Procrastination is So Easy to Justify
The other day, one of our children spilled something on the carpet, so I went and found some stain remover. The directions said I needed to get to that spot as quickly as possible, and not to let it dry or soak in, but that I should put the solution on it immediately. In other words, the quicker I dealt with it, the easier it would be to remove.
It’s the same way in our lives. When God brings something to light, revealing an area that we need to change, or something that we need to make right, that’s when we need to take action. Not next week when we feel like it, or next month when our circumstances are better. No, we need to do it immediately.
Procrastination — putting off till later what we ought to do now — is so easy to justify. We think, One day I’m going to do that, so I’m not really being disobedient. We say, “Someday, I’m going to get serious about my relationship with God, but not right now.” Or, “One day, I’m going to get back in shape.” “One day I’m going to get my finances in order.” Or, “Sometime soon, I’m going to forgive that person that hurt me.” Unfortunately, for many people, one day never comes.
I’ve discovered that if the enemy can’t get us to be disobedient, his next plan of attack is to deceive us into putting off what we know we should do. “God, I’m planning to do it, just not right now.” “I’m planning to tithe ‘to give ten percent of my income to the church’ as soon as my finances get better.” “I’m planning to serve in the children’s ministry as soon as the work schedule slows down at my office.”
We’re saying, “I have good intentions; I’m planning to be obedient, so that’s not so bad.” But good intentions don’t equal obedience. And really, delayed obedience is disobedience. When God speaks to your heart about changing your attitude, or apologizing to that loved one, or treating somebody better, yet you keep putting it off, that will destroy your joy and keep you from God’s best.
Rather than being a procrastinator, be a “now” person. Start doing what God has put in your heart right now. Don’t merely intend to be obedient, promptly obey.
Maybe you go to bed with a guilty conscience because you are putting off what you know you should be doing. Procrastination makes us feel badly about ourselves; it condemns us. You walk in the house, and see that dirty laundry room that you’ve been meaning to clean for two months, or you’ve got a sink full of dishes, or your garage is a mess. You think, What is wrong with me? I’m never going to get this place cleaned up. I’m so lazy. I might as well go in and sit down and watch some more TV.
That’s a negative cycle, and it will continue unless you put your foot down and say, “I’m going to get my house in order. I’m going to make some changes today. No more procrastinating for me.”
Perhaps God has been dealing with you about getting out of debt, about controlling your spending, and not being so quick to use those credit cards. You say, “Yes, one day, I’ll get my spending in order, but let me run to the mall one more time.” Or, I can hear you saying, “Joel, you hit the nail on the head. I’ve got to do something with my finances. I know I need to balance my checkbook. So, in the next month or two, I’m going to sit down and do it.” No, don’t put that off. The longer we put things off the harder they are to do. Do it now. The Scripture teaches, “If you know the right thing to do, but you’re not doing it, then that’s sin.”
“Joel, do you mean it’s a sin for me to spend too much money?”
If you know in your heart that something is not right for you, and you go against your conscience, that’s disobedience; you’ll not have God’s blessings on those activities. The Bible says, “whatever is not from faith is sin.” In other words, if you can’t engage in an activity with confidence that you are pleasing God, for you that activity is out of line with His plan.
Are you putting off living a healthier life? Maybe you know you need to get on an exercise program and get in shape. You may be thinking, Joel, that’s right, that’s me; and sure enough, I’m going to do it. I know I eat too much junk food. I drink too many sodas. And yes, I’m going to make changes, but some other time. I’m going to start this summer as soon as the kids get out of school. No, that’s delayed obedience. That’s not God’s best. Start today; do it now!
Or maybe there is a person that you need to forgive. God has been dealing with you about it, but you think, I can’t do that. They hurt me too badly. What they did wasn’t right; it wasn’t fair. The longer you put it off, the more difficult it’s going to be. On the other hand, if you will take that first step of faith and release any bitterness or resentment, you’ll be amazed at how joy overflows in your life.
You may be asking, “Joel, how do I know when it’s really God’s timing?”
Simple. It is God’s timing when He is dealing with you about a matter. Maybe it’s something you’ve been neglecting, an area you need to change; something you’ve been putting off. Be willing to do something about it. Stop putting off the apologies you need to make. Stop putting off the little jobs around the home and the office that need to be done. Don’t procrastinate when it comes to your health and taking care of the body that God has given you.
I have a friend with whom I used to play basketball. Something down inside kept saying to him, “Go get a check up”. He was as healthy as could be, didn’t have a problem in the world, and life was good. Month after month, he kept putting off scheduling a doctor’s appointment. But he would go to bed at night feeling condemned because he knew down inside that he should go get that check-up.
One day his health started to deteriorate. His weight plummeted, and we didn’t see him up at the gym for some time. When he finally returned, we learned that he had been diagnosed with a serious illness. He said, “Joel, when I went to see the doctor, the first thing he said was, ‘I wish you had gotten here several years ago. We would have had so much better of a chance to deal with this.’ ”
See, my friend knew in his heart what he should do; he just chose not to do it. When we know what’s right, but we just keep putting it off, we risk missing God’s best.
I know God can take care of us, but I also know that God expects us to do our part. I’m a young man, and I consider myself extremely healthy, but every two years, I go to the doctor and have a full physical examination. I don’t do it just for myself. I do it for my wife; I do it for my children. And understand, I don’t like doing it. There are a thousand things I’d rather be doing, but when I don’t do it, there’s an unrest on the inside.
“Joel, I thought you were a man of faith,” I hear somebody saying. “I thought you believed in healing.”
Yes, I believe in healing, but I also believe that if we’ll take care of ourselves, we may not need to be healed. And I would rather live a healthy lifestyle than to have to be healed all the time.
Quit putting off what you know in your heart is the right thing to do. You may be putting off spending time with your family. You’re so busy; you work all the time. Your attitude is, One day I’m going to slow down and enjoy these children that God has given me. Or, One day, I’m going to take that trip to visit my parents who are getting up in age. One day, I’m going to call that loved one that I’ve been thinking about. No, take time now for the people you love. You don’t really know how long they’re going to be here.
A man approached me in the front lobby of Lakewood Church; he was in his early 50’s, and he was sobbing. His parents had done something that had offended him, and for several years, he wouldn’t have anything to do with them. He was holding on to bitterness and resentment. He knew he should let it go, forgive them, and overlook their faults, but he wouldn’t do it. He was hard-headed and his attitude was, One day, I’ll make things right. But right now, I’m going to show them.
Unfortunately, “one day” never came. His father had a massive stroke and instantly he was gone. The son was living with guilt and shame. If he had to do it again, he wouldn’t have put off making things right with his parents. When people do us wrong, God expects us to let the offenses go. Life is too short to hold a grudge. Stop putting off forgiving the people that have done you wrong.
And stop putting off spending time with the people that you love. So often, we take people for granted. “I’m going to go see my parents when my kids get through with their baseball season, or when I get a little bit more money.” But if you wait for all the conditions to be just right, you’ll never get off dead center. There will never be a “perfect time” to do what God has put in your heart. You’ve got to make a decision that you’re going to do it now.
Don’t miss opportunities to be good to people. For instance, maybe God is prompting you to give somebody some money. Don’t overanalyze it. Well, God, I think I need the money more than they do. “Is this really you, God?” I better pray about this for a couple of weeks. No, that’s an excuse for not doing what you know God is telling you to do.
Many times, somebody’s name comes to mind, and I know I should go call them and encourage them. I feel so strongly about it, but I’m in the middle of watching the ball game. I’ve even said, “God, I’m going to do that later. I’ll call them tomorrow. Or maybe I’ll invite them out to eat next week.” My intentions are good, but then life gets busy. Other things take priority, and I miss out on sowing that seed of blessing.
I’ve learned that when a person comes to mind, I need to respond now. If I can’t get them on the phone, I’ll leave a message, or ask one of my assistants, “Hey, send these guys a note; let them know we’re thinking of them, see if there’s anything we can do to help.”
In what area is God dealing with you? Are you putting off being good to people?
Some people are putting off making peace with God. People tell me all the time, “Joel, I need to get back in church. I know I need to start living right, making better choices, resisting temptations. It’s just not the right time. But one day you’re going to see me there.” Others say, “As soon as I break these addictions, as soon as I get rid of these bad habits, then I’ll be there.” Really, they have it backwards; come to God just as you are and He’ll help you get your life cleaned up.
The trick of the enemy is to tell you, “Do it tomorrow. You can do it some other time. Do it after you get out of college. These are your party years; do it later.”
Don’t believe those lies. The Scripture says, “Today is the day of salvation.” Today is the day we need to make positive changes in our lives. God is a God of the now, and whatever area He may be dealing with you in, start to do it now. That’s the only way you’re going to experience His abundant life.
You may wonder why you’re not happy and fulfilled. Maybe it is because you’re not doing what you know you should be doing. You keep pushing down what God is bringing up.
Understand, God will not force us to live happily. He’s given you free will. Every day, you must choose to listen to your conscience, to be good to people, to resist temptation. It’s an ongoing process. Human nature always wants to put it off. Do it later.
In the Old Testament book of Haggai, God had spoken to His people about building the temple. But the people said, “The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be rebuilt.” They were saying, “We’ll do it later, God. We’re just too busy.”
I don’t believe they planned on putting it off for 16 years, but it kept getting easier to delay. “Well, this is not a good year, it’s not convenient.” The next year rolled around. “No, let’s not do it this year; I’ve got too much going on.”
That’s what we do many times: “We’ll take care of it next month, but not right now.” Next month rolls around, and we say, “Oh, God, I’m going to deal with that, but let me do it a little bit later.” Before we know it, we have put something off for a year, five years, even ten years. These people put it off for 16 years.
Notice what happens when we procrastinate. The prophet Haggai lamented, “You need to consider your ways. You have sown much, but you have reaped little. You have earned your wages, but you’re putting them in a bag with holes in it.”
If you’re not happy today, and you’re working all the time, but you can’t seem to get ahead, you need to consider your ways. When we put off what we know we should be doing, it’s like we’re trying to fill up a bag that has holes in it. The point of this story is: Start doing what God tells you to do right now. Don’t make excuses. Don’t look for a more convenient time. Just do it.
Remember, good intentions are not the same as obedience. If God is speaking to you about areas you’ve been putting off, don’t regard that as condemnation. God is trying to take you to a higher level. If you’ll do your part and be quick to obey, you won’t fall into the procrastination trap; you won’t place your treasure in a bag with holes in it. God wants to do His part; it’s time for you to do yours. Do it now!