If Tomorrow Never Comes

Bible Book: James  4 : 13-17
Subject: New Year; Tomorrow; Death

It is reported that Colonel Rahl, commander of the British troops in Trenton, New Jersey, was playing cards when a courier brought an urgent message stating that General George Washington was crossing the Delaware River. Rahl put the letter in his pocket and didn't bother to read it until his card game was finished. Then, realizing the seriousness of the situation, he hurriedly tried to rally his men to meet the coming attack, but it was too late. His procrastination caused many of his men to be killed, and the rest of the regimen to be captured.

Later, Nolbert Quayle gave a report of the incident, and said, "Only a few minutes delay cost him his life, his honor, and the liberty of his soldiers. Earth's history is filled with the wrecks of half-finished plans and unexecuted resolutions. 'Tomorrow' is the excuse of the lazy, and the refuge of the incompetent!"

Tom Heymann, in his book, "In An Average Lifetime," showed that the average American, in his lifetime spends:

3 years in business meetings and 13 years watching television

$89,281 on food and consumes 109,354 pounds of food

Makes 1811 trips to McDonalds and $6,881 in vending machines

Eats 35,138 cookies, and 1483 pounds of candy

Catches 304 colds is involved in 6 motor vehicle accidents

Is ospitalized 10 times; and, spends 24 years sleeping.


Richard Needham, in his book, "Wit and Wisdom," reported that the seven ages of man are: spills, drills, thrills, bills, ills, pills, and wills. I believe that everyone of us, regardless of age, could agree with that. I believe that Gloria Pitzer, the famous columnist, expressed it best in her clever little poem:

Procrastination is my sin,

It brings me naught but sorrow,

I know that I should stop it,

In fact, I will…..TOMORROW!

When I read these things, I thought, "But, what if tomorrow never comes?" What if your plans were left incomplete, your dreams unfulfilled, and your hopes dashed because there was no tomorrow. In this very familiar text, James seeks to ask this question, and answer this question. He does so by explaining to us that there are unknown things today, and unseen things tomorrow. Thus, we must honestly take this into serious consideration, and ask ourselves the question, what "If Tomorrow Never Comes?" Notice, James describes, and addresses three areas of our life. He discusses:

I. THE LENGTH OF OUR LIFE (V. 13,14a,16)

In these verses, James examines the length of our life in a heart probing matter. By examining the span of our days, and our life, he takes into consideration the:


1. It is important set the scene, and realize to whom James is speaking to and addressing here.

2. History reveals that his focus here is aimed at the materialistic minded Christian businessmen in his congregation.

3. He is not addressing all businessmen, but only those who have a plan, a place, a period, a program, and a purpose that is minus God.

4. Thus, he seeks to show that one cannot seek to count on life running without any problems, because there are complexities, and uncertainties which one, must count on, but can never see. Therefore, he develops this thought further by showing:


Notice the opening words, of verse 13, "Go to now." Literally, James is saying, "Come on now, you who are strutting around like you own the place."

The unfortunate folly was that these men were looking into the future and making specific plans as to what was going to happen. However, they planned their future without including God in it. The folks mentioned here would have changed Augustine's motto, "Love God, and do as you please," to "Do as you please, and say that you love God!" These people had their priorities out of line, and were looking into their crystal ball as if they controlled the future. Thus, James says, in verse 16, that those who plan, without God, and brag about it, need to realize that all "such boasting is evil."


At the age of 9, the architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, was walking in the snow with his uncle. As the reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him. He pointed to his own tracks in the snow, which were straight,; and, then he showed Frank his steps, which were meandering all over the field. His uncle said, "Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle, and the woods again. My tracks, however, are constantly going toward my goal." Frank Lloyd Wright said that that day, he learned a lesson that he never did forget. He would never again wander through life with no purpose. 

These people had a purpose, yet it was an aimless purpose, because God was vacant from their schedule. Thus, James says your rejoicing in that, is useless, worthless, and aimless, that their Unfortunate Folly!


James not only proves the complexity of life by their unfortunate folly, but also by displaying an unforeseen future. Simply put, their unfortunate folly was a result of their unforeseen future. They need not rejoice in their plans, places, purposes, and programs because they may not come to pass.  They said, "We Will." God said, "You do not even know." They planned for a whole year, yet they weren't even sure of the next day. They thought they were independent, but God thought they were ignorant.

James' point is not that it's unwise to plan a future, but it's unwise to plan a future without God.

Solomon testified of the unforeseen future, when he reminded us, "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth."(c.f. Proverbs 27:1)


Thirty years ago, futurists predicted that one of the biggest problems to the coming generations would be what to do with their spare time. However, according to a recent Gallup Poll survey, the amount of leisure time enjoyed by the average American has decreased 37 percent since 1973. The point is simple: there is an unforeseen future. To not realize that, and to leave God out of one's plans in an unfortunate folly. That is the Complexity of Life!


James has wisely informed us that, life is complex, and there are some things about life that we do not know. However, in verse 14, he shows that life is also certain, and there are some things that we do know. We can be certain that:

1. LIFE IS SIGNIFICANT "What is your life?"

This, without a doubt, is one of the most profound, probing, and powerful questions in the Word of God. He is referring to a precious thing: life. However, in asking this question, James proves that life is a significant thing. For you notice the word itself, "life."

LIFE-gr. 'zoes'(lit.): "to live"

IDEA: Not of a general life, but of a physical, human life

Life is itself, life's most precious gift. It has been loaned to us, and extended to us from our Creator. Therefore, anyone who takes for granted the gift of life, or treats life with a careless attitude, doesn't realize how significant life is. 

2. LIFE IS SHORT "It is even a vapour…" 

He not explains we can certain that life is significant, but life is short. He answers this powerful question, with one of the greatest, most vivid illustrations in the Bible. He describes our life as a "vapour."

VAPOUR(lit.): "exhalation, or smoke"

PICTURE: of steam rising up from a simmering pot

Thus, James reminds us of the quickness, shortness, and the brevity of life. This concept is not new to the scriptures, for over eighteen times, in the Word of God, are we reminded of the brevity of life.

I Chron. 29:15—"Our days on earth, are as a shadow.." 

Job 7:7—"Remember that my life is wind.." 

Psalm 39:5—"..thou hast made my days as a handbreadth"

Psalm 102:3—"For my days are consumed like smoke.."


Experts estimate that a:

Lightening bolt last 45 to 55 microseconds

Average running shoe lasts 350 to 500 miles

Hard pencil can write up to 30,000 words

Ball point pen can draw a line 7,500 ft. long

100 watt incandescent bulb lasts 750 hours

25 watt bulb will last 25000 hours

One dollar bill lasts 18 months in circulation

Yet, James says our life is but a mist, a cloud, a smoke, and a vapor.


One of the quickest lessons that I learned, upon entering the ministry, was the brevity of life. I've buried them young, and I've buried them old. Their death knew no holidays, birthdays, or any special days. If you would've asked them about their life, no doubt, they would have said, "Where did the time go?"

I believe that Carl Sandberg described it best, when he said, "Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you will determine how it will be spent."

Thomas Gray, said, "The paths of glory lead but to the grave."

John Blanchard explained it well, when he said, "The moment a man is born he begins to die, and that death could come at any time, by design, disease, disaster, or decay. Man in not here to stay, he is here to go!" 

Are there things that would love to do for God in the days ahead? James' advice is "Do it now!"


An unknown writer has well captured the way life slips through our fingers, with the words:

When as a child, I laughed and wept: TIME CREPT

When as a youth, I dreamed and talked: TIME WALKED

When I became a full-grown man: TIME RAN

Soon I shall be passing on: TIME GONE!

There are complexities, and things that we do not know about life. There are also certainties, and things that we do know about life. Life is Significant, and Life is Short. James has well described the Length of Our Life!


James moves now to discuss, not only, the length of our life, but the Lord of our life. He says that there is a:


1. Now that he has explained a life with goals, without God; it seems as if he's advising us to start from scratch, rechart our course, and realign our goals.

2. The goal of our life ought not be that we will do this, this, and this. But, "if the Lord will," we will do this, this, and this.


If you would have read letters that Christians wrote 100 years ago, you would have noticed the postscript: D.V. These two letters stand for the Latin words, "Deo Volente," which means "God willing."

The early Puritans loved this phrase, as well as, the Methodists, under Wesley, who would sign their letters with the initials D.V.

3. The point is simple: we cannot even live, learn, or look unless the providential will of God deems it.

4. Thus, we might ought to take up the practice of the believers of the last century, and say, D.V., "If the Lord will." That's the Goal We Ought to Set!


1. Now that the goal has been set, there is a gain that can be sought.

2. You see, once we've submitted, and surrendered our life into His hand, and according to His will, then we can say, "we shall live, and do this, or that," however, not until!

3. I believe that Alec Motyer put it well, "We must empty our lives of proud planning, which does not fear and bow to the will of God, and submit all things to His ordering hand!" That's pretty good advice for the goal we ought to set, and the gain we ought to seek. He ought to be the Lord of Our Life!


James moves to close this discussion, and this chapter by explaining to us the proper law of our life. He shows us the:


1. Again, James re-emphasizes the priority of including the Almighty in our plans, our dreams, our hopes, and our life.

2. It is important to establish the context of this verse. We, including myself, have often quoted this verse alone, possibly out of context.

3. The theme of these verses is the folly of one's plans without God, and the brevity of life.

4. Thus, James again says, "It's all right to plan, but include God in your plans." We ought to make it a priority to include God in life.


1. There is not only a priority of including God in life, but there is a problem of excluding God from life.

2. The problem is, that we know that He is to be included, however, we sin when He is excluded.

3. These men to whom James was writing were not totally ignorant pagans. They knew of the existence of God. They knew that life was brief. They knew that their powers were limited by providence. But, to know these things, and ignore them, is SINFUL! Notice, the word "knoweth" that he uses.

KNOWETH(lit.): "to be aware of, to know perfectly well

4. You see, many people know, and know perfectly well, that He is to be Lord of their life, and in control of their life. Yet, they continue to go their own way, and steer their own course. James say, ""IT IS SIN!"

5. James has in mind, here, both sins of commission, and sins of omission. Those things we do, and we know not to do. Those things we don't do, and we know to do.

6. Do you realize that as a believer, you will be judged on, not only, what you have done, but what you left undone? As an unbeliever, you will not go to hell because of what you have done, but what you haven't done. Those are both sins: COMMISSION and OMMISION!


In 1744, Louis XV of France, was one of the loved kings in France's history. France was in terror, and Paris seemed like a city taken by storm. Louis XV took initiative, and devoted special effort, and attention to put France back to prominence again. The people loved, not so much for what he had done, but for what they hope he would do. They showed their love for him by giving him the surname, "Louis: the well-Beloved!"

Thirty years later, Louis XV lay sick, and at the point of death. The churches did not pray, the people did not pray, no one prayed. In fact, "Louis: the well-Beloved" had become the most hated man in France. In 1744, he might have asked, "What have I done to be so loved?" and in 1774, "What have I done to be so hated?" The truth is HE HAD DONE NOTHING!

7. May we take to heart James' advice. May we see the Priority of Including God in Life, and the Problem of Exluding God from Life. Verse 17, without a doubt, like it or not, is the Law of Our Life!


The last days of the British statesman, and colonial leader, Cecil Rhoades, were marked by grave disappointment. He died from heart disease at a time when he was beset by personal scandals, and discredited by unwise political decisions. It is reported that as Rhoades was near death, those gathered around heard him murmur the words, "So little done, so much to do!"

He had migrated to South Africa from Britain for health reasons. It was there that Rhoades made a vast fortune in gold and diamond mining. Though he had made a fortune, and had accomplished much, he died feeling that there was much more to do.


What is it that you have your hopes and dreams set on? What is it that you plan to do with the rest of your life? It would be wise to heed James' powerful, and practical advice as the Length of Our Life, the Lord of Our Life, and the Law of Our Life. Perhaps these words will bring the point home:

He was going to be all that a mortal could be: TOMORROW

No one would be kinder or braver than he: TOMORROW

A friend who was troubled and weary, he knew

Who'd be glad of a lift, and he needed it too,

On him he would call and see what he could do: TOMORROW! Friend, I ask you, tonight, what "If Tomorrow Never Comes!"