We’re approaching the start of a new year. A lot of folks, myself included, will be spending time assessing their lives, setting new goals, and thinking about how they would like things to be. Setting goals is a great thing to do with one important proviso, we must follow through on them. That’s something I talked about with the junior high youth yesterday. A lot of us are very good about coming up with what we want. But then when it comes to acting on those things, that’s a different matter. A lot of times we look at the next steps and we postpone. Either it’s too hard for today (meaning it’ll be too hard for tomorrow, too), or we’ve got too much on our plate today, or it’s just not something we feel like doing right now. In other words, we always expect that there will be a tomorrow to do it. Only when reality starts to slap us in the face do we start to realize otherwise. But then once that crisis is passed, it’s amazing how quickly we forget.
I can speak from recent, personal experience. I had signed up to take my first on-line seminary course. There were a lot of things that came up in real life that made completing the course impossible. But the whole reason I was in that situation was I had kept saying, “I’m okay. I have X weeks left to complete the course. I’ll look at doing the next bit of work tomorrow.” And I said that repeatedly. So I came down to the amount of time left where I knew I had to get busy on the course. And then real life intruded. So I didn’t have the time to give the course like I had planned. In the end, I ended up withdrawing, having expended the money for the course and still facing the fact that I’ll have to start over because it is a required course. This is the first course I’ve ever had to withdraw from. I took over 200 semester hours for my undergraduate degrees and while I had a few drops for the spring term of my junior year (due to a serious shoulder injury), none of those were in the “critical path” towards completing either degree. Either I was taking an elective course or I was taking a required course early. In this case, I was taking a required course on time, so the withdrawal means I’ve actually slipped on my time schedule. And that means I’ll have to work hard to get back on track. My mistake was I always assumed there would be time tomorrow. That was and is a big mistake.
“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. – Matthew 24:42-44, NASB
The warning here is to be ready, for we don’t know when Jesus will return. We are told in Scripture there will be a second coming. And we’re told the details of what happens in that second coming. But we’re not told when. We’re told to be ready, for it can be at any time. In other words, don’t assume tomorrow is guaranteed. Don’t assume tomorrow will be around for us to get right with God. Don’t assume there will be a tomorrow for doing the work God expects of us. Don’t assume tomorrow to be around for anything. There may not be a tomorrow in place for us to do what we want to do.
As Christians, we should apply that to every aspect of our lives. If we live as if tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, then we’ll be focused on the work that God has for us right now. The tendency to procrastinate will be overridden by the realization we might not get tomorrow. And it’s not just with respect to God’s work. It’s also how we treat others. If we knew someone with whom we have a broken relationship with wouldn’t be on this earth tomorrow, would we be motivated to try and reconcile today? I think so. The catch is we don’t know if they or we will be here tomorrow. So if there is a broken relationship, we should be seeking to fix that today. And what about those we love? Are we telling them that? Are we giving them the time they deserve? Or are we continuing to say that there will be time tomorrow? We can’t assume there will be.
Whatever our goals are, we need to make progress towards them. If we want our spouses to know how much we truly love them, we need to show them today. If we want to set a good example and set time for our children, we need to do so today. If we are called to serve in a ministry area and we keep putting off some aspect of the work, we need to change course and get it done. If we are delaying at work because we just feel up to it, we need to realize that we have today and what we have to do today needs to be done today. If there is some aspect about ourselves we want to change, we should endeavor to get after it right now. We don’t know when Christ will return. We also don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Even if we have tomorrow, our life circumstances could take away the time we thought we would have, like it did with me. I made a bad assumption. And now I will have to work harder because of it. That assumption was that tomorrow is guaranteed. It’s not. So let’s take care of what we need to do today.