16. POISE THROUGH SEIZING THE DAY
Yesterday is a cashed check and cannot be negotiated. Tomorrow is a promissory note and cannot be utilized today. Today is cash in hand. Spend it wisely.
The songwriter D.W. Whittle understood this truthwhen he wrote:
Moment by moment I’m kept in His love,
Moment by moment I’ve life from above,
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, O, Lord, I am Thine.
The trouble with many people is that instead of looking to Jesus they are looking to tomorrow, waiting for circumstances to turn and favor them. What a tragic waste of opportunity. The psalmist tells us, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Lowell Thomas had these words framed and hung on the walls of his broadcasting studio at his farm so that he could see them often.
If the conviction of your heart is summed up in this verse, it is impossible for you to worry.
There is no point in living in the past. Paul was in the habit of “forgetting those things which are behind” (Philippians 3:13). All your opportunities and responsibilities lie right here in the present. So give every moment your all. Give your entire attention to the work at hand, the person with whom you are talking or dealing. The Lord grants us time only here and now You can use each moment only once.
God will give you what you need today
Many people say, “If only this or that would change, then I could reach my goals.” Nonsense! God gives you today exactly what you need today.
The Bible illustrates this principle perfectly in the story of the manna falling on the children of Israel in Exodus 16. Read the passage:
This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man according to the number of your persons…. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank…. --EXODUS 16:16-20
The Israelites were in need of food. They needed it today, tomorrow, and the day after that. But the Lord provided for them a daily supply. He did not send down manna in seven-day sacks. If they gathered more than they needed for the day, all the excess rotted. The truth is simply this: God's sustenance comes to you now, right at this moment. You cannot have this day again, and so you must make the best job of it you can. Whatever God wants you to do today, He has given you the resources to do.
Jesus lived and worked in the "now"
Here again our Lord is the example. He came to die. Through His death He set up a kingdom—a kingdom not of this world, but a spiritual kingdom. Said Jesus, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world" (John 18:37).
The shadow of persecution and death constantly lay across Jesus' path. Nevertheless, He lived one day at a time and did not permit the grief, torture, and pain that faced Him to rob Him of perfect composure for today. Little children reveled in His company. Men who conversed with Him were aware of His total absorption with their problems. Over and over again we can hear our Lord saying, "My hour is not yet come." In other words, He lived moment by moment, one day at a time. Observe His matchless poise!
Don't be forever living in the future. It's true that as a Christian, you are to look unceasingly for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of Jesus Christ. But as you do so, don't neglect your present work. Live in such a way that you will never be ashamed to meet Jesus, whenever He appears.
In Acts 1:6 the followers of our Lord asked, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?"
Consider the answer our Lord gave: "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you ..." (Acts 1:7,8).
Our Lord replied by showing them that the finest possible preparation they could make for the future was a Spirit-led execution of the present. The proof that the child of God is looking forward to the second coming of Christ is his faithfulness in living today for the glory of God.
The Today Principle is widely applied
Montaigne said, "My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened." Many of us might say the same thing. How foolish of us to scuttle our opportunities and waste the privileges of this day which is slipping away with fantastic speed.
John Ruskin had on his desk a simple piece of stone on which was sculptured one word: TODAY.
Osier gives good advice when he says, "Banish the future; live only for the hour and its allotted work. . . . Set earnestly at the little task at your elbow .. . our plain duty is 'not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.'"
Yes, seize today! Richard Baxter left to us sage advice when he said, "Spend your time in nothing which you know must be repented of; in nothing on which you might not claim the blessings of God; in nothing which you could not review with a quiet conscience on your dying bed; in nothing which you might not be safely and properly doing if guests surprise you in the act."
Most of your misery is left over from yesterday or borrowed from tomorrow. In the dynamic of the Holy Spirit determine to live today to the glory of God. This is the day that the Lord has made. Paul would remind you to redeem the time, for the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16). God has given you today. He has taken back all your yesterdays. All your tomorrows are still in His keeping.
Living in the "now" for 24 years
I told earlier of how the Lord graciously blessed us with a precious son.
One of the nation's most respected gynecologists and obstetricians brought him into the world. Tragically, this man—overcome by grief—sought to find the answer in a bourbon bottle rather than in the blessed Bible. Due to the doctor's intoxication at the time of delivery, several of the baby's bones were broken. His leg was pulled out at the growing center. Needless abuse—resulting in hemorrhaging of the brain—was inflicted upon the little fellow.
During the first year of his life, eight doctors said he could not possibly survive. Until he was two my wife had to feed him every three hours with a Brecht feeder. It took a half hour to prepare for the feeding and it took another half hour to clean up and put him back to bed. Not once during that time did she get out of the house for any diversion whatsoever. Never did she get more than two hours sleep at one time.
My wife, formerly Christine Barker of Bristol, Virginia, had once been acclaimed by some of the nation's leading musicians as one of the outstanding contemporary female vocalists in America. From the time she was 13 she had been popular as a singer—and constantly in the public eye. Hers was the experience of receiving and rejecting some fancy offers with even fancier incomes to marry an aspiring Baptist pastor with not even a church to his name!
Then, after five years of marriage, tragedy struck. The whole episode was so unnecessary. From a life of public service she was now marooned within the walls of our home. Her beautiful voice no longer enraptured public audiences with the story of Jesus, but was now silenced, or at best, muted to the subdued humming of lullabies.
Had it not been for her spiritual maturity, whereby she laid hold of the resources of God and lived one day at a time, this heartrending experience would long since have caused an emotional breakdown.
John Edmund, Jr., our little son, lived 24 years and died in 1975. We rejoice that he committed his heart and life to Jesus Christ and gave evidence of a genuine concern for the things of the Lord. I attribute his commitment to Jesus Christ and his wonderful disposition to the sparkling radiance of an emotionally mature, Christ-centered mother who has mastered the discipline of living in the "now."
The people who know her concur that, after enduring a grief more intense than most could guess, she still possesses a sparkle that would be the envy of any high school senior, and a radiance and charm for which any debutante would gladly give a fortune.
Don't let others seize the day for you
Seize the day. Live for today. Wring it dry of every opportunity.
You have troubles? So do others. So did Paul, who said, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:9b).
You seize the day. Don't let others seize it for you. Peer pressure in the United States robs too many of their individuality. There's no reason for you to engage in socializing just because that's the excessive pastime of your neighbors.
If you want to socialize, if it contributes to your social well-being without imposing counterproductive pressures on you, go to it. However, I am appalled at the excessive and superficial socializing in which otherwise free people allow unproductive activities to enslave them. They permit their minds to be divided between asking, "Is this what I ought to do?" and "What will they think of me if I don't go?" Take control of your own life. Go or don't go. But don't sit on the fence.
Because so many allow themselves to become enslaved to this superficial socializing, they never read a book, never memorize a poem, and never take that course at the university night school they had promised themselves they were going to take. In short, they rob themselves of the really important contributions to their lives and influence.
Seize the day for your children
Unfortunately, our society has developed two extreme types of parents: those who abuse their children, and those who become hostage to them. In either case, I can assure you that the major reason is the divided mind. And in either case, the children suffer.
Let's take the case of the parents who become hostage to their children. They don't want their children to walk from the front door to the pantry. They must drive them there! Jogging for fitness is in. But for children, walking is out. These parents are determined that, whatever the cost, they are to be a spectator at every activity in which the child has a part.
Consequently, we have had a 50-percent increase in obesity among children in the past ten years in the United States. The medical profession unanimously attributes this to too much television and too little exercise.
How many children do you know today who are required to do chores? Even to make up their own beds, help wash the dishes or the car, take care of the lawn, or assist with the housecleaning? I submit to you that in many cases, the parents have split their minds between what they know they ought to do and what their peers are doing down the street.
I was in a vigorous and enjoyable debate with a man from Yorkshire, England. He said, "When I visit your country, I am appalled that so many can't make up their minds."
"What are you talking about?" I protested.
"I'll give you a perfect illustration: Junior asks his mother if he can go to a certain function. His mother then gets on the phone and calls the mothers of all of Junior's neighbors to find out what they are going to do. After having taken a poll of the neighbors, his parents then give Junior the verdict. What a terrible way to rear a lad. They are creating an atmosphere of indecision which is bound to have a negative effect on the boy."
I protested vigorously, but in my mind I knew that— more often than I cared to admit—what he said was true. And why do people act in this manner? The divided mind. It's divided between their responsibility as parents and their fear of falling out of line with their peers. In short, they don't seize the day. They let the day—and their peers—seize them. And that does not make for mental health, emotional stability, or a serene home life.
You develop greater poise when you determine to take time by the forelock and, under the leadership of God, shake it into obedience and make it your servant instead of your master.
People who worry about their health become hostage to the day instead of seizing the day. A friend told me of his mother who worried for 40 years that she would die of cancer. She died at 73-from pneumonia. It's tragic. She wasted 40 years worrying about the wrong thing. Over those 40 years she brought depression instead of delight to the hearts of her closest friends and members of her family. For 40 years she divided her mind and her time between useful pursuits and worrying about cancer. For 40 years her testimony for Christ was dimmed and her witness for Christ was diminished simply because she refused to live one day at a time—and to live that day to the fullest and to the glory of God.
Read it again: "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24). You know it makes sense.