Vol. 7, No. 2
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In 1 Kings 20:13-43 there is an interesting story of Benhadad whom the Lord had marked for destruction. King Ahab, who cared nothing about God's will, word, work or way, called him "brother," made a covenant with him and let him go.
God's prophet came to him with this story, a sort of parable, similar in purpose to the one Nathan told King David. "And as the king passed by, he cried unto the king, and he said, Thy servant went out into the midst of the battle; and, behold a man turned aside, and brought a man unto me, and said, Keep this man: if by any means he is missing, then shall thy life be for his life, or else thou shalt pay a talent of silver. And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. And the king of Israel said unto him, So shall thy judgment be: thyself hath decided it. And he hasted and took the headband away from his eyes; and the king of Israel discerned that he was of the prophets. And he said unto him, Thus saith Jehovah, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand the man whom I had delivered to destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people. And the king of Israel went to his house heavy and displeased, and came to Samaria" (1 Kings 20:39-43).
The difference in the response of Ahab and David is significant. Ahab went to his house sullen and vexed. David confessed, repented and was forgiven. The thought that kept striking me with sledgehammer force was, "As thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone." Is there any lesson there that applies to me? I am so busy with thousands of students doing correspondence Bible courses. I am so busy speaking and writing to encourage evangelism, both personal and impersonal, at home and abroad. I am so busy writing articles for brotherhood publications and books. I am so busy attending meetings, visiting sick and needy. All of these are worthwhile activities, and I am glad that God has allowed me to be a co-worker with him in these activities. But I have neighbors who live next door to whom I have not presented the Gospel. I asked myself, "If on the judgment day the Lord should remind me that here were daily opportunities confronting me for helping to save the lost next door, would my reply be that I was busy here and there and they were gone?"
I confess that even after 60 years of preaching the Gospel, I do not know how to allocate the time of which God made me a steward. How much time to spend in studying God's Word, how much to spend in writing about what I have learned, how much to spend sharing the good news with my neighbors, or how much to just quietly sit and meditate on God's grace and goodness, I do not know.
But I do know that the thought of being busy here and there and finding one gone for whom God left me the opportunity and responsibility to help touches my heart. I am not suggesting that we will be lost simply because we did not always know how to keep our priorities straight. But I am suggesting that we may have contributed to someone else staying lost because we were busy with some things when we should have been busy with others.
Have you decided which excuse you will use for not doing the primary job for which God will hold you responsible, that of fishing for men? Will it be, "I am too timid. I just cannot speak to my friends or neighbors about Jesus"? Will you have some reason for being able to talk about everything else under the sun but this? If your excuse is, "I was busy here and there" will you also have some answers about how important were the things about which you were busy? Jesus said, "Come ye after me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). He did not say, "If you do not get too busy here and there."
I am glad that I do not know what God is going to do about those of us who have failed in this respect. I have no doubt that God in his gracious love forgives every Christian who truly repents and asks forgiveness. But there are some things of which we need to be aware. 1. True repentance involves the kind of Godly sorrow that leads one to determine not to disobey God's will. Is a person penitent who knows that he is not properly about his Father's business and persists in deliberately failing to try to do better? 2. Although we may not miss heaven just because we failed to get our priorities straight, someone may. The consequences of our failure will be eternal. There are untold millions who are dying untold because most of us are busy here and there and they are gone. Note an important point. I am not the cause of some other person being lost. He is lost because of his own sin. But the principle of Ezekiel 33:7-9 still applies. "So thou, son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die, and thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way; that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thy hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it, and he turn not away; he shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul."
We have lost many opportunities that are presented at certain times of our lives. As young people, we have opportunities to develop habits that will glorify God. But we may be busy here and there and they are gone. As young parents, we have the opportunity to take our precious child on our knee and tell him the stories of Jesus and others in the Bible that would change his life. Some of us are busy here and there and they are gone.
The principle of which we speak applies to property, position or power. It applies to talents, time or thoughts. You may find yourself saying, "I once had money I could have used for the glory of God and the good of man, but I was busy here and there and it is gone." "I once had position or power to have influenced some change in government, society or church activity that would have been good, but the opportunity is gone." "I once had great abilities, active mind, or noble resolves, but I was busy here and there and now have 'old timer's disease' and they are gone."
The farmer who does not plan and plow and plant when spring comes may wish and weep and wail when winter comes, but to no avail. Shakespeare was right when he said, "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries."
Being busy here and there is not enough. We must be busy about the important things -- things that count for eternity. We must be busy at the right moments. Unless our primary aim in life is to glorify God and let Jesus have the first place in our plans, we may find ourselves in the same condition as the man in this parable. What are you busy doing?