Issue: "2012 News of the Year," Dec. 29, 2012

Posted: Dec. 14, 2012 at 1:00 AM

Andrée Seu Peterson

From this day forward

FAITH & INSPIRATION | 'It's too late now' has no place in the Christian life

Krieg Barrie

I am 61 this month, and the great temptation in my life is “it’s too late now.” The interesting thing is that that was the temptation 14 years ago. And 30 years ago. Now logically speaking, “it’s too late now” cannot be true every one of those times. How often are you going to fall for the same trick, girl?

Nevertheless I concluded “it’s too late now” with each new loss, and the result was, predictably, that I never turned with any seriousness to God’s paths—one has no motive to begin to do right when there is no conceivable scenario, to one’s thinking, in which what has been made lame can be put straight.

The devil comes to kill, steal, and destroy, and the worst thing he steals is hope. Rightly is he called Deceiver and Accuser, for all his hats reduce to two: First he is sympathetic ally in our defections, and then we find him standing in court with black suit and briefcase as prosecutor (Zechariah 3): “If you had only not given up back in 1980,” he says, “you might have had a chance after all. But this time you really really blew it.”

In God’s infinite mercy and intimate knowledge of my frame, He has given me a husband who lost 30 years in addiction and 12 years in prison and who assures me constantly it’s not too late because God will use every bit of it for our good, our children’s good, and His glory, and will restore all the years that the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25). 

The older you get, of course, and the more trips around the turnstile of entrenched sin, the more the devil seems to have a case when he whispers in your ear “it’s too late now.” Which means that if you have come to your senses later in life like me, then at the very time when you are finally determined to put away “it’s too late now” in exchange for “All things are possible with Christ,” you are looking at a towering stack of failure. 

Nevertheless, the prescription is the same as when you were 20, 30, and 50: Hope in the Lord. Sanity is grasping the math that if it is by sinning that one plunges into misery, then it is not by more sinning that one makes things better. Only one time in your life is it really true that “it’s too late now,” and that is a minute after you are dead.

There is a need to get the cobwebs out of our theology. I am referring to the muddled idea that life as a Christian is undifferentiated in blessing because of the doctrine of grace. No. There is a blessing on obedience and a forfeit for disobedience. “My righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:38). It is possible to live a poor quality Christian existence for the whole duration. It is possible (one shudders to think it) to arrive in eternity hauling a wheelbarrow of wood, hay, and stubble. And the surest way to it is the attitude “it’s too late now.”

The book of Haggai is about an Israel long in the tooth, not unlike myself, her hair sprinkled gray with her numerous adulteries (Hosea 7:9), and with a massive temptation to hunker down in a funk of “it’s too late now.” What can God say to one so weary with failure? He says this: “Be strong, all you people of the land. ... Work, for I am with you” (Haggai 2:4).

And then, because He knows what she is thinking—that she is much too far gone to expect that the future can hold anything but piddling consolation prizes—and because He is not called the God of all hope for nothing, He speaks the most beautiful words he can speak to a late-middle-aged nation and a late-middle-aged woman:

“Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you” (Haggai 2:19).

Forget the past, my soul. The river starts running in the opposite direction the very moment that you turn fully to the Lord. From this day forward He will bless you.