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People Come And People Go

You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
–James 4:14

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon started with his conclusion–that life under the sun is meaningless. To illustrate that point, he then gave a poem about the endless cycles we see around us, starting in verse 4 with the endless cycle of life. Solomon wrote, “A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.” People come, people go, but the earth remains. In his commentary on Ecclesiastes, Duane A. Garrett paraphrased the verse this way: “Like ants on a rock, we leave no trace of having been here.”

Are you sufficiently depressed? The idea that people just come and go can lead to real despair. But we would do well to realize that our time on this earth is very short. The psalmist said, “You have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; surely every man at his best is a mere breath” (39:5). And James 4:14 put it this way: “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”

A lot of people, including a lot of Christians, live as though they are going to live forever on this earth–and they end up wasting their lives. Many people who would never think of suicide end up throwing away their lives a little bit at a time. That is why I think one of the healthiest things you can do is to say every morning when you wake up, “I am going to die.” Realizing just how brief our time on earth is puts life in perspective.

Several years ago, I was watching a life planner on television who listed three questions you ought to ask yourself if you are wondering which direction your life ought to go:

  1. If you had all the money you would ever need, what would you do with your life?
  2. If your doctor said you had five or ten years left to live, what would you do differently in your life?
  3. If your doctor said you had only twenty-four hours left to live, what would you wish you had done that you have not done?

There is something about coming to grips with the inevitability of our death that helps us get our priorities straight. As Moses wrote in Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Too Much Pain, Too Little Gain” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.

Duane A. Garrett, “Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs,” vol. 14 of “The New American Commentary,” (Nashville: B&H, 1993), 285; questions adapted from George Kinder, “Life Planning Is Financial Planning Done Right – George Kinder and His Three Questions,” April 25, 2008,

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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