Apologies to all for the lack of any posts from me for the last couple of weeks: partly this has been due to large amounts of other things demanding my attention, but partly it has been simple procrastination. This brings me nicely onto the topic of this post: the struggle for us as people who want to produce and create things to avoid procrastination. I’d like to start by explaining what has made me think about this topic and its importance, and then to consider the Bible’s teaching and some starting points for battling against procrastination.
Setting the scene
I have almost finished reading a small book called “Men of Purpose” which contains short biographies of 11 Christian men who made a big impact with their lives. They were from a variety of fields: the famous scientists Faraday and Kelvin, the great composer Mendelssohn and the businessman and Sunday School teacher Heinz (of soup and beans fame!) were four of those discussed. Apart from being a very encouraging read, it was very helpful to try and see what threads ran between these great men. They were all men of deep Christian conviction, devoted to prayer and to the Bible, but another theme ran throughout the books. They did not procrastinate: they learnt how to use their time wisely, and this allowed them to get exceptional amounts done in their (often short) lifespans.
Ephesians 5:15 in the KJV talks of “redeeming the time”, a phrase that has stuck in my mind in recent times. James 4 reminds us that our life is but a mist that appears for a short time and then is gone. What am I going to do with my little mist? I am conscious of the amount of things I could do for the Kingdom each day: writing letters of encouragement, putting time into prayer and Bible study, writing songs and poems to build up the local church, recording and processing what I have learnt and spending time waiting on God to name but a few. Yet so much of my time is used foolishly, disappearing on the internet or in other frivolous and meaningless things.
I imagine that this is the case for many of you. The potential of doing great things for the cause of Christ simply from the readers of this blog is immense. Between us, there must be many ideas for creating powerful art and music, writing on y matters of the faith, doing great acts of kindness for the needy, and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in many other ways. Yet it is scary and sobering to think how many of these will never get beyond our imagination simply because we will never get down and do them, and so instead we will waste our time on the internet, computer games, television or other idle things. This is a serious subject. Weight
So how do we respond to such things? What practical steps can we take to “redeem the time” and not let it slip by? I have suggested a few points below, but I would love to hear from readers on any other suggestions: this is an ongoing battle in my own life, and so any help would be much appreciated.
- Starting our days with a devotional time. John Wesley said “I have so much to do that I spend several hours in prayer before I am able to do it”. It is no coincidence that those who are disciplined in prayer tend to get more done, partly as it means they have learnt discipline in one area and that carries through into others, and also because starting the day with eyes fixed on Christ gets our priorities straight which shows through in our usage of time. This disciplined prayer is something I am aiming towards at the moment.
- Remove access to the things that we use to procrastinate most. This may call for radical action. For me, the first step was getting rid of my computer games and consoles, and deleting the games off my phone. A friend of mine has removed his access to the internet at home. Another doesn’t own a TV. Please do consider whether this sort of action is going to help you: if so, then *do it*. In the light of eternity, it will be more than worthwhile. This sort of action alone is not sufficient (you can always find other ways to waste time) but it is a very good place to start.
- Learning how to separate rest from work. Counter-intuitively, I think that one of the main reasons we procrastinate so much is because we don’t know how to rest. We find ourselves instead in a twilight zone of half work-half rest, never really doing either. We need to be able to set aside a time of rest (the concept of Sabbath) where we really do rest, and then set aside times of work and productivity that really are full of work and productivity. Making sure one day a week is a day of rest is a very good biblical principle.
- Fix our eyes on Jesus. I love the way Hebrews 12 puts it. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Ultimately, we are not going to succeed in using our time wisely without remembering *why* we take out our pen or our Bible instead of checking Facebook again or turning on a Family Guy re-run. We do it because of Jesus: because he gave so much for us, we want our lives to honour him. As Leonard Ravenhill asked – “Are the things you’re living for worth Christ dying for?”
“Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.”