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Now Is What You've Got
December 27, 1998

2 CORINTHIANS 5:16-6:2

In just a few days, we say goodbye to 1998, and begin the countdown of the millennium. It promises to be a fascinating but disturbing time as the doomsayers predict dire circumstances, forgetting that calendars are made by humans, not by God. It will be a time in which we will be seduced to put our heads into the new millennium. It is necessary, of course, to plan and fantasize; but, my plea this morning is for us not to forget the now. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, 2 Corinthians 6:2, "See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!" Not in the year 2000, now commonly called Y2K; not even tomorrow. Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation.

It is difficult to live in the now. As Christians we spent four weeks of Advent preparing for Christmas. The secular world began decorating and celebrating before Halloween! Advent is a time of expectation, planning, purchasing, decorating, baking, wrapping, caroling. Then Christmas Day comes. Time to gather the family, feast and unwrap gifts. For some, the long-anticipated event is a let-down. They sit among the opened packages, on a full stomach, and feel depressed.

A pastor asked how many were going to enjoy the twelve days of Christmas by leaving the Christmas tree and decorations up until January 6. One woman said she had removed all her decorations by 2:00 PM on Christmas Day! When asked why, she said, "After we opened all the presents, I got depressed. I was so tired of Christmas stuff; I just couldn't stand it. Christmas is never as good as the advertisements lead you to believe." She was so wrapped up in the wrappings and the doing, she was so busy living for tomorrow, she couldn't relax and enjoy the now when it arrived. Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation.

How many marriages do you know that have failed after the engagement, planning, wedding, honeymoon were over. What they had worked for, planned for, was a let-down. They were living for wedding. When the marriage arrived, they didn't know what to do with it.

I remember as a child how we all looked forward to summer vacation. "Won't it be wonderful when school is over for the year!" On the last day, our school went to a lake and had a big picnic. I remember going home after the picnics, swinging in the yard and sadly wondering now what. What was I going to do all summer without school! I didn't know what to do with the now when it arrived!

It is difficult to live in the now. It is difficult to be "present." It is a rare experience to talk with someone in depth with both being totally present. The mind wanders, you begin thinking of something else, you begin planning what you are going to say when the other finishes with his/her thought. Your mind runs ahead because it is difficult to be present in the now. It is difficult to focus when praying. The mind wanders, goes off chasing rabbits. How inspiring, how thrilling, how rare it is to be totally in the presence of God, to be totally present.

My plea this morning is for us to live in the now. Now is what you've got. Yesterday is gone; tomorrow has not yet come. Now is what you've got. Be totally present in the now. Why is it so difficult to live in the now? Perhaps one explanation is because we have not dealt adequately with yesterday or tomorrow. Yesterday and tomorrow keep intruding. Yesterday with the guilt of all that we didn't get done, the messages we forgot to return, the phone call we were going to make, the milk we were supposed to pick up at the supermarket. Yesterday keeps intruding.

Give yesterday to God. Let it go. People who live completely in yesterday are called senile. It is not easy to have a relationship with someone whose best days are in the past, and all he/she can do is talk about them.

Give yesterday to God. Let it go. Give thanks to God for the happy memories, and confess the faults, mistakes, errors, and failures. The past cannot be redone. It is over and can never be changed. What you can do is confess, receive God's forgiveness, and let the past go. When you need to take steps to reconcile with others, confess, tell them you are sorry, ask for forgiveness. If they respond, praise God for reconciliation. If they don't respond, and there's nothing more you can do, give the relationship to God. Let it go. Don't let it hang around your neck like a burden. Remember the gospel hymn, "Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there." Leave it there; don't take it back. I know you've carried it a long time, and it is now like an old friend! But give that burden to God, leave it there, and go find a new friend! Let yesterday truly be yester!

Tomorrow also keeps intruding with all you have to do tomorrow, all those lists, or worry about next year, Y2K! Give tomorrow to God. Give the future to God. It's sad to not be able to enjoy the now because you're thinking of tomorrow. Sitting in the midst of family and opened gifts on Christmas Day can be spoiled by thinking of yesterday's grudges or tomorrow's plans. Now is what you've got.

Proverbs 27:1, "Never boast about tomorrow. You don't know what will happen between now and then." And, Jesus said, Matthew 6:34, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today." Give tomorrow to God and let God do the worrying.

Give yesterday to God, give tomorrow to God, and embrace the now. Now is what you've got. Some folks can't live in the now because they live in fantasy. If only I were married to someone else, if only I lived somewhere else, if only I had another job, if only I had made different choices, if only I were better looking, if only life were fair, if only... Now is what you've got, not some fantasy. Now is what you've got, embrace it, make the best of it, look for God's gifts in what you have.

Now is what you've got, and now is a gift. Harold Rogers wrote in On the Other Side of Tomorrow,

Every day is a gift from God.

Welcome it joyously.

Clasp it to you.

Spend it wisely.

Save some for contemplation.

And when evening comes--thank God for his gift,

the day you have just lived.

Time is precious, time is a gift. Anonymous writes,

To realize the value of one year, ask a student who failed a final exam.

To realize the value of one month, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.

To realize the value of one hour, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.

To realize the value of one minute, ask the person who missed the train, bus or plane.

To realize the value of one second, ask the person who survived an accident.

To realize the value of one millisecond, ask the athlete who won a silver medal in the Olympics.

Don't spoil your precious gift by dwelling on either yesterday or tomorrow. Embrace the now. Embrace your life. Take yourself in your arms. Take even the pain, the problems, the disappointments, the frustrations. Don't deny them or try to escape or fantasize about tomorrow. Embrace them, and go deep into the love of God where joy abounds even in the midst of pain.

Just before dawn on a cold winter morning in 1849, a group of Russian revolutionaries who protested the brutalities of Czar Nicholas I were led out to face a firing squad. The first three were ordered to put on white gowns and shapeless caps, and then they were tied to posts. The firing squad raised their guns and took aim. Drums rolled. And just at that moment a signal came, the rifles were lowered, and a horseman came galloping on the scene announcing a reprieve. Although the condemned men didn't know it, the whole thing had been staged to demonstrate the mercy of the czar, who then had them shipped off to Siberia. One of the men who faced the firing squad went mad.

One of the men was Feodor Dostoyevsky who went on to become one of the world's greatest authors. That moment changed Dostoyevsky's life. Facing the absolute certainty of death shattered all of the assumptions on which he had built his life, and sent him on a whole new course of reclaiming the Russian Orthodox faith of his childhood. He came to see in the lives of the peasant convicts around him a divine light; the hardened, poor, largely illiterate peasants were people of enormous dignity and great heart. He began to see in them the image of Christ.

How would facing a firing squad affect you? If the doctor gave you five months to live, or five weeks, or five days, how would you live differently? If all the time you had left were "now", how would you make each moment count? Take a long walk to enjoy Bear Creek? Do it today, why wait. Finish a job around the house? Do it today. Tell someone you love him/her? Do it today. Ask forgiveness? Do it today. Get right with God? Confess your sin, dedicate your life? Do it now. Now is what you've got.

A poem written by a young woman,

Remember the day I borrowed your brand-new car and I dented it?

I thought you'd kill me, but you didn't.

Remember the time I dragged you to the beach and you said it would rain and it did.

I thought you'd say, "I told you so," but you didn't.

Remember the time I flirted with all the guys to make jealous, and you were?

I thought you'd leave me, but you didn't.

Remember the time I spilled strawberry pie all over the rug of your car?

I thought you'd hit me, but you didn't.

And, remember the time I forgot to tell you the dance was formal, and you showed up in jeans?

I thought you'd drop me, but you didn't.

Yes, there lots of things you didn't do.

But, you put up with me, and you loved me, and you protected me.

And there were lots of 'things I wanted to make up to you when you returned from Viet Nam,

but you didn't.

Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation. Now is what you've got.

© 1998 Douglas I. Norris