Reach for Eternity

Exalted_Above_the_Hills_wide_t_ntOn the night before Jesus died, he informed his disciples that he would shortly be leaving.

He said,

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Two times in this passage the word “prepare” occurs in the context of eternity. Remember, preparing in advance is a major challenge for the procrastinator. Simply apply that truth to the scope of your entire life, and you will understand what Jesus knew—you ought to be preparing for eternity. The Bible encourages us to live with the recognition that this world is not all there is. C.S. Lewis believed that most Christians lived as if this world were their home and heaven was a far and distant land. He challenged his generation to reverse the metaphor. He said that we were living in the far country and heaven was our home. Imagine that you are an American Citizen, with a two-week vacation scheduled in Europe. Would you not attempt to do as much as you could in those 14 days, knowing that you would shortly be returning to your homeland? When we are reaching for eternity we won’t procrastinate on the tasks that are before us because—in light of eternity—this life is so short-lived. Knowing that our citizenship is in heaven, should change the way that we spend our time on earth.

When I speak or serve in another part of the world, I often think that way. Sure, I enjoy the new sights and sounds of a distance land. I like to experience the culture and get to know its people. But by the end of the first week, I’m ready to go home. When I served on a humanitarian aid trip to Bosnia, I actually took out pictures of my wife and kids every night before I went to bed. I studied them, I remembered, and I smiled. I couldn’t wait to see them again. After five days, I was homesick, but there were still seven days left of service. Those seven days were really productive days. We delivered medical supplies to a hospital, mattresses to widows in a village, and basic food supplies to refugees. Our team didn’t procrastinate on any of these tasks. I didn’t once think I’ll do this next week, because the next week I was going home. Heaven isn’t the far country—you’re living in the far country. When you mistakenly call it home, you’ll procrastinate on what should be done today. But when you set your eyes on heaven, you’ll see today clearly, because you’re hoping that tomorrow you’ll be home.

Taken from: Taking Back Time: biblical strategies for overcoming procrastination, p.37-38.

Available from biblicalstrategies.com

 

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Why do I procrastinate?

Slide1Procrastination. At five syllables even the word takes a long time to say. Say it slowly and you’re liable to evoke images of unbalanced checkbooks, people you meant to call back, and honey-do lists that have no end in sight. Each of us has a propensity to put off certain tasks. Perhaps you’re among those who thought that procrastination was your spiritual gift, and that you had been given a double portion.

Most books on procrastination will talk about time-management. But procrastinating is more than a time issue. It’s root cause lies deeper. We can’t simply address how we stop putting off the important tasks, without answering why we were putting them off in the first place. Here are three primary causes. Choose the one that applies to you and start to work on it today – not tomorrow.

Fear: The secret motivator

Jesus told the story of three stewards who were entrusted with various amounts of wealth. The first two invested wisely, but the final steward hid his talent in the ground. Notice his confession when his boss returns home.

Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours  (Matt. 25:24-25).

The unwise steward was afraid. Fear is often the motivator for putting off what is difficult. Perhaps we’re afraid of failure or what others might think of us. This perpetrator works in secret, because rarely do we confess our fear to others until it is too late. How much better to confess your fears early on, seek help, and then walk by faith.

Sloth: The stubborn enabler

A wild sloth can sleep 15-18 hours a day. Which is about as much as a domestic house cat (but that’s another story). Talk about an unproductive life. By contrast, the Bible holds up the ant as a model for the sluggard to examine.

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,  she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? (Prov. 6:6-11)

The ant is thinking about her future,  and she busies herself over making sure she’s prepared. Even hard workers can struggle with laziness, when it comes to what they don’t want to do. When I received my grandmother’s Bible upon her death, a small note fell out of it. In her own handwriting I read: The longer you wait to solve a problem — the more serious it quickly becomes. Don’t put off tomorrow what should be done today.

Pride: The overconfident optimist

The procrastinator always believes that tomorrow will provide a better opportunity than today. This is pride’s subtle lie. We don’t know that we will have tomorrow. We do know that we have today. James gave this strong warning:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—  yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogance (James 4:13-16).

James reminds the procrastinator that he has a pride problem. He is overconfident in his optimism.  He has arrogantly assumed  that he will be in a better position tomorrow. But we don’t know that we will have tomorrow, so we ought to make a humble investment in tomorrow by being diligent today.