David Jeremiah - Slaying the Giant of Procrastination
They did a survey not long ago and 98% of the people in any large audience have experienced procrastination at one time or another, and the other 2% hadn't gotten around to thinking about it yet. They're like the guy who said he was gonna stop procrastinating, but he decided to put it off until tomorrow. You know how that is? Someone has written, "Procrastination is my sin. It brings me nothing but sorrow. I know I should stop it. In fact, I will, tomorrow". You got it.
Years ago, a very famous preacher surveyed the Bible to find out what were the most important words in the Scripture. For instance, he wanted to find out what was the saddest word in the Bible, what was the happiest word. He looked for the word that had the greatest emotion attached to it, and there was a whole list of these words in the book that he wrote. But when he came to the most dangerous word in the Bible, the word that he chose was the word "tomorrow".
Tomorrow can be a dangerous word, for tomorrow has robbed many dreamers of their dreams. It has robbed students of educational achievement and the scholarship opportunities. It has kept more men and women from coming to Christ than any other word in the dictionary. Let me tell you today that's Satan's favorite word of all words is the word "tomorrow," but the word that is dear to the heart of God is the word "today".
I want to talk with you for a few moments about procrastination, how it affects our lives. I want to talk in a general way in the first two sections of this message and then become very specific as we come to the conclusion. First of all, let me remind you that when you procrastinate, you rob yourself of opportunities to serve Almighty God.
On one occasion, the Lord was speaking to some of his followers about discipleship, and he was trying to illustrate the importance of their immediate response to the call. And he said to another, "Follow me". But he said, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father". Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God". And another said, "Lord, I will follow you, but first, let me bid farewell to those who are at my house". And Jesus said to him, "No one having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God".
Luke chapter 9, verses 59 through 62. What Jesus was saying is that, it's very easy when the call of God comes upon our life to think of a lot of reasons why we won't respond to it at that moment, things we need to do first. And after we get done doing all of those things, sometimes we lose the ability to hear God's voice.
Matthew 26 tells the story of one of the saddest experiences in the New Testament, in my estimation. As you'll remember, right about that place in the narrative of the passion of our Lord, he was going to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He left eight of his disciples at the gate of the garden, and he took Peter, James and John with him further into the recesses of the Garden of Gethsemane. And in Matthew 26, verse 38, Jesus spoke to those three men and he said, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful even unto death. Stay here and watch with me". You remember that? And Matthew 26:39 says, he went a little further and fell on his face and prayed. And when he returned, he didn't find them watching. He found them doing what, class? They were sleeping.
And so, he instructed them in Matthew chapter 26, and verse 41 he said, "watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak". And all of us can say amen to that. That's true, isn't it? We want to do the right thing, but sometimes the flesh is weak and so, we have to watch and pray. Twice more Jesus went into the garden to agonize over the will of God and over our sin and his sacrifice for our sin, dealing with the human aspect of the passion. And twice more he came back and found his disciples asleep. And finally, in Matthew 26, verses 45 and 46, we read Jesus came back and he said, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. My betrayer is at hand".
I doubt if the disciples Peter, James, and John had any idea what was going on at that moment. They could not have known what was happening. They could not have known how that event would have been viewed historically, or they never would have allowed themselves to fall into the trap of indolence instead of watchfulness. All three of them went on to write major books describing the life of Christ and his sacrifice and his death. All three of them were champions in witnessing for the Lord. Two of the three gave their lives in martyrdom for their faith. And yet, there was one thing they could never again do, they could never again go back to that moment when they had been given the opportunity to watch with the Lord in his hour of trial. They had passed it by. They had pushed it aside. They had forgotten the opportunity, and the opportunity never came again.
How many of us, when we get to heaven, will be able to, for a brief moment until God washes away all of our tears, look back over our lives and remember moments of decision when we could have done something great for God and because we decided to procrastinate, the opportunity was no longer there. You know, I think that sometimes, maybe I'm not like everybody else here, but sometimes I don't hear the Lord speak out loud, but I hear the Lord kind of talk to me about something I should do. Maybe you should call that person. You know, you just get an impression you should do it. And when you're responsive, you usually find out that there was something going on there and God was, but sometimes I get busy and I don't do that.
Sometimes I allow the circumstances of life to press me in another direction and then I find out later that I should have been there. That's an awful feeling. It's a wonderful thing to be sensitive to Almighty God when it comes to serving him so that when he speaks to us about saying a word of encouragement to someone, calling someone on the phone, ministering to someone in the way that God calls us to minister, we hear his voice and we respond, and we don't procrastinate. We do it now.
Let me give you another reason why procrastination is a dangerous thing to play with. Let's just assume that we're not even Christians here. Terrible assumption, but just for a moment. Procrastination will rob you of success in your life. No one who is a practicing procrastinator succeeds at anything. How many of you use a do list? You use a yellow pad and you write down all the things to do. Anybody here beside me? Do you ever go through that list and say, "All right, what is the worst thing on this list? What is the thing I dread the most"?
And put it at the top, or do you take that thing you dread the most and keep adding things above it till it gets pushed down. I mean, it's been on there for three weeks now, friends, you might as well get to it. The paper's due, the exam's coming, whatever it is, and the person who is able to elevate that difficult thing to the top of the list and do it when it needs to be done, that person has taken a major step towards success.
In fact, there is a positive mental attitude speaker, I won't give you his name, who has built his whole career on how to get things done by taking action on those items that are so difficult for us to deal with, how to be successful. But I've said all of this by way of introduction and let me bore in on the most important thing about procrastination because not only will it keep you from serving God and keep you from being successful in life, but procrastination will keep you out of heaven. It will keep you from becoming a Christian.
And I want to share that with you from a story that's found in the New Testament. So, if you have your Bibles, turn to Acts chapter 24. I want to tell you about two people you probably haven't heard much about. One of them's a man by the name of Felix, and his wife whose name was Drusilla. Felix and Drusilla, not necessarily major characters in the New Testament Scriptures, but key illustrations of what happens when procrastination enters into the relationship we have with God.
Now, the identification of the procrastinator in the story in Acts chapter 24 is found for us in verse 24 where we read, "And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish". And let me just stop there long enough to give you a little information about that these two people. Felix, whose real name was Antonios Felix, was Greek by birth. He was well connected with the Roman Empire because he actually got his appointment as procurator of Judea from his brother.
When Paul was brought before Felix on trumped-up charges of sedition, this great apostle preached the gospel to Felix. Seated with him there as a part of his reign as procurator was his wife Drusilla. She came from some bad blood. She was one of three daughters of Herod Agrippa I. Felix had induced her to leave her former husband and marry him. One of her sisters, Bernice, married King Agrippa, and her father Herod Agrippa I was the one who murdered James, John's brother, and tried to kill Peter as we read in Acts chapter 12. Her great uncle Herod Antipas was the one who took John the Baptist's head off and her great grandfather, Herod the Great, killed all the babies in Bethlehem and sought to kill Jesus. And Drusilla came from that line, and she was Felix's third wife. They were a royal couple, and they were also a wicked couple living in sin.
So, Paul's standing before Felix and somebody said it really wasn't Paul before Felix, it ended up being Felix before Paul. Because when Paul came to give his defense before the procurator of Judea, he didn't stand up and defend himself. He stood up and started talking about Jesus, about Christ. He preached the gospel to him. How many of you know that wherever Paul went, no matter what the circumstances were, he always seemed to preach the gospel. He had one message and he got to it as quickly as possible. So, he didn't stand up and try to justify much. He just got up and the Bible says he began to preach to Felix and Drusilla about Jesus Christ. And we read about his message in the instruction of the procrastinator in verse 24.
If you have your Bibles open, notice what it says. "And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ". And the Scripture says he reasoned with him of righteousness, self-control, and judgment to come. Now, that's a pretty good sermon. That's a good three-point sermon right there righteousness, self-control, and judgment to come, and it was well suited to the people who were listening to him. For we've already established that Felix and Drusilla were unrighteous, and the Bible tells us that something happened in response to his preaching that you don't see happen very much anymore.
I remember reading the story of one of the early preachers in our country who used to preach and when he preached, people would hang on to the front of the pew and tremble in conviction. They would hang on to the pew in order to keep from getting out of the pew and going, they would be under such conviction. You don't see that kind of outward conviction, but the Bible says that the impact on the procrastinator, the impact on Felix that day was, Felix was afraid. And literally, the Spirit of God uses a special word in the text of the new testament to describe his fear. He wasn't just a little bit afraid. One translation says he was terrified. Another translation says he trembled.
God Almighty had spoken to Felix's heart through the Apostle Paul and his three-point sermon on righteousness, self-control, and judgment to come. And when Paul got done, Felix was filled with fear and he trembled. It was a moment when God had grabbed hold of his heart that he would never ever forget. Literally, shaking in his boots in conviction. But we read something very tragic that happened at this moment. The intention of the procrastinator, verse 25, "Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, 'Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.'"
What did he do, class? He procrastinated. He said, "I've heard what you said, Paul, but I want you to go away now and another time I'll have you come and we'll talk". That is interesting that the word "intention" in the dictionary comes just before the word "inter," inter means to bury. How many of our dreams and our futures have been buried by the words, "I was going to, I almost did, maybe tomorrow, later we'll talk about it". And you know what? Felix did hear Paul again. As we read in the New Testament, Paul and Felix had another meeting, but it was never like it was that day when Paul preached and Felix trembled.
Now, I want to say just two things to you about procrastination as we bring all of us to a conclusion. First of all, procrastination gives us the impression that we're in control of tomorrow. Procrastination does not take into account the uncertainty of life. If we could be sure that tomorrow would come, perhaps we could put our opportunities beyond us today and wait for another time, but the uncertainty of tomorrow makes procrastinating a very dangerous indoor sport. To say, "I will do it tomorrow," is to assume that you have tomorrow in your hands. And what is it that the Book of Proverbs says? "Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth".
Don't say tomorrow because you may not have tomorrow. In the Bible, there are 18 different metaphors to remind us of the transitoriness, and the brevity, and the uncertainty of life. Life is like a vapor, it appears for a moment and then it's gone. How many of us have had major changes in our lives because of something that happened on a tomorrow we never dreamed whatever come? So, for us to assume that we can put off from today's assignment what God wants us to do today until another day, is to make a major assumption that is very foolish and very dangerous.
James writing in his epistle said, "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away". Some of you here today have said, "You know what? I hear Pastor Jeremiah preach every Sunday, I even listen to on the radio sometimes during the week, and I know he's right about salvation. And one of these days, I'm gonna make my decision, and I'm gonna become a Christian. I'm gonna do it tomorrow". How foolish when you know what to do to postpone it to a time you have no control over.
"Tomorrow" is the most dangerous word in the Bible because it assumes control over a period of time you can't get your arms around. Today is God's Word. But let's assume for a moment that you did have control of tomorrow. Let's assume for a moment that tomorrow was in your hands, that you knew tomorrow would come for you and you would have all of your tomorrow to do what you didn't do today, there's still a problem that you need to face and that is, you need to face the uniqueness of conviction in your life. Then there are certain times when God deals with us, I like to call them defining moments.
How many of you remember when you accepted Christ that there were circumstances around that brought you to a decision to receive the Lord? There were certain things that happened in your life that brought you to a hearing that you would not have, you would not have accepted before? And in that moment, in that defining moment, God spoke to you and you heard his voice and you were saved. You see, you may get a tomorrow, but you have no guarantee that when your tomorrow comes, God's voice will be heard at the same level of intensity, that God will speak to you in such a way that you will have the same response. The fact of the matter is that Felix met with Paul after that, but we never again read of him ever trembling, and there's no record of Felix ever responding to the gospel.
As far as we know, he went out into the dark night of eternity without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. There is a moment in our life when God speaks. Isaiah 55:6 says it this way, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call upon him when he is near". Well, isn't the Lord available all the time? Yes, but do you get the message of Isaiah? There's a time when God speaks, a time when his voice is being heard. It's at that moment that you need to respond. When he's near, isn't God always as near at one time as he is as, yes, but we're not always as sensitive to his nearness, are we? And when God, by the Holy Spirit, brings us a sensitivity to his nearness, that's the moment when we respond not tomorrow, not tonight, but now.
The psalmist said in Psalm 119, verse 60, "I made haste, and did not delay to keep your commandments". And Solomon writing in the Book of Ecclesiastes says, "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the front days come and the years draw near when you say, 'I have no pleasure in them.'" You see, when we procrastinate, when we let the giant of procrastination take over our life, we lose our opportunities to serve God because we're always putting it off until another time. We will be unsuccessful in life because no one who succeeds procrastinates as a lifestyle. And ultimately, we will spend eternity apart from Christ because we keep thinking there's a more convenient time than today.
You know what the most convenient time is to receive Christ? The very moment you hear him calling you and you recognize in your heart that you haven't received him already. You say, "Well, Pastor Jeremiah, what are you talking about when you say, 'receive Christ?'" I'm simply saying, you come to a moment of understanding that you're a sinner, that you cannot save yourself, that you stand guilty before Almighty God because you have violated his perfect standard of holiness.
How many of you know God doesn't grade on the curve? God grades on an absolute percentage basis. And there's nobody here, nobody ever anywhere, who could ever live up to that perfect standard, so Jesus Christ came to this earth to take the test for us. And he went to the cross, and he got a hundred on the test, and he wants to give us his score so that we can get into heaven. And he will do that if we invite him into our life. But if we do not invite him into our life, his death on the cross will have no impact upon us whatsoever, except to be the judgment to send us to a Christless eternity.
And if you recognize today that you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, that you've never invited him into your life and asked him to forgive your sin, and you've accepted his free gift of eternal life, this is the decision you must make now while you hear his voice speaking in your heart, while you're listening. You may never walk this way again. You may never have the sensitivity that you have now again. You may never hear the gospel in a context where you're willing to listen again. So, now while the Spirit of God speaks to you, this is the moment. "Today is the day of salvation," says the Book of Corinthians. Today is the moment when you receive Christ.