This last Sunday was one of those days where I got to do a lot of driving. My Charge Conference was at a church close to the New Mexico border. A 9:00 AM meeting sounded good when I approved the schedule, but I didn’t really think about what it meant for a departure time. One of the uses that I like for my GPS is figuring out how long it takes to get somewhere. In the old days my estimates were not always very accurate. My GPS has turned out to be a pretty handy tool!
I did make an error when I planned my departure time. I didn’t have the exact address for the church in front of me, so I just entered the name of the town. The travel time wasn’t much different, but the church’s address did add on a few more minutes. This didn’t become evident to me until I was ready to pull out of our driveway. My preference is to arrive about fifteen minutes early. With a two hour and forty-minute drive ahead of me, my GPS said that I had three minutes to spare. This didn’t mean that I would arrive on time, just that I had a chance to be on time!
Over the years I have often thought about the difference that it makes to leave on time. My plan for Sunday was to leave no later than 6:15 AM. What would have happened if I left at 8:00 AM? There would have been no chance to arrive on time. Our timing makes a difference!
In the church we focus a lot on trying to do the right things. Sometimes we spend years, or even decades, trying to figure out what Jesus wants us to do. I often wonder if we understand that doing things at the right time is just as important as doing the right things? If we start too late, it really doesn’t matter if we are using correct strategies.
Timing is tricky. It can be very appropriate to take a “wait and see” attitude in some situations. We might have to let situations develop before it is time to take action. My cataracts are an example of this. Before it is time to do surgery, they need to be “ripe”. It’s a bit unusual to have cataracts at my age, but it is likely that it will be many years before it will be time for surgery. In other situations, however, a “not now” is the same as a “no”.
It is important to know when to feel a sense of urgency. When it comes to sharing God’s Word, preachers know this feeling well on a weekly basis! I remember my homiletics (preaching) professor, Dr. Joey Jeter, telling us that he wouldn’t give any credit for late assignments. That as preachers we don’t have an option of being late for the weekly service, and that we didn’t have the option of being late in his class, either. He did a good job of creating a sense of urgency!
In our personal lives, and in the life of our church, are there important things that we have been putting off starting? If so, what are we waiting for? The perfect time? Life is usually complicated, and the “perfect” time rarely appears. What we have is today, with no guarantee that there will be a tomorrow. How can we know when it is time to start?
Listening to God is an essential Christian practice for both our church’s ministry, and for our personal lives. The best timing is when God tells us to start! The ironic part is that God seems to pick times that makes little sense from our human perspective. Hind-sight is the easiest way to see how all the pieces were coming together, even when we didn’t notice at the time.
Are we spending time in our lives listening to God, and are we teaching new believers to spend time with God? Being a Christian disciple is not about having a church membership certificate. It is about having our lives formed by Jesus Christ. One of Jesus’ regular practices was spending time with God and listening for God’s guidance. That step preceded taking action.
For each of us, time is limited. Is there something that God has been telling us to start, and we have been resisting? Maybe today is the day to say, “Here I am, use me”.
Your brother on the journey, Mark
Health update: I met with the doctor on Monday. Most of the news is good. 90% of my staghorn kidney stone is gone. This includes the “boulder” at the bottom of my kidney that he couldn’t get to. The doctor does, however, want to do another procedure. The CT Scan is giving a distorted view of the remaining stone because of metal clips from my previous cancer surgery. He wants to take the scope back into my kidney to get a good look at everything, and perhaps “fish out” some of the remaining stone. The doctor doesn’t know if it is solid pieces of stone, or fragments of stone that have collected together. This needs to be done before we are comfortable taking out my kidney stent. I’m feeling an urgency in getting this finished! I am now waiting for the surgery scheduler to call me.