Alfred Place Baptist Church

1:9-11 Taking Pride In Our High Position

James 1:9-11 “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and the beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.”

There are two people and so two classes of people mentioned in these words. One is in humble circumstances and the other is rich. We will look at each of these in turn. Most of us are neither the one nor the other but can learn from the both. We will start, as our text starts, by looking at the poor man.

1. THE BROTHER IN HUMBLE CIRCUMSTANCES.

There are some foolish preachers who don’t know what to do with a phrase like “the brother in humble circumstances” because for them if a man is a Christian, a true brother, then he can never be in humble circumstances for long. He is only there because he does not have enough faith to name and claim riches. Pressure will be brought upon the poor Christian to give what money he has to that very preacher of the so-called health and wealth gospel. Then God will reward him for doing that by delivering him from his poverty and giving him a Cadillac. Such lies are the message of the false preachers of health and wealth. What can they make of the Saviour who said that unlike the foxes and birds of the air who had places of security he had nowhere to lay his head ? Certainly we will never meet a preacher of the health and wealth gospel who lives in humble circumstances.

In the New Testament there were true believers who were “in humble circumstances”, that is, were poor people. They were godly. They loved the Lord Jesus Christ. They obeyed God, but they were poor. Maybe it was famine which had destroyed all their crops and all their reserves. Some had lost everything because of their walk with the Lord Jesus. Some were Jewish Christians who were the casualties of cruel persecution. They had become homeless refugees with none of the backing of a welfare state. They had lost everything for the sake of the Messiah, and were uncertain where their next meal was coming from. Some had incurable diseases and were in the last years of their lives, while others had weak personalities, the victims of abuse, cripplingly withdrawn. They lived at a time when the Holy Spirit was poured out in great measure. They had apostles to preach to them. They had seen great miracles performed, signs which vindicated their leaders as possessors of the Word from heaven, but they themselves remained in humble circumstances. The Lord Jesus spoke of a Christian called Lazarus. All he had was a little begging patch at which he asked people for money. Too ill to work, with no-one to support him, he was covered in sores which dogs licked.

Are we ourselves familiar with Christians who struggle with poverty ? My real concern is not with the ignorance which the health and wealth false prophets show, but whether I know about and can sympathise with my brothers and sisters in humble circumstances. There is the story told of a teacher in a private school trying to get her class of rich kids to enter into the lives of the disadvantaged. “Write an essay on poverty,” she told the class. So one girl wrote, “There was once a poor banker. His wife was poor. His financial adviser was poor. His chauffeur was poor. His butler was poor. His gardener was poor. All the people who worked for him were poor.” I trust that unlike that teenager we are all living in the real world, and that we know, for example, about our brothers and sisters in Kenya whose families have been destroyed by AIDS and with very little but a patch of land are trying to educate, clothe and feed a dozen children. Visit a Christian orphanage in Uganda, or watch some of the redeemed street children of Manila and you are confronted with a Christian poverty of staggering dimensions. And we are doing what we can as a church to help such people.

There are potential dangers facing poor people. Poverty is not a safe place to be is it ? All of us want to think of the dangers of riches, and to say to ourselves that the people who win the National Lottery each week will not be happy. But there are no automatic benefits from being poor. Poverty can embitter. It can make a Christian discontented, complaining, and self-pitying. Fear, worry, envy, and self-righteousness can spoil a poor Christian. Think of the hard time children can give less affluent Christian parents: “I cant wear that,” a teenager will say, about perfectly good clothes, because those colours, that design is out of date. Those athletic shoes are good enough to last another couple of years, and were very expensive last year, but this year they are ‘naff.’ They are the wrong make, and the wrong design. It is not easy for Christians in humble circumstances.

How are we to help them ? It is a very practical and emotional issue. What is the church’s mission to its deprived and needy members ?. There are two things James says:-

1] BE AWARE OF YOUR HIGH POSITION

Think of Lazarus’s position: his home was a pavement: he was in constant pain. But what was the true position of this man ? Do you measure it by his possessions, and his outward circumstances, and his bodily comforts alone ? You bring the life of Lazarus into the presence of God. He was loved by God from the foundation of the earth. In eternity he was given by God the Father to the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved and kept by him. God then called Lazarus into fellowship with Christ. He had given Lazarus a new heart, made him a new creature, gave him the gift of faith, pardoned all his sins. Lazarus was a forgiven man. God had adopted Lazarus into his family and made him a son of God, a joint heir with Christ. He had ended sin’s reign over Lazarus and liberated him. Though he were a beggar he was free. The rich man in his house was a slave to his sins – with all his millions. Lazarus was joined to Jesus Christ. The Son of God lived in him, and he in the Son of God. This poor man was actually a glorified man. You remember how Paul puts it when he is describing the great chain of salvation – “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). The hope of glory has actually become a present reality because glorification is as certain as anything else that God does. So the Scripture does not say “will glorify” but “the mere Christian is glorified” – it’s done. In Christ Lazarus is seated at the right hand of God. That is his high position. This phrase, “high position” is used in the New Testament to describe the heavenly realms to which Christ has ascended. It describes the place from which the Holy Spirit descends. It is the place from which we await the appearing of the Lord Jesus who will then transform a sore-covered body licked by dogs into a body of glory. This place of glory was Lazarus’s home. Think of the elite addresses in the world – 5th Avenue, the Bois du Boulogne, Mayfair, Park Lane. What high position does Lazarus this beggar live in ? The right hand of God ! The heavenly places in Christ Jesus ! That is really where he lives.

Or again think of the knowledge that Lazarus has. There is a little poem of Tennyson inspired by his looking at a beautiful flower growing in a crack in a wall. He says,

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower – but if I could understand
Why you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

It’s true – if you know everything about a little flower then you know who God is, and you know who man is. You would know that this flower was created by Jesus Christ – “all things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made.” All things bright and beautiful the Lord Jesus made them all. This is a God-designed and a God-created and a God-sustained flower. It was made as part of the beauty of the world to show the grandeur of its Creator. If I have seen that then I am on my way to understanding God and myself. Lazarus had seen it. There were the flowers that grew in the dust around him, there were the stars in their loveliness. “I can understand why they are made,” he could say. Jesus tells us that it’s God who clothes the grass of the field. The heavens declare the glories of my Lord and Saviour. In the biggest things of life the poor man in Christ has a greater knowledge that Einstein.

Think of a box of jigsaw pieces. A man can take one piece out and can analyse it exhaustively, weigh it to the milligram, examine its substance, its colours, its shape, its pattern. He can write a book about it. But he has no idea how it relates to all the other pieces in the picture, how it fits into the whole. There are biologists who know much more about a flower in the crannied wall than me, but they don’t know why it is and “all in all.” Because they don’t know God they don’t know themselves and they don’t know the flower. But a humble believer in her garden actually knows the Creator of those living things and can talk to him and thank him for all he has made. Isn’t that something to rejoice in ?

Or again the poor man knows the God of providence. He knows that God is working all things together for his good, that this God so loved him that every hair of his head was numbered. There were things that had happened to Lazarus that had brought him to the dreadful poverty in which he found himself. Maybe his parents had died when he was child. Things had been tough for him and he did not know all the reasons why, but he knew that one day God would make it plain.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up his bright designs
And works his sovereign will.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan his work in vain
God is his own interpreter
And he will make it plain.

Lazarus could trust the Lord. This Shepherd would supply all his needs. Nothing would separate him from God’s love. Whatever forces came into his life he wouldn’t just conquer them, he’d be more than conqueror. This poor man could talk to the Lord, and he would hear and answer.

That is the high position which every Christian of humble circumstances enjoys. But James goes on to the second thing. He says

2] BOAST IN THIS !

“Take pride in your high position.” You see how James moves from the intellectual to the emotional, to the affectionate, even to the doxological. “You are in a high position,” James tells the poor man, “and when you’ve realised this you’ll show it by delighting in it. “You ought to take pride in it,” he says. “You ought to feel so good about it.” All these truths about our status in Christ have this one end that they build up our morale, they make us really encouraged. James is thinking of these poor believers who don’t have two pennies to rub together, and James wants such people to be renewed daily. He doesn’t merely teach them doctrine and tell them to learn it and obey it. He wants what they know to make them happy. James is acting here just like his friend Barnabas. Barnabas was not a great preacher or evangelist or theologian, but he had this reputation of being a son of encouragement. He lifted people up wherever he went. People felt strong whenever he visited their church. They felt they could cope with their trials; they could stand in an evil day; they could overcome.

James says, “Take pride in your high position.” Boast about it. Glory in God’s love for you, Christ dying for you, the Holy Spirit indwelling you. God wants that. You remember in the Sermon on the Mount, right in the opening verses, the Lord Jesus speaks to his disciples, and he says to them, “YOU are the light of the world. YOU are the salt of the earth.” “Us ?” But there is no mistake. It is put so emphatically, as if Jesus were saying, “yes, you.” Those 11 men were deeply flawed. They had no qualifications. They had not proved themselves. They had not preached any sermons. They had not suffered much for Christ. Yet he says to them, “You are the salt of the earth.” That was their high position.

Wasn’t there the danger of their pride in their position becoming pride in themselves ? Of course there is that danger. It exists in all brances of biblical Christianity. Because salvation is by grace alone there is the danger of us saying, “Let’s sin more and more to give grace plenty of scope.” Because God set his love on an elect company of people before the foundation of the world there is the danger of us losing our evangelistic zeal. There are dangers, but the Lord still said to them, “You are the light of the world.” And James says very carefully to this little man, “Take pride in your high position.” God doesn’t mind us taking pride about what Christ has done for us. He doesn’t mind us glorying in the cross. Jesus said to these men, “I call you my friends. You really matter to me” Paul praises the congregations he writes to for their labour and love and patience and hope. They are Christian graces. They are created by the Holy Spirit. And he tells them how much he’s thrilled by their steadfastness. “We are being steadfast ? That’s the first we heard of it.” Now that is not going to fill them with arrogance because it’s only because of God they produce steadfastness.

You remember how even the man Christ Jesus faced a crisis of suffering, and his Father comes and speaks to him and tells him how much he loves him. God doesn’t want his son to be overwhelmed with feelings that he is worthless, saying in effect, “Exult in your high position – Beloved Son.” James is writing to this little man who is nothing in the eyes of the world or before his own unbelieving family – they probably believe he’s a crank – but he matters to God and he matters to the people of God. And James wants all these people to take pride in God’s love for them and all he has done.

You remember Elijah and the magnificent time he had had on Mount Carmel ? You would have thought that after that experience that he would never again be discouraged. Just imagine your experiencing the fire of God falling and God’s enemies destroyed – all after you had prayed. Surely you would think you would never get down again. Yet in a matter of hours Elijah was the lowest, perhaps, that he had ever been. He is frightened by the threat of Jezebel, and he runs from this land into the wilderness, and collapses under a juniper tree, and absolutely devastated he says to God, “You may as well end my life now. I am no better than any of the fathers.” Elijah is now in humble circumstances. How does God respond to him ? He comes and speaks gently to him. He asks him what he’s doing there like that. Then he encourages him to sleep and sleep, waking him up to feed him, and then sends him into slumber again, and then feeds him again. It is exquisite intensive care. It is divine sleep therapy. It is the psychosomatic renewal of the lonely man of God. He is useless to God while he is feeling like that. “Why art thou then cast down o my soul ? Hope in God.” Elijah is reminded that God is for him – who can be against him ? Boast in your high status. Take pride in it.

You understand, this is not the teaching of the self-esteem movement. James is not saying, “Poor man you are great in yourself. Love yourself. Feel good about yourself.” He is lifting this man up to the heavenlies. He is reminding Lazarus of his status in Christ. This man can only boast in the Lord, and take pride in what God has done for him. “I the chief of sinners am but Jesus died for me.” Remember Shelley’s poem about a traveller who had been to an antique land and there in its vast sands he had come across the ruins of a huge monument – “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert.” That’s all that’s left of what was once a huge imposing statue. The legs of someone. It’s a ruin. Then the traveller looked and saw there was an inscription on this ruined plinth. It said these words, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.” You see the irony of it ? Even the man’s name has been forgotten. “Ozymandias” ? “King of kings ” ? He’s nothing. He’s nobody. He is utterly insignificant, forgotten by history. That’s the real message of the statue. This man once boasted in himself, and was proud of himself and everything he had done. He actually esteemed himself so highly that he had this statue erected. Now what remains of this man ? Shelley says, “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.” Don’t merely accept yourself as a man. That’s the message of humanism. That’s what Ozymandias did. God says, “Let not the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD” (Jer.9:23). Accept yourself in Christ, James says, and take pride in this. “He loved me and gave himself for me.” Boast in that. Look at verse 5 in the next chapter. James says, “Listen my dear brothers. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him” (James 2:5)

Then James turns the opposite end of the social scale, to the wealthy man, and he wants him to take pride too, but in his low position. So we leave the beggar Lazarus outside the mansion and we move inside and we address the rich man with a very different message.

Now one issue we have to look at first of all is the question, is this rich man whom James is talking to a Christian or not.

The two factors that would suggest that this rich man is not a Christian are, (1) the fact that the rich man is not called a brother, and that (2) every time James refers to rich people in his letter they are not Christians. In chapter 2 verse 6, and in chapter 5 and the six opening verses there are other warnings to the rich. They are obviously not Christians, and everyone agrees with that interpretaion. James sees the rich as the oppressors of the Christian community. So he would be writing these words not to the rich men that are in the congregation but rather to encourage Lazarus and people like him who might be discouraged at their own poverty. According to this interpretation when James says, “the one who is rich should take pride” he is being ironic. “You be proud that you are going to pass away like a flower. You be proud that all your beauty is going to be destroyed. You be proud that suddenly you will meet death, in the midst of your business.”

Then the other argument, that the rich man is a Christian comes from the grammar and construction of this verse. The words “the brother” at the beginning of verse 9 and the beginning of this whole section cover, it is said, all this paragraph about taking pride. So when he says at the beginning of the 10th verse “but the one who is rich” he is inferring the brother who is rich. So this exhortation to the rich Christian to boast is not ironic but perfectly serious. What James is doing here is encouraging humility in the wealthy believer. When someone speaks enviously to him about his fine house and servants the rich Christian replies, “I don’t rejoice in that. I actually rejoice that I am going to die like a wild flower and go to heaven. And all the beauty that you see in my property is just temporal and will one day be destroyed. I might die tomorrow in the midst of going about my business. I am ready through my Saviour. I have learned to boast in that.” So that these words refer to rich Christians is to me an attractive interpretation, but no one can be absolutely definite, but I take it that he is.

James is saying three things to wealthy Christians:-

1. MONEY WILL NOT MEAN DELIVERANCE FROM HUMILIATION.

James says that we are all in a “low position”, that is, a state of humiliation. Every Christian lives in a state of humiliation, in a fallen world, in a body of humiliation. Let me turn it this way. The rich man is as much in that state as the poorest of men. Think of Ronald Reagan who would profess to be a Christian, and who wrote a grand book against the practice of abortion. He was one of the great presidents of the USA, and there were remarkable achievements in his presidency, and yet today he is utterly unaware of any of them. He suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and his wife says that he still recognises her but hardly anyone else. He is a wealthy man but in a low condition. And before every one of us lies that same business of dying, the heart disease, the cancer, the arthritis, senility, the tubes going into our body, the inability to speak, to feed ourselves, to go to the bathroom unaided – man’s low condition. And wealth and power can do nothing to deliver us from that.

Or let me turn it another way. The world may look at a rich Christian and sees his possessions, but the rich Christian looks at his sins. His status before the world is enviable. His status by nature before God is shameful. His heart is deceitful and desperately wicked before God. Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually. He was born in sin and shapen in iniquity. This rich man’s only hope is the God justifies the ungodly who believe in Jesus. The rich Christian sings

Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
Naked come to Thee for dress:
Helpless look to Thee for grace:
Foul, I to the fountain fly:
Wash me Saviour, or I die.

If the Christian could pay one single penny towards his salvation he would be a lost man. But his entire contribution is his sin. That is all he brings to Jesus. That is a low position. All he can plead is that “Jesus loved me and died for me.” At the end of every day he has to say, “Forgive me my sins for Jesus’ sake.” Let the rich man take pride in that

Or let me turn it in this way that there is this constant need to humble ourselves, and that rich Christians in particular must give themselves to this. The rich Lord of heaven humbled himself even to the death of the cross, and so every Christian must continually humble himself, and bless God for every humbling that comes into his life. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. A proud Christian is an unthinkable creation.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the prince of Glory died.
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.

The wealthy Christian must be particularly zealous to humble himself. The roots of materialism go deep down into our hearts. I once said as a young man that I wasn’t bothered by materialism, and of course it was because I had very little possessions to be materialistic about. Then as one accumulates possessions one gets increasingly materialistic. It is true for us in the Western world, and it is true in the poorest parts of Africa. It ruined the ministry of a pastor we know about in western Kenya. After he was paid a good salary and a fine church building was erected and he had a growing reputation in the community he decided to do what wealthy people in his community do to show that they have arrived, he took a second wife, a 16 year-old girl. He failed to humble himself. Remember how the rich Christians in Corinth were flaunting their wealth in the church love-feasts with conspicuous displays of fine food and wine and plates and cutlery, and how because of this sin and others like it many of the Corinthians were sick and some had slept.

So the Christian life is one of constant humiliation, and the rich brother will take pride in pouring contempt on his pride.

2. MONEY WILL NOT DELIVER US FROM DEATH.

See vv. 10 and 11, the rich man “will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed.” You see the flowers standing out against the green monotony of a grassy field. How beautiful the poppies look ! Then the sun shines and scorches them and they wither and die. The rich man must die. He goes to the same place as the poorest man – to the grave. I have seen the new home of Bill Gates, the wealthiest man in the world. It was not as big as I imagined it would be, and it is bordered on the lake by other houses close by, and the tour boats all slow down, every half-hour, and the guides speak for 10 minutes about this house before cruising on. There is high security because of kidnapping and ransoms. The house has all the extraordinary features that modern technology can provide, and yet there is one thing that that house lacks, that is a death-free zone. One day Bill Gates will die like a withered poppy. Worms will destroy his body. It is appointed unto men to die. It is appointed unto you to die, and God will see to it that that is an appointment we will not miss. Rich men can have their bodies frozen in liquid nitrogen in the hope that one day they can be brought back to life undamaged to carry on as before. But they cannot escape death itself. The proud rich man who can afford the best medical assistance in all the world is still going to die. We are not here to stay, we are here to go. This is so well known it becomes banal, or a joke. I will not repeat all the familiar attempts to be funny about dying I will ask if you have a philosophy of life which gives you peace as you face death, which philosophy is not based on wishful thinking or blind faith.

Our knowledge of hope is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. this resurrection did not take in the realm of philosophy or theology, but in space and time history as real as today. Our hope flowers from that. Let me remind you what is death. The rending of the union of body and soul. But where does the soul go at death ? Jesus said, “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Is that true for everyone ? Do all go to the Father at death ? No. There is an evaluation – “after death the judgment”. This is a moral universe. It is God’s creation, and all men live and move in God. In this life what men sow that they must also reap. You remember the familiar words of the Lord Jesus about him being seated on the throne of judgment, and his determining your destination for eternity. He will say to many in the great day, “Depart from me I never knew you, workers of iniquity.” The rich man can’t bribe the Lord. He is utterly without impartiality. All of Bill Gates’s money, and all of the money from the oil rich Middle East wont make a scrap of difference to the scrupulous fairness of the judgment. He will know every fact and every circumstance about your life, every unusual situation, and he will bring them all into the reckoning. The only hope the rich Christian has is that the judge is the one who died for his sins. So, death and judgment and the great separation are before each one of us, and all the money in the world cannot deliver us from that, That leads on to the last point which James makes:-

3. MONEY DOES NOT MEAN SECURITY

“The blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business” (v.11). I recently read the news bulletin from my alma mater, Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and there was saddened to see the report of the death of two promising students, Buddy Stride and Don Saunders. They had been friends from their days in school. They were 26 years of age. They were pastoring in Bethany Baptist Church in Fox Chase, Philadelphia. They were both married and Buddy had three daughters. Buddy was doing a Ph.D. in apologetics and hoped to become a missionary in France and Don, his life-long friend, was going to work with him. They had both been students in John MacArthur’s seminary in California. The two families were living together sharing the same house and then on February 20th as they were quite legally crossing an intersection a car hid them broadside and killed them both. The driver of this other car had a record of driving convictions 18 pages long. He has been charged with two counts of homicide while under the influence of drink.

Here are two men going about their business and suddenly their beauty is destroyed in death. There is no security in this world except that we are kept by the Lord Christ until our appointed day of death. On the wall of the home the two families lived in together was the text from Psalm 90, “So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (v.12). The only comfort that comes from this fearful providence is the hope of heaven and eternal life. The Bible takes the responsibility of man with 100% seriousness. That driver who caused the deaths of those two men must appear before a human tribunal to give account, and a divine one also.

History is full of examples of unwelcome death gate-crashing into the lives of Christian people. Our sole comfort in all this is that our Lord Jesus is sovereign in all things. Elizabeth Freeman arrived in India in 1851. There she joined John, her husband of five weeks, who had already served 12 years there are a missionary. Seven years passed and there was an uprising of Sepoys and she was seized by them with other missionaries. On the morning of June 7, 1858, she and her fellow missionaries were marched to a nearby parade ground and shot dead. Seven brief years of marriage ended. The blossom fell and the beauty was destroyed. She had written a letter a little earlier to a niece who was thinking of missionary work and she said in this letter, “I hope you will be a missionary wherever your lot is cast, and as long as God spares your life; for it makes little difference after all where we spend these fleeting years, if they are only spent for the glory of God. be assured there is nothing else worth living for.”

William Borden was a wealthy Christian growing up in Chicago, the heir of the Borden milk fortune. When he was in his first year at Yale university he committed himself to reaching the Muslims of North China. Three years later he sailed for Egypt to study Arabic before going to China. He knew that money could not mean security so before he left he gave away his inheritance of nearly one million dollars to various missions. He was in Cairo for four months when he contracted spinal meningitis and was dead within weeks. He had scrawled on a piece of paper under his pillow the words, “No reserve ! No retreat ! No regrets !” The blossom fell and the beauty was destroyed.

David prays in Psalm 39 a prayer, which if he had prayed the day he was walking on the roof of his palace and saw Bathsheba would have saved him from a terrible series of sins. He says in verse 4, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days. Let me know how fleeting is my life.” By looking at the brevity of life we gain a heart of wisdom. There was a famous recorded conversation between Mao Tse-Tung and Nehru in which Chairman Mao said to the Indian leader, “The atom bomb is nothing to be afraid of. China has many people … the deaths of 10 or 20 million people is nothing to be afraid of.” Let them die in their millions, there are plenty more. Mao found security in the vastness of his nation. Moses finds security in the brevity of life in applying his heart to God’s wisdom. Mao with all his wealth lived disgracefully for the moment. Moses sought to live for eternity.

Our security is not found in mammon; it is found in being loved by God. Then we know that we are immortal, kept by the power of God until our life’s work is over. Paul tells the rich and poor of Ephesus, “be very careful, then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Eph.5:16). Paul tells the Colossian rich and poor, “Conduct yourselves wisely … making the most of the time.”

Henry Martyn, the great missionary to the Muslims arrived in India in 1806. He lived for six more years dying at the age of 31. He filled those years applying himself to wisdom and left behind translations of the Bible in Urdu, Arabic and Persian. The blossom fell and the beauty was destroyed. In his diary were found the words he wrote when he arrived in India, “Now let me burn out for God.” His pastor in Holy Trinity church in Cambridge was Charles Simeon, and there on the wall above Simeon’s chair hangs still today a portrait of Henry Martyn which I have seen. Simeon would often gaze at that portrait and would say to any students there, “That young man says to me, Do not trifle, do not trifle. And by God’s grace I shall not.” There is no security in money, but only in applying one’s heart to wisdom.

Only one life, ’twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

GEOFF THOMAS August 2 1998