Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34 NAS).
One of my dearest friends died in 2006. She learned of her brain tumor in June 2005 and died the following March. Of the many things that I learned from Carolyn, the most lasting was her strength of faith in the face of death. When she heard the diagnosis, she knew that God would soon be calling her home. Instead of “why me?” her question was “why not me?”
During her last months, Carolyn taught me a lot about living one day at a time. Refusing to be sad because she would be unable to see her grandchildren grow up, she decided to enjoy every minute she had left with her beloved family. Primary in Carolyn’s heart and mind was that she would spend her last days praising God and letting others know that no matter what the circumstances, “He is faithful.” Her last solo in church was His Anchor Holds. Even though she did not see those grandchildren reach adulthood, her legacy of faith will always be with them.
The tumor progressively affected Carolyn’s ability to communicate. Her words were jumbled and unintelligible to many. Since we were “soul mates,” during the times that we were able to visit, she was relaxed because she knew that I could complete her sentences for her.
I asked Carolyn’s permission to tell her story as I traveled and taught. With tears in her eyes, she said she would be honored if I told others how her trust in God’s faithfulness never wavered. I truly miss my friend, but her example in how to treat each moment as precious is indelibly printed on my heart.
I believe that Carolyn would have agreed with the 19th century evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, who said, “Someday you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now, I shall have gone up higher, that is all; out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal-a body that death cannot touch; that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body. I was born in the flesh in 1837. I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit will live forever.”
What does the Bible say about how we spend our time here on earth? Throughout Scripture, it is clear that God intended for us to focus on today. His word gives us instruction on how we can learn from the past and look to the future, but we must live in the now.
Paul said, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17 NAS emphasis mine).
LEARN FROM THE PAST
. . . one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13b-14).
Many have become Christians because of the witness of a believer. That testimony cannot be denied. Sharing what your life was like before you met Christ, how you came to trust in Him and the difference He has made in your life can often make someone understand his own need for a relationship with Him.
The apostle Paul certainly had not forgotten what he was like before he met Christ. He often gave testimony of how he persecuted the Christians. However, God’s forgiveness was so real to him that his focus was on walking daily with Him and fulfilling His calling in his life. Paul learned from his past. Once he understood that Jesus was truly the prophesied Messiah, he turned from his old life and never looked back.
Those who refuse to learn lessons from their past often spend time in resentment (of what was done to them) or regret (of what they have done to others or what they neglected to do). Growth comes in obtaining forgiveness from God, learning not to repeat the sins and mistakes of the past, and living each day with a focus on how to fulfill God’s purpose in your life.
Questions for reflection:
- How often have you wasted today in regrets of yesterday or bitterness toward someone? The remedy is given in Philippians 4:8-9. If your mind dwells on bad things of the past, good things of the present may be crowded out.
- Do you realize you are where you are today because God put you there? In Paul’s address to the Athenians, he said that God has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord (Acts 17:26-27a). How should that affect your attitude toward your life, your neighbors?
- Some cannot leave the past behind because those were “the good old days.” Today never seems to measure up to the past. What is the error of that thinking?
- Do you spend time complaining because of where you live . . . you have not become “successful”. . . you do not have the wealth you desire. . . your talents are going unseen? If so, what do you need to change? Notice that Paul’s focus, “one thing I do,” was fulfilling the call of God on his life.
- What are some lessons you have learned from your past? Paul did not repeat the sinful acts of his past. Have you made the same determination?
- Can you help prevent someone else from making the same mistakes that you made? Do you invest your time in mentoring young believers?
LOOK TO THE FUTURE
The global financial crisis of 2008-2009 devastated many lives. Some lost their entire life’s savings: not only those who made bad judgments and overspent but also those who saved, invested, and planned so that they would not be a burden on their families during their retirement years. They planned but the unexpected happened. They were not even guilty of greediness as in the case of the parable of the rich man in Luke 12:16-21. The Lord concluded His teaching on this parable by telling His disciples, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34). You may lose earthly treasures, but if you have given your heart to Christ, you cannot lose the treasure of your eternal relationship with Him.
The Bible does not tell us that we should never plan. God’s word tells us that our plans should be directed by Him and that when the unforeseen comes, continue to trust in Him, His promises and His provision.
Nehemiah, an incredible example in this area, planned according to his prayers. Having learned of the distress of his fellow Jews and the ruined condition of Jerusalem, Nehemiah’s heart was broken. He asked God to allow him to be part of the solution, planned what he would do when God granted his request and then waited on God’s timing. Read his story and observe how he prayed, planned and trusted God.
Examine the following scriptures about God’s involvement in our plans.
- Proverbs 16:9 and Proverbs 3:5-6 – How much better would your life be if your plans started with God’s plans for you?
- Proverbs 21:5 – Contrast steadfastness, faithfulness and diligence with hastiness, impulsiveness and being unprepared.
- Isaiah 30:1 – What does God say about those who plan without consulting Him?
- Matthew 25:1-13. Compare the wise and the foolish virgins in light of their planning or lack thereof.
- Acts 16:6-10, Romans 1:13, 2 Corinthians 1:17 – Notice that even though Paul made plans for ministry, God often had something better.
The man or woman of God will work hard, be diligent, be prepared and plan for the future, but will stand ready to do God’s bidding even when it is different than you initially thought He wanted you to do.
There are two days in every week about which we should not worry, two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension.
One of the two days is YESTERDAY, with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains. Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring back yesterday. We cannot undo a single act we performed. We cannot erase a single word we said. Yesterday is gone.
The other day we should not worry about is TOMORROW, with its possible adversities, its burden, its large promise and poor performance. Tomorrow is also beyond our immediate control. Tomorrow’s sun will rise, either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds-but it will rise. Until it does, we have no stake in tomorrow, for it is yet unborn.
This leaves only one day –TODAY-anyone can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities-yesterday and tomorrow-that we break down.
It is not the experience of today that drives us mad-it is remorse or bitterness for something which happened yesterday and the dread of what tomorrow may bring.
Let us, therefore, live but one day at a time. –
LIVE IN THE NOW
. . . Behold, now the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).
There is always the possibility that someone reading this has not trusted the Lord Jesus Christ. If that is you, know that you are not reading this by mistake. Jesus Christ is God. He chose to leave Heaven, live a perfect, sinless life here on earth and die a sacrificial death so you could have a relationship with Him and live forever with Him. Trust Him now. Don’t put that decision off. You are not promised tomorrow.
Tomorrow may be too late.
Reflect on those you have known who did not have any warning about their impending death, such as my friend Carolyn did. Anything could happen to any of us at any time. In the parable of the rich man, God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” (Luke 12:20).
Today is the day of salvation. If you need to make your life right with God, do it today. If He has been asking you to spend more time with Him, start today. If He prompts you today to talk to someone about His offer of grace, don’t put it off. If He impresses you to do something for someone, do it today.
Using the following scriptures, examine how “living in the now” would change your life.
Psalm 50:15 – Do you try to handle your “day of trouble” by yourself, or do you turn to God for help?
- Psalm 71:15, Psalm 96:2 – Are you aware that today might be the last day that you have to tell someone about God’s working in your life?
- Psalm 90:12, Psalm 103:15 – Your days “are numbered.” How do you deal with that reality?
- Psalm 118:24 – What changes would you need to make in order to spend your day rejoicing?
- Psalm 139:16 – What difference does it make to you that God planned your life long before you were born? See also Jeremiah 29:11.
- Proverbs 23:17 – Does envy occupy your thoughts? What is the remedy?
- Proverbs 24:10 – Adversity can be a testing ground for the believer. What does this verse and James 1:2-5 have in common?
- Proverbs 27:1 – Does the uncertainty of the future motivate you to be as productive today as you can be?
- Habakkuk 2:4 – This verse is repeated three times in the New Testament (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38). How should “living by faith” make a difference in your daily life?
- Matthew 6:11 – Reflect on Jesus’ instruction to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
- Matthew 24:42 – Jesus is coming back. What do you want to be doing when He does?
- 2 Corinthians 4:16 – What do you think is the significance of your “inner man . . . being renewed day by day?”
- James 4:13-17 – In the context of reminding us that our plans are determined by the Lord’s will, James concludes this section with Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin. Since time is short and tomorrow is uncertain, the Lord expects us to do acts of mercy today.
“Waste your money and you’re only out of money, but waste your time and you’ve lost part of your life.” Michael LeBoueuf, Working Smart: How to Accomplish More in Half the Time
Benjamin Franklin said, “Work while it is called today, for you know not how much you may be hindered tomorrow. One today is worth two tomorrows; never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.”
Learn from the Past, Look to the Future, Live in the Now
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
© Stephanie B. Blake