How to Live in the Now
Dr. Jim Denison
A friend sent me some interesting facts about the class which recently graduated from high school in America. They have no recollection of the Reagan era. There has been only one Pope in their lifetime. They were five when the Soviet Union broke apart and do not remember the Cold War. Tianamen Square means nothing to them. Atari predates them, as do vinyl albums. They have never heard of an 8-track. The Compact Disc was introduced before they were born. They have always had cable and VCRs. Popcorn has always been cooked in the microwave. They have no idea that Americans were ever held hostage in Iran. Kansas, Chicago, Boston, America, and Alabama are places, not bands. They don’t have a clue how to use a typewriter. And Jay Leno has always been on the Tonight Show.
Speaking of Mr. Leno, I once heard him say that his father complained about walking five miles through the snow to school. “What will we complain about to our kids?” he asked. “We had to get up to change the channel.”
Tomorrow comes so quickly that we worry about it today. But Jesus says that we should not: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (v. 34). How do we do this? A psychologist once said that 90% of his patients live in fear of the future or guilt over the past. Wouldn’t you like to refuse both? How do we live in the now?
Choose to live in the now
“Do not worry,” our text begins, translating a present tense imperative. Literally rendered, Jesus said, “Stop worrying, every time worry starts again in your life.”
“About tomorrow”—specifically, about anything having to do with the future. No exceptions, no qualifications, no loopholes.
Why? “Tomorrow will worry about itself”—it will take care of itself. You cannot. You can’t do anything about tomorrow, today.
Instead, focus on now, for “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” The word describes damage done to a crop by hail, the normal problems of living in this fallen world. You have enough to think about for today without borrowing from tomorrow.
The upshot: live in the now. Stay in the present. But that’s hard.
So why live in the present? For three reasons. First, worry over the future is pointless. A survey regarding worries revealed these facts:
40% of things most people worry about never happen.
30% of what we worry about has already happened and cannot be changed.
22% of what we worry about regards problems which are beyond our control.
Only 8% of what we worry about involves situations over which we have any influence.
Mickey Rivers, former New York Yankees outfielder, was right: “Ain’t no sense worry about things you got control over, ’cause if you got control over them, ain’t no sense worrying. And there ain’t no sense worrying about things you got no control over, ’cause if you got no control over them, ain’t no sense worrying about them.” Any questions?
A wise man once said, “The biggest troubles you have got to face are those that never come.”
It has been observed that the bridges we cross before we come to them are almost always over rivers that aren’t there.
Winston Churchill once quoted a man on his deathbed who said that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened. Don’t live in tomorrow, for such anxiety is pointless.
Second, refuse to worry about the future, because tomorrow doesn’t exist.
The Greeks pictured history as a line, and made five-year plans. The Jews knew better. They saw time as a dot, the here and now. “Yesterday” is gone, and “tomorrow” doesn’t exist. It’s just a word with no substance. We live in the past and the future; they lived in the present.
Take Paul’s experience on his second missionary journey. He thought he was to turn back East when God called him West. The result was his ministry in Macedonia and Europe, and the movement of the gospel to the Western Hemisphere. The apostle had no idea this was his future; he was simply staying faithful in the present.
Third, choose to live in the now, because it’s the only way to know God. All of God there is, is in this moment. He is the great I Am, not the I Was or the I Will Be. He cannot help you with the future, for it doesn’t exist. If you want to know God, you must live in today.
Jim Carrey’s comedy Bruce Almighty has caused significant problems for Dawn Jenkins, and she isn’t even in it. The character of God leaves his phone number on Carrey’s pager. But instead of the usual 555 prefix used by most television shows and films, God’s number is a common exchange—it’s Dawn’s cell phone number. She’s been getting about 20 calls per hour, with callers asking for God before hanging up.
The only way God can answer your call is when you make it about the present. He’s already forgiven every sin you’ve confessed to him from your past; he will guide every step you’ll trust to his will. So live in this moment, and you’ll find God there.
Learn to live in the now
So we choose to live in the present, in this moment, in the now. How do we do this? I have been helped much this week by rereading Thomas Kelly’s classic A Testament of Devotion. This Quaker missionary was a scholar in philosophy of religion, but even more a student of the soul. He suggests these principles, which I endorse to you.
First, invite Christ to dwell in your soul. Make him your Savior and Lord.
When you do, your body becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and Jesus himself comes to live in your heart.