Many preachers stress the urgency of the hour and exhorted their listeners to take action before it is too late.
I recently read a devotion on how D.L. Moody (I think) preached a sermon to a group of unsaved people the Sunday before the great Chicago fire. He told them to consider what he said and to come back the next Sunday to hear more. After the fire, he felt bad because some of those lost souls he preached to probably died in the fire and didn’t make a decision for Christ. Thereafter he preached with urgency.
But is this what the scriptures teach?
The “urgency of the hour” feels like a tactic used by advertisers to urge prospects to make a purchase today. Sellers don’t want prospects to “think about it” because they usually don’t. So advertisers create urgency to act now before its too late. Their offer will expire “tonight”. Or the price goes up “tomorrow”. Or someone else is interested so you must buy it now before you lose the opportunity.
Are preachers guilty of using the same techniques?
There is an urgency in the Scriptures. But it is not the type of urgency some preachers use when they apply the psychology of salesmen.
The battle cry to support missions and other church activities is often that we must reach the lost before they die and go to hell. Or there is so much to do that we have to go full force now. I don’t see this in the Scriptures. While Jesus said that the fields are white for harvest and told his apostles to go into all the world, he never said that time was of the essence. He never said that it would be your fault if someone died before accepting Christ because you didn’t reach him because you didn’t wear yourself out working day and night.
In fact, it took years before the apostles left Judea to go into all the world. Paul went on his first missionary journey years after his conversion and call to reach the gentiles. He didn’t seem to be in a hurry. In fact, he was sitting in Antioch ministering to the Lord before God told him it was time to go. He wasn’t organizing mission trips, raising support, or building prayer networks. He was sitting in a prayer meeting ministering to the Lord. Yet Jesus had told him many years before (maybe 14) that he was to be an apostle to the gentiles.
Where’s the urgency?
He was waiting for the timing of the Lord because Jesus is Lord of the harvest. Jesus is in charge of his servants. When the Lord spoke, Paul was ready to go and went immediately. The only urgency is to act when you hear the Lord speak.
When Joseph was warned in a dream that Herod wanted to kill Jesus, he gathered Mary and Jesus and left before morning. (Mat 2:13-14) At that point it was urgent that Joseph obey immediately.
So was God worried about the souls who died while Paul was preparing for the ministry? He didn’t seem to be.
The only urgency I see in the Scriptures is when God speaks to you, you must respond immediately.
In Hebrews chapters 3 & 4, the writer states three times:
Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.
This passage is about Israel hardening their hearts to what God told them to do. They did not listen and obey and therefore they died in the wilderness without entering God’s rest for them. In Heb 4:7, the writer says, “[A]gain He designates a certain day, saying in David, ‘Today,’ after such a long time.” This means that when God speaks to us, we can’t delay in obeying. We don’t have the luxury of putting it off to another day. We must obey God on his schedule.
And God has a schedule. He controls time and the timing of events.
Sometimes His word demands immediate action. But sometimes His word is meant for later action — like Paul’s call to be an apostle to the gentiles.
God often will give us advance warning of what He plans for us to do.
God told my wife and me that we were going to move over a year before it was time. We sought him diligently as to when, where, and how. After a year, we thought that we had misunderstood what God had said. So we decided to be content to stay. But shortly after that, God told us it was time to sell our house. Within 4 short months, we sold our house, sold my business, got rid of most of our stuff, and moved to Chile.
Failure to discern God’s timing will result in a waste of your time and resources. If you heed the call of “urgency” and act on your own initiative before the proper time, you will wear yourself out doing your own thing thinking you are giving everything in the service of God. It becomes dead works of the flesh.
On the other hand, if you don’t act in God’s timing, you will miss your opportunity and disobey God. We must do things in God’s time, not our own.
When you run ahead of God’s timing with a false sense of urgency, you will fail. Samuel told Saul to wait for him to come to make the sacrifice before Saul could lead Israel into battle. Saul thought Samuel was taking too long and did the sacrifice himself. But it was the beginning of the end of Saul’s reign. (See 1 Sam 13.)
David had the promise from God that he was going to be king. He had several opportunities to kill Saul. But he refused to take the matter into his own hands. He allowed God to operate in His timing. Even after the death of Saul, David waited until Judah came and made him king. He then waited until all Israel made him king. He was content to do things in God’s timing, not his own.
Jesus said the Father knows the time of Christ’s return. Jesus is responsible for saving the world, not us. Our job is to listen and obey. We are mere servants of the king of Kings. We can’t have a false urgency for doing things that He has not told us personally to do. If he hasn’t told you to go to Africa and preach, don’t. Don’t carry a false burden for doing things God hasn’t given you to do.
Don’t be mislead by a false sense of urgency.
Nor should you be a lazy servant who fails to act with urgency on your Master’s command.