The Danger of “One Day”
Some sermons are harder to preach than others because some sermons, more than others, force me to make changes in my life. This message is no exception because it forces me to work on an area in my life that needs immediate attention and improvement; procrastination. I move quickly to say we all struggle with some form of procrastination. Whether it is paying bills on time, following through with health challenges, filling out the new job application or the application to get back in school, or ending a toxic relationship that has lingered too long, we all have said, “I’ll do it one day.” The next thing you know, in the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “We are faced with the fact my friends that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.”
30 years ago there was essentially no research done on procrastination. Today researchers have established finding that lead to why people procrastinate. In 2007 Piers Steel a psychologist at the University of Calgary published a review of almost 800 studies on procrastination and discovered four main reasons:
- Low confidence in succeeding – A fear of failure
- Task averseness – The task seems to hard
- Distractibility and impulsiveness – Things that pull you away from completing the task
- Having goals and rewards to far off in the future – What you dream of doing seems too far away
One person rightly said, “Procrastination never won a race, received a promotion or changed the outcome of any situation.” It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will transform the negative cycle of procrastination in our lives.
Proverbs is the second book of the third section called “Writings” in the Old Testament. It is not purely a collection but considered a “collection of collections” relating to a pattern of life. The book of Proverbs raises questions about values, moral conduct and the meaning of life. Overall it appears to be a book of instructions that father is writing to his son. In this passage a father is instructing his son not to be lazy or a procrastinator. He requests his son to contemplate the ways of the ant. The ant is a very industrious creature that lends to life lessons on the urgency of now and the dangers of procrastination.
The ant collects food at the proper season. They provide food for the summer and collect it in the harvest for their consumption. There is no other insect quite as industrious as the ant, not even the bee. The ant labors with purpose to ensure that it has proper provisions for itself and its young. The ant collects food for lean times. One commentator sums up the ant in this regard, “Spring, summer, and fall, they are relentless in their labor; and their conduct affords a bright example to men.”
The author shifts the lesson to offer reprimand to the procrastinator. “How long will you just lay around and do nothing? When are you going to get out of bed? You take a nap here and a nap there. You take a day off here and there, sit back and take it easy. You can look forward to a fatalistic future; a dirt-poor life and poverty will be your permanent houseguest.” What is the author teaching us in the passage about procrastination?
Disappointing days are certainly walking your way: “Four different Hebrew words are used in the 11 references in Proverbs, all bearing the idea of being in need of the necessities of life, although a distinction is made between being in want and being in extreme want.” The word “travelleth” means to walk “to.” It may not surface all at once but it is certain to come with slow, sure and approaching steps.
Disappointment will come with irresistible force and you will become the victim of an unprepared fight: This passage suggest that “want” will ascend upon you with swiftness and overtake you as a swift traveller approaches one who is walking slow or as a man with a gun upon an unarmed man. The unarmed man, unprepared man surrenders to the man with the weapon.
There are some things in life that need our immediate attention. Your health, both spiritual and physical requires immediate attention. We are quick to say “one day” I will get in shape. How many times have you said, “I’m going back to school? I’m going to take care of my last will and testament and make final plans for my family.”
What are the perils of Procrastination?
- Procrastination causes mental stress without pursuing closure. It gives you plenty to worry about without getting anything done.
- Procrastination places you further away from a conclusion. Time waits for no one.
- Procrastination sets the stage for a catastrophe.
How do you avoid Procrastination?
- Remind yourself of the consequences. What will happen if you never address what you are supposed to do?
- React to the circumstances: Do something each day that moves you closer to the desired results.
- Remove distractors: not developers. There are some things in life that distract and pull our attention away from what we are supposed to do. There are some things we feel are too hard but will develop us. If God calls you to a task He will make sure you benefit from the task.
- Reward yourself: Celebrate each victory. No premature celebrations.
In this month that celebrates Black History I am thankful that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not a procrastinator. He did more in 39 years than most will accomplish in a lifetime. At the Riverside Church, one year before he died King said, “Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life can leave you standing bare, naked and dejected with lost opportunity. There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance and neglect. Omar Khayyam is right. ‘The moving finger writes and having writ moves on.’”
Why put off tomorrow what you can do today? Commit to move forward. Start now. Remember the words of Goethe: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back — concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
Do it Now!!!
Dr. Oscar T. Moses