Do you put off doing things that need to be done? You need to know the causes — and some practical, effective solutions — for this problem!
It's been a long, hard day and you've finally settled down to relax. Your favorite chair seems to melt your tensions. The bottled-up stress begins to ease. But — oh, no! A feeling of exasperation and fear flashes through your mind as you remember something you neglected to do. There goes your peace of mind! Your stomach knots and your muscles tense as you struggle with a sense of frustration and guilt. Finally, at the peak of worry, you mentally resolve the matter by thinking to yourself, I'll do it later. But will you — really? You're probably familiar with procrastination — all of us fall into it, and fairly easily, from time to time. And the effects can be devastating: You can be robbed of happiness and peace of mind, harm your relationships with others and, yes, even keep yourself out of God's Kingdom! Does that last statement sound shocking? It shouldn't! Procrastination — putting things off — can be a deadly, sinister enemy. How? Christ's parable about the 10 virgins (Matt. 25:1-13) addresses this problem. All the virgins wanted to meet the bridegroom, but only five were wise. The others had neglected to bring along a supply of oil (symbolic of the Holy Spirit) for their lamps. They had procrastinated by placing more importance on some thing else. As a result, they were not allowed to be part of the marriage. What lesson does this parable have for you? Simply stated, if you put off your preparation now for the Kingdom, you will not qualify for eternal life. Unfortunately, we all fall victim to procrastination. We let various barriers hinder us from doing the will of God. That's the bad news. But the good news is that those barriers can be identified and torn down, allowing us to prepare adequately for the return of Jesus Christ! To help you remove those barriers, let's examine some of them.
Each day you are faced with many decisions. Some you make thoughtfully, purposely, aware of your options. Others, you think, can be pushed aside, saved for another time. You think, I'll put that on the back burner until I'm ready for it. But look what you've done! By not acting, you've really made a decision to procrastinate. Remember that the choices you make determine what you accomplish. Making wrong choices is often caused by setting wrong priorities. This is what happened to Martha. She thought it was more important to physically serve Jesus and the other guests in her home than to listen to what Jesus said. In fact, she complained that her sister Mary was making the wrong decision by failing to serve with her (Luke 10:38-40). But Martha was wrong: "And Jesus answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her'" (verses 41-42). You, too, can be a victim of setting wrong priorities. It's easy to choose to do things that are easy and pleasurable, but it takes strong character to rise above this trap and do what is necessary. Christ did! He rose above the temptation to forsake the agony of the crucifixion, and instead did God's will (Matt. 26:38-39). Can you also steel yourself to do the right thing? Setting right priorities is essential In overcoming procrastination. It sets the stage for doing what ought to be done.
Even if you set the right priorities — sometimes when you have set right priorities — too many commitments can lead to procrastination. Your desire for accomplishment can outstrip your resources. The result: delays in getting things done. Jesus said to count the cost before following Him (Luke 14:28-33). Good intentions are not enough. You must pay the price necessary to achieve success in your calling. This principle of counting the cost should apply in every area of your life. How would you respond to a friend's invitation to handle a responsibility? Would you promise to do it? A quick "yes" without counting the cost may mean trouble. The reason is simple: Other obligations may be too pressing, leaving you unable to keep your promise. Consequently, you will procrastinate in an attempt to avoid this commitment. You can avoid this problem by counting the cost before committing yourself. I know a man who did this quite effectively when I asked him to handle a certain responsibility. He was grateful for the consideration and opportunity, but said, "I would rather turn you down than let you down." He knew his priorities and commitments and responded accordingly. True, God expects a lot from you, and He will give you: the strength and resources to accomplish far more than you might think you can. But don't overburden yourself. Face facts and be realistic. Don't take on more than you can handle.
Doing the will of God is demanding. It requires a lot of effort. Praying, studying the Bible, going to work, spending time with your family, showing love for friends and neighbors, taking care of household chores such as mowing the lawn — the list at times seems endless. Without hard work, your daily "to do" list will still be there to do. The failure to get things done can often be traced to laziness (Prov. 24:30-34). But laziness is a frailty that can be overcome. Look to an example in God's creation: "Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest" (Prov. 6:6-8). Unlike many of us, these ants don't need supervision. They are self-starters who do their work when it should be done. You need to apply this attitude — the opposite of laziness — to everything you do: "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (Eccl. 9:10).
Have you ever let fear s top you from doing something? In the parable of the talents fear prevented a man from developing his talents (Luke 19:20-24). Even entire groups of people can let fear paralyze them. Remember what happened to Israel in the wilderness? They received a glowing report about the land that flowed with milk and honey. But they were afraid to face the land's inhabitants, who were said to be giants. As their fear grew, their faith weakened. This led to rebellion against God's will and 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Just as the man with the one talent and the nation of Israel were denied blessings, so could you lose blessings and even be kept out of God's Kingdom. Replace fear with faith. Remarkable accomplishments can result. Love can also help conquer the effects of fear (I John 4:18). Applying this teaching can help you overcome the negative effects of fear, because your love to do something — namely, obey God — is greater than your fear of attempting it.
You probably lead a busy, hectic life. Most of us do. Consequently, it's easy to overlook responsibilities that need your attention. But does forgetfulness justify procrastination? God is certainly busy ruling the entire universe, but He still doesn't forget all His many responsibilities. Throughout the Bible, we see examples of God remembering things. He remembered Noah afloat in the ark (Gen. 8:1-4), Rachel whose womb was closed (Gen. 30:22) and Israel in captivity (Ex. 6:5). God also remembered to fulfill many prophecies. What's more, God even remembers the names of all the untold billions of stars in the heavens (Ps. 147:4)! Unfortunately, we tend to forget, especially things that are painful or unimportant to us. Since you usually remember things that you personally find significant, you need to make the needs of others important to you (Phil. 2:4). Another suggestion is to write down a list of things that need your attention. Follow God's example. Throughout the Bible, He has put many of our responsibilities down in writing. By writing down things that need doing, you can jog your memory.
A discouraged person finds it hard to get things done. It's hard to be productive with a negative attitude. The case of Elijah provides us with an excellent example. Jezebel's threatenings discouraged him. His response was to stop doing his job and escape to the wilderness, where he asked God to take his life (I Kings 19:1-4). From the heights of God-given victory one moment to the depths of despair in the next! Hasn't that happened to you? After a period of success it takes only a cutting remark, an unattained goal or the feeling that no one cares to produce negative feelings that destroy your zeal. You can rise above that attitude by being filled with the mind of God. But how? Stay close to God through obedience, daily prayer and Bible study. Maintain your interest in seeing that the Work of God is accomplished, and keep your eyes on the goal of eternal life. Build your faith in God, knowing that His love for you is a source of great encouragement. Keep constantly in mind these words: "And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart" (Gal. 6:9). By fighting discouragement, you will be fighting the tendency to procrastinate.
Now that you have considered these barriers, what's your reaction? Have you seen some attitudes that are keeping you from doing God's will? Are you convicted of the need to stop procrastinating? Are you now ready to change? Eliminating procrastination will bring you many blessings. Instead of frustration, anger and guilt, you'll experience peace of mind, a product of doing what is right (Isa. 32:17). Your productivity will increase and so will your blessings from God (Ps. 128:1- 3). Beyond these temporal blessings is an even greater blessing - eternal life. Listen to Jesus Christ: "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing [not waiting till later!]. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods" (Matt. 24:45-47). God has given each of us responsibilities, and He expects us to be doing them now. Don't risk your eternal life by ignoring top-priority matters. Overcome procrastination — now!