Seize the Day
In adversity, there is often great opportunity. We are living in one of those moments as a nation. While there is division and unrest, there is unity and wholeness to be found. There are also incredible opportunities for the discerning—for those who will seize the day.
The Latin phrase carpe diem, meaning “seize the day,” was popularized after the 1989 movie Dead Poets Society. In the film, Robin Williams played John Keating, a man who loved poetry and worked as a passionate English teacher at a boys’ Ivy League preparatory school.
In one of the early scenes, John led his class of young men into the school foyer where several trophy cases lined the walls. In these cases were pictures of previous classes and the trophies they had won. Mr. Keating, or “O’ Captain” as some of the boys referred to him, told the boys in dramatic fashion to look closely at some of the old team photos of the young men that preceded them. The youth began to look with awe and wonder as Mr. Keating, like an old sage, declared,
They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they are destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it?—Carpe—hear it?—Carpe, carpe diem. Seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary!” [i]
Throughout the movie, this impassioned English teacher strove to impart zeal, creativity, his love of poetry, and a love of life into these boys. Some received freedom from their fears and timidity and attempted that which they thought was otherwise impossible. Still others brazenly misdirected their zeal and passion toward wrong pursuits. Mr. Keating saw the potential in these boys and dared them to live life to its fullest, and to make their lives matter—to become extraordinary people.
Years ago, I was deeply impacted by this movie. I was in my late twenties and discouraged about how life was going. I thought to myself, “Seize the day—make your lives extraordinary—that’s a truth everyone needs to be reminded of daily.”
I realized that our ability to overcome fears, hurts, and past failures determines the richness of our lives today and the legacy we leave for tomorrow. Change and transformation is the path forward for overcomers.
As I write, my mind recalls times when I seized the day and later saw the fruit of my pursuit, even though sometimes years would pass before the realization of a goal or dream. I also remember days and seasons of my life when I missed opportunities. There were times when I found myself hindered by a past event or overcome with feelings of inadequacy.
The truth is that we will all be “fertilizing daffodils” one day. Each day is a gift, our time is our most precious commodity, and we choose daily how we spend that time.
I was painfully reminded of this reality last week. First, our family dog Mya of 15 years, suddenly passed away. Never easy to lose a devoted family dog. More tragically, a friend in Florida lost his wife after a 6-month battle with sudden and aggressive cancer. My heart breaks for Brian in losing his wife Ann. To say life is short is an understatement—each day is a bonus friends—use them wisely!
Paul exhorted the Ephesians about time:
Eph. 5:15-17 “See then that you walk circumspectly (carefully), not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (NKJV) Verse 16 in the CEB translates, “take advantage of every opportunity because these are evil times.”
Evil surrounded the people of Paul’s day, and we face the same dilemma. We must learn to be careful and intentional about how we spend our time—that’s wisdom—despite evil and contradictory circumstances. Paul would write Timothy later, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come…” (see 2 Tim 3:1-5 NKJV) Evil has always beset humanity, our day is no different.
The founding fathers of our nation also understood evil in their time. The tyranny of the King of England reached a tipping point. They acted and redeemed their day, envisioning freedom, and a new nation. Two hundred and forty-four years later, the United States of America is the greatest example of democratic government, freedom, and civil liberties our world has ever known. Our nation is not perfect, neither were our founding fathers. Despite their flaws, God worked through them to envision a government by the people and for the people that is unparalleled today. America is a great nation, despite our past failures and blemishes.
COVID-19, the lockdowns, and economic hardship and uncertainty pushed our nation to a tipping point this year. The tragic death of George Floyd triggered pent up anger and hostility in many. What started out peaceful, quickly became violent. Peaceful protests for racial injustice and police reform largely have been taken over by leftist extremists bent on culturally changing our nation—and our history. Yet, despite this turmoil, God is still in control, and is working among His people to be the light amid darkness. Church in America, we have an opportunity to pray and seek God for revival and healing in our land—we must seize the day!
God often brings major transitions during times of uncertainty. While this may seem like an inopportune time to pursue dreams, it may be the moment to act on what God has revealed to you. You are the only person who can “seize your day.” You must wisely use your time and learn to live in God’s will to fulfill your desires and calling. Learn to invest your time, treasure, and talent…it’s like putting money in the bank; you gain dividends!
You are God’s masterpiece, His special creation in Jesus destined to accomplish the good things he planned for you long ago. In some respects, you have to try hard not to be extraordinary!
Five Time Principles to Seize Your Day
Time is one of our most precious assets and a gift from God.
An ancient mariner proverb states, “time and tides wait for no man.” Simple meaning: time continues to move on and the opportunities in this life can be limited. For saltwater fishermen, favorable tides mean opportunity. Farmers understand this concept as well with seasons—planting and harvest.
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven…A time to plant and a time to harvest.” Eccl. 3:1-2 NLT
Be discerning with the seasons of your life and our moment as a society, but do not be so cautious that you fail to plant for a future harvest.
1.) Invest time according to God’s will.
We can be busy, but not accomplishing what God intends for us if we don’t know His will. Our time then is spent unwisely. Paul gives a basic foundational truth in Rom. 12:2 about knowing the will of God.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Rom. 12:2 NLT (See also 2 Cor. 3:18 “we are being transformed into that same image.”)
The English word transform is from the Greek word metamorphoō from which the English word metamorphosis is also derived. The word means to change the essential form or nature of something. Through our union with Christ in the Spirit, our essential form and nature has, and is, being changed. We therefore have the potential to live now from the understanding of God’s will and purpose.
If we are copying the behavior and customs of this world, we won’t know the will of God for our lives. Rather, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to change our thinking to align with God’s Word and nature. Then, we begin to understand His will for our lives.
So, what should have the greatest effect on our thinking? The news media, or secular teachers? Or should it be God’s ways as revealed in Scripture? What is God saying … that should be baseline of our thinking.
In other words, you must guard your heart and mind (see Prov. 4:23) to ensure that you don’t squander time in wrong pursuits. God wants to do the “exceedingly above all that you can ask for or think” in your life as you embrace His revealed will.
2.) Invest time in the lives of others.
We are to be imitators of God. God is love; God is kind. It is easy to lose sight of the value of love and relationships. We must invest time into love and relationships.
Jesus said it was more blessed to give than to receive. Marriages, families, friendships, and business relationships. Pouring our time into kingdom relationships that build people and expand the kingdom leaves a legacy.
We also must be intentional to invest time into the lives of our children—we build in them expectation for the future. Hope is one of our greatest gifts we can give them or succeeding generations.
3.) Invest time for today.
Jesus said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow … each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt. 6:34 NKJV) Focus on today. Ask the Lord daily where your concentration needs to be for the day. Sometimes God will redirect.
What season are you in? An important question to ask and understand. Yet, understand there is never the perfect moment or timing. Remember Nehemiah and rebuilding of the wall? He sensed a moment, a divine invitation, yet in the natural everything seemed contrary.
Building our new church sanctuary a few years ago— in the natural, it wasn’t the right time. Most worthwhile endeavors are always challenging with obstacles. Be discerning but act today on what God reveals.
The sons of Issachar understood the times they were in (1 Chr. 12:32). Conversely, Jerusalem didn’t know her moment, Jesus said of Jerusalem, “you did not recognize the time of your ‘Messiah’s’ visitation.” (Luke 19:44 NKJV)
4.) Invest time for your future.
Realize that your tomorrow begins today. Life is a journey, but we must also realize that what we do today affects our tomorrow.
Have you noticed that you never stop learning in this life? Commit yourself to be open to daily growing in the Lord. Get education, get training, ask God how you can better prepare for what He has called you to or what He is bringing you into. Be intentional with your time today as you are investing into your tomorrow.
I was inspired five years ago while visiting the Key West home of twentieth-century author Ernest Hemingway. I was impacted when I learned during the visit that in an eight-year span, he wrote nearly 70% of his work. He wrote daily from 6am-noon, 600-700 words a day. Later he won a Pulitzer Prize for the “Old Man and the Sea” in 1952, and in 1954 awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. As I peered into his office where he did much writing, I was challenged by the Lord to write consistently and intentionally.
5.) Invest time for eternity.
All of us are presently eternal beings who one day will depart from this earthly realm. Sow your life into eternal pursuits—for God’s Kingdom.
Invest your life in the lives of others, eternal fruit. The Bible says, “he who wins souls is wise.” Ask yourself, “What time am I investing for God’s kingdom and eternity?” Remember, we are spiritual beings having a temporary human experience!
Carpe Diem—Seize the Day! Your time and life matter; God has created you with your future in mind—live today as though it mattered!
Don’t just let your days slip away, ask God how you can better invest your time to fulfill your purpose and calling. Ask God to empower you to live in the fullness of each day He gives you!
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message, “Seize the Day”
[i] Movie, Dead Poets Society, http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/robin-williams-best-dead-poets-society-quotes-carpe-hear-it-carpe-carpe-diem-seize-the-day-boys-9663800.html and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097165/quotes, retrieved June 29, 2015.