We continue with this short series on the nature of self-control.
In the first episode we saw that self-control is no small thing in the eyes of God, but sadly, it is of little importance in the eyes of so many people claiming Christ to be their Lord.
We looked at several bible passages that spoke of self-control in relationship to the doctrine of perseverance. Self-control is not the only component on how to persevere to the end, but it is one key component that must not be missed.
Too often those who love the doctrines of grace will functionally believe in “once saved, always saved” even though with their mouths they claim “perseverance of the saints.” They are not the same.
Also, within many circles of the gospel-centered movement there is this dangerous idea of thinking that though there are many commands and warnings in the NT regarding pressing on, fighting, contending, agonizing and running at race regarding our faith that, in reality, it doesn’t matter because Jesus has already done it for you.
In other words, yes, you should be a faithful husband and yes you should not be given to factiousness and immorality; and yes, the NT does say that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God, but thankfully Jesus did it for you so don’t lose a lot of sleep on it.
We argued in the last episode that the bible is serious about the nature of our fight for the faith and the need to persevere and how self-control is a key component to that battle.
We also talked about how beginning well on something is easier than finishing well.
We start out with all sorts of grand ideas on how everything is going to be years from now but we lose our way. You can see this in the beginning of parenting as compared to when the children are grown and leave the home. Or the state of your New Year’s resolutions in January as compared to December.
It is hard to finish things well. Sometimes, though, we never even finish.
And that is what we will discuss today and next episode. To put it bluntly, it is the sin of procrastination. And yes, it is a sin.
J C Ryle said this in his little booklet Thoughts for Young Men, “Tomorrow is the devil’s day, but today is God’s. Satan does not care how spiritual your intentions are, or how holy your resolutions. If only they are determined to be done tomorrow.”
The infamous statement that is well-known is that “tomorrow never gets here.”
Our plan is to go from the lesser to the greater, regarding this sin. Then we want to offer some advice on confronting it in your life and perhaps your friends or family’s lives.
Laziness is a product of procrastination.
Many people will joke that they are procrastinators, but they would be greatly offended to be called lazy, but that is exactly what they are—lazy in thinking and lazy in acting.
Just give that some thought for a moment and don’t react to it emotionally.
Procrastination is a word that we use that seems safe and unimportant. Lazy is seen as a pejorative term and offensive. But they are essentially the same.
We like to use alternative terms that help deflect attention off of character weaknesses in our lives.
We would also say that procrastination is not merely laziness, it also involves fear, lack of confidence, and such. But for the most part it is laziness, and even if it is something else, it is ultimately a lack of self-control.
As an aside, this is something we encounter a lot as pastors. There is a strong tendency today to redefine sins into maladies and weaknesses. The result is to make light of what the bible never makes light of or to make the person a victim rather than the responsible party.
If we replace procrastination with laziness, then we can begin to address it as Christians because the bible speaks to this. The book of Proverbs speaks much to this sin, and never in an approving manner.
Consider the following points from Proverbs:
The actions of a lazy person:
- He sleeps (Proverbs 6:9-11)
How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?
"A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest "
Your poverty will come in like a vagabond And your need like an armed man.
- He is asleep mentally and physically (vss 9-10). He is reasoning with himself why he should rest a little more.
- He is not alert (vs 11).
- He does not prepare for the future. He is a spiritual beggar.
- He will be suddenly overwhelmed by events simply because of lack of preparedness and alertness.
This is a very real pastoral challenge in many cases.
There are those who are swept away by the vagaries of life. In other words, because we live in a fallen, sinful world things can happen outside our control that can be devastating.
But what is the church’s responsibility to those who are simply reaping what they have sown?
- He accomplishes nothing (Proverbs 26:14-15)
As the door turns on its hinges, So does the sluggard on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; He is weary of bringing it to his mouth again.
- Wasted activity (vs 14).
- No activity (vs 15).
- Often a procrastinator will get things done, just not the things that need to be done. It is a lack of self-control regarding his desires.
- He hurts others (Proverbs 10:26)
Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, So is the lazy one to those who send him.
We need to be wary of this person. He is not just painful to himself, but to those who send him. Such an important point for parents to hear and learn.
Proverbs 18:9 shows that he is accomplishing the same result as the one who actually destroys.
He also who is slack in his work Is brother to him who destroys.
(What is the difference between tearing down a fence or never getting around to building it?)
- His path is painful (Proverbs 15:19)
The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, But the path of the upright is a highway.
The lazy man takes a path that hinders and hurts him. The one who is upright is commonly seen as one whose life is blameless (Proverbs 11:5) and has discernment.
This helps us understand that the lazy man is not willing to place himself under the discipline of the Lord. It seems too hard for him. As a result he ultimately creates harm to himself.
This is also a painful thing to watch as you see the family members suffer due to the lazy person’s folly. A lazy husband and father leads his family into these thorns. It is a great evil that is too often repeated.
The attitude of the lazy person:
He is led rather than leads (Proverbs 12:24).
The hand of the diligent will rule, But the slack hand will be put to forced labor.
Just as a strong nation would rule over the lazy nations, so the man with self-control will rule over the lazy person. This is not saying that being led by someone is bad it itself, but rather, that it is bad that you are in this position due to laziness.
- He desires what he cannot obtain (Proverbs 13:4).
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, But the soul of the diligent is made fat.
This is a sad picture. The person is greatly wanting to have things. The problem is simply his character. He is unwilling to discipline himself.
The promise of blessing comes to the one who is diligent in his life.
- Desire is not enough (Proverbs 13:4).
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, But the soul of the diligent is made fat.
An example of this is seen in 1 Timothy 3:1. It is proper and good to desire to be an elder. That, however, is insufficient; Paul then gives the qualities that need to be evident in that man’s life. There are many men who desire the office but are too lazy to bring these areas into control.
- We must be people who are doers.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 "and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need."
2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 "For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread."
- He is a beggar and is in need (Proverbs 20:4).
The sluggard does not plow after the autumn, So he begs during the harvest and has nothing.
- He is proud (Proverbs 26:16).
The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes Than seven men who can give a discreet answer.
This shows us that the lazy person is also defined as a fool.
He will not listen to sound counsel. He is busy framing his own defense and believes that the person just doesn’t see things as clearly as he does.
How about you? Are you known as a man or woman who is teachable? Or are you better known as a man or woman who likes to resist, debate and argue?
We have given a lot of information on the nature and dangers of procrastination, so we will leave it here for today. Remember, we are going from the lesser to the greater so this was the easy part of the issue.
This is one of those sins that we treat as respectable sins, and therefore, we do not attack it like we ought.
Hopefully today we helped pull back the curtain on it and showed a bit of the seriousness of it. May each of us now consider what the Word of God says to this subject and then examine ourselves in light of it.