Tomorrow is your best friend.
This is the first book I have written in the fourth quarter of my life. And I openly confess that I, the author, am preaching to myself. For my last book was my autobiography, published at the age of seventy-five, the wrap-up year of the first three quarters of my life. I thought it was time to retire from writing -- I assumed I would have nothing new to add to the thirty-five books written with this hand. But the truth is quite the opposite. Three years into my fourth quarter, I am experiencing insights that are remarkably distinctive -- yes, different from anything I've ever consciously encountered in my entire life.Perspective -- that's the key word to explain how living in the fourth quarter of life unveils insights never before experienced in the younger years. For the first three quarters of my life, I was driven by dreams. At the age of five, I had the dream to become a minister. That dream took twenty years of serious education -- high school, college, graduate school in theology -- twenty years! Then I had the dream of building a church that would impact the world with a positive healing faith. So, with five hundred dollars, my wife and I came to California, a super secular state, bringing a spiritual message of hope. Now, a half century later, we look at our work of over five decades and are shocked at what we honestly -- and humbly -- see. We are stunned at the sight! Buildings and grounds that today stand in a garden of peace. A spiritual home base for a televised church service seen by tens of millions around the globe and heard every week in the great languages of the world -- English, Dutch, German, Russian, Arabic, Chinese -- and still expanding.
How did this all happen? From nothing, something was born. How do we explain it? In simple terms -- as I understand the process -- I have always lived in the future. Call it “vision.” For the past seventy-five years I have been dreaming my dreams of tomorrow. Did I miss out on living in the now? Did I miss out on the joy of living in the present? I don't know. I was always living in tomorrow. Today? This is the time to dream dreams and plan tomorrow. Tomorrow? That's when I do what I can and should do without procrastination. Tomorrow I move from a positive attitude to a new era of positive action. My notes to myself carry these acronyms:
D-I-N -- Do it now! And M-I-H -- Make it happen!
Of course, from time to time, celebrations called me out of my mental living in tomorrow, back to the now moment. Today -- a wedding, an anniversary, the birth of a child, a plane to catch, a speech to give, a building to dedicate.
Today -- but today is only twenty-four hours. Tomorrow? In my thinking, tomorrow seems to go on and on and on forever. Tomorrow? That is where my goals live, begging me to reach out to them. Tomorrow? That is where judgment waits to announce the winner, and I don't want to be the loser. I see it as the time between the dreaming and the arriving, and it might be twenty years, forty years, one hundred years. Life for me has been made up of a little of today and a lot of tomorrow. And yesterday? For most of the past fifty years I kept these words of Jesus under the glass top of my desk: "No man, having put his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).
It's past. It's history. Tomorrow is my future. But today I am going to celebrate.
I find myself stopped for a moment. I can't help looking back. I'm going to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of dreaming and creating a ministry. Today, I'm forced to stop living in tomorrow and take time to look back and say thank you to God and to my friends, to whom, from today's perspective, I see I am so indebted.
"Oh, my gosh," I gasp. "The past -- it is awesome." Have I been lucky? No, I've been blessed! I look back over fifty years of work. What do I see? What do I feel? Something I have never seen -- or felt -- before in my lifetime. Call it perspective.
In this illuminating light of the reality of perspective, I am living in the now as never before! It is time to celebrate anniversaries.
Today we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of a church that grew from a small audience in a drive-in theater to an audience of tens of millions. Now they look, not through windshields of cars, but at television screens. They are sitting not on automobile seats but on sofas and beds, and they adjust the volume not on little speakers but on remote controls.
What, now, do I see looking back? What inner voices do I hear standing on this mountain peak?
I see the long path behind me, and I see what I've experienced -- achieved through stress. Stress? Yes, always. Every day? Yes. But from this perspective, I see it as the stress of success. Positive stress! Work! Dream! Hold on! Never give up! Keep on believing! Set goals beyond goals! Think bigger! Think longer! Practice positive faith, and be prepared to live in a world of creative, constructive, redemptive stress.
I've lived in that world called stress all my life. I had to. It was my calling. And if I retired now, what would life be like? Stress-free? So-called stress-free living would produce new stresses I've never experienced before. Like the stress of boredom.