Procrastination - Our Life or Futility
INTRODUCTION: Illustration: An incident from the American Revolution illustrates what tragedy can result from procrastination. It is reported that Colonel Rahl, commander of the British troops in Trenton, New Jersey, was playing cards when a courier brought an urgent message stating that General George Washington was crossing the Delaware River. Rahl put the letter in his pocket and didn’t bother to read it until the game was finished. Then, realizing the seriousness of the situation, he hurriedly tried to rally his men to meet the coming attack, but his procrastination was his undoing. He and many of his men were killed and the rest of the regiment were captured.
Nolbert Quayle said, “Only a few minutes’ delay cost him his life, his honor, and the liberty of his soldiers. Earth’s history is strewn with the wrecks of half-finished plans and unexecuted resolutions. ‘Tomorrow’ is the excuse of the lazy and refuge of the incompetent.”
As we read the account of Haggai, we find the same procrastination among the people who were sent to rebuild the temple. The temple work had begun, but at the first sign of struggle, the work stopped and the workers began to shift their attentions onto their own desires and needs and abandoned their task.
The Jews had been in captivity for 70 years according to Jeremiah 25:11, which states that they would serve the king of Babylon for seventy years. The Jews were first taken into captivity in 606 B.C. and the final destruction of the temple was in 20 years later When the Persians were defeated the Babylonians, the way the nation dealt with the captives changed. In 538 B.C. it was declared that the Jews could return to their homeland and rebuild the temple.
The accounts in Ezra tell of the vast number of those who returned in celebration and excitement to restore their city and the temple, over 42,000 in all. Each returning to their own cities and the work of restoration began with the building of the alter. This was done out of fear of the people of the land. The Jews began to offer burnt sacrifices to God both day and night because of their fear.
After two years work began on the temple and when the foundation was completed there was a great celebration. According to Ezra 3:11, the people sang praises and gave thanks to the LORD for His loving kindness that would be upon Israel forever. A range of emotions came over the crowd from weeping to shouts of praise; the sound of which rang out and was heard far away.
Then the bottom fell out. After the initial construction on the foundation, opposition from within the ranks, and from without, threatened the work. It was then that a decree came from King Artaxerxes that the work should be halted so that Jerusalem could not revolt against him as it had to others in the past. The work was stopped by force and the work was ceased for 14 years until, as our text tells us, the second year of Darius the King.
The Jews had allowed struggles and outside pressure to force them to change their priorities. With the work on the temple halted, the people soon turned to their own selfish interests and neglected their responsibilities. It took an intervention to remind them of their negligence, which brings us to our text.
The Jews were in desperate need of a wake up call, a reminder of their duty, their responsibility, the task that they once celebrated loudly and with great passion was now being neglected. We too have a task assigned to each of us, and…
Proposition: Today I want to remind you that when you are given a job to do, you should not procrastinate, but stay on task.
Transitional Sentence: As we focus more on this passage of scripture, let me give you four ways that you can avoid procrastination and in doing so complete your task, based on the truths brought to the Jews by the prophet Haggai.
I. WHEN GIVEN A JOB TO DO, BE DILIGENT TO THE TASK. (vv. 1-2)
A. Haggai delivers the word of God to the people
i. Our priority should be the tasks we are given
1. The Jews were given the task to rebuild the temple of the Lord
2. God separates Himself from the people – “This people”
- They felt the time had not yet come
- The people had become discouraged, and a series of bad harvests (1:6,11) had turned their minds to more urgent physical needs. It is possible also that some of the people thought that the rebuilding of the Temple should wait until the end of the seventy years mentioned in Jeremiah 25:11; 29:10. This would not be until the year 516 B.C. The time has not yet come may be expressed as “this is not the right time” or “it is too soon”
ii. If we put our own desires before the task God has given us, then we risk the same separation that the Jews experienced.
Transitional Sentence: But procrastination is more than just neglecting the work, it is also wasting time when the task is to be completed. Therefore, …
II. WHEN GIVEN A JOB TO DO, BE AWARE OF THE TIME YOU HAVE. (vv. 3-4)
A. You had time for yourselves, but what about Me?
i. The question in verse 4 in Hebrew has the form of a rhetorical question which expects the answer “no.”
ii. What are we putting before God’s tasks?
1. The Jews were putting their paneled house before building the temple.
- This paneled style of construction was expensive.
- King Solomon’s Temple construction included paneled construction.
2. How do you spend your time?
- Television, Movies, Sports, even Church itself
- --None of which have anything wrong with them in and of themselves, but when we place more time and emphasis on these activities, they become problematic.
3. When do we spend time doing the Lords work?
- We must arrange our time to include God
Transitional Sentence: We must be aware of the time we have to complete our task, but time is not our only resource, so…
III. WHEN GIVEN A JOB TO DO, DO NOT BE WASTEFUL. (vv. 5-7)
A. Consider your ways!
i. “Give careful thought to your ways” (NIV)
1. The focus of the whole section is more on the way the people have acted than on their lack of agricultural success.
ii. We have been given much, but waste it
1. Haggai gives a list of statements to show how even though the people had little, they wasted what they had, or at least were not satisfied with what they had.
- They did not have much. Haggai tells them that they did not even have enough wine to get drunk on even if they wanted to.
2. We waste the time and the abilities that we have by foolishly seeking after things of this world.
3. Illustration: I spent the better part of twelve years developing my skills as a draftsman in a civil engineering firm. I knew when I was fifteen that my life was to follow the path of ministry, but I spent my years running from the call. I felt I had plenty of time, and I spent years wondering why, even though I made a great deal of money, I had nothing to show for it.
It wasn’t until we followed the call to ministry before it was clear that the reason we had nothing to show for our efforts is because what we were putting our energy into was not in the will of God for our lives. We, as the Jews, followed our own plans and felt the same longing, hunger, and thirst that they felt, but at the time had no reason for it.
Transitional Sentence: God gives us that reason in the form of a warning through this passage, and that warning can be stated as…
IV. WHEN GIVEN A JOB TO DO, DO AS YOUR TOLD (v. 8-11)
A. Follow God’s clear calling
i. God gives us the when and the how
1. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house
ii. Those who are not obedient will suffer the consequences (v. 9-11)
CONCLUSION: God has given each of us a job to complete, and many of us are struggling to complete it. We spend too much of our time worrying about the unimportant things in life and forget to follow what is most important. A Poet once wrote:
Three thousand for my brand-new car;
Five thousand for a piece of sod.
Ten thousand I paid to begin a house;
A dollar I gave to God.
A tidy sum to entertain my friends in pointless chatter.
And when the world goes crazy mad,
I ask, Lord, what’s the matter?
A dollar I gave to God.
Yet there is one big question,
For the answer I still search:
With things so bad in this old world,
What’s holding back my church?
We should use our time wisely and our resources to further the kingdom of God and the missions that He has put before us so that we don’t waste the talents and the time that God has provided us. To be faithful to God is more than just doing what we are told; it is also doing what we are told when we are told to do it. Procrastination will lead us to unfaithfulness every time. Whether this is procrastination in preparation of the Sunday Sermon, or maybe in writing a paper that you’ve known about all semester, maybe it’s the weeks reading that you are behind in, whatever the task, you’ve been given it is better to persevere and complete the task than to procrastinate and wonder why you have spent so much time and effort on futility.