Not Now…Or Never?

Are you a procrastinator? If we’re honest, all of us have a bit of that character trait in us. We tend to put off things that we don’t like, don’t want, or believe we don’t need. There’s nothing more frustrating to a parent than a child who procrastinates in obedience. Eventually, we all have to grow up and realize that procrastination never leads to success, happiness, or fulfillment.

This is true in our spiritual lives as well. Delayed obedience is still disobedience. I’m thankful for God’s motivating grace and convicting nudges of the Holy Spirit, and I’m learning every day that it’s far better to act immediately when He speaks. We are wise to respond quickly before we talk ourselves out of it or move on and forget it. A bite of humble pie goes down a lot easier than a drawn-out feast of guilt that leads to heart-hardening spiritual amnesia!

Today I began reading the Gospel of Mark, which was the earliest account of Jesus’ time on earth, written in the 50’s AD. Mark (called John Mark) was probably a young teenager during Jesus’ ministry; he was a cousin of Barnabas, the believer who first befriended Paul. It was Mark’s mother’s house Peter went to when he was released from prison by the angel, interrupting the prayer meeting on his behalf. After Jesus’ ascension, as the church began to grow, Peter had a great influence on Mark as he matured spiritually (1 Peter 5:13).

What does Mark have to do with procrastination? I noticed as I read, he almost over-uses the word translated as “immediately.” In the first chapter alone, it’s used ten times; he goes on to use it 29 more times in his gospel. The Greek word is eutheōs (adverb form) or euthys (adjective form), translated in different versions as immediately, straightway, forthwith, shortly. It means soon, or at once. As Mark relates Jesus’ ministry in chronological order, you can almost hear him saying, “And then…and then…and then…!”

* When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit descended immediately as He came up out of the water (1:9).

* After the baptism, the Spirit immediately sent Jesus into the wilderness (1:12).

* Simon Peter and Andrew left their nets immediately when Jesus called them (1:18).

* Jesus called James and John immediately upon seeing them, and they, too, followed (1:20).

* Jesus visited Capernaum and immediately on the Sabbath went to teach in the synagogue (1:21).

* The news about Jesus immediately spread into the surrounding district of Galilee (1:28).

* The disciples immediately spoke to Jesus about Peter’s sick mother-in-law when He came to visit (1:30).

* Jesus touched the leper and immediately the leprosy left him (1:42).

* Jesus immediately sent the leper away to show himself to the priest (1:43).

Mark is looking back at events. From that perspective, it’s clear that God was unfolding events in rapid succession, as Jesus took His three-year journey to the cross. In real-time, however, it probably didn’t feel that way. At the moment, the disciples couldn’t see the “master plan” and many times, Jesus’ message seemed confusing. But in retrospect, as they related the details to Mark to write down, the picture was clearer. A lot had happened in a very short time.

We often procrastinate because we think we have more time. The reality? We have no guarantee of the next sixty seconds. When we enter eternity, either clothed in the righteousness of Christ or wearing our own rags of works self-righteousness, our lives here will seem but a split second, a vapor that appeared for a little while and then vanished away (James 4:14).

As we unfold Mark’s gospel (or whatever part of scripture you’re reading), keep the word “immediately” in mind. When the Holy Spirit speaks through the Word, may we immediately obey, knowing that tomorrow never comes.

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