I’ve spent most of my life trying to meet deadlines. During my Navy service overseas there was the deadline of being back to the ship from liberty by midnight. There were my public school teachers and college and seminary professors, who had deadlines for completing and turning in homework and exams. There were constant deadlines in my secular and church related employment, including 21 years as a pastor. From time to time I would find myself worrying that I would never get all the work done in time to meet the deadlines imposed by other people, organizations, and systems.
Finally, two years ago, after a significant amount of time in prayer, I was convinced that it was God’s plan for me to fully retire and move on to some other things He had in mind for me (such as Ray of Hope Ministries). Then people would ask how things had changed for me in my retirement. My response was, and still is, that the biggest change was that there were no longer any externally imposed deadlines. I was especially happy that there were no longer any mandatory meetings I had to attend. The only externally imposed deadline that still applied was getting my income tax papers to the IRS by April 15.
You would think I could now revel in this new carefree life. But that wasn’t what happened. I began to feel guilty that I didn’t have any deadlines to meet. The fact was, except for shopping for food and other items essential for living, and medical care, I didn’t have to do anything or be anywhere. So what did I do? I began to fill up my little black date book with a schedule of all kind of things to do. So instead of worrying about meeting externally imposed deadlines, I began to worry about meeting self-imposed deadlines.
Thankfully, my good friend and partner in ministry, Patty Perez, convinced me that I should not be worrying and feeling gulty about such things. She helped me to realize something I already knew, but had forgotten about. I was reminded that this worrying about deadlines was placed in my mind by the devil, who is hoping that I’ll become so afraid that I’ll be missing these deadlines, that I will see myself as a failure in God’s eyes. I realized that my response must be to take this issue out of the hands of the devil and take it to God in prayer.
When I did pray specifically about this worry over deadlines, I began to hear God saying, “Have you ever missed a deadline that mattered to Me (God)?” Then I stopped and reviewed my deadline-filled life. Yes, there were many times I missed deadlines and there were many things that never got done, but by the grace of God, I never missed a deadline that was directly or indirectly given to me by God.
I also turned to the Bible for some insight into this. I asked “Did Jesus ever face deadlines? What did He do about it?” One scripture that came to mind was the story about Jesus raising his good friend Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-16). The story goes that as Lazarus was dying, his sisters Mary and Martha, also close friends of Jesus, sent word to Jesus, who was apparently in a nearby town. They expected Jesus to come immediately and perform one of His miraculous healings, so Lazarus would not de. In effect, they were imposing a deadline on Jesus. However, Jesus ignored this human-imposed deadline. He turned up a few days later, after Lazarus was already dead. In fact, it seems that Jesus intentionally delayed His arrival until after the death of Lazarus. It looked like Jesus was totally irresponsible. Mary and Martha and other friends of Lazarus, had placed their hope in Jesus, but now they had lost all hope. Lazarus was dead and no one could change that. So they thought.
But Jesus wasn’t being irresponsible. Jesus realized the difference between God’s will(deadline) and a deadline set by human beings. Jesus realized that God had given Him the power to bring Lazarus back to life and restore the hope of those who loved him. In so doing, God would be glorified (made known) in an ever greater way by bringing Lazarus back to life, than if He had met the human imposed deadline and kept Lazarus from dying in the first place.
God’s response to my prayers and this story suggest to me that from now on, when I become concerned about meeting deadlines I believe must be met, whether externally or self-imposed, the first question I need to ask is not, “How am I ever going to get all this work done in time to meet these deadlines”. Instead, the first question I must ask is “Is this being imposed by human beings (self or others), or is it being imposed, directly or indirectly, by God?”
If it is strictly human, it really doesn’t matter. So don’t worry about it. On the other hand, if it is from God, then don’t worry about it either. Because God will give you all the time you need to meet His deadline and accomplish His will. As I look back over my life of 72 deadline filled years, I know this is the truth. My hope is that I will get done in my remaining years, all that God has planned for me. And I know without a doubt that this hope will be fulfilled.
Is your life filled with too much work and too little time to do it all? Are you facing all kinds of externally imposed deadlines? Are you putting deadlines on yourself? Is all of this causing you to worry about meeting those deadlines? If so, get in touch with God. Find out what his will is for you, in terms of work and time. Whatever that is, He will give you all the time you need to get it done. Look upon the work and the time God gives you as an expression of His amazing grace.
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NRSV)
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray