1/27/19

“Tomorrow”/ “Another Night With the Frogs” (Matthew 8:18-22)

 

In C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, Lucifer is talking with several demons-in-training.  In one session, the students’ question to answer was: “What is the best way we can take more souls away from God?”  One imp said, “Tell them the Bible is a fable.”  Another, “Tell them there is no God, no sin, thus no heaven or hell or need for salvation,”  But the third put forth this idea: “Tell them the Bible is true, there is a God, sin is real and deadly, Jesus God’s Son died to save every man and woman in the world from its penalty of sin, and that anyone who takes Jesus’ gift will be in heaven and anyone who doesn’t will be forever with us here in hell… just tell them there’s plenty of time to respond to God – there’s no hurry!”

 

What’s the most dangerous word in the Bible?  tomorrow

 

TOMORROW… (Edgar A. Guest)

He was going to be all a mortal should be… tomorrow;

No one would be better than he… tomorrow.

A friend who was troubled and weary he knew

Who’d be glad of a lift and he needed it, too;

On him he would call and see what he could do… tomorrow.

 

Each morning he stacked up the letters he’d write… tomorrow,

And thought of the folks he would fill with delight… tomorrow.

It was too bad; indeed he was busy today

And hadn’t a minute to stop on his way,

“More time he would have to give others,” he’d say… tomorrow.

 

The greatest of workers this man would have been… tomorrow;

The world would have known him had he ever seen… tomorrow,

But, fact is, he died and faded from view

And all that was left when his living was through

Was a mountain of things he intended to do… tomorrow. 

 

GETTING STARTED (anonymous)

I spent a fortune on a trampoline,

A stationary bike and a rowing machine…

Complete with gadgets to read my pulse,

And gadgets to prove my progress results,

And others to show the miles I've charted

But they left off the gadget to get me started!

 

Why do we wait to do important things we know we ought to do… things that are personally advantageous to us...  things we have to do?

 

The Cost of Following Jesus –  Jesus saw the crowd around him. So he gave his disciples orders to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him. He said, “Teacher, I will follow you no matter where you go.”20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens. Birds have nests. But the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”21 Another follower said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me. Let the dead bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:18-22).

 

The big word for “waiting” is “procrastination” – meaning deferring, postponing, stalling, delaying, or, around here, “putting’ off”.  It’s just deciding to do it later.  Some folks make a habit of it, or a way of life.  There are times we know what to do and how to do, but just lack the “gumption” (good common sense of priority) to get busy at it.

 

Farm boy Willis accidentally turned his wagonload of corn over in the road. His farmer neighbor came to investigate. "Hey, Willis," he told him, "forget it for a spell and come in and have lunch with us. Then I'll help you get the wagon up." "That's mighty nice of you," Willis answered, "But I don't think Pa would like me to." "Aw, come on, son!" the neighbor insisted. Willis finally agreed, but said again, "Pa won't like it." After a great lunch, Willis thanked his host, and said, "I feel better now, but I just know Pa is going to be mighty upset." "Aw, that’s silly!" said the neighbor… then he asked, "By the way, where is your Pa?" Willis said, "Under the wagon."

 

Waiting is a thief of time, money, and dreams, and maybe heaven; if we put off spiritual things God commands we, it can steal our soul.

 

Why wait?  Sometimes… ignorance – we just don’t see what’s at stake and need someone to tell us.  Sometimes… preoccupation – we’re tied up with other interests and don’t see our need or the urgency of the situation.  Sometimes… a sense of control (false sense).  Sometimes… satisfaction – we’re content.

 

We should avoid procrastination because it poses real danger.  Doors do not stand forever open.  Paul, calling Christians to mature and live with eyes on Jesus said, “…be very careful how you live… like people who are wise” (Ephesians 5:15). 

 

BUSY HERE AND THERE  In 1 Kings 20 King Ahab had captured his enemy Ben-Hadad.  He let him live – in fact, he made a treaty with him.  An unnamed prophet dressed as a soldier and stood beside the road where Ahab would pass.  When Ahab stopped, the prophet told Ahab that he had a responsibility to guard an enemy prisoner but “was busy here and there” and his captive escaped.  Ahab pronounced sentence – life for life.  The prophet revealed himself: Ahab had let God’s enemy go; God would demand Ahab’s life for Ben-Hadad’s.

 

A second reason is because it heavies our load.  Jesus preached, “Every day has enough evil of its own” (Matthew 6:34).  Adding yesterday’s “evil” to today’s (or tomorrow’s) will eventually build our load beyond managing which means more procrastination, and heavier loads then.

 

Then, notice this… if it’s a spiritual call we put off, it’s a sin, which separates us from God and brings death (Romans 6:23).  We can’t do the “don’ts” or leave undone the “dos.”  The Bible says, “…suppose someone knows good deeds they should do but they don’t do them.  By not doing these good deeds, they sin” (James 4:17).  When the “goats” are being judged at the Jesus’ judgment scene, their sin is not doing what they saw needed to be done (Matthew 25:31ff.).

 

There’s no certainty of a future, so there is peace in being prepared“Don’t brag about tomorrow; you don’t know what a day will bring” (Proverbs 27:1).  Jesus taught that a “wise man” builds his house for all eventualities (Matthew 7:24-27). 

“Hard work” is often “easy work” we don’t do at its proper time.  Wisdom knows the value of NOW (2 Corinthians 6:2).

 

FAMOUS PROCRASTINATION FAILURES:

 

GEN. JOHANN RALL (Hessian commander in Revolutionary War)  Playing cards. Got dispatch of Washington crossing Delaware.  Didn’t read message until game ended.  Too late!

 

ZERUBBABEL  In (537-520BC) the Persian King Darius released Zerubbabel and other Jews from captivity to return to Jerusalem and rebuild God’s temple that had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar 40 years before.  But because of opposition by locals and other enemies, they delayed building.  Zephaniah and Haggai supplied the moral teaching to reenergize the project.  Haggai preached, “’But be strong, Zerubbabel,’ announces the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua. Be strong, all of you people in the land,’ announces the Lord. ‘Start rebuilding. I am with you,’ announces the Lord who rules over all. ‘That is what I promised you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit continues to be with you. So do not be afraid’” (2:1-5).

 

PHARAOH  God sent devastating plagues on Egypt by Moses.  One was frogs infesting the land.  Pharaoh decided that he would let the Israelites go so God would end the plague.  So he proposed, “[Go but go] Tomorrow” (Exodus 8:1-10). (“One More Night with the Frogs.”)

 

ROMAN GOVERNOR FELIX  Paul the apostle, imprisoned for two years in Caesarea awaiting going to Rome to be judged by Caesar, told his salvation story on at least three occasions.  One of those occasions was before Antonia Felix, Governor of Judea.  Here’s how Luke describes what happened:  “Felix sent for Paul and listened to him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. Paul talked about how to live a godly life… how people should control themselves… also about the time when God will judge everyone. Then Felix became afraid. ‘That’s enough for now!’ he said. ‘You may leave. When I find the time, I will send for you.’” (Acts 24:24-25).

 

Alas, we know nothing of Felix “finding time.”  WHO HERE TODAY IS WAITING TO “FIND THE TIME” TO FOLLOW JESUS? 

 

The prophet Elijah stood before a religiously uncommitted crowd on Mount Carmel and asked them, “How long will it take you to make up your minds? If the Lord is the one and only God, worship him.  But if Baal is the one and only God, worship him” (1 Kings 18:21).  The question today would be this: “If Jesus is the one and only Savior, worship and follow Him.  If you can be saved by your gods, follow them.”  Last Sunday, we saw the same challenge from Joshua to the Israelites who needed to decide whether they would commit to be God-followers or not: “…choose this day whom you will serve… God, or idols (things we think are gods but have no saving power)” (Joshua 24:15).

 

THE CURE

The Bible presents the cure as simply learning what is spiritually important – which automatically brings a greater sense of urgency.  Jesus spoke often about His urgency to be about His Father’s business.  He stayed behind in Jerusalem after a feast while a boy and when found by his parents and asked why He had behaved so, His answer was, “I must be in my Father’s house” (i.e., “about God’s business or work)” (Luke 2:41-50).

Maybe we’re waiting until we’re good enough… The truth is that we’ll never be.  Live a 1,000 lifetimes, even righteously, and God will still say, “There is no one righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:23).  Jesus saves us by our leaning on His grace. 

 

Maybe we’re thinking the cost of Christianity is too high.  Yes, it is.  Denying ourselves, taking a cross, telling God, “Not my will, but yours, be done.”  But God has promised to guide and help, to never leave, never forsake, to give us the Holy Spirit to Comfort and grow some blessed “fruits of the Spirit” in our hearts “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-con-trol” (Galatians 5:22-23). 

 

Peter, speaking of the same characteristics, wrote:

 

All these things should describe you more and more. They will make you useful and fruitful as you know our Lord Jesus Christ better.  But what if these things don’t describe someone at all? Then that person can’t see very well. In fact, they are blind. They have forgotten that their past sins have been washed away.  …try very hard to show that God has appointed you to be saved… to show that he has chosen you. If you do everything I have just said, you will never trip and fall. (2 Peter 1:8-10).

 

ETERNAL RISKS OF WAITING

First, there’s the folly of ignoring what’s urgentOur own salvation is at stake.  Death can come unexpectedly… way early.  People who expect salvation at the 11th hour often die at 10:45pm, and sometimes much earlier. 

 

Second, even if we should live a long life, sin entraps us and our heart becomes rocky soil that even God’s best good gospel seed can’t penetrate. 

 

Third, there’s a horror mentioned by Paul: God gives up on us and works for our destruction because we are not “lovers of truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).

 

Fourth, we risk others’ salvation.  We all will take others to heaven with us or we will take others to hell’s destruction with us. 

 

WHAT’S THE UP-SIDE OF ACTING TODAY?

Of course, salvation… sins washed whiter than snow… eternity of peace and joy in His presence, starting now – even here on earth, there’s the great up-side of living life in God’s peace.  Think of righteous Daniel, who early in life dedicated himself to God, and so was completely settled and at peace praying as he always did though a decree had been issued in Babylon that anyone praying to any god other than Nebuchadnezzar would be thrown into a den of lions. 

 

Then there’s the heavenly influence on others as we are salt and light in the world.

 

So it’s NOW… NOW… NOW… sinners, time NOW to repent and obey to follow Jesus; Christians, time NOW to tell the lost people you know (and you know a lot of lost people, some have never obeyed, some have but are “in the far country” eating the pigs’ swill; Christians, time NOW to be obedient in being generous (because the work is great and has costs); Christians, time NOW to use our gifts (before they atrophy and are gone); all… time NOW to totally commit our hearts to Jesus.  He said, “…the fields are white.”

 

Or will this be our response?

 

I WILL… TOMORROW  Gloria Pitzer

Procrastination is my sin;

It brings me naught but sorrow.

I know that I should stop it…

In fact, I will… tomorrow.