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The best time to plant a tree

A Chinese proverb says:

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

There are many things we should have done from the beginning, or 20 years ago, or 30 years ago, or last Tuesday. That time has passed now—and the past is frozen, never to be undone. It was not a dress rehearsal but the real thing, and the performance is in the can. And as Scripture says:

“He will render to each one according to his works” (Romans 2:6).

“… he will repay each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:27).

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

“Behold I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done” (Revelation 22:12).

The tendency is to wallow in regret for past failings. But it is better to snap out of that funk and be aware that this is just another temptation. To fall for the trap of not doing right today simply because you didn’t do right yesterday is to compound your problem. Today is the best deal you’ve got, the most hopeful thing you have going for you:

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Or, as Scripture more authoritatively expresses the urgency and invitation regarding “now”:

“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness’” (Hebrews 3:7-8).

It gets even better than that. When a person who has been doing wrong for a long time makes up his mind to turn from his unrighteousness—no matter how long it went on—put on the righteousness of Christ, and start following God right here and now, God expunges the record of those past deeds the person feels so bad about:

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25).

When we begin today, at long last, to start on a new path—to stop doing the wretched things we hate and start doing the things we know we have omitted—then a new page and a new chapter in God’s book is opened, and better things are written in it that will follow us into heaven.

Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine. Her commentary has been compiled into three books including Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Andrée resides in Philadelphia, Penn.


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William H

Great to know that we have that beautiful opportunity.


YAY! As my friend says, make the next wise choice.