Summary: Our culture has lived in sheer optimism, but that time is fading. We must seize the opportunity to minister while it is here; and if we do so, we will see bountiful rewards.
My besetting sin, if you must know, is procrastination. Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow, for somehow tomorrow always seems to be even more than only a day away. It seems to be an eternity away, and so what if I do not do today what my To-Do list says I am to do? Who will know and who will care? I will do it tomorrow. There’s always more time.
So, after a Sunday here, with preaching and hospital visits and committee meetings and Journey teaching, when Monday morning comes, my only thought is to relax, sleep late, sip coffee, read the morning paper, and act as though next Sunday is on the far, far horizon. Let me not even think about preaching again, not right now, please! (By the way, when I get to heaven one of my first questions to the Lord will be, “Did you have to put a Sunday in absolutely every week?”). But then I have to come out here for staff meeting, and folks want to know what I am going to preach and how I am going to handle this or that, and the illusion that I can avoid working disappears into the harsh glare of the afternoon sun. The illusion that there is always more time vanishes.
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Do you know that phrase? The Land of the Midnight Sun refers to those places near the Arctic Circle where the angle of the earth’s axis brings weeks or even months when the sun does not disappear in the summer. In parts of Alaska, as well as of Greenland and Norway, Sweden, Russia, Finland, in spring and in summer the sun disappears below the horizon only for a short while, or not at all in some places. I am told that in the town of Svalbard, in Norway, the northernmost town in Europe, there is no sunset from about April 19 to August 23! Now that’s my kind of place! That’s what I need! A land where the sun never sets and where, therefore, it feels as though you never run out of time. A place where you can always look up from what you are doing and think, “I can wait. I don’t need to do this now. There’s always tomorrow, next week, all light, all sunshine, merrily we roll along.” Wouldn’t it be sweet to live in the Land of the Midnight Sun and feel that deadlines didn’t matter and timelines were infinitely flexible? My kind of place.
Except that if there is polar day, there is also polar night. If there is the Land of the Midnight Sun during the summer, then during the winter it becomes a land of near darkness. If there are places where all seems light and bright, those same places turn to gloom and doom later in the year. Twilight at best, profound darkness in some places, so much so that people suffer serious depression, and some even go into something like a dream where they cannot distinguish fantasy from reality! There is a downside to living in the Land of the Midnight Sun, for much of the year has to be lived in the gathering gloom, where little can be accomplished and where hearts grow cold and bleak.
And so, procrastinator that I am, if I did live in the Land of the Midnight Sun, how would I respond? What would I do with all of that daylight? Sad to say, I would probably postpone everything until just before the seasons changed to perpetual night. Sad to say, I would probably waste my opportunities and find myself in utter darkness.
If we are to be followers of the Christ who is the Light of the World, then we must make use of the light, while it is available, for the night comes, when none of us can work. If we are to be faithful to Jesus, we need to work as He worked, taking advantage of the light we have. For the time is coming, and now is, when darkness may engulf our world.
As Jesus and His disciples walked along one day, they came upon a man who had been born blind. The text labels him a beggar. And, indeed, we know that in Jesus’ day, throughout Judea there would have been many such people – the lame, the blind, the diseased – all of them at town gates or in the streets, asking for help. How many did Jesus stop and help? We don’t know. It may be that even Jesus did what you and I do – mumble something about not being able to help everybody and then hurry on past. Even Jesus might have been overwhelmed by the vast variety of human needs thrust at Him.