Being “Instant”

July 26, 2023

By Steve Hearts

There are many natural human tendencies that are easy to fall into, but which end up being hazardous in some way. One of these is the tendency to procrastinate—to put things off, telling ourselves that we’ll get to them “later” or “tomorrow.” We come up with plenty of excuses for our procrastination: Our schedules are too busy, our obligations are demanding, we’re too tired, to name a few.

When I was a boy, sometimes I didn’t do the things my mother would ask me to do right away. She would often tell me, “Delayed obedience is disobedience.” Second Timothy 4:2 tells us how to remedy the tendency to procrastinate: “Be instant in season, out of season.” In other words, we are compelled to take care of our responsibilities and obey the voice of the Lord instantly, regardless of how we feel or don’t feel.

I recall an experience when I felt a strong inner urge to call and check up on a friend who was having severe depression and who had turned to my family and me for help. I wasn’t too excited about this nudge to call as I didn’t feel capable of offering help. But the more I resisted the urge, the stronger it grew. Without knowing about this inner urge of mine, my dad had also encouraged me to call this man. Unable to deny the Lord’s insistence any longer, I called him.

Our friend was glad to hear from me, and he seemed to be doing just fine. A day or so later, we heard from his daughter. She told us that after receiving my call, he’d phoned her and asked if she had asked me to call him. She had not. He then said that at the moment I called, he had been considering ways to end his life. He knew the phone call was a godsend. I praised the Lord for helping me do the right thing at the right time, wondering what would have happened had I not been “instant.”

Sometimes the Lord puts us in unexpected situations that test our obedience to Him and show where our priorities lie.

William Gladstone was Britain’s prime minister four times between 1868 and 1894. He was also known for being an active Christian. A story is told of how one day he was scheduled for an important speaking engagement at Parliament. Upon arriving, he had expected to run into a young newsboy whom he bought a newspaper from daily, but the boy was nowhere to be seen. This surprised Gladstone.

Suddenly, a friend of the newsboy came running up and informed him that the boy had been run over by a carriage the day before and would soon die. “He wants you to come and get him in,” said the lad frantically.

“What do you mean ‘get him in’?” asked the puzzled statesman.

“You know, get him into heaven,” replied the lad.

I imagine that Gladstone’s mind was racing as he quickly weighed his options. Should he tell the lad he’d go immediately after finishing his speech? Or should he put his important speech on hold?

His secretary was quick to add his two cents. “You can’t get tied up in this. You know how important the speech is.”

“Yes,” said the minister. “But one immortal soul is worth far more than my speech in Parliament.”

Gladstone went with the lad to the tiny flat where the dying newsboy was. The boy prayed with him to receive Jesus and then immediately died. Mr. Gladstone not only “got him in,” but he also returned to Parliament in time to give his important speech and win his campaign.

This is an excellent story to point out the importance of being willing to obey the Lord, to be “instant” in season and out of season.

There are times when God also wants to use us to get His message across, although the situation may not seem quite as critical as in the earlier examples.

One day, while I was preparing to leave for an appointment, the Lord impressed on my heart to call a man we’d been witnessing to. Although I didn’t know why, I felt strongly that I should tell him of my having learned recently to be thankful in all situations, including the painful moments in my life. I called him and shared with him how the resentment I’d felt toward the Lord for taking my mother home to heaven was replaced by peace and acceptance.

When I finished, there was a long pause. Finally, my friend told me that this happened to be his birthday, and that I had given him a message that he knew was from God. He’d been holding resentment against the Lord for the loss of his father, as well as other painful losses. He now clearly saw how the Lord wanted him to learn how to use praise and gratitude to help him overcome the strong resentment he felt. He tried doing that, and saw a huge improvement in his attitude and his relationship with his family.

I could have easily put that call off for a later time. After all, I was getting ready to go out. But had I procrastinated, it’s possible that the message would not have reached his heart at God’s appointed time.

Another story tells of a young boy whose scout club decided to take on a new project. The idea was for each scout member to choose a shut-in (a person who never leaves their house, usually for health reasons) and visit that person weekly.

The boy thought that this was a great idea; however, he didn’t know any shut-ins. When he asked his mother for ideas, she suggested an old disabled lady who lived just a few blocks away. Since she had recently gotten some of the boys from his school in trouble by reporting on them, he didn’t like his mother’s idea. But she reminded him that these boys had been annoying the lady and making a nuisance of themselves.

Reluctantly, the boy decided to give it a try. He went to the disabled woman’s house the next afternoon with a bag of homemade cookies. The old lady greeted him crossly, accusing him of trying to poison her with the cookies. When he offered to mow her lawn for free, she slammed the door in his face. With his mother’s encouragement, the boy continued to visit the old woman and mow her lawn every Thursday afternoon after school.

The woman gradually warmed up to him and came to look forward to his weekly visits. One Thursday afternoon, as the boy was headed toward the woman’s house, one of his friends caught up with him and invited him to the park to play a game of baseball. He told him that this was the day he visited his neighbor.

“Why don’t you just do it tomorrow?” his friend asked. “One day won’t make any difference.”

The boy decided to at least check on the old woman and then head over to the park if there was nothing special that he needed to do for her.

When he arrived at her house, he saw that it was on fire. He frantically knocked on the door and called her name, but she didn’t answer. Since the screen door was locked, he kicked it down. When he entered the living room, he found the woman slumped on the floor next to her wheelchair, unconscious. He managed to get her back in her chair and wheel her outside, away from the fire.

When the lady came to, having not been seriously hurt in the fire, she told the boy she wasn’t even afraid when the fire started, because she knew today was Thursday and that he’d be there right after school. He replied, “And I had wondered if one day would make any difference.”

What would have become of us if Jesus had postponed His coming to earth to bring us salvation? In spite of the difficulty and sacrifice, He didn’t delay. Why should we delay when His voice calls us? If we procrastinate, there may never be a second chance. If we are not “instant,” no matter what the season, there is a chance that we may regret it for eternity.

Adapted from a Just1Thing podcast, a Christian character-building resource for young people.

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