and the Judge of all the earth: “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccl. 12:14).

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