Examine Your Heart

Two rival foes contend for control of our hearts: Sluggard and Diligence. Locked in a bitter, all-or-nothing struggle for dominance, each uses its most effective weapons to entice us to join sides against the other. Sluggard craves, but he accomplishes nothing. He doesn’t follow through. He postpones: “Maybe someday.” He tries to convince us that the consequences of inaction are negligible and manageable. He celebrates the advantages of rest and relaxation, and the importance of enjoying life now rather than always sacrificing for the future.

But Diligence?

Poor is he who works with a negligent hand,
But the hand of the diligent makes rich. (10:4)

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
But the soul of the diligent is made fat. (13:4)

The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue
Is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death. (21:6)

The biblical evidence is clear, so why don’t we always overrule Sluggard and side with Diligence? Why does procrastination appear the more attractive option? I have thought about that a lot. Here are the most credible possible explanations:

We may have set goals that were unwise or unrealistic.

We may have outlined a course of action that appears reasonable, yet we’re not completely convinced it’s workable. For example, a writer may have a deadline to write a book in six weeks. He outlines how much progress he must make each day. His math is unquestionably correct, and he’s not sure he can make it. But a deadline is a deadline, so he dives in, hoping that extra effort will help him accomplish the improbable. Deep in the quiet places of his heart, however, he knows the challenge is not reasonable or realistic. He can’t get excited about a doubtful plan.

If you’re procrastinating, take a good look at your plan. Perhaps the best course of action would be to adjust your expectations and make the demands more reasonable. Of course, you won’t always have this kind of flexibility. When possible, though, commit to a more realistic approach toward accomplishing your long-term objective.

We may have attempted to do something that was not God’s will.

We may have chosen to pursue an objective that everyone supports as admirable and noteworthy, yet we lack the assurance that it is part of God’s plan for us. For example, a young woman sees a great need for medical missionaries in Africa, so she makes plans to obtain the needed training. She’s extremely bright and understands everything in her pre-med courses, yet she struggles with the desire to complete her assignments. She fills her time with extracurricular activities that most would affirm if they didn’t take so much time away from her studies.

By the way, this is a true story. It turned out this woman had been called by God to a very different kind of ministry. She’s now completing vigorous seminary training to become a Christian counselor, an objective she pursues with diligence and passion.

Your procrastination may be a lack of enthusiasm for an objective you know, deep down, isn’t part of God’s plan for you.

We may not truly believe our plans are worth pursuing despite the consensus of wisdom to the contrary.

[Tuesday] I told the true story of a man who put off regular exercise because, in truth, it was not a priority for him. He knew it should have been, but it simply wasn’t. Surviving a heart attack that should have killed him changed everything. His near-death experience rearranged his priorities, and he suddenly saw the value of working up a sweat several days each week.

If you truly don’t believe an action is worth pursuing, at least have the integrity to say so even if saying it out loud sounds foolish. Go ahead and let yourself off the hook and admit, “I don’t believe ___________ is the best use of my time.” Then commit yourself to your actual intentions. If it’s sitting on the couch eating potato chips and sipping cola, then make a plan and fulfill it. Just remember that choices lead to consequences—and make no excuses when you reap what you sow.

From Living the Proverbs by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired., an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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