Anyone who knows me knows I have a hard time managing my time. No, I don't have a hard time. I just don't do it. It's not that I don't have all the tools I'm supposed to have. I've been to all the workshops. I have all the gadgets. It's just that I'm a spur-of-the-moment kind of guy. If I'm doing something and even when I like what I'm doing, if I get a call from you and I like what you're doing more, then I'm going to go do what you're doing. Then I'll get back to what I was doing.
I don't ever understand how much time something will take. So I over-commit, thinking, "Sure, I can do that. It won't take that long." It always takes a lot longer than I think it will. So when somebody says to me, "Can you come speak at this?" I answer, "Yeah, I'd love to do that," and it takes a lot of time to get ready to speak and speak well. So I end up being over-committed and frustrated because I'm trying go get too much done.
Despite the national industry that exists on how to manage your time, I'm lousy at it. Most of us are. Most of us don't understand what time is. There is a wonderful book by Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time. It's one of those books everybody bought but nobody read. So you read about time from this great physicist and you get to the end of the book and realize he doesn't understand it either.
Biblically speaking, time is the space God has created for us to have a relationship with Him. And one more thing, you don't have as much of it as you think you do. That's why in
Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
People were always pressing Jesus. They always wanted to know when it was going to happen. "When are You going to restore the Kingdom of David? When are You going to establish the promise that we got from the Old Testament prophet? When are You going to announce who You are and run off these pesky Romans so we can establish the Kingdom of David right here in Jerusalem and of course, as humble disciples, we can take our place of power with You?"
Jesus never would be caught in that fight and never answered that question, almost without exception. Whenever anybody would press Him about the end of time after He had announced the coming Kingdom, He would always take them back to the moment at hand. At the end of the Gospel of John, when Peter wanted to know what would happen to the disciple John, Jesus pulled Peter back to the moment: "It doesn't matter what I'm going to do with John. You follow Me. You do what you're supposed to d Seek the Kingdom of God, and everything else will fall into place."
Anytime Jesus was asked to give a prediction, anytime people pressed for a sign, He would always tell them, "You be obedient in this moment. You pay attention to the opportunity in front of you and we'll let tomorrow take care of itself." Jesus would always remind His disciples the future is already finished. We have that handled. What you need to be aware of right now is what moment God has given you. What is before you now?
A lot of us like to live as the early disciples lived. We want to live like children whose parents have gone out of town for the weekend. So we leave Frito bags and open cans of Coke all around the house, and we can guess when our parents are going to come back. In those last few hours of Sunday afternoon we clean up the house like crazy, assuming the mess never seen is the mess never made.
A lot of us want to live our lives that way with Jesus. We watch for the signs. Jesus said that is like the man who knew what time his house was going to be broken into.
Did you hear that? You didn't, because you didn't laugh. If you had heard it, you would have fallen over laughing. This is the story Jesus tells them. He says, "It's like the man who is sitting in a gathering, looks at his watch and goes, ‘Sorry, guys, I've got to go.' Why? ‘There's a guy who is going to break in my house at 9:30 and I really want to be there when he breaks in.'"
If you knew your house was going to be broken into you never would have left it. You would be prepared for the break in. Jesus said, "In the same way, you know I am coming back. Why do you live as if I never will?"
But we watch for signs, don't we? Something happens in the Middle East and all of a sudden there will be forecasts and all the sermons will talk about The Second Coming and this proves it. This guy's name — when you subtract the second name and talk about his mother's name on his dad's side — and you add all the numbers it is 666, so this guy is the anti-Christ and it proves Jesus is coming back by the weekend. Then all of a sudden that crisis (whatever it is) settles down and we're back to the routine. We're back under the illusion that time is ours to manage — that we have this gift of time and it is ours.
He adds this warning: "Anyone who knows what is right and doesn't do it sins." Like Jesus, James brings the believers back to the moment in front of them. You shouldn't be spending your time saying, "Here's what I'm planning to do; here's all I anticipate doing." You should do what you know you should do in the moment in front of you.
Don't put off until tomorrow telling the people you love that you love them. Don't put off until tomorrow doing what you know the Lord is calling you to do today. In each moment be obedient, in each day be faithful, because that's the moment you have, that's the day you have. We grab our day planners. We circle dates in the future and we say, "On that day this will happen. On that day I will be there and I will accomplish this kind of business and I will take care of these things on that day," as if those days are already ours. They're not. Tomorrow isn't promised to you, nor to me. You're supposed to say, "If the Lord wills I'll be there Thursday. If the Lord wills I'll be at my appointments tomorrow."
Yet you know, as I know, that is not the way we think or the way we live. Sudden things can happen. The ambulance comes to your house, or picks you up at your office, the doctor comes in and shakes his head and your plans change. I don't care what was on your calendar – things change. You think you're in control. You think time is yours.
Just saying the words, "If the Lord wills," makes you uncomfortable, doesn't it? "I have an appointment tomorrow. I'll be there, if the Lord wills." Well, I'm sorry, Jesus, I'm booked tomorrow from 8:00 in the morning until 5:30 that afternoon. If I have to die tomorrow it would be Tuesday before I fell over. I don't have time.
If the Lord wills I'll be there. Tomorrow isn't mine. Tuesday isn't mine, nor is Wednesday. It's not yours either. What you have is this moment, right here, right now. Nothing else is promised. We want to live like those children who anticipate the parents coming back, and so we put off doing what we know we should do. We think we will get it done on another day.
A husband puts off responding to his wife's request to another day. A parent ignores a child for another day, always assuming there will be another opportunity, another moment. That's not always true is it? You know like I know the stories of a wife – she has begged her husband, who is over-committed at work, to come home. He is stressed out; he has little time for his wife, little time for his marriage, and little time for his children.
Then somewhere in a hotel room, in a city he can't remember the name of, this man comes to his senses. He goes home and starts making the changes his wife asked him to make years before, and it is too late. "I'm doing everything she asked me to do," he will tell me, "but it's too late."
Some of you have assumed you will get things right with God, that you will make a profession of faith, that you will accept the call of Jesus in your life, that you will do the things He has told you to do, and you will do them when you're ready — when you feel like it — some other day. "Seek the Lord while He may be found," Isaiah cries out to his people. "Seek the Lord while He may be found." There is a clear implication here that there will come a time, there will come a day when you will seek the Lord and you will not be able to find Him. It simply will be too late.
My Old Testament professor was Dr. Clyde Francisco. We loved Dr. Francisco, because he was always mad that God made him teach at a seminary. He was. He would tell you, "If it is ever up to me I would pastor a church because I love to preach." Now here was the code when you had for Dr. Francisco. If he had his glasses on that meant he would "lecture" and that was going to be on the exam. If he took his glasses off, he was preaching and that would not be on the exam. We took our best notes while he was preaching, because most of us had to preach the next Sunday. We would steal his sermons like crazy. They were preached all over the country.
You also found out real quickly in class that Dr. Francisco's favorite prophet was Jeremiah. When you took him for Old Testament you were taking Jeremiah and a few of his friends, but you ended up in Jeremiah. One Tuesday afternoon he was lecturing, telling us about Jeremiah and the challenges this prophet of God faced. He came to
Jeremiah is lamenting all of the markers the people had put on their calendars that were to be saved by this date, by that date. All of these dates had come and gone and still the people were not saved. The city would be overrun soon. The nation would be destroyed. Harvest is past. The summer is gone, and still you are not saved.
Then, to our utter amazement, Dr. Francisco put his glasses down on the lectern and he began to preach to those of us who were in that classroom. Every one of us in that classroom was an ordained minister. We were each going to do something in the church. We were going to do something in the denomination. That's where our lives were going. We had told everybody. We had made it public.
Dr. Francisco started telling the story, "Most of you grew up in families who never gave you the choice about whether or not you would go to church. As long as you can remember you were taken to church. People would say you needed to make a decision and get baptized, and you may have, because everybody else around was.
"You didn't know what you were going to do with your life. You didn't pay attention. So you got through high school with no clear direction and somebody of importance said to you, ‘You may be called to the ministry' and without a second thought, and without any kind of hesitation, without any kind of prayer, you ended up in seminary, thinking that each moment along the way you'd finally stop and decide. You would make the decision for yourself. You'd find out who Jesus Christ was.
"And now the harvest is past. Summer is gone. Still you are not saved. That day you drew an ‘X' on the calendar – where you would finally make a decision – has come and gone. Still you are not saved. Now you are approaching graduation at the seminary and still you do not know."
We couldn't believe it, but he offered an invitation in Old Testament Prophecy class at Southern Seminary. He waved his hand and said, "Class is over, but I will not leave. The harvest is past. Summer is gone. Still some of you are not saved." We sat in our chairs for a long time in quiet, not knowing what to do. Finally, one got up and walked down. Then there were two. We left that classroom quietly as we watched Dr. Francisco pray and talk to some of our colleagues who were finally making it sure for themselves.
Like you, I was brought to church as a little boy. Some of you were brought to church and never given a choice. You heard the sermons. You heard the songs. You said, "Someday I'll make that decision, and that someday came." Then something happened. You were distracted. It wasn't a good time. So that day came and went.
You grew up in church, and always intended to do it. It would be the day when you got out of high school. You would mark the day on the calendar. "By this time I'm going to make that decision for Jesus Christ." Now harvest is past, the summer gone, and still you are not saved.
You told the Lord, "Let me get through college, let me kind of find out who I am, then I will make that decision." Now you have graduated from college. Harvest is past, summer gone and you still are not saved.
"Let me get in my job, let me get my marriage taken care of, let me get my first child raised, let me get this promotion taken care of." Time after time you mark it on your calendar and you say to yourself, "That's when I'll make a decision." Now that time has come, that time has gone, and still you are not saved. Harvest past, summer gone and still …
You think you will do it tomorrow, but tomorrow may not be yours. Tomorrow may not be yours.