"You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand." James 4:8
Are you a "next" person or a "now" person?
A "Next" Person
I tend to be a "next" person. I love planning. I am a detail guy, and I enjoy working to help everything fit together. Some of this is my personality, and some of it is a result of having been involved in church leadership for 27 years. My job demands I am always planning ahead. For special events to happen at church at Christmas, planning has to take place months before. If you are going to do something unique for Easter, work must start long before the weather turns warm. I enjoy this reality.
A "next" person tends to be looking toward the future. And this can be good. This kind of person likely is highly organized and seldom has things slip through the cracks. They are likely to be well prepared, and consequently, those they are working with enjoy the benefits of their planning.
There is a danger, though. "Next" people can sometimes miss the opportunities that are right in front of them because they are so focused on what is yet to come. I relate to that reality. I often find myself enjoying the anticipation of an event more than the event itself.
A "Now" Person
There is another kind of person: a "now" person. A "now" person tends to live in the moment. They do not get too tied up into what may happen down the line. They live for the moment. If you ask them what they are doing next year, next month, or even next weekend, they may have no idea. However, they will likely be able to tell you how much they enjoyed today.
A "now" person goes with the flow. And this, too, can be good. A "now" person is unlikely to borrow trouble. They recognize the blessing of the present day and don't spend their life longing for days that aren't even promised.
Like the "next" person, though, the "now" individual must be aware of dangers. Mr. Now may suffer the consequences of not planning ahead. For just one example, while it is true that living in the moment is good, when retirement hits, it's too late to start saving -- that needed to have happened long ago. You see, for a person to be prepared, it does demand a little planning ahead and foresight into what is to come. Only living in the moment can sneak up on you and create problems.
What does this have to do with following Christ?
James 5:8 reminds us that we are to establish our hearts (it means to be steadfast with a strong faith). We are to live this way now. How do we do it? The verse goes on to say that this happens by remembering that the Lord is coming again. In other words, we properly live for today (the "now") by remembering what is coming in the future (the "next"). It is not either/or. We are to enjoy each day because it is all we are promised, yet, we will not fully make the most of the day if we forget about what is yet to come.
Think for a moment about a football team. They know their next game is Saturday at 2 pm. They are aware of their opponent and the challenges they will face. How do they work on Monday at practice? If they say to themselves, "the game is so far away, so let's just enjoy today," they are in trouble because the most joyful thing on a Monday at practice is not to run sprints, lift weights, and watch film. In other words, if they don't live now in light of what is next, they will not be prepared for game day, and they will end up having missed their opportunity.
However, if they approach practice on Monday with Saturday afternoon in view, they can make the most of the day. They only need to accomplish on Monday what is necessary for that day. They do not need to worry about every detail of the week because there is time to take care of all of it. All they need to do is work today to accomplish what is required. They are to work now while keeping in mind what is next.
And so it is in our walk with the Lord. We know Jesus is returning. We are aware that this world is not our forever home. We recognize that all things of this earth are fleeting. We understand that all of us will stand before the Lord. All of those things are next. Yet those realities free us up to live today in a way that we maximize our time and live for the things that enable us to make the most of each day we are given -- the now.
Whether you tend to be a next person or a now person, I encourage you to learn to combine the two. Think about the future, and allow the most important things to become your priorities. Then, with the future in mind, live in the moment. Do not fail to miss today's sunset because you are worried about tomorrow's storm. Yet, do not fail to gather food and supplies today when you know the blizzard is hitting this weekend.
Have strong hearts today as you remember that Jesus is coming soon! Make the most of today by thinking about what is yet to come. It is because we live in light of the coming of Christ that we can be truly set free to make the most of this very day -- the only day we are promised.