Preventing the Decay of Delay
by June Hunt
“Late again!… How did this happen?… Why didn’t I start earlier?… What is the matter with me? The deadline has come and gone, but here I am again … feeling guilty, frustrated, and defeated. How can I get myself out of this pressure cooker and enjoy completing a task—and, yes, even complete it on time!”
Procrastination is a thief, continually robbing me of those wonderfully rewarding words, “Job well done!” Of course, others are continually robbed of receiving my work on time. Procrastination has stolen my confidence, my integrity, and my peace. Now, the cry of my heart is, “Lord, please show me how to prevent this destructive decay of delay. Oh, Master, teach me how to faithfully manage my time!”
“Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.”
No one procrastinates all the time. However, most people have at least one “pocket of procrastination”—an area where they often delay doing what needs to be done. Amazingly, we procrastinators are usually quite optimistic about our ability to complete a task. We are quick to reassure ourselves—and others—“I have everything under control.” Then, temporarily lulled by a false sense of the time required, we lope along with an imaginary starting time and an undefined deadline. Suddenly, as the time to finish comes due, our minds start reeling, Oh no—I feel out of control!… I’ve barely begun.… How did this happen? Did I just deceive myself? Asking the question, How did this happen? is essential because …
“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.”
A. What Is the Picture of Procrastination?
• To procrastinate means to postpone or put off needlessly when an action is needed.
“A sluggard [who has a lifestyle of procrastinating] does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.” (Proverbs 20:4)
• Procrastination is the habit of delaying what needs to be done, which results in both inner and outer repercussions.
— Inner repercussions range from feeling somewhat discouraged and dejected to experiencing severe distress and despair.
— Outer repercussions range from missed deadlines and missed appointments to lost employment and lost relationships.
“One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.” (Proverbs 18:9)
• Procrastinators are often pictured in Scripture as slothful, sluggish, and lazy. The Old Testament Hebrew word atsel means indolent, idle, or slack.
“How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?” (Proverbs 6:9)
Q “Is there a difference between procrastination and laziness?”
Many people assume that procrastinators are always lazy; however, laziness is just one of the causes of procrastination. If you are lazy, you are negligent in handling your responsibilities because of your not choosing to do what you need to do. On the other hand, you may be highly productive and in no way lazy, but still procrastinate by simply failing to start a task on time. One procrastinator has the desire to work and yet delays—the other lacks the desire to work and then refuses.
“The sluggard’s craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work.” (Proverbs 21:25)
B. Who Are the Unintentional Procrastinators?
Typically, procrastinators who don’t want or intend to procrastinate do not understand themselves at all. On a continuum from mild to extreme, this negative pattern of behavior is an outgrowth of five “personality types.” These five types of unintentional procrastinators behave as they do because of one or more of these five underlying roots: perfectionism, poor self-worth, fear, lack of goals, and the feeling of being overwhelmed. These procrastinators don’t want to be this way, but they don’t know how to change. And eventually, they feel waves of hopelessness. However, if they can gain wisdom about themselves and about God’s plan for them, not only can their lives be changed, but their futures can also be full of hope.
“Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”
• Perfectionist Patty
Patty feels paralyzed because she can’t measure up to the unrealistic standards she sets for herself. She feels she must perform perfectly, yet is stymied when she discovers that perfection is unattainable! With such a mindset, who wouldn’t suffer the paralysis of procrastination? Patty puts impossible expectations on herself, only to find that her self-worth suffers. Her “inner critic” is her constant companion.
— Patty’s Thinking: “I must do this perfectly. Anything short of perfection is failure.”
— Patty’s Feeling: “If it’s not perfect, I’ll feel horrible.”
— Patty’s Response: “I’ll wait to start until I have everything just right.”
— Patty’s Assumption: “If I do it perfectly, I’ll be accepted.… I won’t be rejected.”
Conclusion: Perfectionist Patty procrastinates because she is never satisfied with her performance. She doesn’t realize that God doesn’t demand perfection.… He only desires that she aim for excellence. Patty needs to be at peace in her times of stress and learn to rely on His strength. The Lord says,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)
• Poor Self-worth Paul
Paul thinks so poorly of himself that he struggles just to get started. Since in his heart he doesn’t feel acceptable, he assumes that nothing he does will be acceptable. Paul’s negative self-talk makes any goal unattainable. He tends to think, So why try? When he makes mistakes, rather than learning lessons and persevering through to completion, his low self-worth weighs him down, and he simply gives up trying.
— Paul’s Thinking: “I just can’t do this.”
— Paul’s Feeling: “I feel so insignificant … so incapable … so unnecessary.”
— Paul’s Response: “I’m sure I will fail.”
— Paul’s Assumption: “I’m not good enough to succeed. There’s no sense in trying.”
Conclusion: Poor Self-worth Paul procrastinates because he lacks God’s perspective of his value. Paul can’t see what he is capable of achieving. He doesn’t realize that God not only created him, but also preplanned the work He designed Paul to do. The Bible says,
“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
• Fear-based Freddie
Freddie sees life as risky and sidesteps responsibility in order to feel safe. When faced with an assignment, he feels anxious. What if I make a costly mistake? Freddie’s fear paralyzes him from following through with a task because he expects a negative reaction from others. Freddie’s procrastination is focused not only on his own performance—which he knows is flawed—but also on the opinions of others, which he knows will be condemning.
— Freddie’s Thinking: “I know I won’t succeed and that would be horrible!”
— Freddie’s Feeling: “I dread starting something that might go wrong and cause conflict.”
— Freddie’s Response: “If I put it off, I won’t have to deal with it.”
— Freddie’s Assumption: “I’m afraid to start because I’m sure to fail.”
Conclusion: Fear-based Freddie procrastinates because he believes any effort has the potential of bringing a rejection … if not an explosion! Freddie doesn’t have to be controlled by fear because, even in stressful situations, he can claim …
“In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
• Lack-of-goals Larry
Larry has no real sense of purpose for his life. He hopes that one day his life will amount to something. But because Larry has no clear direction, he has difficulty setting goals, making decisions, and staying focused. His lack of purpose makes beginning any task a burden.
— Larry’s Thinking: “I don’t know why I am doing what I’m doing.”
— Larry’s Feeling: “No matter what I do, I don’t feel fulfilled.”
— Larry’s Response: “Why start this task when it really doesn’t make any difference?”
— Larry’s Assumption: “I need to wait until I can figure out what I really want to do.”
Conclusion: Lack-of-goals Larry delays accomplishing tasks because he is unable to see how any of his tasks contribute to a meaningful goal. Larry doesn’t realize that God not only chose him, but also planned a fulfilling course for him. The Bible says,
“We were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him [God] who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”
• Overwhelmed Olivia
Olivia’s work area looks like a disaster area. Her phone is lost under a pile of “to-do” lists. Someone is coming by in five minutes, but she is already ten minutes late for another meeting. She works feverishly, but finds no way to get on top of it all. There just isn’t enough time in the day for her to do what she needs to do.
— Olivia’s Thinking: “I’m doing the best I can, but there’s no way I can finish on time.”
— Olivia’s Feeling: “My life feels out of control.”
— Olivia’s Response: “Since I can’t get it all done on time, I’ll work on a project that I really enjoy and at least accomplish something.”
— Olivia’s Assumption: “I just need to work harder and faster … somehow.”
Conclusion: Overwhelmed Olivia procrastinates because she feels responsible for more than she can handle, yet has no ability to manage her time in a meaningful way. Olivia doesn’t realize that she has all the time she truly needs because God will never require more of her than she can do. Olivia needs to take this verse to heart …
“The wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter.”
Q “Is it ever right to procrastinate intentionally and postpone working on a task?”
Procrastination of a task and postponing a task are not necessarily the same. You may have legitimate reasons for postponing a task.
You need to delay a task when …
• It isn’t your highest priority.
• It will keep you from following through on a previous commitment.
• It will compromise your health or your need for rest.
• It appears urgent, but it isn’t important.
• It is important, but you are not the one to do it.
• It is you who should do it, but beginning would be premature.
Be aware that deciding to act might appear right, but in many situations, the task is right but the timing is wrong.
“It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” (Proverbs 19:2)
Sometimes Jesus disappointed people when He delayed doing what they wanted in the time frame they expected. Martha is the perfect example of one such disappointed individual. She and her sister, Mary, sent word to Jesus, “The one you love is sick.” Jesus actually knew that His close friend Lazarus was dying. But rather than racing to his side, Jesus “stayed where he was two more days”—to their dismay—and Lazarus died. (See John 11:1–6.)
Why did Jesus delay? Was He heartlessly procrastinating? Not at all. “Jesus wept” over His friend’s death (verse 35). Yet, at the same time, Jesus knew His heavenly Father’s plan: a never-seen-before miracle … Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead! This very act would not only help people throughout the centuries to believe in the supernatural power of Christ, but also would enable them to overcome their fear of death. As Jesus said to Martha,
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
C. Who Are the Intentional Procrastinators?
Every procrastinator fits into one of two categories. While unintentional procrastinators desire to complete their duties on time (but don’t), intentional procrastinators make a deliberate choice to delay doing their duties. These are procrastinators not by default, but by determination. Actually, when they present their rationalizations for not taking action, some excuses are legitimate, while others are not. The Lord, however, knows the motive in each person’s heart.
“All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.”
These five intentional procrastinators put off doing what should be done for five different reasons. Intentional procrastinators are …
• They choose to delay action because of a true inability to do assignments.
• Rather than forging ahead and failing, they act prudently by simply putting the task aside.
“A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”
• They choose to delay action through passive-aggressive tactics in order to control, irritate, or ensnare someone else.
• Rather than prioritizing what needs to be done, they prioritize their personal agendas.
“They encourage each other in evil plans, they talk about hiding their snares; they say, ‘Who will see them?’ ”
• They choose to delay action because of misunderstanding or lack of clarity as to what to do and how to do it.
• Rather than barge ahead without knowledge, their confusion leads them to delay.
“It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.”
• They choose to delay action because of self-centeredness or apathy.
• Rather than develop discipline to do the undesirable, they only do what they want to do.
“He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.”
• They choose to delay action as a means of defying authority.
• Rather than submit to authority, they set themselves up as their own authorities.
“There are those who rebel against the light, who do not know its ways or stay in its paths.”
“You will say, ‘How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction!’ ”
Biblical Example of Intentional Procrastinators
Joshua and Caleb versus the Ten Faithless Spies
Imagine being an Israelite in the Old Testament. You’ve seen it all:
• God supernaturally has saved the Israelites from slavery. (His 10 catastrophic plagues have pressured Pharaoh to allow them to leave.)
• God supernaturally has parted the Red Sea and more than 2 million Israelites have walked on dry ground to the other side.
• God supernaturally has closed the Red Sea so that the entire Egyptian army in hot pursuit drowned as the walls of water fell on them.
Now God has given this specific directive …
“Go up to the land I promised.… I will send an angel before you and drive out the [enemies].… Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey.”
After seeing Almighty God supernaturally provide manna and quail for all the Israelites and even seeing Him pour water out of a rock, would you really hesitate to obey Him? In truth, however, Moses sends 12 spies to scout out the land that God promised them. When they return with their reports, 10 scouts adamantly say they must delay!
Procrastination, in fact, wears many faces. Chapters 13 and 14 of the Book of Numbers reveal several kinds of intentional procrastinators.
The Five Types of Intentional Procrastinators
Although God had already promised victory, 10 of the 12 scouts report that the Israelites are incapable of success: “They [our enemies] are stronger” and “of great size” (Numbers 13:31–32).
That night all the people begin grumbling, complaining, and undermining authority, which are passive-aggressive tactics—indirect methods of controlling the situation: “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert!” (Numbers 14:2).
Clearly, some are confused. “Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?” (Numbers 14:3).
From the initial days of the Exodus and throughout the duration, some continue to be just plain lazy … always ready to give up because they lack both vision and motivation. “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt” (Numbers 14:4).
In spite of God’s directive, the throngs stand defiant. Only Joshua and Caleb have faith to take God at His word and move forward with Moses. As a result, the talk escalates to a fever pitch. In outright rebellion, “the whole assembly talked about stoning them” (Numbers 14:10).
These five causes of intentional procrastination are easily understood when we grasp that the Israelites are looking within themselves for their accomplishments. Their future looks bleak because, in all their looking, they fail to look at the Lord, their Deliverer, their Redeemer. Even years later, Joshua, who detested all of this procrastination, said to his fellow Israelites, “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?” (Joshua 18:3).
II. Characteristics of unintentional procrastinators
Procrastinators wear multiple faces. Although we who are unintentional postponers can be put into one of five groups, identifying which group we fit into is not always easy. Although you can be a combination of several types, one “face” generally dominates. In trying to identify your prevailing type, evaluate your behavior, your motivation, and your self-talk. First, make a commitment to face the truth about your procrastination. Then, make a commitment to devise a plan that will help you persevere so that you can be the mature person God intends for you to be.
“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
A. What Are the Potholes of Procrastination?
Is your road in life bumpy or smooth? Procrastination is like a road full of potholes. They not only delay your journey, but also damage your relationships. When you hit a pothole, it can knock your car out of alignment—and even cause a tire to go flat. Similarly, when you procrastinate, you can hurt the very work you are trying to do and take the air out of your relationships! If you are a procrastinator, you would do well to recognize the problems you cause for others, as well as for yourself. And then live in such a way that you say to the Lord,
“My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped.”
Checklist for Possible Procrastinators
Are you plagued with procrastination? The following questions will help you determine whether you have potholes—if procrastination is causing your life to be bumpy. Place a (√) check mark by each question to which you respond with a yes.
Do you delay until it’s too late to start a project?
Do you collect materials for projects but struggle to get started?
Do you obstruct the efforts of others by delaying doing your part?
Do you deliberately work slowly or inefficiently?
Do you resent suggestions on how to be more productive?
Do you avoid competition and other situations where you might not succeed?
Do you act indecisively and force others to make decisions?
Do you avoid responsibility by making others feel guilty?
Do you dodge making commitments?
Do you become irritable when asked to do something unpleasant?
Do you find yourself consistently late for appointments?
Do you ever avoid obligations by choosing to “forget” them?
Do you pay bills and other financial obligations late?
Do you fail to return phone calls?
Do you delay sending out correspondence until it is too late?
Do you live in a state of disorganization?
Do you become addicted to time-wasting activities such as watching TV or shopping?
Do you feel “spiritually bankrupt,” yet fail to appropriate what God promises in His Word?
Do you desperately need direction, yet have no personal prayer time with God?
Do you lack accountability before God for failing to heed conviction from Him?
“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.”
B. What Are the Profiles of Unintentional Procrastinators?
Everyone procrastinates periodically, but if you procrastinate habitually, you won’t feel good about yourself and your sense of value will plummet. All procrastinators can easily identify with one (or more) of these “procrastinating personalities.” The first step in overcoming your habit of putting things off is to closely observe your own patterns of procrastination.
“I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.”
Profiles of Unintentional Procrastinators
• Perfectionist Patty
Patty is a hard worker, but she’s hardest on herself. Deeply involved in a mental game of self-deception, this perfectionist thrives on performance-based acceptance: I must perform perfectly or I won’t be accepted. A litany of prerequisites must be in place before tackling a task … or bringing any project to completion.
— “This must be perfect. I’ll start when I have a large block of time.”
— “I must wait until I know I can do a first-class job.”
— “I can’t make the deadline. I’ll extend it in order to do it right!”
— “Regardless of what I promised, I can’t turn this in. It may have mistakes.”
— “I don’t know if I really did my best. I need to do it again.”
• Poor Self-worth Paul
Paul goes through life being concerned about what others think. Always comparing himself to others, he secretly feels he has no real value. Paul would love to do something important, but his feelings of inferiority cause him to be passive and to procrastinate. He delays getting the important things done.
— “Why should I start? I can’t do it.”
— “There’s no sense in trying; it’s never good enough.”
— “What I do won’t make any difference.”
— “I don’t have anything of value to contribute.”
— “I don’t have what it takes to succeed.”
• Fear-based Freddie
Freddie is the classic worrier. He goes through life being afraid of any kind of confrontation. Fear of conflict takes control of his life—fear of criticism … fear of anger … fear of rejection. Rather than face negative responses, he puts off anything that could evoke a reaction. Meanwhile, his fear-based thinking only produces more and more procrastination.
— “If I make a decision, I’m afraid it will be rejected.”
— “I don’t want to work on this now and look bad in front of others.”
— “I’m afraid they’ll get mad at me, so I’ll deal with it tomorrow.”
— “I don’t want to do this; I’ll just get criticized again.”
— “I’m afraid for others to see my work. They won’t think it’s good enough.”
• Lack-of-goals Larry
Larry is like a ship without a rudder—he can’t stay on course. He has no map and he doesn’t know where he’s going. He sees others setting goals and achieving them, but Larry doesn’t have any direction for himself. He knows he needs to chart the course, but instead finds himself dead in the water.
— “I feel like I’m stuck—I’m not going anywhere.”
— “I really don’t know what to do.”
— “I don’t even know what I want.”
— “I don’t know how to get started.”
— “I feel like I’m going the wrong direction.”
• Overwhelmed Olivia
Olivia is overcome with overload. She’s not learned the skill of handling tasks on time; therefore, she lives each day in a sea of distress. Unless she learns how to prioritize, she will be overcome by conflicting tasks, lack of focus, telephone calls, and the needs of others. To reduce the pile staring her in the face, she chooses the easiest task first rather than the most important one.… She starts one task after another, but fails to finish most of them on time.
— “I can’t get anything done because of all the phone calls and interruptions.”
— “I have so many deadlines that I don’t know where to start.”
— “These assignments are too hard for me.”
— “I can’t handle this workload.”
— “I don’t like to tell anyone no.”
C. What Are the Procrastinator’s Excuses?
Deeply involved in a mental game of self-deception, procrastinators remain hopeful and avoid admitting anything is wrong. They convince themselves that they will do the unpleasant task tomorrow, thus denying that they are even procrastinating. The “tomorrow principle” is unending and skillfully perpetuated by self-talk that rationalizes and rearranges priorities. The only problem with this tactic is, tomorrow never comes!
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.”
• The Rationalizer
— “I’m not ready to begin right now.”
— “I’ll work better if I finish this other stuff first.”
— “I must wait until I’m truly inspired.”
— “I’ll do a better job when I feel better.”
— “It’s too late in the week to start.”
— “I need a larger block of time.”
— “I don’t have enough information yet.”
— “If I wait, I’ll do a first-class job!”
— “I’ve already done some of it. I’ll finish it later.”
— “I still have time.”
— “I’ve really been working hard. I deserve a break.”
— “I can always stay up all night and finish it then.”
III. Causes of Procrastination
The influence of our early family relationships runs deep. Harmful words you heard as a child about who you are and what you do can handicap your heart for a lifetime. If you have a problem with procrastination, begin looking for answers by writing down the messages you received in childhood—from your parents and other important people in your life. Then, write the assumptions you took to heart that may still be influencing your behavior today.
“The tongue has the power of life and death.”
A. Why Do Procrastinators Suffer with Paralysis?
Imagine that after a painful fall your body lies paralyzed. You are rushed to the doctor. Immediate action is needed to reverse the condition. Today, many people have been diagnosed with a malady called the “paralysis of procrastination” that began in childhood as a result of injurious words, yet these individuals put off getting the help they so desperately need. Sadly, most who suffer from this condition do not heal quickly. They meet and plan, they set goals and deadlines, they schedule and reschedule, but the problem goes far beyond the daily prescription for good time management. Lying beneath the surface is a wrong belief that keeps the procrastinator paralyzed. To discover God’s prescription for healing, the procrastinator needs to take large doses of God’s truth—our thinking needs to line up with God’s thinking.
“He sent forth his word and healed them.”
Children yearn for love, praise, and acceptance. If they don’t feel valued for who they are, but for only what they do, they believe that performing perfectly is the only way to gain approval.
• Patty’s Perceived Messages
— “If it’s not done right, it’s not worth doing at all.”
— “It’s vital that I be the best.”
— “I’m not as good as my brother—I’ve got to do better.”
• Patty’s Assumption
— “Anything short of performing perfectly is not acceptable.”
• The Result for Patty
• Patty’s Problem
— Since no one does everything perfectly, perfectionists procrastinate in order to prevent even the possibility of imperfection.
• The Biblical Perspective for Patty
“Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing?” (Galatians 3:3–4)
Poor Self-worth Paul
Those with low self-worth were often given messages of inadequacy and failure for what they did or didn’t do during their younger years. In their hearts, their small childhood failures have been translated as a failure of their whole selves, and this inner message can remain with them for a lifetime.
• Paul’s Perceived Messages
— “I’m so stupid.”
— “I can’t do anything right.”
— “I’ll never amount to anything.”
• Paul’s Assumption
— “I’m worthless and will never be good at anything, so why try?”
• The Result for Paul
— Poor self-worth
• Paul’s Problem
— Paul does not realize that he has been created with value and worth; therefore, the lies he tells himself encourage him to procrastinate in order to avoid revealing his perceived inadequacy.
• The Biblical Perspective for Paul
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6–7)
Children long for closeness with both mother and father. But when the love children offer is rejected—and they are treated harshly—they become fearful and believe that people cannot be trusted. This belief often continues into adulthood.
• Freddie’s Perceived Messages
— “If I don’t please my parents, they won’t love me.”
— “I want to run away and hide when my mother gets so angry.”
— “If my dad doesn’t like what I do, he’ll take it out on Mom and me.”
• Freddie’s Assumption
— “If I fail, the consequence will be terrible.”
• The Result for Freddie
— Fear-based personality
• Freddie’s Problem
— Freddie’s fear of harsh judgment affects his confidence and his trust in others. This debilitating fear causes him to use procrastination as a means of avoiding people and responsibilities.
• The Biblical Perspective for Freddie
“God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV)
Larry has a mental block when it comes to goal setting. Just as you cannot walk to a destination if you don’t know where it is, you cannot achieve goals if you do not know what they are. Often people are confused about what is important to them because as children and adolescents their authority figures—their parents—made most of the decisions for them. Therefore, they became too dependent on others for the decision making in their own lives. Later, as adults, their confusion leads to greater indecision about their life direction.
• Larry’s Perceived Messages
— “I’m not able to make my own decisions.”
— “If I don’t like this class, I can get out of it.”
— “If I get caught in a jam, my parents will smooth it out.”
• Larry’s Assumption
— “I don’t know what my purpose in life is. I can’t make decisions by myself.”
• The Result for Larry
— Lack of goals
• Larry’s Problem
— Since Larry has never had to establish and stick to goals, he procrastinates because he has no clear focus or direction.
• The Biblical Perspective for Larry
“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” (Proverbs 14:23)
Olivia never learned the word no. Conditioned to be a “people pleaser,” whenever others invaded her schedule and ate up her time, she never realized that she could set personal boundaries. Even though she loved being everybody’s “savior,” such a position of responsibility now has become too difficult to maintain.
• Olivia’s Perceived Messages
— “The more I do, the more I’ll be liked.”
— “If I do a lot of projects, my parents will be proud of me.”
— “I can’t say no to others. I’m responsible for making them happy.”
• Olivia’s Assumption
— “I’m the solution to everyone’s problems. It feels good to have a lot to do, but it feels bad to disappoint people when I have too much to do.”
• The Result for Olivia
• Olivia’s Problem
— Because Olivia’s responsibilities have become so overwhelming, she doesn’t know where to start and finds herself gravitating toward the easier tasks. Rather than give the more important tasks top priority in her schedule, she takes on the unimportant tasks first.
• The Biblical Perspective for Olivia
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:23)
Q “Could there be a combination of causes for my procrastination that would make overcoming my temptation to delay a more difficult struggle?”
Yes. One person could be both fear-based and excessively overwhelmed and therefore struggle with major procrastination. Another person could put things off because of both low self-worth and a lack of goals.
Whether your procrastination stems from one cause or several causes, the Bible says that each and every temptation to procrastinate can be overcome.
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
B. Why Are Procrastinators “Artful Dodgers”?
Dodgers can become committed to any activity … other than what needs to be done. Doing a variety of activities is more pleasant to procrastinators and temporarily camouflages their feelings of frustration from individual impending tasks; thus, pressing responsibilities are avoided. For a clever “artful dodger,” even religious work can be an addictive substitute. The Bible paints a picture of a person who can’t stay “on track.”
“Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.”
• Organizing the unimportant tasks instead of the most important
• Doing trivial tasks in place of the highest priority ones
• Excessively sleeping and excessively eating in order to avoid a vital task
• Making time for an enjoyable activity while an essential activity recommended by a physician is “sidestepped”
• Answering letters, phone calls, and e-mails when more important tasks need to be addressed
• Reading books or magazines, playing solitaire, watching television, or participating in any other “feel good” entertainment in order to feel better about procrastinating
• Committing to church work, children’s work, or any other good work when, in God’s eyes, the main work is being put “on hold”
Not one of the preceding activities is wrong in and of itself, and sometimes these activities should be given high priority levels. But when the good becomes the enemy of the best, God’s favor is not on your life. This is why the dodger needs to make a commitment to the Lord to determine what tasks are best and then to make those the first to be done.
“When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it.”
C. Why Do “Martyrs” Miss Their Deadlines?
Martyrs are driven by their need to feel significant. But because they take on too much responsibility for too many tasks, martyrs find themselves procrastinating and feeling that everything is working against them. They continually complain to everyone that they have too much to do, but no one seems to notice, much less care. Ultimately, martyrs are foolish because they deceive even themselves. Proverbs 14:8 says, “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.” Consumed with feelings of self-pity, martyrs make only token attempts to meet deadlines. They become discouraged and give up easily, yet manage to persuade others to believe that missing the deadline was unavoidable. After all, who could be expected to do all the things a martyr has to do!
• “I continue to experience constant interruptions.”
• “I haven’t been given enough time to accomplish the task.”
• “I don’t have what I need to do the job.”
• “I don’t have working conditions that are conducive to doing the job.”
• “I just can’t get others to cooperate with me!”
• “I keep being asked to do other things.”
All who are living as martyrs would find both their lives and their relationships transformed if they would live by this truth from God’s Word …
“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.”
D. What Are Contributing Factors to Procrastination?
Olivia sits staring at the mounds of paper on her desk. When Larry walks up and asks, “Do you have an idea for your story yet?” Olivia replies, “I’m waiting for inspiration.” Then she dramatically exclaims, “You just can’t turn on creativity like a faucet.… You have to be in the right mood!” Larry asks, “What mood is that?” Olivia casually replies … “Last-minute panic.” In her heart, Olivia wants to get things done on time and without panic, but every time a deadline draws near, she’s behind and frantic.
We, like Olivia, don’t have to be motivated by a state of panic, yet too often we let the last-minute crisis be our driving force. Regretfully, we share the sentiment stated in this verse, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15).
Four Contributing Factors for Needless Delay
• Learned behavior … Over time, we generally learn how to respond in life by observing and “copying” those around us. We also form our own opinions about what behaviors work for us.
— This means … you can unintentionally learn a pattern of procrastination when you follow the example of significant people in your life and subconsciously model yourself after those who needlessly delay doing what needs to be done.
— This also means … you can intentionally unlearn a pattern of procrastination by determining to learn new behaviors and by modeling yourself after responsible, productive adults who do not delay doing what needs to be done.
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.”
• Lack of self-discipline … A lack of organizational skills is more of a technique problem, whereas a lack of self-discipline is more of an emotional problem. (For example, feelings of fear, inadequacy, and low self-worth are all emotional problems that can cause you to delay doing what needs to be done.)
— This means … your emotional needs can override your pressing need to be productive; when this happens, your emotional problems have prevented you from learning self-discipline.
— This also means … you can choose to free yourself from your unmet emotional needs by learning self-discipline and developing a plan to have those needs met legitimately. (You can elicit the help of wise, mature Christians in order to become emotionally healthy and to learn organizational skills.)
“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.”
• Poor project management … Feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of a large task is the result of seeing the task as one huge job rather than a complex job with several smaller, more manageable components.
— This means … you believe that something must be done perfectly the first time and that there is no room for trial and error.
— This also means … you can choose to address the underlying causes that lead you to become a perfectionist and then accept the truth that you must not demand perfection from yourself or others (an expectation that is unrealistic). Rather, you can choose to aim for excellence.
“How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!”
• Poor time management … Not using time wisely when working on a project can lead to disaster.
— This means … you incorrectly estimate the time necessary for the completion of a task or you fail to allocate sufficient time in your schedule for a given task.
— This also means … you can learn to discern the order in which tasks need to be accomplished and to block out the time required for each task on your calendar. Most importantly, you can then learn to stick to your plan! (You can seek help from good time managers to estimate realistically the time needed to perform specific tasks. Then you can add a little extra time to allow for unexpected interruptions.)
“Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good.”
E. Root Cause
Every person has three inner needs—the need for love, for significance, and for security. Because these God-given needs are always present, procrastination can become a protective strategy that you employ in order to avoid having your feelings plummeted by negative responses. Procrastinators sometimes use their God-given needs as excuses to hide behind: If I delay doing “it” (whatever needs to be done), I won’t be rejected, I won’t be inadequate, and I won’t be a failure.… I just haven’t gotten around to “it.” They tenaciously hold to a self-critical way of thinking that makes starting and finishing their top priorities very difficult. Their wrong beliefs keep them stuck in a cycle of fear, frustration, and failure!
• The need for love …
“I can’t start this now because the only way I will be deserving of love is if I do it perfectly.”
• The need for significance …
“Even though it’s not most important, I’ll do what is easier first so that I can feel significant about accomplishing something now.”
• The need for security …
“It’s safer to do nothing than to take a risk and fail.”
Right Belief: My procrastination only reinforces my sense of incompetence and makes me feel like a failure. My inner needs for love, for significance, and for security are met only by giving Jesus Christ control of my life. He will give me power over my procrastination and the ability to organize my life as I allow Him to develop His discipline in me.
“Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” (2 Corinthians 3:5)
F. What Is the Ultimate Procrastination?
The most costly procrastination is delaying the decision to receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Many people rationalize, I’m not ready.… There’s plenty of time.… I’ll do it one day—someday—another day. However, that day never comes! Meanwhile, the Bible says, “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Do You Want to Stop Delaying?
If so, realize …
#1 God’s Purpose for You … is Salvation.
— What was God’s motive in sending Christ to earth? To condemn you? No … to express His love for you by saving you!
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16–17)
— What was Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth? To make everything perfect and to remove all sin? No … to forgive your sins, empower you to have victory over sin, and enable you to live a fulfilled life!
“I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
#2 Your Problem … is Sin.
— What exactly is sin? Sin is living independently of God’s standard—knowing what is right, but choosing wrong.
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)
— What is the major consequence of sin? Spiritual death, spiritual separation from God.
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
#3 God’s Provision for You … is the Savior.
— Can anything remove the penalty for sin? Yes. Jesus died on the cross to personally pay the penalty for your sins.
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
— What is the solution to being separated from God? Belief in Jesus Christ as the only way to God the Father.
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ ” (John 14:6)
#4 Your Part … is Surrender.
— Place your faith in (rely on) Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and reject your “good works” as a means of gaining God’s approval.
“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)
— Give Christ control of your life, entrusting yourself to Him.
“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?’ ” (Matthew 16:24–26)
The moment you choose to believe in Him—entrusting your life to Christ—He gives you His Spirit to live inside you. Then the Spirit of Christ gives you His power to live the fulfilled life God has planned for you. If you want to be fully forgiven by God and become the person God created you to be, you can tell Him in a simple, heartfelt prayer like this:
|Prayer of Salvation
“God, I want a real relationship with You. I admit that many times I’ve chosen to go my own way instead of Your way. Please forgive me for my sins. Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. Come into my life to be my Lord and my Savior. Through Your power, make me the person You created me to be. In Your holy name I pray. Amen.”
What Can You Expect Now?
If you sincerely prayed this prayer, know that from this day forward, as you submit yourself to Him, the Lord will help you overcome the procrastination in your life. He will always lead you in the right direction. Look at what God’s Word says He does for those who trust Him!
“You [the Lord] have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
IV. Steps to Solution
Regardless of the cause of procrastination, whether it is rooted in childhood or not, people who consistently procrastinate are demonstrating an irresponsible lack of concern for their own personal obligations and for the feelings of others. The Bible says,
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
A. Key Verses to Memorize
For the Procrastinator
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.”
For the Motivator
“Let us consider how we may spur [motivate] one another on toward love and good deeds.”
B. Key Passage to Read and Reread
For the Procrastinator
The Parable of the Procrastinator
What can you observe about unmotivated procrastinators?
|• They have a God-given opportunity to be productive.
|“I went past the field of the sluggard [procrastinator],
|• They lack judgment.
|“past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment;
|• Everything around them is out of control.
|“thorns had come up everywhere,
|• They are negligent about their responsibilities.
|“the ground was covered with weeds,
|• Over time, their procrastination leads to ruin.
|“and the stone wall was in ruins.
|• We have something to learn by observing procrastinators.
|“I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw:
|• They justify their procrastination by minimizing its seriousness.
|“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—
|• They wake up with nothing and feel that they have been robbed!
|“and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.”
For the Motivator
The Three Primary Methods of Motivation
What could be of most help to us in helping others overcome their inclinations to procrastinate? How can we help prevent their needless “decay of delay”? Some have used “fear tactics”—but fear of painful repercussions can further paralyze any procrastinator. Others have used rewards—but rewards can be viewed as bribes. In truth, the greatest motivator in the world is love. Grasping the truth that we are unconditionally loved can help us all overcome our propensities to procrastinate and can motivate us to do what we need to do when we need to do it. Since God has a perfect plan for us, a plan to accomplish His plan through us …
“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
How Does Jesus Motivate His Disciples?
John’s Gospel, chapters 13–16, records the final words of Jesus to His disciples … words so motivating that they have watered the growth of Christians for almost two thousand years.
|• Jesus motivates them with … a relationship of love.
|John chapter 13
|— He loved them completely
|— He served them humbly
|— He inspired them to love others
|— He demonstrated faithfulness to them despite their unfaithfulness
|• Jesus motivates with … rewards.
|John chapter 14
|— He promised heaven.
|— He promised the Holy Spirit.
|— He promised peace.
|— He promised joy after suffering.
|• Jesus motivates with … repercussions.
|John chapter 15
|— He explained God’s discipline
|— He explained the consequences of not remaining dependent on Him.
|— He explained the reason that the world sins against Him.
|— He explained the judgment resulting from this sin.
Jesus used all three methods of motivation: repercussion, reward, and relationship; however, the most mature method is a relationship of love. Jesus is our model for motivating others with a steady stream of agape love (always seeking the highest good of others). His love moved people to action. Ultimately, Jesus motivated and inspired those around Him to be all God created them to be.
C. Prevent the Decay of Delay
When you know what you should do, yet can’t seem to do it, you need to learn how to “prevent the decay of delay.” Start by taking time to be alone. Reflect over two or three occasions in the past when you needlessly put something off. Write down what you remember.
• What responsibility did you put off?
• What led you to procrastinate?
• What feelings did you have?
• What was the outcome of your procrastination?
• What other people were affected by your lack of follow-through?
• Were there any common patterns of behavior? For example, were you afraid of someone’s response—are you “fear-based”?
This awareness alone will not bring about change, but it can motivate you to take the following steps.
“Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.”
Ten Steps to Success
#1 Acknowledge that procrastination is the assassin of your motivation.
“The sluggard’s [procrastinator’s] craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work.” (Proverbs 21:25)
#2 Tell God that you are tired of fighting the clock and pray for wisdom in using time.
“There is a proper time and procedure for every matter.” (Ecclesiastes 8:6)
#3 Keep a small datebook with you at all times, writing down everything you need to do and marking off the exact day and time period when you will do it.
“There will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed.” (Ecclesiastes 3:17)
#4 Don’t major on the minors. Each day, number the five most important tasks and do them in that order.
“He who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty.” (Proverbs 28:19 NASB)
#5 Realistically evaluate the time needed to complete each project. Then add additional time for “hidden costs”: unexpected interruptions, reviews, and delays.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him.” (Luke 14:28–29)
#6 Don’t feel guilty if you can’t complete all your tasks in one day—you can’t! Continue to persevere to the next, giving top priority the most important tasks.
“Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:35–36)
#7 Evaluate your self-talk when you get emotionally stuck.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
#8 If you struggle with getting started, ask a friend or someone wise to help you.
“The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)
#9 Yield your life to Christ, giving Him total control.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
#10 Claim God’s promise to provide everything you need through your dependence on Christ.
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:3–4)
D. Breaking the Power of Procrastination
You can overcome the destructive power of procrastination in your life! You no longer have to live with discouragement or defeat, tied up with tension … riddled with remorse … nor do you have to be controlled by impossible ideals or feelings of inadequacy. Liberation definitely is within your reach. To be set free requires taking a long look at your past in order to understand how you became a prisoner of procrastination and why you have remained a prisoner for so long. Liberation also requires that you identify all the “mind games” you have played with yourself and others—the excuses or rationalizations that have enabled you to justify your procrastination. Once you take responsibility for these rationalizations and replace them with truth, you will have mastery over them. And once you are no longer a prisoner of the past, you will live procrastination free!
“ ‘Everything is permissible for me’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’—but I will not be mastered by anything.”
(1 Corinthians 6:12)
How to Help … Perfectionist Patty
Those who seek perfection actually live in a world full of imperfect tension. Contrary to what most perfectionists secretly think, their quest for perfection is not something to be admired.… Perfectionism is, in fact, a fault. Patty finds delegation especially difficult because perfectionists have a preference for doing their work themselves. They think, If I do it, it’ll be “done right.” How can Patty begin to avoid the trap of “doing things just right” and move toward the goal of just doing the right thing? The first step is to …
Master Your Mind
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
• Commit to asking God to make you aware of your excessive demands and to enable you to let Him take charge of your thoughts each day.
— “Lord, prick my conscience whenever I demand perfection of myself or others.”
• Confess and eliminate your “all-or-nothing” thinking.
— “Lord, I admit that I’ve thought, If it’s not perfect, it’s not worth doing. I now know that’s wrong.”
• Catch yourself when you are being critical of others by over-generalizing.
— “Lord, if I’m upset with someone and start to say, ‘You never …!’ or ‘You always …!’ convict me in my spirit.”
• Correct any unrealistic expectations of yourself and others.
— “Lord, I’m putting away the should’s, ought to’s, must’s, and have to’s that I’ve tragically imposed upon others.”
• Cease all personal comparisons with others.
— “Lord, when someone does something better than I do, I know I don’t have to feel awful!”
• Cancel your rigid, personal rules.
— “Lord, I see that I don’t have to be perfect to prove that I’m not a failure.”
• Choose to be satisfied with less-than-perfect work, which is almost always acceptable.
— “Lord, thank You that I need not demand perfection, because You only want me to aim for excellence.”
• Conquer the negative thoughts about yourself by replacing them with positive “truths” from God’s Word.
— “Lord, thank You that Jesus ‘saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy’ ” (Titus 3:5).
Affirm with Freedom Phrases
I affirm that …
• “No one is perfect.… Flawlessness is a foolish goal.”
“There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10)
• “I never have to fear losing God’s love, no matter how I perform.”
“I am convinced that neither death nor life … nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39)
• “I will not live as a prisoner of my past.”
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18–19)
• “I will not fear condemnation, even when I fail to meet the expectations of others.”
“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
• “I can stop comparing myself with others.”
“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12)
• “I can take on new challenges with confidence—I don’t have to excel. I’m not limited to only the areas where I know I will excel.”
“The Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.” (Proverbs 3:26)
• “I will not be anxious about doing my work perfectly, but I will entrust everything in my life to the Lord. I can trust God to prepare the way for my future.”
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
• “I am free to enjoy life. Instead of being in bondage to unrealistic expectations, the Lord wants me to be set free.”
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
How to Help … Poor Self-worth Paul
Your worth is determined by God alone. God-given worth is unconditional. No hard words or harsh treatment can threaten your worth. No personal failure or weakness can diminish your worth. Yet, Poor Self-worth Paul lets the ups and downs of his daily life and the opinions of others determine how he feels about himself. In truth, your sense of value, like Poor Self-worth Paul’s, should not be based on rejection from others or on anything you have done or will do. Instead, your true worth must be secured in your belief that your intrinsic value comes from God’s unchanging love and acceptance.
Seven Statements for Self-acceptance
#1 I accept the fact that I was created in the image of God.
“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
#2 I accept myself as acceptable to God.
“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.” (Deuteronomy 33:12)
#3 I accept what I cannot change about myself.
“Who are you, O man, to talk back to God? ‘Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” ’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” (Romans 9:20–21)
#4 I accept the fact that I will make mistakes.
“Not that I [the apostle Paul] … have already been made perfect, but.… Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal [Christlikeness] to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12–14)
#5 I accept criticism and the responsibility for failure.
“I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’—and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5)
#6 I accept the fact that I will not be liked or loved by everyone.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.… If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:18, 20)
#7 I accept the unchangeable circumstances in my life.
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Seven Rebuttals to Self-defeating Statements
If you say: “I don’t have the strength to do what is right.”
The Lord says: I’ll give you My strength to do what is right.
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
If you say: “There is no one I can trust.”
The Lord says: I’ll give you strength to trust Me.
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” (Psalm 28:7)
If you say: “I’m not able to measure up.”
The Lord says: I am able to make you measure up.
“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)
If you say: “I don’t feel that anyone loves me.”
The Lord says: I love you.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
If you say: “I can’t forgive myself.”
The Lord says: I can forgive you.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
If you say: “I wish I’d never been born.”
The Lord says: Before you were born, I had plans for you.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
If you say: “I feel that my future is hopeless.”
The Lord says: The future I have for you is full of hope.
“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)
How to Help … Fear-based Freddie
As long as Freddie denies his deeply-rooted fear that someday someone will discover his flaws, he will not be able to connect with others on an intimate level. This fear prevents him from developing the courage to be honest with himself and with others. This fear also stands as a barrier to feeling and embracing the love of God. If Freddie would allow himself to surface the buried pain in his past and to feel the real rejection from his childhood, he would be released to experience true freedom from his stifling fear. Instead of being enslaved to debilitating dread, joy-filled optimism would empower him to accomplish his tasks on time.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Ask Yourself the Following Six Questions:
#1 Can I train my mind to control my anxiety?… Yes! The Bible says,
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:6–8)
#2 Is being delivered from all the fears I’ve had for years really possible?… Yes! The Bible says,
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)
#3 Why should I not live in fear of anyone?
“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
#4 What should I do to overcome my anxiety?
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6–7)
#5 What assurance do I have from God when I need peace and strength?
“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.” (Psalm 29:11)
#6 How can I guard my heart and my mind when I have no peace?
The Lord takes this role upon Himself, according to the prophet Isaiah, who said,
“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)
Move from Fear to Fact to Faith
Line Up Your Thinking with God’s Thinking
Fear: “I can’t help this feeling of intense fear!”
Fact: This feeling of fear is a bluff to my mind and body. It is not grounded in truth.
Faith: “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.” (Psalm 27:3)
Fear: “I’m afraid I won’t please others.”
Fact: My peace comes, not from pleasing others, but from pleasing God.
Faith: “We make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” (2 Corinthians 5:9)
Fear: “I feel hopeless—I’m afraid I’ll never change.”
Fact: Nothing is hopeless. The Bible says that when I am in Christ, I am a new person, and He will continue to change me.
Faith: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Fear: “My heart has so much fear that my mind can’t think clearly.”
Fact: God will guard my heart and mind and give me peace.
Faith: “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
Fear: “To be safe, I have to be in control and guard every step I take.”
Fact: God is in control of my life, and He is with me step-by-step.
Faith: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
Fear: “I feel trapped with no way of escape.”
Fact: God always makes a way of escape.
Faith: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
How to Help … Lack-of-Goals Larry
Larry’s life is going nowhere because he has no road map to where he needs to go. By establishing clearly-defined goals, he will be able to measure his achievements and take pride in what he is accomplishing in his life. First, he needs to decide the purpose(s) for his life. Then he can determine what goals he will need in order to achieve that purpose. Larger goals need to be broken down into smaller priorities that must be accomplished if he is to reach his lifetime, God-given purpose. God created Larry with special skills that He will use to achieve His own special purpose for him. God has created you in the same way! You can be sure that the Lord will give you confirmations along your journey. Let this be your prayer …
“Give your servant a discerning heart.”
(1 Kings 3:9)
Q “Are the goals for my life the same as my purpose in life?”
No. Purposes are different from goals; however, they are related.
• Your purpose answers the question, “Why am I here on earth?”
• Your goals answer the question, “What am I here on earth to do?”
The relationship between the two is that the goals you set should work together to help you reach your purposes.
|• The reason for your life
Purposes relate to the long-term plan God designed for you.
“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11)
|• The routes to reach your purpose
Goals relate to the different types of work God leads you to do in order to accomplish your purpose.
“There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” (1 Corinthians 12:5–6)
|• The “why” of your life
(Why you are here on earth)
Purposes relate to the aim of your life.
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Romans 8:29)
|• The “what” of your life
(What you do on earth)
Goals relate to the activities in your life.
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.… Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:15–17)
|• Establish God’s target
Purposes are the inspiration behind your achievements.
“Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12)
|• Measure the movements to the target
Goals are your individual achievements.
“You, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.” (Psalm 62:12)
|• Develop your life message
Purposes produce inner peace.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
|• Draw from your talents and abilities
Goals reveal outer progress.
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides.” (1 Peter 4:10–11)
Define Your Life Purposes and Goals
Discover Your Life Purposes
• Realize that God has promised to reveal His purpose for your life.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8)
• Realize the power of prayer to reveal God’s purpose.
“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
• Realize that God will use your spiritual gifts to accomplish His purpose.
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:6–8)
• Realize the value of asking yourself practical questions.
— What are my God-given responsibilities?
— What activities have brought greatest joy to my heart?
— What work has been most successful for me?
— What is my predominant, God-given spiritual gift?
— What are my primary passions and desires?
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
Develop a written purpose statement.
• One purpose in my life is … (to use the teaching gift God has given me to impact the lives of others).
• One purpose in my life is … (to be the best parent I can be throughout my life).
• My highest purpose is … (for my life to be conformed to the character of Christ). Every Christian is “predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son” (Romans 8:29).
Determine the goals needed to accomplish the life purposes you’ve just established.
• Goals should be beneficial and important.
— “I want a college education because it will enable me to become a teacher.”
• Goals should be reasonable and reachable.
— “I would love to be a professional ball player, but my gifts are in teaching.”
• Goals should be specific and measurable.
— “I plan to enter college after I work for two years to earn my tuition.”
• Goals should be controllable and not dependent on others.
— “There’s a bus route close to where I live in case I don’t have transportation to get to college.”
• Goals should reinforce your life purposes.
— “My plan is to attend seminars and lectures on preparing teaching plans and making classroom presentations in order to prepare myself for a teaching career.”
• Goals should be an extension of your values—your commitment regarding right and wrong. (Values are your principles, convictions, ideals, and beliefs.)
— “I believe that teaching truth with integrity will be a means of accomplishing God’s purpose for my life.”
“An upright man gives thought to his ways.”
How to Help … Overwhelmed Olivia
For most people, more time is devoted to “working on the job” than to any other part of life. This simply means that implementing time management skills must be a high priority. However, because Olivia hasn’t developed these skills or learned to delegate certain tasks to others, tension builds in her body and stress is high! God has much to say about using time wisely and even about finding satisfaction in our work … and He certainly doesn’t want us to live our lives in a straightjacket of stress.
“A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God.”
Subdivide a Large Project
• Break a large project down into smaller tasks.
• Make a list of the tasks within each subdivision of the larger project.
• Prioritize by numbering tasks in the order they should be accomplished.
• Delegate parts of the job that others can do—especially if the project is too big for one person to handle alone.
Prioritize Your Action Steps in Order to Achieve Your Goals
Priorities help you know what you should do first.
• Write out your daily priorities and keep them visible.
• Set written deadlines for the completion of each priority.
• Cross off tasks as they are accomplished.
• Commit to giving your goals top priority in your schedule.
• Ask yourself these questions:
— What are my goals?
— What activities do I need to plan in order to accomplish my goals?
— What priorities do I have to arrange?
— When do I plan to do each activity?
— How much time will each activity take?
— How much time should I allot for events that I cannot control?
“The desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.”
Profit from Time-saving Tips
• Create a detailed filing system (one folder for each family member, appliance, warranty, etc.). Instead of allowing individual pieces of paper to “float,” put each document in a designated folder in a filing cabinet for immediate recall.
• Consider color coding each category of files for easy identification: family and friends—orange, home—brown, finances—red, organizations—green.
• Use a personal organizer and planner.
• Keep a pen and pad with you at all times. Write down every large and small task you need to do … no matter how small.
• Give top priority to the five most important projects. Then determine in what order those five projects need to be done.
• On your calendar, block out certain days for large projects and certain hours for smaller projects.
• Set a deadline for the completion of each project. Realize that tasks usually expand to the time allotted for completion, whether long or short.
• When you get “stuck” trying to do a task, move it down on the list, work on something else, and then return to the original task.
• For even smaller tasks that continue to get overlooked, write each one on a list, cut the list into strips with one task on each strip, and place the strips into a bowl. When you have 15 or 20 minutes of free time, “go fishing!” Take one strip of paper out of your “fishbowl” and do the designated task immediately.
• Group all similar tasks together and do what is in that one group (for example, errands, shopping, repairs, house and yard work). Answer letters, calls, and e-mails in groups.
• Schedule appointments back-to-back.
• At the beginning of a conversation, foreshadow the time frame you have to talk: “I only have about five minutes, but I wanted to talk with you about.…”
• When the time has come for someone to leave, stand up and say, “Thank you for coming.… I appreciate what we’ve talked about.”
• Establish concluding sentences for telephone conversations: “Before we hang up, I want to thank you for.…”
• Evaluate how many minutes you habitually run late (such as 15 minutes). Then add that time plus an additional five minutes to the time you that would usually leave, thus allowing for last minute interruptions and habitual tardiness.
• Keep your leaving time in mind and stick to it. If the time has come to leave or if you are even one minute late, don’t answer the phone or do one more task (no matter how small). After all, if you had left on time, you wouldn’t be there to do it.
“The plans of the diligent lead to profit.”
E. You Can Be the Motivator for a Procrastinator
Think of a time when you had fallen.… You couldn’t lift yourself up.… You couldn’t help yourself—you felt stuck! You needed an outstretched hand to help … someone special to lift you up. Procrastinators are tied to a habit that has them paralyzed, and they are blind to a solution. They need an “angel of mercy” to bring insight and wisdom … a way out of their weary world. Are there those in your life who need to be pulled out of the pit of procrastination? Do they need someone to believe in them, to take them by the hand and say, “This is the way, walk with me in it”? Ask God if He wants to use your strong hand to accomplish such a mission of mercy.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10)
• Pray for the procrastinator.
“Lord, I pray that will be motivated to change from a pattern of procrastination and that through Your Spirit, he/she will stay changed.”
“Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.” (1 Samuel 12:23)
• Propose an accountability plan.
“If you like, I’m willing to help you devise a schedule that will help you accomplish your top priorities. Initially, as your accountability partner, I’d like for us to talk each day about your progress and to meet once a week.”
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
• Note the unmet needs.
“God created you with three inner needs—the need for love, for significance, and for security. Sometimes procrastination is a result of trying to fulfill unmet needs. When you procrastinate, do you identify with any of these scenarios?
— Are you trying to get your need for love met by being a people pleaser? If so, you may have difficulty saying no; therefore, you may feel overwhelmed and find yourself procrastinating.
— Are you trying to get your need for significance met by making sure everything is perfect? If so, you may be procrastinating because you are afraid you might fail once you begin a task.
— Are you trying to get your need for security met by not risking rejection? If so, you may be fearful that what you do may be unacceptable to others, and this fear may be leading you to procrastinate.
Instead of relying on yourself to protect and meet your needs, rely on the Lord to guard your heart and fulfill your needs. Depend on Him to give you the strength and the discipline to do what you need to do when you need to do it.”
“I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.”
• Encourage the use of a daily calendar.
“Buy a calendar with a 31-day log. Determine to use it daily in your effort to be the best steward of the time God has given you.”
“He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.” (Proverbs 15:32)
• Prioritize setting your priorities.
“Write down all that you need to accomplish.
— Number these priorities in terms of their importance.
— Each day, work on only your five top priorities. Be certain to work on the top five in the order of their importance before you move on to other tasks on your list.
— Keep a list of your other tasks that need to be done in the coming weeks or months after you’ve completed your current priorities.”
“A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul.” (Proverbs 13:19)
• Group similar goals.
“Make separate lists for your calls, correspondence, errands, and chores. Then set aside at least one hour of each day on your calendar to do the most important tasks on each list (for example, Monday—calls; Tuesday—letters; Saturday—errands).”
“There will be a time … for every deed.” (Ecclesiastes 3:17)
• Limit the number of options.
“Don’t give yourself too many options … if possible, only about three. Fewer choices mean faster decisions, and fewer choices also mean less second guessing (less changing your mind after a decision has been made).”
“Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Do not swerve to the right or the left.” (Proverbs 4:25, 27)
• Compliment small accomplishments.
“That’s great.… You are really making progress.… I’m proud of you.… I admire your diligence.… Don’t focus on what you haven’t done—look at what you have done. I see that you are trying to be faithful to God by using your time wisely.”
“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)
• Use the sandwich method to confront failure.
— Bread of praise
(Mention a character trait.)—“I appreciate your perseverance. I see that you have really improved in this area.… That’s great!”
— Meat of criticism
(Be specific.)—“Why do you think you were late for ? Are you aware that being late threw everyone else off schedule? What changes do you need to make so that you won’t be late in the future?”
— Bread of exhortation
(Give hope.)—“I believe in you. I know you can do it.”
“A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!” (Proverbs 15:23)
• Establish and maintain boundaries.
“Because I will set aside time in my schedule to talk and meet with you, I will need you to be punctual and to keep our appointments. If you are late, we will have to wait until our next scheduled time to get together or to talk.”
“It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.” (Ecclesiastes 5:5)
• Set flexible, alterable consequences.
“If you are unable to keep some of our scheduled appointments, just give me a call a day or two before, and we will reschedule.”
“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19)
• Acknowledge your own mistakes.
“I can identify with your struggle. I remember when I was where you are now and how many times I fell back into my old patterns before I finally overcame them.”
“Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Corinthians 11:29–30)
• Avoid being manipulated into accepting another’s responsibility.
“I realize that you want me to do this for you, but your doing this yourself is really important. I know that you are more than capable.”
“Each one should carry his own load.” (Galatians 6:5)
• Present the ultimate purpose.
“Do you know God’s purpose for your life? God’s purpose for every Christian is to be conformed to the character of Christ! Romans 8:29 says that you are ‘predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son’—that means you can have the discipline and self-control of Christ!”
Points to Ponder
If you have a propensity to procrastinate, then fix your eyes on winning the prize. First Corinthians 9:24 says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” The prize is mastering maturity, which means being conformed to the character of Christ. And that means being all God created you to be and doing all God created you to do. To “run the race” with confidence, you need to start and finish the race on time. Motivate yourself to change by telling yourself the truth. Get an extra push off the starting block by adopting this daily discipline: rehearse the three R’s.
“When I win the prize by overcoming my pattern of procrastination …
My reward of results will be gained.
My repercussion of guilt will be gone.
My relationship with God will grow.”
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Felton, Sandra. When You Live with a Messie. Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1994.
Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.
Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.
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Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008
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