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You Can’t Finish What You Don’t Start

When was the last time you had a home project, but you never got around to it? Or you want to finish college, but you never find time to register for the courses you need? Or you meant to get your oil changed, but now your car is 2,000 miles overdue?

Laura and I have had a project to paint our utility room for . . . let’s just say it’s been on our to-do list for quite some time. This is actually a pretty small project, but we simply never seem to get around to it.

A number of years ago I had a friend who gave me a small, wooden coin that had stamped on one side the words, “Round Tuit.” When he handed it to me he said, “Now, you can never make the excuse that you didn’t get a round to it.”

I read this the other day: “Procrastination is like a credit card. It’s a lot of fun until you get the bill” (Christopher Parker). The bottom line for those of us who tend to put off for tomorrow what we can do today is that we will never finish what we don’t start, and the “bills” will eventually come due.

Mark Batterson tells the story of “The Madonna of the Future” written by Henry James (Chase the Lion, 136-137). The fictional account is about “an artist who devoted her entire life to a single painting. When the artist died, it was discovered that the canvas was blank. She never finished because she never started, and she never started because of perfectionism” (idem.). Batterson then asks the question: “What’s your `Madonna of the Future’?” (idem.).

What dream are you not fulfilling, because of your fear of taking the first step? As the ancient proverb says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” (Lao Tzu). The key is not to delay until tomorrow what needs to be done today. Laura and I teach our children that delayed obedience is still disobedience. If we call you to the dinner table, it doesn’t mean join us in an hour.

The Bible is full of God’s admonition for us to be diligent about doing what needs to be done today and not waiting until tomorrow. In the parable of the two sons, the father said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today” (Matthew 21:28). When Jesus looked up in a tree and saw Zacchaeus, He said, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5). After Jesus’ conversation with him, He said, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9). The writer of Hebrews quotes from Psalm 95, which says, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts . . .” (Hebrews 3:7b-8a).

What’s your next step? Whatever it may be, it’s time to take it. Don’t let your quest for perfection keep you from stepping out where God calls you to go. Don’t let multiple options freeze you from choosing at least one of them. Pray, wait on the Lord, decide, and then go. A former Pepsi executive once said, “I’d rather have an 80% plan 100% executed than a 100% plan 80% executed” (Chasing the Lion, 135).

Turn your wish list into a to-do list, and then don’t forget the “do” part. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a utility room that needs painting, and it’s time for me to take my next step.

Yesterday’s Man

The influence you have today may not equal what you possess tomorrow. Fame is fleeting. Yesterday’s success is no guarantee of future growth. In his book, The Anointing, R. T. Kendall describes the dangers of becoming yesterday’s man. He writes, “Sometimes the greatest opposition to what God wants to do next comes from those who were on the cutting edge of what God did last” (The Anointing, 133).

Mark Batterson shares the real-life example of this from the now defunct Eastman Kodak company (Chase the Lion, 59-60). For almost 100 years Kodak dominated the film industry. They controlled 85% of camera sales and were ranked as one of the top five most valuable brands in America.

At their peak they had 140,000 employees and $28 billion in value. Ten years later they stopped turning a profit, and in 2012 they filed for bankruptcy. So, what happened?

Well, in 1975 they had a research and development group that built the very first digital camera. It was bulky (the size of a toaster), low quality (.01 megapixels), and slow (23 seconds to snap a picture). But when they introduced this new technology, the Kodak decision-makers chose to keep doing things the way they’ve always been done. They missed their moment, got left behind, and it eventually cost them their company.

The same is true of Blockbuster. In 2004, they had 60,000 employees, 9,000 stores worldwide (I’ve even seen one in Jerusalem), and annual revenues of $5.9 billion. Here’s a key fact: by 2010 broadband internet connection went from 4% of American homes to 68%, and video streaming was born.

But Blockbuster didn’t care. In 2000 they turned down an opportunity to buy a start-up company called Netflix for $50 million, believing that people would always want to come to a DVD store to rent movies. And now Netflix’s value stands at $32.9 billion, which exceeds the value of CBS, and Blockbuster ultimately filed for bankruptcy.

I find it encouraging that God repeatedly says, “I am doing a new thing.” (Isaiah 42:9; 43:19; 48:6; 65:17; Revelation 21:5). With God the old gives way to the new. That’s God’s design, and His design is perfect. Every spring we see new flowers bloom and new leaves bud. With the birth of every child, we celebrate the gift of new life. And with the baptism of every believer, we rejoice in the new birth through water and the Spirit (John 3:5).

We learn from the past. We value the past. But the Lord is the great I AM who comes to us in the moment in fresh and new ways. My experience in the church is that there are four types of people: (1) those who live in the past; (2) those who are stuck in the present; (3) those who only focus on the future; (4) and those who honor the past, live in the moment, and look forward to the future. Which type are you?

“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?” (Isaiah 43:19a).

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