I recently finished watching Ken Burns’ series, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. The 14 hour series weaves the lives of Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt into a single narrative. He suggests that both Theodore and Franklin were driven by a sense of urgency. They wanted to get as much done as quickly as they could.
Robert Caro has written four volumes (and he is not done), nearly 3,300 pages (so far) of biography on Lyndon B. Johnson. Repeatedly, he emphasizes L.B.J.’s sense of urgency. The clock was ticking, and he knew it. Caro writes, “According to family lore, Johnson men had weak hearts and died young. All during his youth, Lyndon had heard relatives say that. Then, while he was still in college, and his father was only in his early fifties, his father’s heart began to fail, and Sam Ealy Johnson had died in 1937, twelve days after his sixtieth birthday. Sam Ealy had two brothers, George and Tom Johnson. George, the youngest of the three brothers, suffered a massive heart attack in 1939 and died a few months later, at the age of fifty-seven. In 1946, at the age of sixty-five, Tom suffered a heart attack, and in 1947 he had a second. Lyndon Johnson, who had been deeply aware of his remarkable physical similarity to his tall, gawky, big-eared, big-nosed father, was convinced – convinced to what one of his secretaries calls “the point of obsession” – that he had inherited the family legacy. ‘I am going to live to be but sixty,’ he would say… whenever it was suggested that he might make his career in the House of Representatives, he would reply, in a low voice: ‘Too slow, too slow.’ Rayburn had begun trudging along that path early – he had been only thirty years old when first elected to Congress in 1912 – and it had taken him twenty-five years, until 1937, to become Majority Leader; he had not become Speaker until 1940, at the age of fifty-eight. But Sam Johnson had died at the age of sixty… he might not break the seniority system before he died… he would make a run for the Senate in 1948″ (Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent, pp. 136-139). If he was to achieve the kind of power that he wanted, he felt that he must get out of the House; he had to win a Senate seat. His life was relatively short. He would die at the age of 64.
Do we, as Christians, have a sense of urgency? I am nearly 52 years of age. If I die at an average age, I have 20 or 25 years to accomplish something for my God and Savior. Time is ticking. I am afraid that many Christians are lacking a sense of urgency. They will talk to their friend about Christ some day, not today. They will reconcile with their brother some day, not today. They will truly be totally committed to Christ and involved in the work of the church some day, not today. “You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).
Do we, as a church, have a sense of urgency? A work is proposed. The proposal is tabled to be discussed next year. There is a lost and dying world who needs to hear the true gospel. Are we fulfilling our mission? We are taught, “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time” (Colossians 4:5). “Swiftly we’re turning life’s daily pages, Swiftly the hours are changing to years; How are we using God’s golden moments, Shall we reap glory, Shall we reap tears? \ Millions are groping without the gospel, Quickly they’ll reach eternity’s night; Shall we sit idly as they rush onward? Haste let us hold up Christ the true light \ Souls that are precious, souls that are dying, While we rejoice our sins are forgiven; Did he not also die for these lost ones? Then let us point the way unto heav’n \ Into our hands the gospel is given, Into our hands is given the light, Haste, let us carry God’s precious message, Guiding the erring; back to the right. (Song: Swiftly We’re Turning by Mrs. Roy Carruth and Tillit S. Teddlie).