What Are We/You Waiting For?

Who among us has never procrastinated? What child has never put off a school assignment until the night before it is due; and what grown-up has not stood in line at the courthouse on the last day of the month to renew the registration on a car? Rarely do we put things off out of laziness. We just seem to get so busy that deadlines seem to sneak up on us. But of course they don't; we always have plenty of notice when the job has to be done. We get ourselves in trouble when we fail to set priorities - or we fail to set the right ones.

A couple of weeks ago my family and I traveled to Atlanta to watch a playoff game between the Braves and the Cardinals. Since my wife is a St. Louis native and I like to root for the Braves, we thought it would be fun to watch our teams meet in the post-season, when the stakes were so high. As we waited in line for our tickets, I was amazed at the number of red Cardinal shirts in the crowd. I wondered if anyone would come to root for the home team.

After we had taken our seats and the game began, I looked around the stadium at all the empty seats. Whole sections in the outfield were vacant. Of the seats that were occupied, it seemed that most of them were filled by Cardinal supporters. The announcer on my portable radio bemoaned the lack of support by the local fans, suggesting that they had lost interest in such contests because their team made it to the playoffs nearly every year. Perhaps they were waiting for the league championship series or the World Series. If so, they were disappointed, because the Braves lost 7-1, putting an abrupt end to their season.

I can't say whether the presence of a few thousand more people in the stands would have helped the Braves win the game, but I do know that those who chose not to go will have no further opportunity to do so, at least for this year. But elsewhere in life, procrastination is a serious matter, that can have much worse consequences than a lost day at the ball park.

Each of us has a finite amount of time in this world. Once we enter the world, it is certain that we must one day leave it (Hebrews 9:27). Between the day that we are born and the day we die, there are certain tasks that we have to accomplish. The most important of these is our soul's salvation. Our souls are so precious that Jesus said there is literally nothing, including our lives, that can compare in value. "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26)

Why do people procrastinate over obeying the gospel? There is no way of knowing, for only God knows the secrets of the heart (Psalm 44:21). Some people have a deep-seated fear of commitment and deal with important decisions by putting them off. Felix, the Bible's best-known procrastinator, might have seemed like a good prospect to the apostle Paul. He had knowledge of the Way and was charitable disposed toward the apostle. He even sent for Paul so that he and his wife Drusilla could hear him "concerning the faith in Christ." We know that he believed Paul because the word of God caused him to be afraid, just as the Philippian jailer fell before Paul and Silas trembling when confronted with the great power of God. But whereas the Philippian said, "What must I do to be saved?", Felix's response was to send Paul away with the words, "When I have a convenient time I will call for you." Did a "convenient time" ever come for Felix? No one knows. But a great opportunity passed because Felix found obedience to God "inconvenient" - for a while, at least (Acts 26:22-25).

Some people put God off, not out of fear, but because they simply can't find the time to obey. They may know that service to God is important - they just have placed Him way, way down on their list of priorities. The rich man of Luke 12:16-21 was like that. He had everything he needed, but he grew so wealthy he had no more room to store his goods. Rather than be content with what he had (Philippians 4:13), he decided that, if he had more than his barns could hold, he would just have to build bigger barns. All this time, he was neglecting the things that mattered most, so that when he died that very night, he was unprepared. It appears that the rich man had planned for everything - except eternity.

James said, "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" (James 4:14). Those who take tomorrow for granted are boasting in their arrogance, he said, and all such boasting is evil. To put off obedience to God is surely the greatest evil of all. The British poet Edward Young called procrastination "the thief of time." Once stolen, time can never be retrieved. "Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts" (Hebrews 3:7, 15; 4:7). Make your calling and election sure (II Peter 1:10) before you do anything else. There is nothing in this world that is worth losing your soul over. Get right with God - today.

By Jack Harwell

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