A New Year Revolution

Bible Book: James  4 : 13-17
Subject: New Year

Someone has said, "People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but they really should be worried about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas."

Henry Ward Beecher said, "Every man should be born again on the first day of January. Start with a fresh page. Take up one hole more in the buckle if necessary, or let down one, according to circumstances; but on the first of January let every man gird himself once more, with his face to the front, and take no interest in the things that were and are past."

As we come to the end of the old year and stand on the threshold of the New Year, I think of the words of the saintly Francis Ridley Havergal:
"Another year is dawning;
Dear Father let it be,
In working or in waiting,
Another year with thee.
Another year of progress,
Another year of praise,
Another year of proving
Thy presence all the days.
Another year of mercies,
Of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness,
The glory of thy face.
Another year of leaning
Upon thy loving breast,
Another year of trusting,
Of quiet, happy rest.
Another year of service,
Of witness for thy love,
Another year of training
For holier work above.
Another year is dawning,
Dear Father, let it be,
On earth, or else in heaven,
Another year for thee."

I’m sure that many of you have already made some New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, spend more time with your family, further your education, travel to new destinations, or to become more financially stable. The truth of the matter is that many of these resolutions will be broken in a couple of months, or never pursued to begin with. Thus, many will find themselves no better off at the end of the year than they were at the start of the year.

For example, we begin a New Year by saying, "I'm going loose weight," yet March rolls around and the diet books are sitting on the shelf unread and we are ten pounds heavier.

We say, "I'm going to start exercising" and by May, the stair stepper and NordicTrack is in the closet gathering dust." We say we are going to reduce debt, but by June we are worried about how we are going to pay for the diet books and exercise machines we bought on our credit cards.

As I read the concluding remarks of James 4, I believe we do not find a New Year resolution, but a New Year Revolution. We find principles that are guaranteed to revolutionize our lives.

There are 3 New Year’s revolutions in our text. First, James says that we should:


Someone has written:

“Just a tiny little minute

Only sixty seconds in it

Forced upon, can’t refuse it;

Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it,

I must suffer if I lose it,

Give account if I abuse it.

Just a tiny little minute

But eternity is in it.”

We express our appreciation for many things in many ways. Yet, James says that one thing which deserves our greatest appreciation is the matter of time. We should appreciate our time, because time is:


James asks one of the greatest questions in the Bible. In verse 14, he asks, “What is your life?” That is one of the great questions of the Bible. At first, it appears to be a hypothetical, and a rhetorical question that no one can answer.

But, interestingly enough, it is a question that answers itself. The word “life” is the Greek word zoe. It is the derivative of our English word “zoology.”

The word encompasses life as a whole. It describes the whole gamut of life. It refers to life in its absolute sense. It speaks of life as God gives it.

The word reminds us that “life” is the most precious gift that God has entrusted to us. It has been given to us by a gracious, generous and loving God who is the source, secret and sustainer of all life.

I recently read a wonderful little piece called, “How Do We Value Life?” It asks the questions:

How do we value ONE YEAR? Ask a student who failed a grade.

How do we value ONE MONTH? Ask a mother whose baby arrived prematurely.

How do we value ONE WEEK? Ask an editor of a newspaper.

How do we value ONE HOUR? Ask someone who lies terminally ill waiting for a loved one who is late.

How do we value ONE MINUTE? Ask someone who missed a plane, or a very important appointment that can never be rescheduled.

How do we value ONE SECOND? Ask an Olympic medalist; someone who missed having an accident; or, someone saying goodbye to a loved one they will never see again.

Life is significant, but it is far from simple. Life is profitable, but it is far from predictable. It is a complex matrix of forces, events, people, contingencies and circumstances over which we have little, or on control.

Thus, it is impossible for us to ascertain, assume or assure ourselves of any specific future, because James reminds us in verse 14 that “ye know not what shall be on the morrow.”

But, we learn that time is a precious matter because time is:

B. A PASSING Matter!

While, in verse 14, James asks one of the great questions of the Bible, he goes on to answer his own, great question. [For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.]

James describes our precious time as passing time. In other words, time never comes to stay, it always comes to go. He says that our life is but “a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” The word “vapour” only appears twice in the New Testament.

In Acts 2: 19, the word is translated “smoke.” In our text, the word “vapour” is better translated “mist.” Thus, James says that the days of our life are nothing more than smoke, a mist, or vapour that is here for a while, and then disappears.

Scientific researches recently estimated that a:

Lightening bolt last 45-55 microseconds.

Average running shoe lasts 350-500 miles.

Hard pencil can write up to 30,000 words

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

100 watt incandescent bulb lasts 750 hours.

25 watt bulb lasts 25,000 hours.

One dollar bill lasts 18 months in circulation.

Yet, James says that our life is but a puff of smoke from a fire; steam that rises from a cup of coffee; or, one’s breath briefly visible on a cold morning. The days of our life, while precious, are also passing like a vapour.

I recently read a most interesting article entitled, “If You are 35, You Have 500 Days to Live.” The article went on to contend that when you subtract the time you spend sleeping, working, tending to personal matters, eating, traveling, doing chores, attending to personal hygiene, and you add in the miscellaneous time stealers, in the next 36 years you will have only 500 days to spend as you wish. It then poses the question, “when all of the necessary things are done, how much time will you have left?”

John Blanchard said, “The moment a man is born, he begins to die. Death could come at any moment by design, disease, disaster or decay. Man is not here to stay, he is here to go.”

I look at my own life and stand amazed that I have lived 41 years. I look back and think, ‘where did the time go?’ I used to be of the mindset that the age of 40 was the time you prepared for life in a convalescent center, but you can rest assured that my thinking has dramatically changed.

I can easily remember things in my childhood, teenage, high school and college years that only seem like yesterday. Yet, like a puff of smoke, a cloud of mist, and the shadow of a vapor those years are gone forever.

As I look back over the past year, it is almost inconceivable that the year is over. It seems like yesterday that I was preaching a sermon in preparation for the old year; and, now, I am preaching a sermon in preparation for the New Year.

There were people with us last year that are no longer with us this year. And, there are people with us now that will not be with us this time next year.

Where did the time go? James says that the old year was but a “vapor that appeared for a little while and then vanished away.”

Time is a precious matter. Time is a passing matter. That is why we should personally appreciate our time every day that we live.

Secondly, we learn that we should not only personally appreciate our time, but we should:


I’m sure that every person in this room has made certain plans for the next year. I can only speak for myself, but there are certain things that I plan to do in 2008, as well as certain goals I plan to achieve.

In our text, James is not telling us that it is wrong to plan, but it is wrong to plan without including God in our plans. We should not seek to fit God in our plans, but we should seek to fit our lives into God’s plan.

We should not only personally appreciate our time, but we should properly administrate our time in a way that would bring glory and honour to the Lord.

How do we do that? First of all, we should:

A. TREAT Each Day as a Gift from God

In 1966, David Mahoney was the head of Canada Dry. Stock was selling at a low price of $11 a share. With about 2 ½ million shares outstanding, he had an opportunity to buy the entire company for $30 million. Financing was available, but Mahoney never made up his mind and let the opportunity pass. Twenty years later, his investment would have increased to more than $700 million, a 200 percent profit.

Every day of our lives is filled with 3 things: activity, responsibility and opportunity. That is why we are admonished, in Ephesians 5: 16, to “redeem the time.”

The word “redeem” literally means, “To buy up.” In other words, we are to seize, buy up and make the most of every second of every day, because we will never have the same opportunity to exercise our responsibility over our God-given activity.

I love the prayer of Moses in Psalm 90:12, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

In the past year, you were presented with a golden opportunity to serve God; did you take advantage of it? You were presented with an opportunity to share your faith, did you seize it? You were presented with an opportunity to help someone in need; did you make the most of it?

If not, those opportunities have been lost forever. That is why we are to treat each day as a gift that God has graciously given us. Someone has well said, “Only one life will soon be past; only what’s done for Jesus will last.”

Since God is the giver of life, time, health and strength, we should treat each day as a gift form a good, generous and gracious God and live accordingly.

However, the proper administration of our time also means that we should:

B. TRUST Each Day as a Gift to God

In verse 13, James uses an interesting illustration to speak of the proper administration of the time God gives us. He speaks of the attitudes, aspirations and ambitions of certain merchants in his day.

To introduce the illustration, he uses a phrase that is found but one other place in the Bible, he says, “Go to now.” We might say, “Come on now,” or “Now look here.” It is a phrase that usually implied disapproval, and calls for one’s complete attention.

He describes the attitude of certain businessmen by saying, [Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain.]

We get the idea that these merchants were cautious, careful and calculating business planners. In fact, from this verse we discover that these merchants had it all mapped out for themselves.

They had constructed the plan [today or tomorrow]. They had chosen the place [we will go into such a city]. They had calculated the period [and continue there a year]. They had considered the purpose [and buy and sell]. And they had computed the profit [and get gain].

No one could ever accuse them of being lazy, or slothful in their planning. They were meticulous planners, who planned their work, and worked their plan.

However, the tragedy is that they planned their future without God. Furthermore, the indication is that they knew to include God in their plans, but they failed to do it.

That’s why James says in verse 17, [Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.]

These men were not only guilty of the sin of commission, but the sin of omission. In other words, it was not necessarily what they had done, but it was what they had not done. They had made the tragic mistake of devising a plan that did not include God.

James reminds us that God is never to be divorced from who we are, or what we do. If God, and His plans, cannot be a part of who we are, then we must change who we are. If God, and His plans, cannot be a part of what we do, then we must change what we do.

If God cannot be a part of our plans, then our plans must be revised, reversed or rearranged. To exclude God from our plans is a seriously sinful matter.

James 4: 17 is the greatest definition of sin ever given. It reminds us that if we know, from the Word of God, to do something, and we fail to do it, it is sin.

There are those who know they should be more faithful to church, but you allow your plans to take precedent over God’s plans, and you become unfaithful. James says it is sin. There are those who know they should be singing in the choir, but you will not do it. James says it is sin.

There are those who know that you ought to be teaching a class, but you will not do it. James says it is sin. There are those who know that you ought to read your Bible more, pray more, and serve God with all of your heart, but you will not do it. James says it is sin.

It is not wrong to make plans for 2008, but it is tragically wrong to exclude God from our plans. It is like James is saying, “I don’t know why you are making plans that do not include God, because you have no idea what tomorrow may bring, or if tomorrow will even come.”

These men were saying, “We will;” God said, “You have no way of knowing.” They were planning for an entire year, yet, they weren’t even sure of the next minute. They thought they were being independent, God thought they were being ignorant.

You see each day is a gift. Because we cannot produce tomorrow, we cannot predict tomorrow. It is out of our control, but under God’s control. Thus, because God is the producer and predictor of time, He is to have Preeminence in our time. He is not to be left out of our fame, fortune, finances, or our future. Whatever and whenever, God is to be the major factor in everything we are, or everything we do.

We have no way of knowing what tomorrow holds, but we do know WHO holds tomorrow. Thus, James is telling us that what tomorrow hold is all up to God. Furthermore, if there is a tomorrow, it’s all up to God.

If Jesus doesn’t come, we do not die, and we live to see the New Year, we should make dead-level sure that our plans are God’s plans and God’s plans are our plans.

We should treat each day as a gift from God and then trust each day as a gift to God. That is the only way to properly administrate our time.

Finally, he shows us how to:


Someone has penned the words to a wonderful New Year’s prayer:

"To leave the old with a burst of song;

To recall the right and forgive the wrong;

To forget the things that bind you fast

To the vain regrets of the year that's past.

To have the strength to let go your hold

Of the not worth while of the days grown old;

To dare go forth with a purpose true,

To the unknown task of the year that's new.

To help your brother along the road,

To do his work and lift his load;

To add your gift to the world's good cheer,

Is to have and to give a Happy New Year."

We should personally appreciate our time because it is a precious matter, and a passing matter. WE should properly administrate our time because each day is a gift from God. Finally, we should perfectly allocate our time, in the New Year, by doing 2 things. First, we should:

A. LIVE ACCORDING to the Will of God

Remember that James is responding to the attitudes of these masterful businessmen of his day. These men were bragging and boasting of their great plans that were made without any consideration of God.

Thus, James responds in verse 15, by saying that rather than saying, ‘I am going to do this, this, and this,’ [For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.]

James is saying, “If you’re going to make plans, don’t brag and boast about what YOU are going to do. Rather, say, ‘if the Lord will, I will do it.’” In other words, we are to live our life according to the will of God.

The point James is making is clear. There is nothing wrong with making plans for a future; however, we should never make those plans aware of the fact that God is in charge of our future. Thus, it is up to Him to see that our plans are carried out.

The fact of the matter is that God has a master blueprint for every one of our lives as believers. If that be true, then it would stand to reason that if God has a plan for my life, then finding His plan should be priority of my life; and, following His plan should be the pursuit of my life.

Our life is not to be lived according to our wants, but according to what God wills. The desire of our hearts should not be to get our will done in Heaven; but, to get God’s will done on earth. We are not to live from a temporal standpoint; we are to live from an eternal standpoint.

The old adage says, “Live like today was the first day of the rest of your life.” However, in reality, we should live like today is the LAST day of the rest of our life.

The truth of the matter is that today may very well be the last day of the rest of our life. Yet, this life is not a drop in the bucket compared to eternity.

We are going to live longer on the other side than we will live on this side. But, our standard of living on this side has much to do with determining our standard of living on the other side. Thus, the best preparation for eternity is to live this life, today and every day, according to the will of God.

Finally, we should:

B. LIVE ACCEPTANT of the Will of God

James says that we should live each day according to the premise, “If the Lord will we shall live, and do this, or that.” But, when we begin to brag and boast of our plans, made without God, James says in verse 16 that “all such rejoicing is evil.”

In other words, if we are to perfectly allocate the days of our life, then we must learn to live according to God’s will, and live acceptant of God’s will.

God is the One who is in charge of our family, our finances, and our future. It’s all up to Him, not us. Thus, to live life according to our will, rather than God’s will, is an insult to the God who gives us breath, time and life.

The Baltimore Sun conducted a contest, and the following poem received a prize for the best answer to the question, "What would you do if you had one more year to live?"

"If I had but one year to live;

One year to help; one year to give;

One year to love; one year to bless;

One year of better things to stress;

One year to sing; one year to smile;

To brighten earth a little while;

One year to sing my Maker's praise;

One year to fill with work my days;

One year to strive for a reward

When I should stand before my Lord,

I think that I would spend each day,

In just the very self-same way

That I do now. For from afar

The call may come across the bar

At any time, and I must be

Prepared to meet eternity.

So if I have a year to live,

Or just one day in which to give

A pleasant smile, a helping hand,

A mind that tries to understand

A fellow-creature when in need;

'Tis one with me-I take no heed.

But try to live each day He sends

To serve my gracious Master's ends."

As we look back on lasts year, all of us are faced with regrets and remorse. There are things that all of us would love the opportunity to do, undo or re-do; but, those opportunities are gone forever.

But, while we can nothing about the past year, we can do something about the New Year. We can please God if we will pursue God. We can live for God if we will love God. We can do much more than survive, we can thrive if we will allow our passion for God to revive and come alive.

Do you want to please God in the New Year? Then, find and follow His will for your life. I challenge each one of you to embrace God’s plan for your life, enjoy God’s purpose for your life, and experience God’s provision for your life. That is not a resolution that is a revolution that will change your life forever.