Should a Christian have a habit of arriving late to places? Does punctuality have anything to do with representing God? It is possible there are times where maybe we are doing too much during our days, maybe putting too much on our plates? The reasons or motives may be good, but even if so, is it taking a certain toll? I would like to investigate a few examples from the Bible and share them with you.
“Now the LORD said to Moses, "Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he comes out to the water, and say to him, 'Thus says the LORD, "Let My people go, that they may serve Me” (Exodus 8:20 NASB).
This was the fourth plague to hit Egypt. Moses had been speaking with Pharaoh about permitting the Israelites to leave Egypt, and often he would go into the presence of the Egyptian monarch. I believe the above verse leaves us a good example. Moses rose early. I could wonder if this was a coincidence, maybe a personal habit of Moses, or if other prophets had a habit of rising early. But before we explore that further, I would like to share another example of Moses rising early, so that we can’t think it was only on this one occasion.
“Then the LORD said to Moses, "Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, 'Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, "Let My people go, that they may serve Me” (Exodus 9:13 NASB).
Who was Moses? Was he not a leader of God's people? I start with this example, as I believe those serving as leaders should set an example of rising early, and looking to get things done early as well. It doesn’t look good when a pastor, director, or other leader has to be waited for. More than that, this practice can prevent us from reflecting the character of Christ in other areas. Let’s consider other examples of timeliness on the part of God’s servants as recorded in Scripture:
“Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them” (Jeremiah 7:25 NASB). When God’s people are in error and in need of a word from Him, it is important that messages of warning and reproof be delivered without delay. We have many today who desire to be servants of God, and who may also be students of the Bible. But some of these same people may keep themselves so busy during the day that they struggle to rise early, or become late for an appointment because of sleeping just a few extra minutes. We can’t help noticing that the texts cited above use the word "daily." This means rising early was a habit for these individuals, something that occurred on a daily basis.
I'll write about this more in a bit, but we should consider our schedules, and whether we are overworking ourselves or not. I believe it’s a good habit to rise early, especially as a Christian seeking to serve the Lord. “And now, because you have done all these things," declares the Lord, "and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you but you did not answer...” (Jeremiah 7:13 NASB). I believe we find a pattern here. Others in Scripture who showed this example include David (Psalm 88:13), Samuel (1 Samuel 15:12), Abraham (Genesis 19:27), Joshua (Joshua 3:1), Gideon (Judges 6:38), Jesus (Mark 1:35) and more.
When something happens that we’re very interested in, we generally make an effort to be there. Whether to see a person, to go to an activity or event, I've seen people make sacrifices to be there on time. Interest has much to do with punctuality. Certainly there are accidents and other unplanned-for events, but I’m not referring to lateness caused by situations such as these. But with regard to issues or responsibilities pertaining to faith, I would like to ask, how interested are we? Things like weeks of prayer, Bible studies, Sabbath School, vespers, etc.
Jesus, speaking to today's church, says the following: “'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot” (Revelation 3:15 NASB). We as a people are described as lukewarm. What does that mean? Well, from the text we can see that it means a lack of total commitment to one side or the other. It is someone who wants to be here for a while, and then over there as well.
Another text might shed some light on this: “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21 NASB). If our treasured moments are not with God, we may be cold, or at best lukewarm. We'll wake up early for other things (jobs, school, activities and other events which require waking up and leaving early). If our treasured moments are with God, by contrast, we'll look forward to waking up early to spend time with Him for either personal devotional time or even to make it on time for Sabbath School. Waking up early, making it to church early, will not be an issue to the one whose eyes are set on things above.
"Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap..." (Luke 21:34 NASB).
Is it possible that many times, even for good reasons, we take on too much during our days? I'm not looking to question motives, but rather, to look at the results. Our schedules are incredibly busy, are they not? We pick up extra hours at work, we add extra classes to try finishing school sooner, and we carry busy lives outside of these things. By the time we reach the weekend, we are exhausted. Understandably we are tired, and perhaps that’s good, but is it possible we take on so much that what we really want to do on Sabbath is sleep in?
Are we to do the best we can? Yes. Make sacrifices here and there? Yes. Take on so much so that it affects our Sabbath blessing? No. I'll get to that in a little bit. Two things I think we should consider are prayerful planning and faith. "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:31-33 NASB).
Do we believe this? I'm not saying we shouldn't work for things, for the commandment says that six days we are to work. But we are to trust our heavenly Father, who can and does provide for us.
Jesus was busy during His weeks—very active, just like many of us. Yet the Sabbath was not a day where we find Him napping, being inactive. Rather, we find Jesus doing good. Should we not imitate Jesus even in His use of the Sabbath? How will we be energetic on the Sabbath if we are burned out from the week?
“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him...” (Colossians 2:6 NASB). “...the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6 NASB).