I hear my grandchildren at play doing something I remember doing as a kid. Obsessed with the concept of fairness, they have to find a way to start a race without giving anyone a head start. So, to make it fair for everyone, one person gets to say, “Ready, set, go!”
As children, we were eager to start, to go, to move. Most of us slow down some as we get older. (When was the last time you were in a race?) We’re not quite as fast out of the gate as we once were. I wonder if this has something to do with the problem I want to address: Do we sometimes get stuck on “set?” We know the importance of a plan. We’re “ready.” But as of yet, we haven’t put the plan into action. We haven’t reached “go.” We’re still on “set.”
The Corinthians had this very problem. Listen to Paul’s exhortation to them about it:
And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. — 2 Corinthians 8:10-12
If you never procrastinate, if you always follow through on your plans and accomplish what you propose to do, I commend you. That is so admirable. I also excuse you from reading the rest of today’s column. Maybe you could spend the time praying for sick folks or encouraging a discouraged person. Maybe you could write a guest column sharing your techniques with the rest of us who sometimes don’t get done what we say we’re going to do.
I suspect that leaves most of us, people who don’t always finish what we start. Isn’t that frustrating? We have a good plan. Our intentions are good and sincere. But somewhere in the process, we get distracted, lose our forward momentum and don’t do what we had intended to do.
This is true about cleaning out the garage or finishing some other neglected project. But I’m especially interested in spiritual matters today, as we anticipate the year 2020, arriving Wednesday. I suppose thinking about New Year’s resolutions got me on this track. Haven’t you often seen the new year approaching and thought something like, “This year I’m going to be serious about spending daily time with God, reading and praying. I am going to volunteer for some ministry project. I’m going to visit some lonely people who need to be encouraged. I’m going to send at least one card a week and make one call.” All of that is wonderful, and needs to be done. But sadly, we often propose fine things only to have business and busyness preempt our plans. Noble resolve has more than once been trampled by urgent demand.
The Corinthians were excited about the fundraising project when Paul told them about it a year earlier. News about the needy poor in Judea stirred their hearts, and they pledged to give. A year passed, and Paul had to remind them that the time had come to do what they had eagerly planned to do. He summarized their position, saying their readiness needed to be matched by their completion. Their “ready” needed a matching “go.” It wasn’t an unreasonable or impossible demand — he urged them to do it out of available resources. It didn’t require locating the funds; it required allocating them.
That’s often our situation about unkept resolutions and unrealized plans, isn’t it? You may not have the money or time to do all you dream of doing. But wouldn’t it be good if we just did what we could today with what we have available? I don’t think my complaint about not having enough to do all I want to do rings very true when I fail to use what I do have.
Can you imagine finding time to read all the way through the Bible in 2020? You can read a lot (or maybe all of it) by reading a few minutes every day. You could help several dozen folks during a year by sending card or making a call each week.
Dreams are good. Plans are important. They’re the “ready.” But real good is to come from them, those dreams and plans need to be matched by completion. That’s the “go.” You make progress toward that completion by applying what you have today. What we do about those plans and dreams today moves us off of “set” and gets us to “go.”
So, are you “ready?” do you have an exciting dream? Do you have a challenging plan in mind for this new year? Good for you. Now, what step toward completion could you take today? Why wait? Why not take it today? That will get you to “go.” We can celebrate together at the finish line. Happy New Year!
Mike McElroy is a regular faith columnist for The Tribune.