Getting Your Life in Gear

Those too lazy to plow in the right season will have no food at the harvest.Proverbs 20:4 NLT*

by Barry C. Black, Chaplain, United States Senate

March 2019

I bought my first car many years ago in Nashville, Tennessee. It was a new Toyota, but I had one very serious problem after purchasing it; I had never driven a car before. Truth be told, I had never been in a driver’s education program. A friend, completely unaware of my inexperience, dropped me off at the dealership. To add insult to injury the Toyota I purchased was a stick shift! I foolishly assumed that if I attempted to drive 100 miles to my home in Alabama, I would become a skilled driver. Fortunately I not only arrived home alive but I arrived having learned how to get and keep my car in gear.  

Too many of us live our lives as I did with my new car experience. We live with insufficient knowledge about living our best lives.  We haven’t learned to get and keep our lives into gear. One of the primary reasons why we fail in this endeavor is because we make excuses for doing nothing. We’re like the person in our opening proverb, refusing to plow because it’s cold (Proverbs 20:4).  Edmond Burke, a British statesman, once declared: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” 

Why should we get our lives in gear? The Bible tells us that after death, each of us will face judgment (Hebrews 9:27). In the judgment God will bring every work we have done under His scrutiny, even our secret actions (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). This accountability to the one from whom we borrow our heartbeats should make us eager to get and keep our lives in gear. Proverbs 20:4 reminds us that the lazy person refuses to plow because he or she believes it is too cold. The consequence of this is that he/she must beg at harvest time. This proverb gives us a second reason why we should get our lives in gear—namely the law of sowing and reaping. We are told in the Old Testament that as long as time shall last, seed time and harvest will continue (Genesis 8:22). We are also admonished to not make a fool of God, forgetting that we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). The sluggard chooses a harvest that is so sparse he or she has to beg. 

  How can we get our lives in gear?  I recommend we implement the following principles:

  • Remember the present is intimately related to the future.
  • Understand life’s plowing time is the season of preparation.
  • Suspect the easy road is generally the wrong one.
  • Avoid making excuses.
  • Seize life’s opportunities.

First, remember the present is intimately related to the future. The Bible challenges us to remember that now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). The scriptures also admonishes us to not harden our hearts on the day God’s prompts us to obey (Hebrews 3:15). One inference to be drawn from these two biblical observations is to live in day-tight compartments (Matthew 6:34), remembering the close connection between our now and then. 

Second, we can get your life in gear by understanding life’s plowing time is the season of preparation. We cannot reap before we plant. We can also miss the harvest if we plow at the wrong time. We are told that the harvest can pass, the summer can end, and we have missed salvation (Jeremiah 8:20). This season of plowing is best done in life’s morning, hence, we are told to remember God in our youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1). 

Third, to get our life in gear, suspect the easy road is generally the wrong one. The Bible speaks of a man who built his house on sand and lost it when the storm came. Another man built his house on rock, and the home withstood the storm (Matthew 7:24-27). It is easier to build one’s house on sand than rock but the easy way is rarely the correct one. The Bible tells us that the road to destruction is broad and well populated, but that the way to life is narrow. Few people walk on that narrow road (Matthew 7:13-14).

Four, avoid making excuses.  The writer of Ecclesiastes said that those who observe the clouds will not plant, and people who are intimidated by the forceful winds will not reap (Ecclesiastes 11:4).  We can nearly always find a reason for not doing what needs to be done. In contrast we should be like the man who refused to work by declaring, “There’s a lion in the streets; I will be slain” (Proverbs 26:13).  More often than not the true reason has little to do with a predator and more to do with laziness. God help us to get and keep our lives in gear.

Five, seize life’s opportunities. When I was very young, I memorized these lines from Shakespeare’s play (Julius Caesar: Act 4, scene 3):  “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.  On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures. What if David had not seized the opportunity to fight Goliath?  (1 Samuel 17) What if Esther had not grabbed the opportunity to save her people from genocide? (Esther 4)

Could it be that Omar Khayyam in his Rubaiyat was thinking about missed opportunities while he was writing?  He penned the words: “The moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on: nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy tear wash out a word of it.”  Seize life’s opportunities.

 Are we ready to get and keep our lives in gear? Imagine what we could accomplish if we seriously embraced the notion that what we are to be, we are now becoming. Imagine the progress we could make if we understood the connection between a vigorous work ethic now and a productive future. Imagine the power of understanding that life’s season of preparation precedes the harvest. What would happen if we routinely remembered that the sparsely populated less travelled road may lead to the destination of abundant living? Think of how much more we could accomplish if we accepted the reality that productivity doesn’t roll in on the wheels of inevitability and refused to offer paltry excuses.

When we choose the difficult over the easy, the unpopular over the popular, we will get our lives in gear and cultivate the discipline of the apostle Paul when he wrote these words in 1 Corinthians 9:27: “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” May we eagerly get and keep our lives in gear. 

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