Repentance After and For Procrastination

Do you procrastinate about doing difficult things? Has stalling become your status quo? Procrastinating is something we do to ourselves and may affect others significantly. Let’s see what some experts say about procrastination. “Etymologically, ‘procrastination’ is derived from the Latin verb procrastinare — to put off until tomorrow. But it’s more than just voluntarily delaying. Procrastination is also derived from the ancient Greek word akrasia—doing something against our better judgment. ‘It’s self-harm,’ said Dr. Piers Steel…When we procrastinate, we’re not only aware that we’re avoiding the task in question, but also that doing so is probably a bad idea. And yet, we do it anyway.’ ‘This is why we say that procrastination is essentially irrational,’ said Dr. Fuschia Sirois, ‘It doesn’t make sense to do something you know is going to have negative consequences’…Procrastination isn’t a unique character flaw or a mysterious curse on your ability to manage time, but a way of coping with challenging emotions and negative moods induced by certain tasks…Over time, chronic procrastination has not only productivity costs, but measurably destructive effects on our mental and physical health, including chronic stress, general psychological distress and low life satisfaction, symptoms of depression and anxiety, poor health behaviors, chronic illness and even hypertension and cardiovascular disease.'” (1) Confessional procrastination is even more serious, including building guilty, so we shouldn’t shrug it off as a minor character flaw. My own habit of procrastinating in college convinced me of the stress and dissatisfaction resulting from spending entire nights on below-average writing to finish papers by their deadlines. In a few weeks, we will usher in 2022. But first, we are celebrating our Savior’s incarnation. Are you ready? Is your conscience clear? Have you repented for something in 2021 that you should have shed months ago? Shouldn’t we approach Christmas with joy, hope, love, and peace, as the advents instruct us? Do you make New Year’s resolutions for the future, dependent upon your human efforts? Wouldn’t repentance, with God’s blessing and power, be of greater value? God calls us to seek him, leave ungodly ways and thoughts, and return to him for his compassionate, extravagant forgiveness. Ideally, we should do this as soon as we realize we have wandered away from his will and ways.

God’s Extravagant Forgiveness

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7) God’s forgiveness is abundant, even extravagant; it exceeds what is humanly reasonable. A. W. Tozer writes, ”As a young chap, I used to sneak onto one of the boxcars and ride from one town to another. I often would get under, on the possum belly of an old steel car, and ride. When I was converted, what I had done bothered me. So I wrote to the traffic manager: ‘Dear Sir, I have been converted to Jesus Christ and I’m a Christian now and want to straighten up my life. A little while back, I rode possum belly from here to there, and now I would like you to send me a bill. I want to pay up.’ I received a letter from an official that read: ‘Dear Sir, your letter has been received. We note that you have been converted and want to live a Christian life. We want to compliment you on becoming a Christian. Now, about what you owe us. We rather suppose you did not get very good service on our line when you traveled, and therefore we are going to just forget the whole thing. Sincerely yours, Traffic Manager.’ Actually, I did not have enough money to pay all I owed the railroad line. But God is good, and my conscience was clean and free.” (2) Just like Tozer, we owe a debt that sin demands, after a lifetime of riding on the “under belly” of life, which doesn’t serve us well, and which we cannot pay. Sometimes, after being redeemed, we crawl back under there, out of habit or to hide from a perceived threat. God calls us to seek him, leave ungodly ways and thoughts and return to him for his compassionate, extravagant forgiveness. We respond to God’s invitation by acknowledging and confessing our sins, rejoicing in his compassion and extravagant absolution.

This is the Time to Stop Procrastinating

“Here is a gracious offer of pardon, and peace, and of all happiness. It shall not be in vain to seek God, now his word is calling to us, and his Spirit is striving with us. But there is a day coming when he will not be found. There may come such a time in this life; it is certain that at death and judgment the door will be shut…To repent is to return to our Lord, against whom we have rebelled. If we do so, God will multiply to pardon, as we have multiplied to offend.” (3) “The author of Ecclesiastes spoke very potently when he declared that there is an appointed time for everything and an appointed time for every event under heaven. While he specified such things as birth and death, planting and uprooting, tearing down and building up, a time to search a time to give up as lost (Ecc. 3:1-8), he might well have included a time for repentance and a time for judgment. Isaiah the prophet captured the urgency of timely repentance [55:6-7]. These words echo an earlier statement by the same prophet: ‘Thus says the Lord, “In a favorable time I have answered you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” (Isaiah 49:8)…Our daily lives provide evidence of the validity of this principle of timely repentance. None of us are so foolish as to suppose that it is always a good time to go shopping, to invest money, to telephone a relative, or to play baseball. For everything there is a time and a season. The farmer is not so foolish as to try to plow the land when it is frozen solid. He does not sow vegetable seeds in the fall, nor does he plan got gather a great harvest in the springtime…In all of life, there is a time to act and a time when it is too late for action. ‘Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:13-14)'” (4) “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'” (James 4:15) 

God’s Heart and Mercy for Repenters

“God Himself is grieved over the failure of His own people to repent, and He has issued many passionate calls for them to repent and turn back to Him. In stirring words , the command goes forth [in]…Isaiah 55:6-7. These words of the prophet go to the very heart of repentance, for repentance must include: seeking the Lord, calling upon Him, forsaking wicked ways, and returning to Him…God’s heart must be throbbing with pain…[But] only those who sees what God sees can feel what God feels…Men only preach repentance when they have come under the burden of the Lord and see the human heart as God sees it.” (Roberts, p. 45) It is for repentance that Christ came, as the One promised by the prophet Isaiah. As we prepare to celebrate his birth, as we “prepare our hearts to receive him,” repentant for unconfessed sins of 2021, be they mental judgments, attitudes, or relational offenses be close in view, to clear our consciences for joyful worship at Christmas. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

Related Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Jeremiah 26:2-3; Col. 1:10-12; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; 2 Timothy 2:1.

Notes:

  1. N.Y. Times, “Why You Procrastinate,” 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/25/smarter-living/why-you-procrastinate-it-has-nothing-to-do-with-self-control.html
  2. Tozer, A. W., “My Daily Pursuit Devotions for Every Day,” December 5, Bethany House, 2013.
  3. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible,” Isaiah 55:6-7, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/isaiah-55.html
  4. Roberts, Richard Owen, “Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel,” p. 241, Crossway, 2002.

December 9, 2021

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