The Brevity of Life

The Brevity of Life

John Bramhall

Another year has gone; a new year has come—reminding us again that time is passing and that life is brief. A year is shorter than we think. The time we have for serving Christ is slipping away from us all.

Life Is But A Tale

“We spend our years as A TALE that is told” (Ps. 90:9). It does not take long to tell “a tale”; the end of the story soon comes. Such is our brief life! Darby’s New Translation is even more revealing: “We spend our years as a passing thought.”

Life Is But A Pilgrimage

“We are strangers before Thee, and SOJOURNERS, as were all our fathers; our days on the earth are as A SHADOW, and there is none abiding” (1 Chron. 29:15). Life is a short journey; a brief pilgrimage through this world. It is like a moving shadow that quickly flits across the sands of time.

Life Is But An Handbreadth

“Behold, Thou hast made my days as AN HANDBREADTH, and mine age is as NOTHING before Thee” (Ps. 39:5). God quickly answered David’s prayer “to know the measure” of his days (Ps. 39:4). Contrasted to Eternity, it was only the width of his hand! Contrasted to the existence of an Eternal Being, David’s age was “as nothing”.

Life Is But A Vapour

“For what is your life? It is even A VAPOUR, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (Jas. 4:14). “Not that brief,” you say! Yes, that is what God says it is in relation to Eternity. At your next opportunity, watch the rise of vapour and its quick disappearance from sight. This is “your life”.

Life Is But A Flower

“Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like A FLOWER, and is cut down” (Job. 14:1-2). Brief, but troubled, was Job’s comment on life; often this is our judgment too. Life is like A FLOWER: now budding, then blooming, but suddenly — gone! “Cut down!” It matters not which flower we may be; “the flower” we cherish, nourish, and admire, is very soon gone!

Life Is But A Tent

“For we who are in THIS TENT sigh under our burden” (2 Cor. 5:4 — Confrat. Trans.). Note the full context of this chapter and verse, to realize that the human body is no more than a temporal dwelling for the spirit and soul — just a TENT! Nothing permanent about that! It is a vulnerable dwelling which soon shows the signs of wear and tear from the experiences of life. The believer’s permanent “house from Heaven” is eternal, a new body of glory; but this present one is only A TENT, possibly with patches and stitches showing also! Its survival of life’s storms can only be brief at the best.

Life Is But Grass

“All flesh is GRASS, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is GRASS” (Isa. 40:6-7). The scorching sun and the freezing cold both blight the tender grass, withering it away. How quickly it is destroyed! Everything in life may look green, but one blast from the breath of God can soon take us a-way! How uncertain is our life!

Thus the Holy Scriptures vividly and accurately describe THE BREVITY OF LIFE in contrast to Eternity and the Eternal One. Let us acknowledge the truth of God’s Word with a deeper and more earnest realization.

Furthermore, let us assimilate these truths into our hearts; and let us realize the lessons taught, and apply them in each of our fleeting lives!

Some Christians live for the pleasures of this life alone, carelessly indifferent to eternal things. This is wasteful and disastrous. All that the world holds for the gratifying of human desire is momentary. The world congratulates you if you live for self. Not so your Saviour! “For whosoever shall desire to save his life shall lose it” (Mk. 8:35). The world condemns you if you live for Eternity. Not so your Saviour! “Whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it” (Mk. 8:35). Which world are you living for, this or the next? Life is short! Are we LOSING it or SAVING it?

Let us also remember that while the pleasures of life are momentary, so are our troubles. Often we unduly magnify them, but we should not. Compared with Eternity and its glory, they are only a momentary experience: “our light affliction … is but for a moment” (2 Cor. 4:17). The brevity of life should enable us to minimize our troubles for the glory of God.

Besides, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

What a lesson in contrasts: “light affliction” and “weight of glory”; one is “for a moment” and the other “eternal”. There are “the things which are seen” and “the things which are not seen”; the former being “temporal”, and the latter, “eternal”.

On the short pathway of life, which “things” are our eyes focussed upon? The “temporal” or the “eternal”? It is a challenge to us; the brevity of life should stimulate us to live for eternal glory rather than for earthly things. Let us permit the Spirit of God to inscribe this blessed truth upon our hearts and lives: the really important things in this brief life, are those things which are eternal!